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How I went from programming to consulting (2012) (kalzumeus.com)
780 points by putnam 59 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 472 comments

Perhaps other people here shared the same assumption that I did - that this essay was about moving from tech development as a contractor/employee to tech (development) consulting. It's not.

It's about moving from developing to marketing. There's nothing wrong with that, but it was a let-down to me to discover that the path to riches meant mingling with the group of people I tend to like the least in a company.

Also, I think it's fair to say that amongst departments in companies, marketing is much more likely to pay (and pay a lot) for a consultant, whereas IT is only likely to pay a lot for outside help when things are really, really desperate.

Marketing is seen as revenue generating, and at many places, IT and (ironically) product development are seen as cost centers.

This might as well have been an article about how to 100x your income by moving from your current job into a similar job in a fintech company. That's a bit like moving from serving tables at Denny's to Del Frisco's steakhouse. Most Denny's waiters are not prepared nor capable of making that transition.

If IT is really desperate, then even better! You need to frame it to the client in terms of what you are going to save them if they hire you. If they are up the creek without a paddle and everything is falling apart, then you can go to them and say "Fixing this will save you $X. I can do this for you, I've done this sort of thing before, here is a proposal, this will cost $Y".

How about if you invert it. If somebody came to you and asked for a system that can send emails when certain conditions are met in a database and track the results, would you assume that to write the program you would have to hang out with sales people? The actual work (in the two weeks to implement it) is development.

It's still fundamentally development for the marketing side of a business though, rather than development for the product side. I think the problem that people are struggling with is that they can't see how this information relates to them if they are software developers looking to do consulting work on software. Patrick's article really is from a marketing angle, even though there is a software development component to it.

That said, I think people are missing the key takeaway from the article. I think the most important thing in the article is right there in the heading "Clients Pay For Value, Not For Time". This is saying that you should frame your services in terms of a value proposition for the client. That is, how much money will you save them if they hire you to do X. Maybe X is "rewrite the backend to process transactions quicker" which will save them Y hours of compute time and reduce their AWS bill by Z a month.

If you're interested in value based pricing, Jonathan Stark has a pretty decent free ecourse on it: https://expensiveproblem.com/

That's awesome, thanks! The Freshbooks co-founder wrote something similar once too: https://www.freshbooks.com/ebooks/breaking-the-time-barrier

Let's not forget Alan Weiss, who started this whole 'value based' consulting business. https://www.alanweiss.com/

I loved Value Based Fees!

I second that emotion!

The actual work of being a lawyer is writing and talking, but just because you can write and talk doesn't mean you can be a lawyer.

Every client I've ever had has asked "how many hours?" And "how much per hour?"

If a restaurant wants to increase business by building a patio and they get a bid based with pricing based on increased business and not hours. They're gonna throw it away.

Patio11 was in a unique position to know more about how to increase the business's revenue better than the business. This is a very unique position and advice based on that position is not really relevant to the rest of us who aren't experts in internet marketing.

> Every client I've ever had has asked "how many hours?" And "how much per hour?"

That's when you explain you charge per project or per week instead of per hour, and the fee is based on value, because in the end they won't really care how many hours you spent as long as their problem is solved. (Similarly, if you _fail_ to solve their problem, they're not going to care how many hours you put in.)

I get this question from prospects too, and then I explain the above, and then we move on with the conversation.

And in my 4+ years of consulting, nobody's asked me _at the end_ of a project how many hours it took. At that point, as I said, it doesn't matter.

What type of consulting do you do? Do you do general custom dev work? Or something more specialized?

Thanks for the clarification, really this article had me confused. I was trying to 'extract' the bits that would bridge the technical side of things to the consulting side, but could not find it. Obviously now I realize he is talking about marketing. Nice read but unfortunately did not help/apply to me much.

Do you think that there are not engineering consultants making five figures a week?

I'm sure there are. But I doubt there are as many, because of the inclination of marketing people to be willing to pay for outside help vs engineering that tends to enjoy problem solving so much that they only ask for help when things are really bad. Also it's a numbers game - there are more marketing departments than engineering departments (across all business sectors).

Are you prepared or capable of making that transition?

I'm definitely not capable of doing what he does. Interacting with people is something I can do very, very well. But it costs me a huge amount of energy (introvert). And working with marketing/sales people takes more out of me than with any other segment of the population!

Regarding the Denny's -> Del Frisco's, that I could actually do well :). But that's because I have a special fondness for hospitality and providing people great experiences. I'd probably be foolish enough to open a restaurant someday, and I'd probably regret it later.

Before you get too tempted, read this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15658437

To this day, I'm still not quite clear about what a consultant actually does. I mean, beyond some vague idea ("goes to some company, talks with people, gives some recommendation"). I'd really love for someone to give some example or describe in a tangible way what the work of a consultant entails, what skills one typically needs and actually employs, what a typical gig looks like from beginning to end and so on.

If anyone here on HN could share some insights, I would highly appreciate it.

My modal engagement was with a SaaS company with $20 million a year sales, a few dozen employees, and 1~3 very strapped people wearing the marketing hat.

“How much email do you send?” “We have a newsletter.” “What else?” “Welcome to free trial email. “What else?” “Nothing.”

I write proposal.

You should:

1) Have a pre-sales drip campaign positioned as a “free course about X delivered over email” w/ 8 emails arriving over the course of a month. This will push people at purchasing the product in 2 of the emails.

2) You should email people 4 times during the trial depending on their level of engagement with it. Here’s a decision tree.

3) You should email people within 80% of their monthly quota offering a discount to move to the next higher plan.

4) You should email your entire userbase and upgrade as many as possible to annual billing for a 10% discount to the cost of their current plan.

You can tell your engineering team to do this for you, but there is 0% chance they schedule this because it is boring scutwork and they’d rather do those features you have scheduled this quarter. Or you can have me just do it. I need a commit bit and probably two weeks. It will cost you $30k per week.

Probabalistically this makes you $2 million in next 12 months but your results are your results; you keep all the upside and my invoice is due regardless.

That's a good example of a marketing consultant, but what about an engineering consultant? Would talking tech stack pros/cons pull in a similar rate?

It is weird how I get persistently drummed out of engineering because when I write cron jobs, SQL queries, and React dashboards I make special effort to connect them to business outcomes.

Businesses, to a first approximation, don’t care about their tech stack except to the extent that it drives business outcomes. Can you articulate those pros/cons in a way a business cares about? Can you impact your deliverables to reduced costs or (much better) increased revenue? Then you, too, can look forward to a bright future where HN tells you you’re not really an engineer anymore because your rates are too high.

Some folks get nervous when they have to justify the actual value of their work. Sometimes it’s because doing irrelevant work well or relevant work poorly. More often, I think the business impact connection is just difficult to make. The further you get from pure sales, the harder it is. Regardless, you should always consider answering this question as part of your job.

You really don't see why the example you gave above was marketing rather than engineering?

All of the recommendations you gave were related to selling the product, not improving it. That's not a bad thing; it just means it was a marketing consultation.

I think a clearer way to say what a lot of people are bothered by with that example is that in order to sell those recommendations you need:

a) to have a lot of marketing expertise

b) to be known well enough for your marketing expertise that people will take your suggestions as valid

Most tech people have neither one. Hell, most marketing people have neither one, half of the rest on my have b) but are actually incompetent in their recommendations, and only the last little bit have both.

Being a consultant is marketing, there is no way to be an engineering consultant. Engineers work for consultants, not as consultants.

If you want to make the big bucks, you have to do what businesses care about, not what you care about.

I've worked as a software engineering consultant. Sometimes I would do engagements that were just analysis and advice, but for most of them I would actually design or develop some software.

What was it like making the transition from software engineer to software engineering consultant?

I'll give you my perspective: it's tough. I tried to go from ML Engineer -> ML Consultant, and while I was able to find work at a reasonable rate, it was difficult, because most businesses don't have technical problems, they have business problems.

For instance, even though the root cause might be high latency, the actual problem is that the high latency is killing your retention.

If the business is sophisticated enough to value technical expertise, often they value it so much that they are willing to hire experts full-time, or they're so small that they can't afford to. So as a technical expert, you end up caught in a weird uncanny valley (in my experience). I think that patio11's advice is, as always, spot on here; the skills needed to become a technical consultant that charges $N/week are way higher than the technical skills needed to become a business consultant at $N/week, for any value of N. That isn't to say that technical skills aren't value, just that it's a tough sell to make, for a number of reasons that patio11, and others, have written at length about.

This is just a guess from what I've seen consultants contribute but there's usually some (at least the appearance of) low hanging fruit to cut costs on. Usually focuses on advice on how to get the AWS bill down.

Making the company money is the not the only factor is it? Any engineer at google/facebook/etc are probabilistically making the company multiple millions per year too (terrible estimate from revenue divided by headcount). But probably only a handful of them would ever be able to demand the rate you charge because they are replaceable.

How do you make sure the company won't just take your advice and hire a guy to do this for 90k/yr instead of letting you work on it for three weeks?

If they thought they could take a proposal and productionize it with someone available for hire at a total cost of $140k in their first year and that they’re capable of finding, closing, and managing that person then a) my blog is free and you’re welcome to it and b) they would have more than one email written. But for whatever reason they have not made that hire, as evidenced by having no emails actually traversing the interwebs.

People occasionally took my proposals and productionized them with existing or (much more annoyingly) new staff. Oh well. That’s one reason I charged what I charged; the sales process assumes 1 to 3 “actually nope we decided we don’t need you” per engagement which happens.

Great point - most people are not aware that finding good personnel to hire is like diving for pearls.

By far, the majority of consulting engagements I’ve seen or participated in (Big 4 and freelance) are things that could easily be done if the company hired a few folks, for much less pay than this. Simple number crunching, tedious paperwork review, trivial integrations/dev work.. I would hazard a guess that at least 50% of all enterprise consulting spend goes to these tasks.

However the indisputable fact is that these companies are willing to shell out for this stuff, whether because they think it’s temporary work (cheaper to hire Patrick than an FTE who you then have to keep paying or dispose of) or they’re paying for the top-of-Hill expertise (eg. paying a Big 4 where you get 10 hours of a partner’s time/expertise at 1k/hour and then 300 hours of 23yo grunt labor).

There could be a ton of reasons from covering one's behind to how things look on the books etc.

Who is the 23yo?

From the age - a fresh college graduate recruited into the consultancy employee/meat grinder.

Exactly. And not just one, each partner had a battalion of them.

Because they don't need a full time person to achieve the results and it would be silly to shell out more money and try to train somebody to do something that they've clearly failed to do in the past. If my car needs $1000 of repairs, I'm not going to shop around for a class to teach me how to repair cars - especially if, like your example, it costs more than just getting it fixed.

You don't. You just pick the ones that are in a hiring freeze or actually see the value of what you can demonstrably deliver in a quick turnaround time

I am curious how you even get into this type of work - how do you find the consulting opportunities in the first place? Do you seek out work somehow, or do you market and let the leads come to you?

Is it easier to work for a consulting company as an “employee” before venturing out alone?

Patrick talked about what he was doing so much on the internet so much that people knew he was good at it. He also talked about it at meet ups and conferences, first with other normal attendees and eventually on stage. Eventually some of those people offered him money to do it for them.

At first he undercharged, not as a tactic to start consulting but because he didn’t have confidence in what he was selling. I believe he started off at $5,000 and stopped consulting when he was charging $30,000 a week.

But most of his work came from pitching people. Write an email or make a call to a company that seems a good prospect and follow up. If five percent convert you’re doing pretty well. You also get referrals from previous satisfied customers.

As well as that Patrick wrote a lot on his website about what he did and how to do it, which functioned as a proof of competence and lead to some people contacting him to ask him to work for them. Authority, Nathan Barry, is all about this publicising proof of competence tactic.

Late to the party but I've written about what's worked for me for finding consulting clients: https://www.gkogan.co/blog/how-i-learned-to-get-consulting-l...

Thanks Patrick, for just planning out for me my workload for the next month or so!

> You should email people 4 times during the trial depending on their level of engagement with it. Here’s a decision tree.

Do you have a link to an example decision tree for a typical SaaS app?

If this is what a consultant is I don't want to be one, or maybe this example is very particular to sales/marketing. Or maybe this same example can be applied to several domains meaning that as a consultant you can solve companies problems depending on your already established expertise.

It’s the second one. If you have some expertise/ mastery of best practices in your area, then you can make a good living by implementing those things for organizations that would benefit from them, but don’t want to invest in staffing up that area permanently.

That’s consulting.

If what is what a consultant is?

For most enterprise software sales, who tend to deal in a few large customers rather than lots of small ones, almost all of this would be enormously counterproductive.

If you're a software company and you have only a few customers, then you're probably doing bespoke development (whether you call that consulting or not can be your own decision), not product sales.

The entire purpose of selling a product is to scale through volume rather than customization.

To me the big divide is how superlinear your revenue:employee ratio is. If it's linear or close to it, then you're a consulting org. You make money based on the hours of work you are able to bill for in one way or another. If it's a "product", but you as the product developer are doing heavy customization, then you've just transitioned from an hourly billing model to something resembling fixed bid, but with a fiction of a product in the mix.

I think you're missing parent's point. People don't buy enterprise software (six- and seven-figure annual licenses) from a 30-day email drip. Therefore, creating such an email drip for an enterprise software company would not have the same results as it would for a B2C/B2Dev SaaS.

I'm pretty well-qualified to answer this question :) I've done several marketing consulting gigs, including working with Patrick 6 years ago at WP Engine, where we were both consultants!

I am in the middle of another marketing consulting gig right now with a SaaS company. I was hired to help them drastically reduce their sales cycle. They sell to enterprise companies and the sales cycle takes forever.

I'm working on a new front-end website for them, with better copy, more testimonials, white papers/case studies, and a live demo of their product. (Today, potential customers have to request a demo--having people be able to see the product for themselves should shave at least a week off the sales cycle.)

I have both a technical background and a marketing background, so I can write both copy and code, though I'm stronger on the marketing side these days.

When I worked with Patrick at WP Engine, I was also lead on deploying a new front-end website, with a better tagline. My most important contribution there, though, was that I came up with the "10 sites for $99" pricing structure, which is a huge component of what made them so successful.

I am also working on a better pricing structure with my current consulting gig.

I spoke more about what I do for SaaS companies in this talk at Microconf: https://vimeo.com/72456666 (Notably, I did this talk, and it was posted here on HN, several months before pg wrote his "Do things that don't scale" blog post.)

Having been in a position where a consultant was foisted upon me by management, at several different companies, near as I can tell they are paid huge sums to restate what the team already knows and has been saying needs to be done. Only they provide it with an approach and language which management can understand.

In the case you mentioned, that's basically "credibility."

Although a lame story, Let's say you are responsible for initiating and managing a new software project in your company with complex bureaucracy and management. You have found that it is highly feasible to work with Agile methodology instead of Waterfall.

