One thing that was important to me was to be able to max out retirement contributions even while being self-employed. (I think a lot of folks that go into business for themselves will too easily convince themselves to sacrifice that early on.) So I had a spreadsheet that basically factored in my needed take-home income after taxes and retirement contributions, and added in those taxes and contributions, and I turned it into a daily (weekday) dollar amount that I needed to earn, complete with 7-day and 30-day moving averages. Being able to check that daily helped me to know whether I was on the right track. For the first few years, I think that was around $300-$400 per day - later on, I was able to stop paying attention to it since I was exceeding it so much.
Funny. That's my favorite scene in that movie, too. For exactly the same reason. I only find it comment-worthy here because you're the first person I've heard outside myself make this observation.
Another scene I really like, for similar didactic reasons, is the opening scene to the HBO series Rome, where Caesar's army is battling the Gauls in a forest and Titus Pullo breaks out of formation to start kicking barbarian ass. Vorenus, his commanding officer, has to follow him out at great personal risk to knock him back into line.
I see it as an allegory for the perils of bringing a ninja/rockstar/cowboy to a mature team that has a greater need for professionalism and discipline.
In most cases, the work these kinds of people perform is neither magical nor brilliant. It's that because of their reputation, resources, and influence, when they do the same things that you would do, it has an entirely different result. This is just one of the many unfair aspects of life - knowing exactly what to do and working hard on it isn't even close to enough to make you successful. If no one listens to you, it doesn't matter what you say or how brilliant it is.
And probably you would have, at least eventually, although maybe with a couple of false starts and by that point perhaps some misfeatures have already been locked in and now your simple, elegant solution (the one you came up with all on your own without some fancy consultant) isn't quite going to work the way you'd like it to, but it's still 90% of the way there and you're only a little bit over budget -- so long as you cut a couple of the less useful features you should hopefully get the whole thing done before you lose the support of management -- but then they change CTO and the whole thing gets put on hold indefinitely.
One thing I'd emphasize about consulting, however, is the need to almost continually market. That seems foreign to many people thinking about consulting (and I too admire the Wolf's scenes in Pulp Fiction, but we never see any marketing from him—I guess he's in a line of work that's word-of-mouth only).
1. Hate permanent job.
2. Start consultancy.
3. Spend half the day finding work/collecting bills; other half programming.
4. Eventually find reliable client with long-term project always pays on time.
5. Cancels all other contracts to focus on reliable client.
6. Go to step 1.
Perhaps some people will find this equivalent, should both stakeholders (BigCo/single demanding client) be equally unpleasant, but I for one still see a lot of value in having full control over my life and my time.
Personally I’d find it more difficult to try to scale up my consultancy business rather than just convince the client that I provide results that are worth more than what they’d normally pay their own people to try to provide.
I did much the same. Having the savings are key, as are knowing your burn rate and having a plan B.
At the start of my most recent consulting stint, I watched cash in the bank and was prepared to be an employee if the balance fell below two months of expenses.
Download (pdf): http://media.revsys.com/images/django-1.5-cheatsheet.pdf
I'd be curious to hear more about the process of finding work from people who have made the leap into consulting. The post mentions networking and just doing everything you can to increase your chances of meeting clients. That makes perfect sense, but are there any other insights or good practices?
For example, is it good to be a little bit forward and make sure people know you're a consultant looking for projects? Are certain kinds of networking better than others? Have you ever done any kind of out-bound marketing, or even cold-called potential clients? What about rules of thumb for whether or not to take on a project (e.g. better to turn down small things and wait for something big, or better to just take anything and everything, or certain kinds of clients you avoid)?
I would imagine that with all of this stuff you kind of just have to use your judgement. I also would suspect that everything gets much easier once you've been doing been doing it for longer and have a proven track record and even start to get referrals from previous clients. That said, it seems like getting the ball rolling with finding work must be one of the hardest aspects of starting out as a consultant.
But it gives no sense as to whether he's just breaking even, is killing it, or what?
It wouldn't be that encouraging if after 8 years he's still struggling to make ends meet, whereas if he's killing things (in the positive sense), that's more inspiring. To me anyway. ;)
(I followed the REVSYS link and then went to their About page.)
It's possible I'm being an idiot though. ;)
From what I've gathered in conversations, I'd put fwiles at making decent money, but not really "killing it." Given that Kaplan-Moss left Revsys to join Heroku, I'm guessing the consulting money is less than what one might earn elsewhere, and compensated in autonomy.
I particularly liked the point about raising your skills in non-core areas but wanted to add a caveat: it is really important to find good partners. For example, when selling technical products or services things tend to go better if one person sells the technology (aka the good cop) and another handles the money (aka the bad cop). Even if you are good at both it is hard to maintain both personalities simultaneously.
I personally think its very important to ensure your employees know you spent a bit of money making them comfortable and you value their work! I have worked in a number of startups with a kind of shitty office, shitty equipment etc and imo it always contributes to some kind of morale/impression problem.
I for one appreciated it. Good actionable advice with minimal bs.
There's a pint waiting for you next time you're in London.