Full-Focus Consulting: How I Re-Energized Myself & My Business

Once upon a time, I spent many years building up a nice consulting business that was consistently putting 6 figures in my pocket every year. I was very proud of myself.

  • I wasn’t working too many hours.
  • The company wasn’t too big to manage.
  • I didn’t have to book an unreasonable amount of work to make my nut.
  • I liked my clients.
  • I had a great team.

Sure, the workload was a little bit treadmill-y and sure, there was some degree of ebb and flow with receivables, but both of those are pretty typical in consulting, and neither was significant enough to be a real problem. Overall, life was pretty good.

I’ve made it” I thought. “This is exactly the career I’ve always wanted to have“.

Then I began to notice that many of my peers were moving away from consulting and launching products instead. Keep Reading…

Interview: Dealing With Client Conflict (via The Freelance Podcast)

Note: This interview is from early April.

RJ from The Freelance Podcast was invited me on the show again, this time to talk a problem many of us freelancers share – conflict with clients! We talk about how freelancers get themselves into conflict with clients, how some clients are trouble on their own, and some strategies for coping with each. We also cover some of the material from my Conquering Client Conflict course for freelancers.

As always, RJ is a great host doing a great podcast, and I’m flattered to have had a chance to be involved. Head on over and check out the interview!

Dear Client: Stop Asking For A Ballpark Estimate

I like you, client, you’re what makes it possible to do what I love for a living. But I also respect you; you either own a business or occupy a high-enough managerial position within a business to have the authority to hire my team and I, which means you’re all grown up and are way past the point of needing to be handled with kid gloves. So, allow me to indulge in some tough love:

Please, for the sake of your business, stop asking me to give you a ballpark estimate.

It happens to consultants just like me, every day – at some point during a (usually light-on-details) conversation with a very excited client like you, about a new website or custom software that you’ve dreamed up to help you run your business, you’ll ask The Question.

“So, what’s a ballpark estimate of what that would cost?”

I understand why this seems like a perfectly reasonable question, I really do. You have a business to run, and getting a broad sense of what something costs is probably a handy proxy for quickly deciding if it’s something you can handle, or not. I get that – business life often boils down to making decisions quickly, based on broad or even vague information.  Remember, I run a small business, too, so I share a lot of the same concerns you do. Keep Reading…

Do You Need to Be a Really Good Programmer to Make a Living Freelancing?

It’s a valid question – how good do your programming skills need to be (and how much does that matter) in the world of freelancing?

The Question:

Do you need to be a really good programmer to make a living freelancing?
How advanced does a programmer need to be in order to make a living as a freelancer taking jobs from freelancing sites like Odesk or Elance? What kind of technical skills need to accomplish beforehand?

The Answer:

When it comes to raw coding ability, everyone will argue as to what “really good” means, so I’ll say this: you should be at least at the “Consciously Incompetence” stage on the Four Stages Of Programming Competence scale. It is here that you have some fundamentals down, but your eyes and your mind are open to what you don’t know. In this stage, you are actively working toward improvement and understand the necessary elements of doing so. This, I think, is the absolute minimum price of entry into programming for money. Keep Reading…

A Client Did Not Pay Me For Software Work. What Should I Do?

It’s a hazard of the profession – sometimes a client will try to weasel out of payment.

The Question

A client did not pay me for software work. What should I do?
I created a tax website for a client of mine recently. He used my server for all his customers work but after tax season he refused to pay me my commission. I still have his customers data on my server. Shall I email them and let them know that their accountant is a scum bag? Can I be sued for that?

My Answer

Sorry to hear you’re in a bind with this client. I’ve been there and I know it feels awful.

I’m curious about this:

after tax season he refused to pay me my commission

Your question began with “a client did not pay me”, but…did the client ever explicitly agree to pay your commission in the first place? If not by an actual contract, then even by text or e-mail? If so, you *might* have a contract that is enforceable, depending on the law where you live. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, but it’s worth looking into. Keep Reading…