But Waterfall has been how the things had always been done, yet you know that the team is ready for Agile and project is an exact type of work that would benefit from some "lean" approaches. Worse still, management won't listen, also because "The Board" won't listen.

What you do is that you go to that well-known, highly-paid consultant, discuss the situation and he basically says, "OK, You are right. Also this and that."

Then in your presentation to the board while pitching Agile, you say, "Agile is the way to go. I asked Patrick Kalzumeus, and he said it was a good idea."

And that's it.

That "credibility" is one of many ways how a business consultant may "add value" to a highly organized company.

How do employees gain credibility that management and "The Board" will listen to, or is this question a dream?

I think it's more about getting a credible outside second opinion. for the same reasons you get a second opinion in medicine. It's less a judgement about a single source, than the requirement to have multiple sources.

Probably by assessing and presenting the cost/benefit analysis to management in a reliable, high quality, easy-to-understand way.

Sounds like a situation where there exists a fundamental absence of trust in the abilities of the team. That's... Probably not a good thing.

Beyond what taway20171214 said, don't discount the value of "language which management can understand". As I've moved up the ladder I've learned how extremely valuable this skill is and how woefully bad I am at it.

In my experience, "language that management can understand" just means focusing on answering the following questions:

1. What's the proposed issue/improvement?

2. What are the recommended options?

3. How much time will it take to get done?

In other words, all you really need to communicate is why we're doing it, and when it will be done.

In my experience, they're not interested in challenges faced in implementation. Keep things simple, and deliver on time, and you'll be speaking the "language which management can understand". That's basically all there is to it.

Depends on how high up the ladder the management is you're talking to.

Your line manager may be interested in a technical issue / improvement and understand its value without further explanation -- for instance, we're using a brute force algorithm that takes exponential time to foo the bar in the Baz module. It's got test coverage and the problem has a known logarithmic solution, so we could rewrite that in a week to be more efficient, and still be confident it's accurate.

Your department head may be willing to consider fixing a problem that affects efficiency or security or expected timelines -- we've identified the likely cause of at least one class of those outage events you've raised concerns about. If you want to fix it immediately, we would have to push back delivery of the Quux feature by a week while we rewrite a portion of the Baz application, but other risks are minimal.

The C-suite is mostly interested in problems/solutions framed as "how does this save us money" or "how does this make us money" -- we intend to invest a week in technical maintenance work that will allow us to save 25% of our monthly hosting costs by scaling back hardware requirements, and reduce the frequency of outage events that we have to pay out for on under our SLAs by 75%. That would cost $10,000 in developer time and delay our product schedule by a small though measurable amount, but I estimate it would save us an average of $48,000/year in costs.


The other piece I've seen is being able to handle "I want Foo by X". It's easy to take on the engineer mindset and say "Sorry, that's not possible. The whizbangs alone would take more than that time!", but what do you do when they simply repeat "I want Foo by X"?. Picture the various Star Trek series where the engineer would say it'd take 5 hours to fix something and the captain retorts "you have 2". It's real.

The skill which really makes me jealous are the folks who are able to read between the lines and get at why they want Foo and why they need it by X. Instead of saying "Sorry, no can do!" they're able to offer Bar instead, and because they understand the deeper motivations of why Foo is being requested they understand why the manager is likely to accept Bar instead of Baz.

This is pretty similar to your C-suite descriptions, now that I reread it. But it's a different spin on it.

I agree - the why skill is crucial and difficult. I won't claim to be any good at it (it's actually one of the things my current manager excels at intuiting and I want to learn from him).

One tactic I can suggest (if your manager isn't a totally unreasonable cartoon tyrant) is to simply be explicit about it and ask "can you explain more about why you need Foo?" and then "what's driving the deadline of X?" Understanding the business case is generally necessary - though not always sufficient - for coming up with an alternative solution.

I suspect that part of the gap between people who are and are not good at this is how well apprised they are of the general conditions, initiatives in other departments/teams, and short-term strategic goals of the company.

Some of that is on the person who may or may not put in the effort to remain informed; and some of that is on the company's management that may do a good or a poor job of communicating those things proactively between departments/teams and from senior management down to junior management and line workers.

All true statements. I've been working at it, but then I watch my boss who is also excellent at it, and I realize I'm a novice still. In comparison I just get frustrated and wind up frustrating them as well.

I wish I could upvote your comment several times over, thank you! As a [very] new development manager who has been a software engineer for many years, it is this kind of detail aggregation that I find difficult to really understand automatically (as in, I can do it, but it's hard to translate engineering-level detail on the fly without sounding kind of dumb, IMO).

> "Depends on how high up the ladder the management is you're talking to."

Depends on the individual, not on the job title. In my experience, managers of any level value information as simply put as possible. If they ask questions, then you answer them, but otherwise just tell them what they need to know.

What do you do now?

Right now I'm in that limbo zone between coder who manages and manager who codes

that's a management consultant, and the reason they're hired is to provide cover and credibility for both management and your technology team.

i.e., "the expensive consultant said it was okay, so don't fire anyone in management, or our technology team, if it goes sideways."

in other words, they're actually helping you do your job because they can compare your recommendation to other companies and teams in the industry and make sure everyone is doing things sanely. in your case, you were smart, and made the right recommendation, so they agreed with you. good job, you're competent, and aren't putting an established company into a risky situation like you would at a startup, which generally does not hire consultants, because they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

you probably didn't see it that way, i'm guessing.

The issue you're overlooking is that these management consultants are being paid large fees for information that a company can get for free just by listening to their existing employees. However, that's not a slight on the management consultants themselves (nice work if you can get it), but is a slight on companies that don't trust that their employees can give them sound advice. Problems at the ground level are going to become apparent earliest to those working at that level, if you ignore that feedback you're potentially throwing away valuable information.

As GP stated, this is not about (not) believing your employees, this is about risk management. In many cases it is justified - do you really want to run your company based on everything your employees come up with? Sometimes you need to check if their instincts are right, especially for decisions that have huge impact on your business. Price for consultants, while it might seem high to you, is actually pretty low compared to business values. Look at it as a kind of insurance.

How do the companies know that they can trust their employees?

How do they know they can trust the consultant?

(More seriously, being unable to trust your employees to give useful feedback is a sign that your culture is a disaster)

They diff the output of the consultant against that of the employee. Trust, but verify.

They must trust them enough to employ them. Even if they don't think any single person they employ has "all the answers", if you listen to feedback from your employees you can get a sense of trends. Furthermore, these observations should be something verifiable. You're asking for concrete feedback on issues, not vague comments about what's wrong.

Does something like that exist for software consulting?

I have done similar work.

I was hired to come in and assess the software that they were developing - they were working with some contractors, some vendors, and a smattering of other people, and wanted to know if their current method was working, how to address some concerns they had, and whether their current vendor was doing a good job.

I discussed it extensively with them, looked over the code and repositories, their current deployment, their backlog, looked at their priorities and basically told them "They seem like they are doing a good job, with the caveat that using contractors and vendors means you will never develop those skills in house, so I would hire at least one competent programmer internally to work with the vendors/contractors you hire, in order to develop that expertise, if you intend to use custom software as a core part of your business on a continuing basis".

This was conveyed via a written report with citations and via a meeting with the C-level executives of the company.

For this review and strategic suggestions they paid me about $1200 for an afternoon's work. That doesn't count time that went into acquiring the gig, scheduling, following up, or billing, just billable hours.

It's the sanity check that some managers/ higher up people want... Expert = someone who doesn't work here (from a non dev upper management perspective)

Yes, I am not sure how common are those gigs, but I did quite a few projects in development agency. It was usually in situations when projects went bad, I had to examine code structure and timelines to see why it went this way.

The two things I found (can be positive or negative), is that the consultant isn't tied to the familial expectation of employees at a company giving them more freedom, and they typically don't have much stake (except fees). This means that given the right consultant and party seeking services, the consultant may provide contrarian point of views that don't hold as much baggage.

Probably most important is the the company externalizes the decision so there is less internal responsibility.

Consultants don't provide contrarian point of views, they provide the point of view that the client wants to hear.

If a client is uncertain about something and feels risks, you could be contrarian but otherwise no.

Were you the consultant in this case?

In my experience, the answer is pretty much anything they can get paid for. For example, we hired a big 4 consulting firm to help us do some software testing. They were not great, but did something (I'm not sure what exactly, but they did produce some reports). We hired the same big 4 firm to come up with an algorithm for reducing financial risk weighted assets, and guess what, some guys from the testing team turned up! I was surprised, as there was no obvious crossover (and the lack of knowledge showed)! Anyway, the partner convinced us they'd do a good job so we played along for a bit. During this exercise, the guys did everything from manually typing in data to making a few spreadsheets to providing some opinion on financial rules and methodology. In the end, it was obvious they'd do almost anything (short of cleaning the toilets) to increase their billable hours. So you right to be confused, as the definition is flaky at best! Also, most consultants add very little value (especially big 4 firms), but every so often you do meet a superstar that's worth every penny.

Depends, there are many ways of doing consultancy.

I do enterprise software consultancy, which means that those big companies that don't think twice about buying Oracle or Visual Studio Ultimate, hire companies like my employer to come in and develop software for them, instead of having an internal R&D department.

Usually because for those companies software is a by product, something that they need for their real business, the one that they earn money with.

Then you have business consultants, than come in, evaluate the current set of working processes and provide optimization guidelines based on a specific set of targets.

There are other variations.

What's preventing a software developer from doing enterprise software consulting?

Pretty much nothing except what tools/companies they're working with.

You're a software consultant working with an enterprise company? Congrats, you're an enterprise software consultant.

Depends on what they are consulting on.

I know that places I've worked have had management consultants, who came in, worked with our teams for a few sessions, and wrote us up some recommendations as to how we could better work together.

We also hired DB Performance consultants, who came in and helped us optimize some gnarly queries and do a DB "Double check" to verify that the path we were on was good.

Another time we hired a pricing consultant, who helped us come up with a strategy to change our pricing and avoid pitfalls.

Basically, They are subject matter experts who may come in and actually be on-demand teachers in my experience.

I think a consultant in this context means a programmer with valuable experience in a particular domain. In Patrick's case it's sales funnel optimization. I do a lot of fisheries data work. The work done is usually based around a deliverable, and that can be anything from a written recommendation to a turn-key, green field system. You're a contractor with some specialized experience that somebody values more highly than software development alone.

This exactly describes my position as a software consultant.

> can be anything from a written recommendation to a turn-key, green field system.

Sometimes, we are there:

- to propose a set of tools or architecture.

- to migrate legacy systems.

- as staff aug (AKA "butts in seats").

- to do green field development.

Usually, it's some combination.

> contractor with some specialized experience that somebody values more highly than software development alone.

At least in our group, we definitely distinguish ourselves as different from contractors. At our core, we can do the contract work (and often do), but we also help out with the business side of things. Basically, we are contractors who know how to interface the technical side of things with the core business.

Oftentimes, we end up at a client who knows they want to build a system to help them do a thing, but that's step 10. They might know steps 1-3, but need our help figuring out and accomplishing steps 4-7 (e.g. defining actual requirements, organizing a good dev team, etc.).

EDIT: formatting.

What is the value of the deliverable? Can you easily leverage your value?

The simplest answer I like is:

Employee: Does what the boss says, and works when the boss wants them to work.

Contractor: Does what the client asks them to do, but has the flexibility to do it on their own schedule and according to their own way. In the US, the IRS may want to reclassify you as an employee if you dictate too much of how the work is done.

Consultant: They review what the client is doing and recommends what they should be doing, often performing that work too. The key difference to me is the client accepts they may not be the most knowledgeable in what change they want to make.

To give examples for programmers:

Employee: works on a app in the office from 9-5 adding the features requested.

Contractor: adds requested features to the app.

Consultant: reviews the app and proposes some features to add.

A consultant do the exact same work that you do, except he's paid a multiple of you and doesn't get company benefits.

Can a consultant do any kind/type of work?

Yes. "Consultant" seems to be essentially synonymous with "contractor" or "freelancer".

They come in to do a specific job, then leave.

Consultant is simply perceived higher value than freelancer or contractor.

Since I started selling myself as a "Mobile Consultant" I made significantly more money than selling myself as a "Front-End Developer", "Freelance Developer" or such.

Seemingly it's all in the wording these days.

It was always in the wording :)

"Freelance" is the offshore developers on elance.com working for a dollar an hour and the students working after class for free who are desperate to get experience.

"contractor" is the replacement status for permanent employees. They are outside of normal payroll and company benefits, they usually do 1 to 6 months repeatable contracts.

"consultants" is the experienced people who need to be called by up-the-chain to perform important matters and take critical decisions.

Or, you tell contractors what to do, but consultants tell you what to do.

Mostly it's a mix.

I am a consultant and yet distinct from a contractor or a freelancer.

I am not a freelancer because I work for a larger company.

I am not a contractor because, while that is a good chunk of what I do, I provide more than just software development. Oftentimes, I end up working with clients to actually determine what they need and how to build it. Then I help build it. Contractors typically just build it.

Back at university I had a chance to attend a guest lecture given by chairman of huge public telco company and he stated something like "you are not paying consultants to bring new ideas, but to let them sign your ideas so in case something went wrong you have somebody to blame".

Of course, this was different type of consulting than what Patio11 did, but there are a lot of different kind of consultants.

my friend just transitioned and his way was actually quite ingenious. He worked with someone who went to a different company, and that person tried to bring him on as full time role. He interviewed and got the offer but instead of taking it, he proposed that he will develop this whole thing on his own time for $x. Since he had enough good reputation for delivering he got the contract and the company even worked with him on setting up the payment via intermediary consulting firm until he had his own system setup for that (this will vary from company to company depending on their list of approved vendors etc). They initially let him work out of their space but he eventually rented a co-working office. It's been over a year and the relationship is working out, and he's hired a team in Argentina that he manages and keeps taking on more work. The pre-requisite here was that he had good reputation in his old co, but I would guess that having people like/respect your work is a good indicator of if you should start consulting in the first place.

Consulting is a bit too broad of a concept to provide a "what does a consultant actually do" definition. Anything that people will pay you to tell them or do for them without making you their direct employee is, technically speaking, consulting them.

For example: reviewing someone's database configuration and providing general recommendations for improvement is consultation, but so is directly modifying those settings for them and not actually telling them what changed. The expectations and deliverables are set by agreement between the consultant and the consultee.

You tell whoever hired you whatever they want to hear, and if their/your plan goes wrong they get to blame the consultant. If things go well, they take the credit. It's a win win because the consultant gets paid either way.

Consulting refers to advising the executive branch of a company. So one key ingredient it requires is experience (that the client company lacks), and the ability to communicate (in business/cash-flow terms) why the advice you are giving is superior to the company's current strategy. Obviously, it is necessary that you then can "make it happen", too. The "advice giving" typically happens before you are hired to get the "foot in the door", while the implementation is what you get paid for. I think the German term is more precise: "Unternehmensberater", that is, "company advisor". Anything lesser is just work-for-hire, with a cute title.

English has a word for Unternehmensberater, it’s strategy consulting. The very highly paid temporary experts are operational consultants. The ones in the middle are management consultants.

The top global management consultancy firms are McKinsey, Bain and Boston Consulting Group.

In germany the better term and profession (for the tax office) is "system software consultant". Because this is a free profession, in contrast to other consultants who are non-free trade "gewerbe" with additional mandatory taxes and what else. E.g. application SW consultant, strategy consultant or just consultant is non-free.

Yeah, there is a bunch of "xyz consultant" titles floating around in English. Executive, corporate, or financial consultant are some more. For the English titles, the distinction seems to be that the "management consultant" is the (more wages-level payed) work-for-hire guy.

Provide cover for the executives to do things that may not be liked by employees be that because employees suggested ( but were not convincing enough) those changes early on and the leadership wants to save face, be that because the existing processes used do not work for the next stage of the company but cannot be changed due to how those changes would affect existing business lines or be that because the employees aren't really qualified to perform those changes.

The most important part to realize is that a consultant is a vendor and as such certain policies that the company has may not apply.

Limiting what we think a consultant is to technology is too narrow. There is a long history of consultative practice in organizational development and the best consultants are invaluable.

For some further research, read up on "process consulting"[1], for example.

True consulting is almost like being a psychologist for an organization. Technology consulting varies, but true technology consultants are not technology specific, they are more like experts in knowing how organizations use systems and technology and assisting organizations with technology selection, architecture, hiring, training, organizational development, change, politics, psychology and/or complex situations that require additional outside expertise or brainpower.

I think a good example where technology and business consulting intersect is data warehouse consulting. If you have or want an enterprise data warehouse, you need likely need dimensional modeling. Dimensional modeling is a technique not a specific technology, many organizations don't have specialists with that knowledge. The best data warehousing consultants I have seen will come in when requested, determine the organizational situation through observation, propose a conceptual solution in concert with the organization, designed to fit the way the organization works, help with training staff on necessary techniques (such as dimensional modeling, if the organization chose to adapt it), and act as an expert for tough questions during implementation and after. Assist the organization with identifying data warehouse technology solution options that fit the need and budget, staff and skills, data migration, etc. as needed and desired by the org.

I think one key difference between a consultant and a contractor is, a consultant is more like an architect/engineer advisor "thinker and recommender", but a contractor is often more like the engineer/builder "thinker and do-er". Both are external experience for hire. Of course you get blends/crossover people who are both.

I also think consulting is more prevalent when there are a smaller pool of people with knowledge and experience that needs to be shared. Scarcity of skill creates demand that requires compensation due to competition for that limited resource.

Skills wise, I think you need a mix of soft skills and specialized knowledge in such an area, combined with the ability to communicate, market, network and run a business. Education -wise, I have a degree in information systems and one in organizational studies. I think combining organizational studies plus any specialty area is a great combination. You can also achieve this through an MBA+specialty area.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Process_consultant

Obviously it varies, but usually there is an element of papering over management problems, under the guise of actually fixing anything. Watch House of Lies on Showtime...

I'm a cryptography/security consultant, here's the kind of things I do. Hope that helps :)

* I get on calls with potential clients to see if we can solve one of their needs. Their needs can be broad: auditing code or specific implementations; reading and vetting pages of protocol design; advising on third party products or libraries; documenting the risk of the latest X attack... Sometimes I can do it, sometimes someone else should do it, sometimes no-one can do it.

* If nobody can do it but it's an interesting problem and it's relatively reasonable to tackle I (or someone else) will spend X weeks researching the subject so that we can provide the service in the future. We've done this with ethereum smart contracts recently for example (it's been pretty fruitful and I'll be giving a talk at Black Hat Asia in a few months on the subject).

* When the job starts, I'll be talking to the client to make sure we're on the same page, see what kind of claims they want to make, what they're more scared of, etc... This helps a lot, but of course the client is not always right or not always aware of what might go wrong. Most often companies do not even have a threat model and have no idea what they should really defend against.

* Most of my engagement are remote, but depending on the field you might have to go on-site. In any case, you always try to be close to the client so that you can get responses relatively fast (consulting is expensive, you don't want to lose your time trying to find answers they can provide). (Unfortunately it is not always possible as some of them are really busy or just do not want to spend the time answering questions.)

* Whatever the type of job is, you always spend a few days internalizing everything you're reading or hearing (I call that drowning). You try to get an idea of what the product/protocol/solution/app is (if it's your first time working on it), you read papers or articles about it if you're rusty/missing some pieces, you go through the codebase and ask questions to see what is what and what is where.

* Then you dig in, you do what you're best at. In security/cryptography we try to break things, find gotchas, discover flaws :)

* Eventually, you need to provide some product to the client. It is often some document or a presentation (or both) of your findings. You want your client to understand what you did, like really, this is after all the product they're paying for. You also want to give out recommendations on how they can fix things, sometimes you will want to fix things yourself as well. It all depends on what you can do or what the client wants you to do (if you agree).

Anyway, these are my 2 cents. It's a field that mingles expertise with client satisfaction. You need to know something that can help one or several of their problems, and then you need to do your best to convey your explanations.

(I just wrote this huge comment because I felt inspired after reading a large 2000 day-old tptacek comment.)

I have an Internet buddy in Chicago named Thomas Ptacek. [...] I decided to invite Thomas out to coffee.

At the end of the conversation, Thomas said something which, no exaggeration, changed my life.

Thomas: Some food for thought: If this hadn't been a coffee date, but rather a consulting engagement, I'd be writing you a check right now.

Me: Three hours at $100 an hour or whatever an intermediate programmer is worth would only be $300. Why worry about that?

Thomas: I got at least $15,000 of value out of this conversation.

Does this really happen in real life?

For those saying this doesn't happen any more... it still can, and does. However, the bigger issue most people face is finding those people who can actually get that sort of value from our knowledge/skills/etc.

I can give the same info to 2 companies, and one can make several hundred thousand dollars (in savings, new sales, etc). The other may not even be operating at a scale where they'll see $10k in increased value, even doing the 'same' thing the other company did.

Determining who those companies are, then connecting with the appropriate people, that is still the hard part. Meeting someone for coffee, giving them $15k in 'value' from a conversation... probably does happen now and then. I don't think many 'consulting engagements' actually happen at a coffee shop for an hour or two ending with a $15k check being handed over, however. (but maybe I'm too cynical and it does happen a lot)

The weird thing with consulting (in my experience) is that a customer almost never knows how capable they are of effectively using a consultant's time and output.

"Okay, we signed a one month consulting engagement, starting Tuesday." Consultant(s) show up on Tuesday, no db's or credentials have been set up, everyone seems surprised they're there.

It consistently amazed me how much consultant time companies waste. When if all of this had been ready, I could have delivered much more value by the end date.

And then same problem with actually using any work produced.

I'd estimate the effective-ineffective customer split is somewhere around 30-70.

100%. I work in consulting, and we spend a lot of time trying to find ways to do this better. But no amount of clearly documented prerequisites, checkpoint meetings to try to make sure they'll be ready before kickoff, or anything else consistently works. In my experience, we often lose 1+ week due to the customer not being ready even though they have acknowledged the prerequisites.

I think it comes down to priorities, and the fire in front of you always has higher priority. That means that onboarding and prereqs are not the priority until the consultants show up on-site and you are paying for them to find other things to do while waiting for the real project to start. Then it is a fire, and everyone starts moving with purpose.

Spot on. I've been in some situations where I've been 'hired', but the people I have to work with didn't know, or didn't want me there, or were generally antagonistic (usually they weren't consulted at all). Client may end up paying the bill, but they're getting so little value out of what I've done it's... painful. But it's often painful just to be working at some of those companies too (whether as insider or outsider).

How does it usually work out in the end? Does that hurt you in the sense that they'll blame you anyway, or help because you got more hours in.

Not a consultant but would list or report what time was spent on and they'd see line items like "waited on having accounts set up by IT for 2 days"

I don't always keep detailed time logs, but would take notes on situations like that, where there were significant delays caused by something outside my control. Not showing up on an invoice, but using those notes, I'd have a meeting with someone higher up (if there was no traction from trying to work with the people on the ground).

In most cases, those situations haven't worked out well, but it seems nothing does. There's sometimes some cult of personality - "do it Dave's way", etc. To which the logical question "if Dave's way is so good, why are things broken and people are bringing in outside help to fix things?" If you can't ask that sort of question and get a good feel up front, it may be worth skipping the project (unless they pay is really good - I've usually put up with more crap than I suggest other people do because I wanted/needed the money)

I've learned to always keep such logs, in some gigs even down to minutes.

They can come really handy if the fire brigade comes in when invoices start getting discussed.

Some projects I do want some product I don't. If I think at the very beginning that I have to do that, I'm already thinking I'm in a potentially bad/adversarial project.

Always good to keep notes on things like this (noted at the time each issue appears).

Always better that they never have to be formally given to the customer.

In the end you get paid as usual.

The company didn't get much value but they probably don't get much value out of their employees or anything they do. Doesn't matter, you are not here to change the world, they don't want you to change their world.

this is another reason weekly billing works in everyone’s favor. in the former ex, the customer would not lose with hourly billing. with weekly billing they become very motivated to resolve hurdles to your success

Depends. I’ve been in situations where we billed time that was essentially just waiting on the client to do something because our business is selling time and if we weren’t committed to that client’s project we would have started on a different client’s project. In these situations I would however look for _something_ useful to that client to have our team work on in the meantime, since billing for playing ping pong seems unethical.

Why do you think this happens?

My gut is it's a combination of things.

1) The decision to hire a consultant is (in most orgs) made at a level abstracted from day to day operations. So the person hiring you may simply not know what needs to be done.

2) The consultant's patron didn't take the time to get buy-in from all necessary stakeholders. This happens a lot at the VP level. You may have absolute commitment from your project's VP, but when you need resources from another part of the organization this turns into "what's that person's VP's relationship with my VP." Which may be great, or may be terrible. Navigating office politics to aid a project's success is 10-25% of being a successful consultant (result wise).

3) Inconvenience to ongoing work. I know if someone failed to loop me in and introduced a stranger to me on Tuesday, then asked me to do something that impacted my ability to do the work I already had scheduled, I wouldn't be overly happy.

4) Poor IAM (identity and access management) discipline and IT organizational structure. Consultant access and timelines are normally very different than new hires / "business as usual". The client may not be able (technically, process wise) to successfully complete an ad hoc request on an accelerated timescale.

This has happened to me as well. It's because whoever hired the consultant hadn't forced anyone to do those tasks. It's their own fault really. I recently did some consulting for a Veeam configuration and it took a good 12 hours to get them to set me up a VPN and get access to all the servers I needed to review their setup. Should have been ready from the get-go.

Do you think they cared that you spent 12 hours on setup?

Of course not!

If they cared, it would be handled or they wouldn't use consultants.

I'd put a caveat on that where they care if it makes them look bad. If it's readily apparent that your patron dropped the ball in prep (either through incompetence or simply ignorance), then that can be a very bad round of the blame game.

This is where providing transparency and insight (in a "how can we fix this?" way) up to management can help engagements go more smoothly. If everyone was aware from the first that "that QWSV system access issue" has been impacting the projects for weeks, that's much better than "the project is weeks behind" being communicated up at a random status meeting.

As a consultant, point out to your sponsor that access is not ready and it will take a few days (of the one week contract). That's all you are required to do.

I wouldn't advise to participate in the blame game or to point fingers. You are not here to cause troubles and trouble is bad for repeat business.

P.S. Organizations are dysfunctional and the majority of consulting time is wasted. Lesson one of being a consultant is to live with it. :D

Agreed. If avoidable, never point fingers.

But if shit really hits the fan, at some point management will be asking "Who was supposed to do this?" And between that and the finger possibily being pointed at you... soft skills in handling politically tense situations well are useful.

People, and particularly people in large organizations, are often highly inefficient and disorganized, even when being that way costs their employer $$

No. The market is too efficient now, the information too commoditized.

In order to charge that much as a consultant you would have to have a very particular set of skills, skills that you acquired over a very long career.

Do you know this from first hand experience? I used to know a guy who made around $5000 a day. His main skill seemed to be that he had the ability to talk to CEOs in their own language. Once you are on that level a $50000 consulting engagement is not much money.

Was he a programmer?

He used to be but then he advised on enterprise software like SAP and Salesforce.

I know a guy like this. He ended up a VP at a big company like Salesforce a few years ago, got laid off spent a year and a half blowing money on drugs and women. Came back and fudged his LinkedIn / resume to make it look like he was a consultant those years (no months only years on his LinkedIn) some company is back to paying him 300-500k salary. It mostly seems to be about selling yourself hard and interviewing a lot until you find the sucker who is desperate enough to hire you. Another thing he did when he was originally getting hired was to start a MBA class in a small town and never finish it so that while he was applying he could say he was getting his MBA. He does SAP and such. Not a route a lot of people will want to take.

Just to be clear: the guy I am talking about is very smart, knows his stuff and has a lot of integrity. My point is that the main factor that allows him to make the big money is not his technical skills but his ability to talk to people at all levels. Technical skills are needed but not sufficient.

VPs don't usually get "laid off"... they get fired, although it's almost always sold as a "mutual decision".

I can't imagine why such a standup guy would tell his acquaintances he was "laid off" haha

They also often have golden parachutes. :)

What does talk to a CEO in their own language even mean? That he knows typical MBA jargon and concepts? Anybody can learn to talk and think like a CEO by picking up a few DIY MBA books. You have likely misjudged his actual skill.

I don't have the ability to meet a CEO at a convention, strike up a conversation and keep them interested. This is not only about knowing MBA jargon. It's about manners and other things.

In corporations you see the same thing. Some guys meet the big VP and make a lasting impression while most others don't. This is not about skills or knowledge but about the way you talk and behave.

This is just networking skill, which is essential for anyone who plans to be a consultant as a career. After everyone has been introduced and become friends, you need to actually deliver some useful insight.

If networking skills come that easily to you you will have a golden future ahead of you.

No it’s about experience, skills and knowledge. If you were a VP at a prominent company, that says you know what you are talking about. The CEO or VPs at a smaller company automatically view you as a peer, or superior.

Actually knowing what you are talking about is the key to making the business last.

That he can explain things to and convince CEOs. That he seems credible, but comprehensible to them.

I think it is more than only words. I think it is about being able to sell, gain trust and establish clear expectations.

Would that all of us could be Liam Neeson.

Do you have those skills?

All my skills are not unique, and you could probably find someone else who has them, except for one skill which I am almost certain I am currently the best in the entire world at.

Pray, do tell what this one skill is

People on my linkedin talk to each other that way. It's bizarre how wannabe "coaches" talk.

As a budding freelancer, I will try to have a talk about the value I bring instead of rate per hour. My point is while it might not happen that a business owner tells you how much value he got out of you, you now know that's what he thinks and charge accordingly.

You have to be able to size up their market, their company, some idea of sales/volume/revenue/etc. Sometimes it's easy to ballpark, perhaps based on headcount (even assuming part time workers, you could probably ballpark $50k per person - a 50 person company would be grossing ~$3m/year just to stay open in the US, I'd think, but in most cases it would probably be 50-100% more than that, depending on industry, location and type of workforce).

Looking at a small company that's pulling in $500k, there's almost no way anything you do for them service-wise would be worth $300k to them (short of you taking over operations or similar). For a company pulling in $50m, there's almost certainly $300k of value you could bring to some department, doing probably the exact same work you might do for the $500k company.

Cool thanks. My first client told me their sales is mid hundred millions CAD. And they are expanding into other industries that require my skills. So in all likelihood their revenue will go up. I guess I was lucky by finding them without screening them. I will keep an eye for that in the future, thanks.

How do you find your clients? How did you find this client?

Well this is my first client. And I found them by applying on a website for local consultants.

Is it working for you?

I found a client in one week. I have no portfolio but have worked at a local online ERP company for one year. And before that finished university in CS. Headhunters was not the way for me. Nor the big websites for freelancers. I found a website for freelancers in my region and applied to two projects. Got one. But went in with a hourly rate.

While it definitely sounds a bit forced to me too, but we are talking about nerds talking (ha!) here.

Have you ever heard yourself and your tech colleagues talk? :P

Well it seems straightforward to me. Efficient.

Yes. I've had friendly conversations turn into paid consulting work because, "Then we will pay more attention."

What do you think new freelancers and consultants get stuck on that limits their success?

The key is to have people you've worked with who can bring you in to their org and vouch for you.

You have never converted a cold client? Has anyone done this before?

I haven’t needed to yet. Much harder if your reputation doesn’t precede you. Think about applying for a full time job. How much does it help having someone internal who can vouch for you to HR and the hiring manager? Consulting is no different.

To some people, probably.

I'd wager most people don't have someone like tptacek as an internet buddy or knowledge that would interest them, though. They literally mentioned HN karma rank titles... so much for fake internet points? Does this sound odd to anyone else or just me?

There's likely some small percentage of people who can go on to do consulting and charge lots of money. That this applies to a greater amount of people remains to be seen and is not proven by this post.

"Internet buddy" can be as simple as emailing someone with a question. Someone once emailed me with a question about a talk I gave at a conference. A few years later we ran into each other—he was working for a major client of my employer and I was asked to give them a technical presentation, neither of us knowing that we were about to run into each other.

Most people are too afraid to cold-intro themselves. Just send an email, worst someone can do is ignore it.

FWIW, I emailed Patrick, author of TFA, a couple years ago with a question and he helped me out. Then last month I emailed him again and we met up for coffee in Tokyo. Just email someone you'd like to meet and ask.

I don't know what this even means. I think Patrick and I might have exchanged a total of one (1) super secret Internet friends secret messages before we met for coffee and me and Cory kidnapped him for the day. If you're in Chicago and you haven't made a hobby out of calling me an NSA shill (or if you can credibly claim that you've done so only out of irony), we're "internet friends" enough that I'll grab coffee if you have something you want to talk about.

I guess I had higher expectation for the term "internet buddy" than what is used here. I generally figured it's a term implying some familiarity, and that getting emails from randoms is unwelcome. But perhaps the other commenter makes a good point regarding cold-introing. I always read various people say "I get thousands of emails..." and assume there's no reason for them to read mine.

I don't think I ever called you an NSA shill, although I did commit the grave offense of suggesting that Firefox is a secure browser, which I imagine is even worse. :P

Sadly, I'm pretty far away from Chicago and likely will be in the foreseeable future.

Is there a karma limit for this?

I go up to Chicago every once in a while to visit a childhood friend and would love to ask you some questions about consulting/bounce an interviewing app off you over coffee.

If you want tptacek as an internet friend my advice is to email him.

If you are physically proximate to him he’ll buy you a coffee. Pretty cheap price to pay for a new internet friend.

I’ll also suggest to you that Patrick (nor any of Thomas’ successful friends) is successful cause he figured out how to turn HN karma into gold (I’d bet Patrick would say HN karma all represents wasted opportunities for your own content).

Value received (perceived or real) does not necessarily equate to the amount of real dollars a customer would have been otherwise willing to pay.


But there are different levels.

You don't have to be good enough to convince the CEO of Microsoft to make good money.

There are many many more small companies that still can give you good money and are more easily convinced.

Yes, it did. I know both of them and have heard the story from both.

Addressing several of the threads here:

If you're doing contract development that can be done half as well for a quarter of the cost by an offshore team, you are not doing consulting. You are competing in an arena that you will never be able to win.

If you want to consult for good money, you have to create your market and you have to have the confidence of that market. You have to be able to give C-level execs advice that they want in a language they understand to solve the problems that they deem important. The vertical market is just as important as the horizontal one. In other words, a CRM expert is generally valuable. A CRM expert that can provide technical, management, and executive strategy solutions in the healthcare space is extraordinarily valuable. The very strong technical guy can be worth $2-300 an hour if he knows the right software and knows enough to put himself in the right position. The vendor that has brand recognition and a consulting team built around their product is worth more. The consultant who knows the ins and outs of the vendor relationships and how they fit into the big picture of solving the customer relationship problem and can throw together a comprehensive multi-year strategy that differentiates the client from their competition and will have a positive effect on the stock and market position is the consultant that makes good money.

You don't get to be that guy by being the best developer or by having a history at one of the big three. You work your way up the ladder, make a difference, and then offer that difference to someone in a parallel position. You build out a team, a strategy, and a marketing plan that puts you in a position to drive.

Writing software that is half the quality is a recipe for disaster. I’m managing a team of remote offshore developers who assured me they had lots of ‘corporate development’ experience. In the early days we rejected about 80% of the code they wrote. One guy added 100 lines to a React reducer that we ended up doing in two lines of code.

Sure it is. I don't disagree for a second. But there is no shortage of sales people that will promise things they can't deliver very effectively to decision makers.

CIOs, CTOs, and CEOs are not stupid. More often than not when they throw big money at organizational priorities, they know those projects will come up short in one way or another. But if they spend all their time focusing on getting those things perfect, they will be standing in the way of progress in other areas. And when they are focused on getting one of those priorities right, they aren't looking at spending five figures a week on a single person for a consulting engagement focused primarily on software development. Maybe occasionally, but not usually.

I’m sure you meant nothing by it, but I just want to point out that using the word “guy” here is needlessly exclusionary. I’m personally working to grow beyond similar habits in my own speech.

I am in a similar but but now in UK and US vernacular in think "guy" or "guys" is becoming less gendered especially amongst younger workers.

Patrick is a charismatic and compelling writer, and he writes in such an earnestly nerdy way that you think what he's saying must be true. Similar to the guy who wrote The Gervais Principle posts. It sounds great and you feel like you're hit with a series of epiphanies. But it doesn't pass the smell test. The author isn't a wealthy consultant. He's a full-time salaried employee at a YC startup (where he assuredly makes less than $x0,000 per week).

It has "2012" right in the title, so I don't see what the author's position _today_ has anything to do with it. And that "YC startup" has raised $440M and has 500+ employees... You're intentionally making the author sound less credible.

Besides the ad hominem, what other "smell test" does he fail to pass?

I have found that the 'charge by value not by time' is true based on my use of it for a longer period of time than I want to mention (for fear of giving away my age). I actually discovered this when in my first business which I started right out of college (before the Internet for sure).

I think one of the problems with being a young person starting out now is that there is so much info out there that you can read (or watch) that you perhaps don't do as much "doing" as we did in the past. As well as learning and figuring out on your own. By thinking and reading the signals and making mistakes.

In the end I think the issue is reading does not make you clever and we used to call this 'book knowledge' back when I was growing up.

I think the post is at least 4-5 years old given the references to Matasano which was acquired before the startup that patio11 and tptacek did before Patrick became an employee at Stripe, I would guess that the post is a bit dated - probably circa 2012 give or take a year or two.

One of the problems I've always had with patio11's advice is that the skills he brought to a job was something that could easily be measured, e.g. he mainly did sales funnel optimization so it was easy to see the before and after of the direct impact on the bottom line.

As somebody who is a skilled backend developer the value I provide is not as measurable. How can I justify charging a large weekly rate, when almost nobody can provide an objective number of the value I provide?

> As somebody who is a skilled backend developer the value I provide is not as measurable

Learn to do something which is more measurable, or figure out ways to measure some particular aspect of value you can bring. In back-end software, it will most likely be around performance or security. Doing a security audit then proposing remediation... if the company has already been hacked, they (should) understand the value rather quickly. If not... it would be a harder sell.

Performance? Would be hard, I think, without being a brand and people seeking you out. Speeding up an ecommerce site can definitely have measurable impact on bottom line but... if a company is big enough where that would have meaningful impact, they probably already have a team of people to navigate through to convince them of your value/skill/ability.

It's not hard in my experience. Not as easy as convincing CEO to do two redesigns per year, but not hard.

I work with companies operating at a large scale. Downtime costs $xxx,000/minute.

Developers cost lots of money, improving their productivity by a little bit pays huge dividends.

If the company has big events like Black Friday or Superbowl commercials, keeping the site up during those events is worth paying for.

Many not so big companies spend 6 figures per month in AWS bills.

Lots of work for a backend consultant.

If you have the experience and/or brand/name already, it wouldn't be hard. My thinking was not so much the work, but the finding people and convincing that a) you can do the work and b) they need it done. If you're successfully doing this now - props to you! If you have any specifics you can share about how you got through a and b above... would love to read more.

They usually reach out to me or are referred to me via a friend. One time I had a friend doing some work for Vodafone Australia, and he just asked me to come out for a month long engagement to help them get ready for the iPhone 5 (which turned out to be the 4s iirc). Another time I co-founded a Meetup group in a relatively new technology and a startup wanted to leverage that so they wanted some help getting started and having some good patterns to follow.

So I guess I would counter what you said with experience/network rather than a brand.

I think you need to go through the same steps that Patrick outlined:

* do work for someone you know

* write a case study documenting success

* repeat with a slightly bigger customer

Do you think there are 1-5 person companies doing millions annually with an ecom site?

There are definitely small (<10 people) companies doing millions with ecommerce. My inclination is that most of them are doing some/all via Amazon these days. But even outside of Amazon yes, there are some people doing that. Headcount is less important than technical headcount - there may be 8 people in the company, but they just outsourced a woocommerce shop and market the heck out of it.

Margins matter too, not just headcount. Someone could do $2m/year but make less than someone doing $800k/year with better margins.

Doing perf/security reviews of a niche like that (woo, magento, etc) would probably still be a place to focus and make money, if you want to stay 'back end' (or at least technical). But even then, some of the measurable stuff will be needed - "we reduced the load times by 45% on the checkout page, and conversions went up 17%, adding $87k in profit last year".

Security stuff is notoriously difficult for demonstrating any kind of value.

99% don't care unless and until they get hacked, they will also forget about it all in 2 months.

If they don't get hacked for years they will just attribute that to luck and probability, not valuable security consulting.

And if they do... you can guess that one.

There is a big market around security audits and certifications. They don't pay by value provided, there is hardly anything measurable, but they pay good rates for professional specialized work that has to be done.

Yes but it tends to be around bigger companies.

Lots of smaller businesses just don't care. They also don't have "chief somethings" to tell them it's important, or to do it to save their own asses just in case.

They just fly blind and in many cases they get lucky which further solidifies their beliefs.

And in the odd case when they get screwed they just bury it and move on.

Or post a "we are very sorry! security is our TOP PRIORITY!" message somewhere and move on.

I mean just look at the Equifax fiasco. Then scale that down to the smaller companies and see what you end up with...

Small companies rarely take consultants of any sort at any decent rate.

Would it be easy to find these clients?

Can you affect the number and size of AWS instances that a company needs? As Patrick said on twitter the other day. If you can optimize the use of AWS for a company that has 3k instances, you can make the company boatloads of money in reduced server cost.

I used to be a "skilled backend programmer" but now I "help entrepreneurs start their businesses." See the difference?

Are entrepreneurs that are starting their business really a niche that pays well? Seems like it wouldn't be. Seems like you get either "build me the next facebook for $500" or a lot of small business with a total budget of $5000.

In general, you're right, but there's a sub-niche of entrepreneurs who are either independently wealthy or have easy access to capital that keep all the MVP-building agencies and consultants afloat.

I can't imagine how much work it would be to sift through all the other "ideas people" who need an app next week and then they'll pay you once the cash starts rolling in.

Just bill 50 to 100 percent up front.

Is this typically 5k to 20k engagements over a period of 2 to six weeks?

Are you a consultant or freelancer currently? Have you tried doing this justification in the past and how has it gone? EDIT: length

I am a full time employee currently, but have done consulting on the side for $50-$100/hr several times. I've never tried to negotiate weekly rates because I've only been able to do ~10 hours of work a week on top of my full time job.

those are 2 separate issues (# of hrs you can dedicate per week, vs, whether you are in position to negotiate for a weekly instead of hourly rate)

if anything, knowing how much you can do (10 hrs of work) per week, makes it easier for you to propose how much value you can provide each week, no?

Would you want to do more consulting?

Reading this just reminded me how lucky we are to work in tech and have the ability to extract so much money out of the companies we serve. My girlfriend works as a copy editor at a major online news site (it's in the US top 100 on Alexa) and her salary is essentially half of mine, even though her job seems more stressful and taxing. I'd love to make more money, but I also think it's ridiculous that people in other fields are getting screwed while we prosper. I wish there was a way that we could apply our skills toward fixing this injustice.

I'm assuming you're some sort of programmer.

There's a lot of people who can write/edit good copy, and a lot of people who want a job writing/editing copy, but a limited amount of jobs, and I doubt the market is expanding as fast as tech. Think of some problem that can be solved with software and you've just created X programming jobs, X = # of people required for that company's engineering department, whereas the value to society of adding another news site diminishes quickly.

So there ratio of people who can write good code to programming jobs is lower. Also, and this is a huge assumption on my part, the # of hours you need to put in to be a competent programmer (at the level of money I'm also assuming you make) is greater than the hours to be skilled enough to produce decent copy (for the average person). So it's more difficult for the # of programmers to catch up to the # of programming jobs. Thus, the demand for programmers drives salary.

This is all without talking about the subjective amount of value to society a programmer can bring compared to a copy editor.

To fix this (I hesitate to call it injustice) we could raise taxes+implement UBI or increase funding to some other social welfare programs and raise the maximum income required to take advantage of them. But I think essentially, what careers people choose should be somewhat influenced by what society needs, and salaries can reflect that.

Not saying that the demand for programmers isn't all fucked up because of startup speculation and other factors, but I think in general the tech industry provides a lot of value for the world.

> I wish there was a way that we could apply our skills toward fixing this injustice.

Educate yourself on why does that happen. Main purpose of every company is to make money. As long as IT is making a lot of money programmers will be paid a lot. As soon as industry starts to cool down - our salaries will drop as well.

Enjoy it while it lasts. In less than a decade you will be replaced for sure for a younger one no matter how good you are.


This seems like an unproductive rephrasing of the comments made in the linked piece, ironically not unlike how people unproductively rephrased Papert's paper. (And even those comments are strawmen of what's posted on code.org, especially considering they're brief snippets of marketing material and not parts of a research paper.)

Once there were coal miners. Today they are SW programmers. The INDUSTRY needs you!!!

Ugh, this is definitely a fear of mine. I'm 33, and the other day I realized that I'm one of the oldest employees of the startup I work at... older than my boss and possibly older than the founders themselves. It was a strange and slightly disconcerting feeling, realizing I was now the "old" guy.

I know about the ageism in the industry, and I do worry that in 5-10 years I'll be struggling to find work. I hope I'm wrong.

At your age also had this fear that turned true much faster since i come from GREECE. The only way i manage it is by putting my expertise on personal projects and sell my services really really cheap. Real example: Currently i am developing a lean version of a product for 2000Euro that a US company sells for 15000$ (That is the most a local client offered to pay) I invest my personal time with the hope that if works fine i could sell more of them for a decent profit.

A question that has bugged me about consulting:

Why aren't there (afaik) consulting agents in the same way comedians/actors/musicians have agents?

Find me a gig, negotiate the payment, accept the payment, and pay me. Also interface with the client for me.

Ultimately the agent works for me doing all of the work I'm bad at.

Does this exist? How do I hire somebody to do this sort of thing for me?

> in the same way comedians/actors/musicians have agents?

Many reasons for this. One reason though is simple logistics in terms of how the world has changed since that system was in place. And for what reasons.

In the 'olden' days there was no internet. So if you were a performer you needed an agent for one thing you probably had little business or negotiation skills and no source of information to figure it out (nor the knack or desire). And also there was no easy way for 'customers' to get in contact with you. (Now it's trivial to go direct to a developer by email).

Also with performing the product is pretty much always the same. If you are going to book a comedian for a certain night at a certain rate you know the product. With programming it's all over the map in terms of length and deliverables.

Above just a few reasons.

That said it's not a bad idea not to mention it is almost certainly being done but maybe not on a major known scale.

Because, generally speaking, those people make enough per-gig to support an agent making a living taking a small cut.

Furthermore the amount of time required for the comedian/actor/musician to complete the work is pretty small.

If you can start charging 6 figures for projects you can complete in a couple days, I'm sure an agent would be happy to work for you. If not...

yes. they are head shops. but one key detail. you are working for them. not the reverse. the relationship with the customer is very valuable

Besides the other reply here (good info), there's also complexity. Determining if you've "completed" the work - they want specified results, which you probably want to negotiate on - that's far more nuanced than "I showed up at this club and did my 2 hour set".

There are tech recruiters that will do short term contract/placements, which may be close, but they're not an 'agent' in the same way as a music/actor/sports agent might be, who may know you for years and understand your career/strengths/skills/etc. The tech recruiter will still more be a body-shop sort of thing.

>Does this exist? How do I hire somebody to do this sort of thing for me?

It does exist, but they hire _you_ not the other way around, because you would be their employee.

Actors, musicians, athletes, etc... are all making so much money that an agent taking a 2% cut can still be very wealthy.

There are firms out there, like recruiting firms, but they will take much more than 2%. Probably close to 25% and you work for them.

I charge between $2-3K a day. But i have 20 years experience and worked for large clients and at big companies.

My best advice is the find an industry which have a lot of consultants working (so you know clients have the money) and then offer yourself as a consultant with a design, tecnical, financial etc approach. I.e be a niche player in a large industry and never grow bigger than 10 people and instead start charging for things that are scaleable and which clients can use even after they move on.

Your agency has 10 people? Was you the first person in your agency?

No we are two looking to hire 4 more. Have freelancers do some of the work until we find the right people. My first agency was 80 in its peak, but its just too much people handling imo.

Did you start the first agency? What was its niche?

I started both yes and in its time it was niche (but expanded into much more traditional type company). We were focused on web-app and product design (started in 2005) when everyone was focusing on web design.

Did a ton of projects for Adobe and their Lighthouse division who were pushing their flex platform back then.

This time we are focusing on something quite different but again in an area with few people who can offer what we do but who still are used to paying for consultants.

We get great clients but they get someone who is very experienced and know a lot of the typical pitfalls.

A relevant side note: If you're getting into consulting, here are my suggestions for writing a good Statement of Work https://kirubakaran.com/blog/consulting-sow/

Your example reads like a programmer wrote it instead of a consultant.

- Would not expect to see a "such as" in statement of work in the locations you used them.

- Would not expect typos in statement of work.

- Consultant will push commits to source control.. I have other employees to code, I would pay an consultant to consult. Define strategy, architecture, coach. Not type code, you are way too expensive for that. Are you taking yourself serious?

What I read is a freelance software engineer.

For a single person, it's often both. Personally, there are projects where I'm more a 'freelance software engineer' - someone else is managing the project, working with the end client to determine goals, dates, etc. Someone else did sales and defined the outcomes, etc. I'm a pair of hands.

In other cases, I'm doing more of that other work - actually 'consulting' - meeting with people, helping determine strategy/direction, etc - then sometimes managing the project and/or doing some code (if code is needed, and usually is).

Except in the real world (also at Google) the people who "type the code" also do the actual design work.

I quess Perelman was also just "typing a proof".

The amount of clueless people here is astonishing.

Hey, just fyi, this comment was flagged to death but I vouched for it to undo that, as I think you mean well and you make good points. I'm guessing the flaggers were reacting to the "clueless people" line.

I consider Google a rare breed. Make no mistake, I absolutely love companies where software engineering is understood by the exco as first (and only) class citizen.

The real world is a matter of location and experience I guess. Silicon valley would not be my example of the real world. My experience is more companies see consultants as not another developer. They already have their architects and engineers to do just that. People typing code as their first commitment, stating they will commit code to archive in their core statement of work, do not scale. I'd rather have a consultant using his experience to teach my 100 developers what to make and commit to the archive. Have his experience, mind and vision executed by 100 people. That scales. That is worth the 5 (6,7) figures I pay him. If he can only work as hard as at most 2, or heck 5 of my developers I'd rather hire that at a fraction of the price.

Note that this thread was on consultants that ask 5 figures a week. I took that as upper half end of the 5 figures. Entry level consultants coming at 85-150€ an hour (in EU) are a different story. They would be seen as an architect with experience outside the company and as of such would most likely code and design like a regular architect.

Not all are clueless I guess. Just people from all over the world and from all sorts of companies.

P.s. Only have experience with enterprise consultancy. After writing I realize this may be entirely different from consultancy in/for a small sized firm.

Do consultants never code?

I replied above, it depends on the level of the consultant. Never say never. For a five figure a week consultant I would say it is not the first priority.

They can code. "Consultant" doesn't mean much. May as well say "Dude we hired to do XXX".

That would be a contractor or contingency worker for me. They are hired to do X. When they leave their work stops, a critical difference with a consultant.

Consultant does mean something. Means you temporarily hire experience in a field you are not familiar with to bring competency to your company, train/knowledge transfer to employees, and have a quick up ramping of a project which can continue when the consultant leaves because now you have a proper architecture and your employees are trained to use it, work with and extend it.

Thanks for the feedback. Could you point me to the typos please? I'd like to fix them.

Noticed the word "design" was written as "degsin".

> Noticed the word "design" was written as "degsin".

It isn't. For reference: https://web.archive.org/web/20170927012427/https://kirubakar...

It is, though it was desgin not degsin.

"desgin assets such as color palette and images to be used".

Under 1.3. Also in your reference.

Great, thanks! Fixed now.

How do you go about finding clients? I see an outline here https://kirubakaran.com/blog/consulting-outline/

Curious if you have any recommendations.

In retrospect, I have to say that making friends has been the most significant bit in this regard. I didn't make those friends with the ulterior motive of getting more work of course. Though I used to be painfully introverted, I'm a friendly person and I made friends sort of organically, through my roommates etc. The great thing about loving programming is, when you talk about your mutual interests with your programmer friends, though you're just hanging out and having fun, it is also naturally a "work meeting".

That's probably not a very useful answer, but that's how I got most of my clients, who then referred me to their friends etc.

If I were new in a city, I'd find a way to accelerate that by going out more and meeting new people doing activities I enjoy. One of my friends made a lot of connections at the climbing gym, for example, and he got a few consulting contracts that way. The conversations for him were as simple as "What do you do?" "I'm a software consultant" "Oh, we need someone to do x at our startup. Do you know about that?" "Sure, let's talk more".

I'm sure there are other ways to jump start your connections... make something shareworthy and posting it on HN, for example.

Thank you! I am getting into consulting and while I found a client, I know this is just the start for me. So I estimate a probability of 70% I will read everything about consulting on your blog.

Wishing you all the best!

How did you get into consulting? What do you do?

Thanks for asking. To be reductive: I mostly build webapps for my clients, but of course it's a lot more than just that. I got into it quite intentionally because I wanted to trade lower variance for higher pay and flexible lifestyle. That is, I'd rather make $3x one month and $0x the next (where I work on my personal projects or read a good scifi novel in the sun), rather than $x one month and $x the next.

When I started consulting, I was living in Seattle and I had a single long term client. Now that I live in San Francisco, there is high paying work everywhere.

What is the most painful aspect of consulting for you?

The trouble with working for yourself is, your boss can be an asshole. It's hard to take that vacation when there is billable work available. You can burn yourself out quite fast.

After having done this for a long time, I've learned to be zen about the intrinsic variance in income. But it is still hard psychologically. While rationally I know that I make more per year as a consultant and have more interesting work as a result etc, it's still painful to see the numbers in the spreadsheet go down when I'm not working for a few months, even if it was a deliberate decision that I made.

A couple hundred comments, some from patio11 himself, in 2012:


> Long story short: programmers can do things which meaningfully affect marketing outcomes

And... while much of it's been said before... if you call yourself a programmer, very likely you won't be at the table when decisions about marketing are made in the first place. Might even be on the page linked above, but one of patio11's big suggestions is not to call yourself a programmer. I probably still use the label for myself in some situations, but often when coming in to new consulting projects (solo or with someone else), I'll say something technical, then answer some questions, and I usually get "you don't look like a programmer" or "you don't sound like a programmer", in a 'disbelief' sort of tone.

As trivial as it sounds (and it's not, it took years of fighting the 'jump to tech' habit/comfortzone), talking to people about 'the project' at a business/operations/value level is where to start out. "How does it work now? What are you trying to do? Where are the pain points?" etc. Being able to jump down in to the technical weeds when appropriate is a huge bonus - you can talk to their technical staff as well as the rest of the staff and be a bridge.

Was doing some work for a company with a main office and mobile workers (mobile folks are out in trucks doing outdoors work - delivering, planting, landscaping, etc). Each dept head knows their stuff, but I was actually a bit surprised that one of the core office staff - been there more than 10 years, and is the main point of contact for the field workers - had never been to their loading dock to see how they worked. (the dock was, for years, about 1000 feet from her office). As I'm asking questions and trying to determine best approaches for some rework, there was almost no one outside of the owners and one other person who'd actually been to all parts of the company. I went out in the truck with one of the field guys for a few hours... but I'm also a "programmer"... this was revolutionary for them (no one who'd pitched solutions to them had ever been in the field before).

If you want to be treated like a programmer, call yourself a programmer and behave like one. If you want to be able to give more value to a company/client, do more than a programmer would. But... it's hard to do that in most companies as an insider - you're tasked with XYZ, and your intruding on others' territories when you poke around too much (that was my trouble when working at traditional companies). I want/need to know how the whole thing works, but info sharing is sometimes the only way some people can exert control over their areas.

Dumb question — you bill for this “non-programming value-added” work, right? Even jumping into a truck for a few hours?

I fully understand the value in “doing more” but still occasionally have to fight the feeling that I need to be coding as much as possible.

This gets back to "hourly" vs other type of billing. In some cases, that sort of "learning" work (riding in a truck, visiting a site) may be part of a sales process, and not directly billed for. In some cases, it might be part of a paid review/analysis prior to any formal work being done.

> occasionally have to fight the feeling that I need to be coding as much as possible.

Fight that as much as possible. The more you learn about the entire project/deliverables/system/needs, the more you'll find there's less code to write, or the initial code can be built for more optimal reuse, etc.

That doesn't necessarily contradict writing initial code up front, but very much prototype stuff early on. I always wish I'd done more prototyping - faked UI screens with some action buttons, etc. - just to get something in peoples' hands. Almost everyone reacts better to stuff they can touch and use (even with fake data) vs abstract data and/or stuff that's far removed from the end product.

Agreed. It's hard to make that jump.

Consulting fees certainly make the work more attractive than it would otherwise be, and I have been tempted to go down this path before. That aside, part of me thinks that the culture around consulting is masking bigger problems. I've seen consultants being brought onto projects where the main development staff would've been better placed to do the work (more knowledge about the intricacies of a business, better awareness of the pitfalls of the current systems). However, due to being snowed under maintaining legacy systems, in-house teams may not have the spare capacity to take on more work. For consultants this is a good situation as they can come in, do some greenfield development and leave the maintenance to someone else, but you've got to wonder what goes through the head of business owners who would rather pay high consultant fees than invest in extra staff and training for their in-house team, which is frequently better for the long term health of a company.

In my case my company has a terrible product development process, and it’s a big reason why our app sucks, it doesn’t deliver the key value customers and the company need.

I have said as much to everyone up to the VP level, and provided detailed recommendations (I am a Sr Dev, but in prior jobs I successfully managed dev groups of 40+ people). The response I’ve gotten has been coaching on delivery (stop being so blunt) and crickets on any actual changes.

If a $30K a week consultant came in and made the same recommendations at VP level, they’d be prized for their directness, and people would be having fires lit under them to implement most of the changes. And the actual staff would benefit as much as the company.

A huge huge part of it is just persona, profile, reputation and perception.

A fancy consultant with a laundry list of "credentials" will be automatically trusted.

When Joe Schmoe developer says the same thing it will be dismissed.

You can see a variation of this happen with books, particularly self-help books.

A nobody author writes lots of valuable stuff and people flick through it and go mehhh.

A famous self-help personality writes a pretentious 50 page book rehashing cliches (probably actually written by someone else) and give it a title like "the pink monkey that was red" and it will "blow up" because everyone talks about it.

Nothing wrong with that. That's the game, I get it.

The point is if you ignore this or don't understand it you are going to be disappointed.

> "The point is if you ignore this or don't understand it you are going to be disappointed."

You can recognise it exists whilst still being disappointed that it exists.

Someone I work with suggested "Perception is the only reality", which seems to fit here.

> You can recognise it exists whilst still being disappointed that it exists.


To me an interesting contrast to what I said is Bitcoin.

It has legs of its own to stand on and therefore does not need to borrow credibility from the author.

Imagine if books and blog posts and movies and art work didn't have the author/creator next to it. Interesting to think how people's reactions would change.

> "Imagine if books and blog posts and movies and art work didn't have the author/creator next to it. Interesting to think how people's reactions would change."

I find this interesting too.

Generally speaking, people are drawn to creating narratives about the world around them. I'd suggest that even if the creators of art become nameless/faceless, the vacuum would get filled by a cult of personality around taste makers. For example, in the world of electronic dance music there's a high volume of music producers without public recognition. However, the DJs that play this music then become the "face" for this music, and it's their reputation which is more prominent than many of the artists making the music.

And the reason for this situation is that frankly, most management really sucks. It's not easy to be a good manager, and I wouldn't claim I would be a good one. (Like most people, I think I would be better than the people I've worked under, but that's irrelevant.)

The best thing is just to quit and move to a hopefully better company. Companies with this mentality seldom change for the better.

I think it runs just a bit too deep in the psyche for one to be able to escape it by moving to a different company.

It happens in many contexts even outside of business.

Perhaps you can escape it by making a product like a mobile app or SaaS.

It gives you a curtain to hide behind which consequently allows the judgement to be directed towards the product/service.

That could explain why everywhere I go, I experience the same thing :).

This is exactly right. This is how many companies operate, and it's why there is so little satisfaction working at most companies.

One can try to become that consultant, or one can try to go off and start their own project/product/company.

Would this be a software consultant or a management consultant?

Whatever it is, it doesn’t have “developer” in the title.

Doesn't matter. Both are respected by management types, that's why they can command high wages.

> but you've got to wonder what goes through the head of business owners who would rather pay high consultant fees than invest in extra staff and training for their in-house team, which is frequently better for the long term health of a company

For large companies, division managers are more concerned about short term goals, because that's usually what metrics are in place, but also potentially competitive landscape, etc.

Bringing in someone today who can get something done in, say, 4 months, vs going through a hiring process, or fighting to reprioritize existing projects/staff... that's a big headache. Throw a bit more money - often from a different budget than "payroll" - and 'solve' the problem.

I get your point, and am largely sympathetic to it. However, often, the people with the required skills don't want to work 24/7 for one singular employer. You lose a lot of freedom/flexibility, for starters. Often a pay cut vs 'consulting' rates. I've been out of traditional employment for so long, I'd probably not make a good employee anymore, and would have a hard time getting hired.

As an external consultant/expert on some things, you're also being paid for explicitly not being part of the 'problem'. You can ignore some of the politics that may have led to the situation you're trying to fix. The person cutting the check may be able to cut through some of the red tape and get stuff done quickly.

I've been an employee at places where it's taken a couple days just to get myself on a network and credentialed up. That's a pretty significant waste, but... amortized over the total employee cost, it doesn't seem to be seen as that big a deal.

> "However, often, the people with the required skills don't want to work 24/7 for one singular employer."

That's why I suggested training (which would be part of a long term solution, I agree with you that consultants have a role to play for meeting short term goals). Companies seem to undervalue training, probably because it's not business critical and there's no guarantee that a employee won't just get trained and then leave. What I think companies overlook is that an environment that gives enough resources (time and otherwise) to foster personal growth is the type of environment that breeds loyalty. Where I'm working right now, I have to fight against the grain to pick up new skills (even skills that have an almost immediate payback). Doesn't sound like a healthy work environment, does it? On the other hand, I've worked at another company where training was encouraged, which was definitely a key part of what made it a better place to work, with an added bonus of getting to work with happier, more productive colleagues. Interestingly, what formed part of the downfall of the latter was some senior management types trying to outsource as much as possible to consultants, and not for sound business reasons... let's just say that, for some people getting gigs, it's not about what they know but who they know.

Have you done consulting jobs where you never set foot in the office?


I feel like you just described my office perfectly.

I wonder how common our shared situation is.

It's got to be pretty common. I run an engineering team, and have to keep the people supporting the old legacy code and product. And while I try to get them to learn new technology, it's hard to keep them distraction-free to focus on the new stuff when bugs keep pouring in on the legacy platforms (that still drive most our revenue). And so that means building either new teams or hiring consultants for new projects. And then you have to manage people feeling like they're stuck and not getting to work on the cool new stuff....

The way it reads it sounds reasonable, but ultimately it seems more targeted at aspiring consultants who were already pretty entrepreneurial minded than at the general programmer crowd. Apart from doing things 'right' (proper rates, selling yourself, networking and so on, we've all read that on HN), I think it surely requires a much different mindset towards work than what your average developer might have. I can't imagine getting into the grandstanding mindset (not meant in a negative way) required to sell myself as a consultant really, and I'd also first have to adjust to quantifying everything I do in terms of money.

But definitely good for all the people who can do it and use the corporate structure of the world for their benefit. Pretty cool. I could see myself get the required competence to consult some time in the future (though not yet), but I doubt I'd ever get the character for it.

I think an important note is that this sort of work is a lot of sales and not a lot of programming. You have to hustle and know how to sell a narrative and have the credentials/data to back it up. You make money through scaling, which means selling a lot of clients the same solutions which might be easy for marketing but for other niches it can be difficult because it can take non-trivial effort to adapt an arbitrary software product to a given strategy/solution or require certain organizational culture shifts for meaningful success. Also clients don't want to share and generally want 100% of your time so work/life balance and 'scaling' to many clients can be difficult.

This post seems to discount his experience over eight years. $X0,000 seems to suggest it's on the lower end, so that's like a 3x salary bump. I would hope over eight years of work you'd get better at your job... So, what's the real impact of switching to per week billing? My guess is that this post is overselling it.

I switched to weekly billing about 5 years ago. Life changer really.

Can you describe why? Curious for a second opinion.

How did you do it?

Assuming it is a real situation, would you rather do per week billing or per hour?

This gig economy propaganda results in a race to the bottom. Instead of $4,000 a week one is more likely to end up without income and working full time on take home assignments. It's a trap.

Step 1: Be popular/famous enough that people know your name.

Step 2: Be good/accurate enough at opining in ways that make sense.

Most people won't have either 1 or 2 going for them.

There's one more thing - charging a lot is how to signal value, which is a a huge thing. I know a guy who used to manage an A-list rock band (everyone knows their songs) who went into consulting, and started out lowballing people, for $1k/week or something. People didn't take him or his advice seriously. After increasing his rate to $20k/week, people were hanging on his every word.

The advice didn't change, only the perception of value.

> Step 1: Be popular/famous enough that people know your name.

Step 2: Be good/accurate enough at opining in ways that make sense.

Neither of these are prerequisites for being extremely successful at consulting. My consulting rates are now approximately $10,000/week with a 70% annual utilization rate. I'm not industry famous at all. I also do not maintain a blog or do "content marketing." For a while I had no website, and even now my website isn’t exactly great, it’s what I’d call “minimally good enough” (but then I’m not a web developer :). I started consulting several years ago, and I have literally never gone onsite to a client's location. A significant number of Y Combinator companies have been clients of mine, and virtually all work comes to me via referrals from past clients.

I don't typically brag about this, but I'd like to say it because patio11 is an easy target for the "he got there by being industry famous" critique, and I think that would be the wrong thing to take away from his writings. I got to this rate by following his consulting advice as sprinkled throughout his blog and his comments here on Hacker News. I started my rates at approximately $5,000/week, which if I recall correctly tptacek once told me was "criminally low" for the industry :). Here are the two steps I would suggest, in place of yours:

1. Be demonstrably technically competent and capable of presenting your expertise coherently to various audiences,

2. Be willing to raise your rates and willing to ask clients for referrals at the end of every engagement.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that the very first time I raised my rates was spontaneously, on the phone with a client. I was asked my rates and thought to myself, “fuck it, let’s see what happens if I ask for 20% more than usual.” I did, there was a moment of silence, then an “okay.” That exchange is the substantive content of essentially every instance I’ve ever raised my rates. There’s not much magic to it aside from being willing to do it.

I personally used to be in the same position you're in now, in about 2012, reading patio11's blog and being cynical about it. But I find that framing to be defeatist after having accomplished it myself without either of your steps as a prerequisite. I firmly believe just about anyone who isn't socially tonedeaf and who has a real technical competency can achieve the same if they are determined to do so.

As a side note, I personally feel that I owe a lot of my success to patio11, and I’ve told him as much before. His response was essentially to pay it forward, and I hope I can do that a bit with this comment.

You are industry-famous (or at least have the potential to be), to exactly the degree that "virtually all work comes to me via referrals from past clients."

To put it in more technical terms, your work seemingly has a positive viral coefficient, such that when you do work, it gets you exponentially (if only with a very slightly-above-1.0 exponent) more work. If you just exist in that state for long enough, you eventually get to be a well-known name.

This is what people mean when they say that you "need" to be industry-famous: it's not that you need to be already-well-known, but rather that you need to have the things going for you that cause people to pass your name around, such that you will inevitably become well-known. You need to be "in the process" of being famous; you need to be successfully executing on personal-brand-building. And some people just don't have what it takes to do that.

That's a really low bar for "industry famous". Yes, to get to a non-trivial consulting rate, you need to be established and have references, and yes, this probably implies a number of years at a lesser rate.

But "famous" signifies something quite more than having a handful or two of happy, influential clients.

Finally, I'm not sure patio11 is really all that famous outside the HN bubble, and for all it is, it really isn't that big.

10k/wk * 52 wks * 70% is $360k/yr. A good number of engineers earn this amount in total comp in W-2 gigs without being famous.

At $5k per wk, you're looking at Junior engineer at AmGooFaceSoft comp levels.

I recognize your username from various threads, but I'm unfamiliar with your work. What is it that you consult on? And, if you don't mind me asking, how did you get "demonstrably technically competent" in it? Were you an employee in whatever field it was, and then struck out on your own? I'm fascinated by consulting but have a hard time envisioning what these consultants do that employees don't, at least in the more technical fields.

I suspect he is an infosec consultant who started off with pen testing...

Correct. Although these days my consulting has drifted into distributed data analysis pipelines and overall software architecture.

I answered one of these questions in the comment below this one, but for the other: I worked as a technical consultant for a large firm before going out on my own. That’s where I primarily learned the business side of the work - being on kickoff calls, delivering reports, reading SOWs and proposals, etc.

That's a nice rate.

Mind sharing how many weeks you work a year? Ie, is there enough demand you can work in the upper 40's, leaving enough vacation time?

Here’s the weird thing I found out in my Dev/infra consulting - making $30-40k/month is easy if you you want to work at 100% utilization on a year+ contract. It gets sketchy if you don’t want that kind of utilization.

He states a 70% utilization rate over the year, so probably about 37 working weeks / 15 weeks off.

This is correct.

Loved this. It raised a question, though: how do your clients hold you accountable to your rates? How do you demonstrate $10K in a week was worth their while?

I think that's kind of the magic of it all: what is the value of having your critical systems work?

The only way to determine a price on something like that is usually by comparing it to someone else. Then, you have the protection from people lowballing since most take "you get what you pay for" to heart.

They wouldn't agree to the price if it wasn't worth it to them, so as long as you achieve what you promised, then you are worth it.

> Step 1: Be popular/famous enough that people know your name.

This is what irks me about articles like this being posted on HN and indie hackers--You too can have a six digit MRR if you've spent the past X years building a community or mailing list around the topic...which is not a bad advice but not many people are able to do this.

So while not without merit and valuable bits, I feel like you've highlighted a very harsh reality that people like to forget....

This is the new entrepreneur porn disguised as content.

I know, right? Like you, I prefer the articles telling me how to charge $20k/week as a junior developer fresh out of school with no experience.

Sadly, it seems that the world we live in requires us to work for the things we want.

You can spend your energy coming up with reasons why the guy who worked his way up from nothing shouldn't go around giving you step by step instructions on how to do the same. Or you can get started toward doing something similar.

Not to be too defensive here, but one of my goals with Indie Hackers is to collect enough knowledge and stories that you can easily filter through to find examples of the type of approach that best works for you. Because you're right — not everyone is suited to spending 5 years building up an audience, etc. There are other ways.

Always happy to take suggestions on how I can improve the site to help with this, and also suggestions for different founders I should reach out to to come do an interview.

A big initiative of mine for 2018 is to vastly expand the number of interviews on the site (currently at ~250), and to add a better tagging system to help you find what's relevant.

IMO it's a mistake to focus on his particular fees, that's what he managed to make for himself. You need to find your own realistic path. For instance I, living outside of US, will probably never be able to charge $100+ hour my clients, I'm fully aware of that. But no matter who you are, you probably still can push for a little bit more, and that's where Patrick's advices are solid. Often, it's just a matter of asking for more, as simple as that.

It depends on the kind of consulting you do, but this likely either selling yourself short or not framing your skills the correct way.

Generally speaking, most CEOs will respond positively to an offer that they put $1 in and get ~$3 out (with a range of possible outcomes around that ~$3). In fact, most smart ones will ask how many $1 bills they can throw at you before this proposition becomes untrue.

People who have the kind of combined skill set that 'patio11 has are relatively rare, but they need not be as rare as they are. For many people, all it takes is adopting an appropriate mindset for their work.

Location simply doesn't matter unless you are in a place where CEOs don't like money.

Since this is something of a hobbyhorse of mine: You know all my invoices had “Ogaki, Gifu, Japan” on them, right? The only thing you have to do to charge $100 an hour is successfully pitch any firm in the world on paying you that. They exist, in quantity, and substantially all of them are on the same Internet we are.

It's very doable to find remote consulting/freelance work. I'm in a region of Canada where the goal freelance/consulting rates for software engineers are well below $100/hour, and I could regularly find remote consulting work in the US around the $100/hour mark .

Are you consulting on one project at a time, or multiple?

Currently, I'm employed FT. When I was consulting, typically multiple projects. It's necessary (IME) to do so to guarantee you have a steady flow of work. I'd always be looking for a new project midway through the current one.

There are plenty of places outside of the US where you can charge that rate.

If you're in Europe and a programming consultant, you can (and should) charge usd100 and more. Like, double, or triple.

Edit: actually, first thing you need to do is stop charging by the hour, and charge by the day, or better, by the week.

When I was an employee, I knew my company's clients were charged $150/hr for my work. I also knew my company was switching to offshore workers so they could pay $5/hr.

Based on my past experiences, I'm not sure making lots of money is my goal, but I have the nagging feeling that it should be possible, just because it was no secret that people will pay that.

Certainty in the UK its normally the day rate that is used - though some non tech companies seem to want to get away with paying straight time (ie what a FTE would get) instead of the contractor rate.

Where do you live?

In a small city in Croatia, on the coast of Adriatic sea. I moved here for personal reasons as it's a great place for raising a family - but it does put some limits on what types of gigs I can get (remote only) and what fees I can charge. Don't get me wrong, I'm totally fine the way it is, no regrets whatsoever. Also, it obviously depends on the type of consulting that one does. I'm mostly working with startups, helping them with web app architecture and performance, and their budgets are just not as big as when working with well-established corporations.

> I'm mostly working with startups, helping them with web app architecture and performance

When I read the blog post my first thought was that I would love to do exactly this. I'm working at a startup right now but I'm so bored of the day-to-day and really enjoy architecture/performance tasks. I think I'm going to give consulting a try after I vest a little more stock :)

> Most people won't have either 1 or 2 going for them.

Not at first, no, but even Patrick had to start at zero, right? It's true that there's a lot more personal branding and content marketing going on, but that doesn't mean a person can't execute a similar strategy and find success. It may not be as profitable as it once was, but it can be enough to relieve some financial stress.

Some actors grew up poor but I wouldn't go around telling poor people they can all become world-famous actors.

You think being a consultant is as rare as becoming an actor?

Not everyone can be in the top 1% of paid professionals in their field. That extends to acting or consulting. And there simply aren't enough clients that can pay that much to support a significant increase in the # of folks pulling down those fees, regardless of the quality of the service offered. If 100 Michael Jordans showed up tomorrow, that would just increase competition for the same scarce resource of NBA player slots, not the number of slots. Professional sports or acting make these dynamics more transparant, but they're at play in all professions.

Not everyone can; but anyone can.

As an extreme counter example can a person with an IQ or 50 do it? Clearly not. So not everyone can. There’s a range of abilities and personality types. I suspect the number of people with the ability/personality type necessary for $10,000 a week gig is much less than you imply.

Personalities are built; you're not born an introvert. Anyone can be built into a leader; go join the Marine Corps if you don't believe me.

I didn't say anything about being an introvert or any other personality type. I don't know patio11 or anyone else who commands high consulting fees. But clearly it is more than just knowledge that gets patio11 high fees. There is personality too. If patio11 were a raging asshole then his employability would decrease.

I've met Marines that were assholes so I'm guessing that 'join the Marine Corps' isn't as great advice as it first appears. Recently a Marine drill instructor was implicated in the abuse of Muslim recruits. That isn't a good leadership skill for the corporate environment. Your notion is too simplistic. It doesn't apply to everyone. It applies to some people but not all.

People lie on a spectrum in terms of abilities and personality. Not everyone can be molded to have the requisite knowledge/personality type to command high pay. It's simply not possible. Just take extreme examples and one can easily see this.

You're completely missing the point. Being an asshole is a choice. My point is that anyone can be a consultant that puts their all into it. Being an asshole isn't in your DNA.

A Drill Instructor being a dickhead is also a choice. It doesn't make him any less able to be a leader. My point was, joining the Marine Corps turns weak individuals into respectable men that can command dignity and respect into people. What they choose to do with that transformation is up to them.

I'm not missing the point. You are. Take a person with a 30 IQ. This is a person with severe mental retardation. That person clearly will never learn enough to command a high salary doing software consulting. That's an extreme example. There's a spectrum of ability and talent. Not everyone is capable to learning a given topic. No matter how much time/effort they put into it.

Peoples' personalities are also not always so malleable. My wife is a psychiatrist and she deals regularly with people who simply do not have the choice to change. Forces inside their brain are beyond their conscious control.

The Marine Corps sometimes turns weak individuals into respectable men. And sometimes it pumps out assholes. It doesn't work for everyone. This is obvious.

Even if we generously assume this is the case we still have the problem that the demand is limited.

Hence.. the "not everyone can" bit still applies.. but not everyone will. So that's not even relevant.

You can't teach any arbitrary thing (nor temperament) to any arbitrary person. For a specific example, consider: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teichm%C3%BCller_space

I can say that not only would I never get anywhere with math at that level, but some of the related mathematical pages on Wikipedia surpass my ability to even tell if they are real or the work of cranks.

For any random person, there are things they can't do or learn because of the way they're made, any more than a cow can do calculus.

What's deceptive is that people constantly tell you that you must believe in yourself. But the reason isn't that believing in yourself is sufficient for success - the reason is believing in yourself is necessary to succeed so everyone who is successful attributes their success to that.

Given enough time and training, anyone who puts their all into learning it, is capable of understanding that.

It may take them 20 years to learn math from the ground up, but they can do it. Saying someone can't do something is bullshit. That's sheep mentality.

Many people do put their lives into things without ever becoming world-class talents.

Understanding an algorithm or concept is not a world-class talent.

There are lots of concepts whose understanding is a world class talent. In mathematics one would be hard pressed to find 10 people who have read and really understand Hironaka's Resolution of Singularities. There are many, many concepts whose understanding is a world class talent.

> you're not born an introvert

There's a substantial body of research suggesting otherwise.

Great comment.

>>Not everyone can be in the top 1% of paid professionals in their field.

The whole point of the 1% is the remaining 99%. The axiom of this game is there are filters enough to filter out the 99%.

I would argue that increasing the number and quality of great actors increases the profitably of movie studios, and thus the number of movies made.

Similarly with sports, there is a huge range of player incomes and assuming the sport becomes more interesting to watch and thus profitable their would be room for more highly compensated players.

Today's pro sports players are, as a rule, far better than pro sports players in the past. Why isn't this happening already? People only have so much time and attention. Also, many leagues operate with salary caps.

You also mentioned movies, but a lack of competent actors is far from the biggest reason there aren't more movies being produced.

Plenty of great movies had a ~20 million dollar budget, but few moves with that kind of a budget had high returns.

In terms of movies, studios look a lot like a VC firm with a term sheet from hell. However, plenty of studios died over time and would be making moves today if their past movies where more profitable. Sure, you needs a direct / script / special effects etc, but low budget movies with simple scripts and great actors also work without X00 million dollar budgets. So, their is clearly some wiggle room in terms of number of movies produced per year.

There are also countless starving aspiring actors so I doubt actor supply is your problem

Raw supply may not be the problem, it could be training etc.

Plenty of people are in a move, it takes something else to have the kind of run of a Robert De Niro or Anthony Hopkins. And generally people that have those kind of long runs are significantly more talented that many others.

They also often have family in the business, who presumably pass on more than just a foot in the door.

Acting skill and fame/box office draw are, let's say, not perfectly correlated.

Sure, but my argument does not need perfect correction. I suspect but can't prove that if Arnold had been a better actor his movies would have made more money.

Extend that across all actors and you presumably get more profit without higher costs anywhere which should result in more movies. But, even without more movies higher profits mean actors are simply worth more and collectively would get paid more pushing up compensation for the full range.

Unless you suddenly get more people spending more time in the theater, something depending on other factors than just how good the movies are, it doesn't matter how great the movies are.

If you look at annual and more importantly monthly fluctuations movie quality has a huge impact on ticket sales. https://www.the-numbers.com/market/

So, again it need not be 1:1, but a significant increase in overall sales including for home entertainment can happen because people have options outside of moves like video games.

PS: Major 6 put out 128 movies in 2006, but only 78 in 2013.

I don't see how this is controversial. Maybe we are not at capacity but if thousands of Citizen Kane-level masterpieces were being released in every genre monthly people wouldn't have time to see them all. There is a limit somewhere.

Ahh, ok. To use an analogy I am saying we are far below the laffer curve inflection point so talking about it's limit is not really meaningful.

So yes there is diminishing returns and actor quality would eventually stop being a meaningful constraint. But, again all I am saying is it's currently a meaningful constraint; not that it's always going to be one.

I honestly do not think that is near the main problem. The best actors in the world are wasted when studios are just churning out safe crap for teenagers.

Are you saying there is not an upward trend in sports salaries? They have been skyrocketing for decades and decades.

No, the discussion is about whether if you had a thousand Tom Bradys they could all play quarterback in the NFL.

For that to happen, they would have to increase the number of teams. This requires new stadiums/arenas to be built, and expansion teams to be created. This requires rebalancing of conferences and divisions within the league.

I don't think athletic ability directly translates to higher revenue. But, their is also showmanship which more closely relates to revenue.

Some players make 50x+ what other players are making. Having linemen make 10 million per year does not involve adding linemen it involves linemen that are worth being paid 10 million / year.

At the same time football has added new teams over time and increased both the number of players and minimum salary significantly from inception.

It also requires a fanbase.

Your assuming that every where else follows the socialist model that American sports do i.e. a pre entry closed shop for franchises with no consequences for failure - a premier league footballer has far more incentive to play well to stop his team getting demoted and facing a massive drop in his salary.

Most leagues in the U.S. have fairly open methods of getting on the team with the athletic talent required. For the NFL, anyone can pay a tryout fee and walk on to one of (usually) 8 spots. The other 45 are normally used by the veteran players good enough to have a multi-year contract or the new draft picks from college ball.

And the consequence for failure are huge: 90 players start the pre-season, and after training & a few pre-season games, teams have to drop that to 53. 10 extra can be part of a training squad, which represents a 75% pay cut compared to the league minimum for the 53.

I was taking about the teams compare this where the bottom 2 teams from the top flight football get relegated each season - this is like the bottom 2 teams in the nfl get dropped and replaced each year

You should be required to pass a test on what the word "socialist" means before you're allowed to start throwing it around like this.

I think I have a better idea than you do and your seelioning here BTW the way the NFL etc are set up is very similar state controlled enterprises where run under more socialist regimes British Leyland ICL and so on.

I don't think you do because the NFL is a system where surplus value is captured by the owners of the teams

And, over several decades of the NFL, all of that has happened several times.

A consultant making 5 figures a week, in practical terms, is a unicorn that is not reliably repeatable. Most people cannot maintain that level of marketing while maintaining an income (as a consultant) effectively. If they could, every programmer would try to transition into making 5 figures a week as a consultant instead of making $100-200k with a stable job.

The $4k/week thing isn't since pretty much any decent consultant can command $100/hr which is what that weekly billing works out to.

I used to have a similar scarcity mentality --- thinking that because other people were successful, it was like the lottery -- based purely on chance.

But I learned over time to develop a abundance mentality -- rather than say 'it can't be done' -- to change my mode of thinking to say 'how did they do it, and is there anything for me to learn.'

A consultant making 5 figures a week is not a unicorn, it's not even that uncommon. But it's not just coding -- there's other steps that are also necessary but not sufficient. Building a reputation, building a following (a blog or email newsletter is a good way to get started), meeting people who open doors, etc.

Please provide literally any evidence you have that the average consultant can reliably and repeatedly generate 5-figures-a-week-individual consultancy. I can already tell you no such evidence exists but if you want to search for it, you are free to do so.

> I used to have a similar scarcity mentality --- thinking that because other people were successful, it was like the lottery -- based purely on chance.

> But I learned over time to develop a abundance mentality -- rather than say 'it can't be done' -- to change my mode of thinking to say 'how did they do it, and is there anything for me to learn.'

You probably should look up 'reliably' and 'repeatable' and the definition of those words. You really should not attack a straw man.

I just understand the probability of X event is Y and I'm not naive enough to try to talk myself into wasting energy on low probability paths.

The 5 figures a week consultancy path is exactly such a low probability path.

5-figures a week is a high number, no doubt.

But are you saying there is NO way to improve one's position in life and income? That, if a path can't be shown repeatedly and reliably in a double-blind clinical study, there is no value in attempting to improve oneself?

Do you believe income is fixed, and that if you can't hit a five figure mark, well -- you might as well not try?

> But are you saying there is NO way to improve one's position in life and income?

I never stated that was the case.

> That, if a path can't be shown repeatedly and reliably in a double-blind clinical study, there is no value in attempting to improve oneself?

Money, beyond a basic level of ~$1k/week is mostly useless other than speeding up retirement.

> Do you believe income is fixed, and that if you can't hit a five figure mark, well -- you might as well not try?

You seem to think money = improving yourself = important.

I'm honestly more worried about you as a fellow human being and the misalignment of your goals than I am about whether I make $10k a week or $1k a week.

There are plenty of reasons to take a steady job over running a business, even a very lucrative business. I’ve done both; no stressing over Christmas on whether a check will arrive soon enough in January or February to pay for my tax assessment in March has non-zero value to it. Paternity leave was pretty nice. I get to devote a supermajority of my professional efforts to work rather than devoting 10% to business administration and 20% to sales/marketing.

Consultants with relatively high rates are not unicorns, any more than lawyers or doctors with high rates are. This is not just repeatable, this is a fairly reasonable career path, much like “work at AppAmaGooBookSoft” is a lucrative but well-trod career path. (Which, btw, have in-the-door offers for mid-career professionals which are reasonably competitive with running a full-time consultancy at $30k/week.)

> Consultants with relatively high rates are not unicorns, any more than lawyers or doctors with high rates are. This is not just repeatable, this is a fairly reasonable career path, much like “work at AppAmaGooBookSoft” is a lucrative but well-trod career path. (Which, btw, have in-the-door offers for mid-career professionals which are reasonably competitive with running a full-time consultancy at $30k/week.)

You are seriously going to engage me with the argument that $600k+ (20 weeks of paid engagements @ $30k/week) a year in income + benefits is common?

I think you have a greatly inflated opinion of what the top 25% of software developers get paid let alone what is reasonable and repeatable.

It honestly sounds like you think $100/hr is the upper limit of consulting earnings.

There are at least some people making $250/hr+ as a technical consultant. Is it 0.01%, 0.1% or 1%? Who knows.

But it's possible, and it's possible to get there if you're strategic about it.

> Is it 0.01%, 0.1% or 1%? Who knows.

I said it wasn't common which you are acknowledging. Simply because less some small percentage of people can mange it doesn't make it repeatable.

That person making 5 figures per week often doesn't need or want to be working 'repeatably' or have a full schedule. A couple folks I know charge $15k-$20k/week, but they only care to take on a few of those per year, while pursuing other interests (other business ideas, etc). Even $30k/week is still selling time for money, and "isn't scalable" - maxing out at $1.5m/year even fully booked, which few are.

I'm talking about number of people able to do it rather than the specific individuals who have gotten into that position.

Are they in-person jobs?

Why can they not maintain that level of marketing? What is stopping them?

He used an exaggerated metaphor to illustrate that pragmatically, not everyone can market themselves to become well known, no matter how good they are at writing software. You then turned that into an irrelevant comparison of the difficulty of becoming an actor vs a consultant.

Thank you. Do you think that someone who is good at writing software can not learn to market themselves to become well known?

Not the OP, but my own experience is that it's a more uncommon skill than I first thought. I know plenty of skilled developers, but only a handful have a combination of business savvy and enough social skills and graces to be able to talk to a variety of people in business settings without ... hosing it up somehow.

I'm not at all saying all 'consultants' are great at this either - 'consultants' work for 'big 5' firms and are just sent out on engagements, which isn't quite the 'consultant' we're talking about here (the word means many things).

I've worked with people on projects who couldn't sense when the other people in the room were veering off topic and not understanding a response. Also worked with people who could not ever understand they themselves were going offtopic and/or not understanding what the clients were saying. Talking to hear yourself talk is a big one. Not being able to adjust yourself to the project is a project (if you're working with a small $2m company of 10 people, repeating anecdotes from your $100m engagements isn't impressive, it's ... annoying and/or off-topic).

Not delivering when you say you will. Not calling people back when you say you will. Blaming everyone else but yourself - these are all problems I've seen (and experienced) myself as an independent consultant. Easier to mask/hide when you're "just" doing development as an internal employee someplace.

Also... you posted this and have asked a lot of questions. If you want to talk more offline, email me.

>I know plenty of skilled developers, but only a handful have a combination of business savvy and enough social skills and graces to be able to talk to a variety of people in business settings without ... hosing it up somehow.

Of course most are like that: How much effort did they put in to become skilled developers, and how much on the business savvy? I'm guessing years on the former, and perhaps hours on the latter?

It's not that people can't develop those skills. It's that few want to, or realize that they have to.

> It's not that people can't develop those skills. It's that few want to, or realize that they have to

I sort of agree, but ... we all know the people who try to get in to programming/development, but just never get it. They can try, and maybe even land a jr role some place, but it never really clicks, regardless of how long they work at it. I think the non-tech skills are like that in some measure as well.

Also, while I'm probably switching examples a bit, I'm not sure how much experience you need practicing skills like showing up on time, or answering emails (and without being rude or condescending). There may be people who need to "practice" not insulting clients' employees in emails to the same client, but I'm not sure how much practice one should need to have basic empathic ability. If you don't have some of that, how many years do you need "practicing" those skills?

>I think the non-tech skills are like that in some measure as well.

The difference is that to do very well in tech/programming, you have to be well above the average.

For a lot of non-tech skills, merely being a bit above the average will get you far. In the context of this discussion, the primary skill the consultant has is still his technical skills. He merely upped his non-tech skills enough to prevent it from being a barrier.

Then there's that old joke about getting a girlfriend and having your .emacs go to shit.

Some can, some can't, but realistically, even if everyone were turning out articles as good as Steve Yegge's they couldn't all achieve the same name recognition. If you want another example look at mobile app stores. Surely there were thousands of games just as good as Flappy Bird that you've never heard of.

Who is Steve Yegge?

Formerly one of the most prominent programming bloggers but he has been inactive for a while.

"Can not learn?" No.

Not interested in / willing to spend the time to do it? Marketing yourself is a full time job.

>>Not at first, no, but even Patrick had to start at zero, right?

More or less everybody starts at 0. I don't exactly mean 0 as absolute nothingness, but some a low enough value of opportunity possible. That's the seed available to you, and from there you have to bootstrap.

Of course not every one will make it big in this game. But a sure shot way of going failing, is to not try.

People don't start as nothing, they just exist as identifiably self-contained entities within a finite range of time.

Are you a consultant?

I actually am, and I'm a Hacker News nobody that is 100% solo, including all of my sales.

I started in mid-2012 after being fed up with every employer out there, but was well aware that I was one of the best people someone could hire for things that are necessary, but not glamorous -- database performance tuning, data warehousing, ETL process development, and cleaning up disasters. Yet getting market rate for salary as a senior dev was like pulling teeth. At the time I was gritting my teeth to collect a paycheck. I got fed up with it, quit after managing to line up an engagement (and getting contracts drawn up), and struck out on my own.

In 5 1/2 years I've averaged 42 hours of billing a year, with the big gap mostly being because I decided to take 6 months off in 2016. I started hourly, but I learned exactly what Patrick learned and switched to weekly for the bulk of my engagements (which are short term), with a more amenable rate for long-term projects (we're talking 6+ month with many small projects, or one huge one). Most of it has been putting out fires to save a director's or VP's job, which gets you solid recommendations from said directors and VPs when servers go from on fire to twiddling their thumbs being nearly idle. Though I've built data warehouses and the teams to manage them as well.

There is a lot of selling. I'm either sourcing or making a ton of calls or emails every week, which isn't easy for someone that doesn't like to toot their horn. However, working remote affords me the ability to do that, as well as work with anyone in the US. If a local client wants me on site (preventing me from doing sales) there's a heck of rate increase for that, which causes most to let me work off site, though a few bite and the bump more than covers my opportunity cost.

There's also a bit of contingency recruiting. Employees take note when you turn a disaster into boring, easy to manage calm. More so when you teach them what you know. Keep in touch, and when you see the writing on the wall, perhaps your current client is what both of them needs. After all, you're already an approved vendor, so might as well make things even better for your client (and the top-notch candidate) and stick another $40-50K in your pocket for your trouble.

From when I started I TRIPLED what I was making (and am not in a cheap market), and making more than senior AmaGooFaceSoft devs in the Valley (incl. options and benefits) despite living nowhere near Califonia. Yet I'm still some nobody that's been on Hacker News since mid-2009 that just does fairly boring database things. Though there's a ton of database work out there.

Thanks for sharing your experiences, this is really interesting. It seems like you had a pretty unpleasant experience as a traditional employee, which I can appreciate. I'm curious about this part:

>I was one of the best people someone could hire for things that are necessary, but not glamorous -- database performance tuning, data warehousing, ETL process development, and cleaning up disasters. Yet getting market rate for salary as a senior dev was like pulling teeth. At the time I was gritting my teeth to collect a paycheck.

The skills that you polished -- to the point of being "one of the best people someone could hire" -- seem heavily reliant on experiential learning. For example, I can't see how someone could get to be really good at "cleaning up disasters" without cleaning up a lot of disasters first. Would you say your experience as a (chronically underpaid) senior dev is what prepared you to be able to go out and perform the work that companies value so highly? Is the trick for us less-senior folks just to... keep working?

>Would you say your experience as a (chronically underpaid) senior dev

Oh, I wasn't chronically underpaid. I got paid 95-100% of market rate, but you were basically held in contempt for getting it, even if you proceeded to vastly outperform all expectations after starting. A lot of places would offer 70% of market rate and not budge (was their budget), and I swiftly killed negotiations in response.

These places that tried to get more for less were great to remember though. Years later, several have become clients, and I can confirm they definitely got what they paid for after having done a lot of cleanup. They are a solid leads, because eventually their hiring strategy catches up with them, and they need a pro to bail them out.

>The skills that you polished -- to the point of being "one of the best people someone could hire" -- seem heavily reliant on experiential learning. For example, I can't see how someone could get to be really good at "cleaning up disasters" without cleaning up a lot of disasters first

This is easier than you think.

Cleaning up disasters is mostly two things. A) Knowing how to make a simple solution that does a task exceptionally well (objectively) and B) Knowing how to read and profile code to know what's worth replacing with A. The only other thing I would say is C) Constantly tell yourself that everything you write can be better, so you constantly improve A.

This isn't high-falutin' bleeding edge architecture astronaut stuff. Most of what I deal with are basic things done badly. I've walked into shops in the past few years where people couldn't reliably load text files into tables. In one investment firm about 4 years ago, they had a 24-core server backed by tons of solid state LUNs, and the effective throughput of the ETL process was less than 10KB/sec because instead of write once, they decided to write once and then update the same data thirty eight times (no exaggeration -- actual number). As basic an application you can think of, I've seen some very memorable disaster versions of them. I've seen things, man! Including identical disasters in the latest NoSQL database, with an application glued together using the language du jour.

If you genuinely know what you're doing, and are willing to always convince yourself that you still don't know enough (and keep learning), age 30 can easily be the time to give it a shot.

That's interesting I have a lot of experience sorting out large scale web businesses screw-ups maybe I have been approaching marketing myself wrong as a technical expert rather than a consultant - time to by some hugo boss suits and up my day rate to £1200.

I wont mention the UK jobsites name but I found a bug (a trivial cockup with canonical tags) that had cost them > £500,000 is lost traffic and that was in less than a week.

BTW I am looking so if anyones interested hit me up

Would you consider going back to fulltime employment?

I tried it once as an experiment, after a friend of mine suggested I, "just take it easy for once."

After that experiment, I hear any similar question as, "Would you consider working for less than half of what you make now, for someone who doesn't know how to manage a group of people?"

I do get a lot of executive headhunters in my inbox, and clients tender a lot of offers as well, but nothing remotely competitive nor interesting has yet come my way.

> In 5 1/2 years I've averaged 42 hours of billing a year

Should that be month instead of year?

42 weeks of billing a year, rather.

So I average about 32 hours a week (or billing 4 out of 5 weeks) over the course of a given calendar year. As I said, I'm very busy all the time. I took 6 months off for a reason.

So he became instantly popular with no previous effort? Or is it remotely possible that he actually spent time blogging on topics that his audience found compelling?


Scroll down to the start. See what you think.

I had the same as freelance programmer. The higher the rate, the more respect I got and work actually became easier.

How did you get your start freelancing?

Not OP, but the answer to this is almost always "network with people who will pay you to freelance." This assumes you already have the skills/knowledge worth paying a freelancer for.

I always hate that answer, because it doesn't actually answer the "how".

How so? If one asks how they find a traditional job, "look for people who are hiring people like you" is an accepted answer. Same difference, no?

Not really. Getting a traditional job is a lot easier, because there are job boards and such. However, those are notoriously horrible for freelancing.

Saying, "Just go network" glosses over a whole lot of exactly how to do that. It's like, if someone asked, "How do you make a good income investing?" and your response was just, "Pick a few good companies." That's great and all, but it completely ignores the process of actually doing that.

What exactly do you need answered about the "how"?

"network with people who will pay you to freelance."


It really just means putting yourself in places where you're likely to find people who would hire a consultant, and then getting them to a) like you and b) believe that you're competent at whatever you're trying to bill for. It's not necessarily an overnight thing, but after doing this consistently for a little while, people will start asking if you can help with XYZ as the need arises.

If you don't know where else to start, go to a local user group, or better yet, present at one. It only takes one visit to see how low the standard is at most of these things, the organizers are usually just happy to have someone willing to present, so you don't have to worry about not having anything substantial or good to present.

I had a full-time consulting income for several years predominantly from just following ads for freelancers on Craigslist, in a relatively pedestrian market. I didn't even do the basic networking stuff that is still a very good idea. The hardest part of breaking in is having the gumption to get it kicked off.

> and then getting them to a) like you

What if I have no clear idea of how to do this, and the standard advice for that problem starts with stuff I don't know how to do (e.g. talk to people like a normal human who craves face-to-face social validation)?

>What if I have no clear idea of how to do this, and the standard advice for that problem starts with stuff I don't know how to do (e.g. talk to people like a normal human who craves face-to-face social validation)?

"Act natural". That means check out. De-intellectualize and see yourself and everyone else as an organic entity governed by subconscious organic automata; the concept that there are normal people who "crave face-to-face social validation" and a separate set of non-normal people must be discarded. There are only humans that have virtually identical biological behaviors and interactions.

Separate your conscious self, and especially your self-critical running narrative, from everything else that is happening. Experience events as a floater, not doing any self-analysis or introspection, and just being there. Once you're used to this state, start trying to nudge yourself into interacting with others without re-engaging active control or analysis. Keep floating, act without analyzing what's going on -- act impulsively. Practice this state.

Don't overcommit. There are billions and billions of people out there. Burning your chance with Person Y is very likely not as important as finding Person X, with whom you have better natural resonance. There is certainly a Person X who possesses any special features that you believe are possessed by Person Y (close enough, anyway). If you piss off Warren Buffet, you haven't pissed off Bill Gates, Carl Icahn, or the Koch Brothers. So there is no point in overanalyzing or seizing up, and the truth is, people care far less about anything you do than you think they do.

In all of this, keep the standard failsafes and overrides. Don't do smack, act violently, or otherwise engage in self-destructive or clearly-hostile social behaviors. Re-engage to suppress these impulses as necessary. Maintain basic social standards and decorum. Just fence that in as the extent of any self-checking you do during an interaction.

Master these states because they are the baseline that people expect human interaction to occur from. You have to be able to manage that to employ more involved and specific likability techniques, but those are mostly only useful as elements of conscious social engineering like being a manager. All you'll need to be socially successful on a personal basis is to unplug your self-conscious psyche.

Disclaimers: I am ugly, fat, and dumb. I am not a licensed psychologist, clinician, advisor, or any other thing that should be listened to. Everything I say is wrong and no positive results should be expected to flow from any of it.

Would phrasing it as "find people who are willing to pay you, by networking with people who might be willing to pay you" be more informative?

Do you personally have the skills/knowledge worth paying for if you classified yourself as a freelancer?

Too broad of a question, in my opinion, but yes, I have successfully freelanced at various times and with various skills and knowledge used over the last 25 years. Each time it was knowing the person beforehand and being asked to perform consulting. Long ago it was through my parents' networks, and more recently through professional contacts.

Step Somewhere-between-1.5-and-infinity: Market the holy shit out of everything you do.

Yes. I literally got a job paying 3x my previous compensation just based on my StackOverflow reputation.

IMO, best way to start, as a programmer? Regional conferences. Start speaking. My first talk was just a presentation about how we used Akka at a small Scala conference in Portland. Last year I presented our use of Kafka at a much larger conference in Austin and now I'm prepping a submission for ScalaDays 2018, the largest conference in the field.

The point isn't even making it to the larger conferences, just keep getting your name out there. Learning to speak in venues like these doesn't just market yourself, you'll learn how to effectively present your ideas to an audience—a critical skill itself.

Then link it all on yourname.com or whatever and off you go. I'm at http://ryantanner.xyz.

The result? When I left a job a few years ago I just tweeted out that I was looking for some short-term consulting work and people I'd never met came out of the woodwork looking to hire me.

What does that mean?

There is a strong relationship between being famous for and getting paid a lot for giving advice, and that advice being about selling stuff.

"popular/famous" seems to imply these are those unfair forces of the universe that bless others but not me. Rather, #1 comes out of #2 and being proactive in your career. Patrick was active here, knew what he was talking about, and that developed into a reputation where he'd be in a position to have conversations like the story suggested.

Are you a consultant? Do you have 1 and 2 going for you?

If I'd have stumbled upon that shady-looking website (https://training.kalzumeus.com) anywhere other than HN, I wouldn't have spent a minute on there.

Is this possible if your tech skills are not in marketing/ecommerce?

What about graphics, audio, embedded systems, networking?

Of course. I still take on clients for branding and marketing. And, thanks to pation11 I'm able to negotiate higher project rates using a weekly rate rather than hourly.

Nobody ever shows up at your door and says "Welcome to the Illuminati. You can now charge $20,000 a week. Here's a list of clients."

Back to the drawing board for me. :)

I made a bet with myself that the top comment on here would be a very intelligent person using said intelligence to argue all of the reasons why none of the (excellent) advice in the article was applicable to him/her.

I won the bet.

Yer mom must be so proud of you.

> "This is stunningly not the case for programming, due to how competitive the market for talent is right now, and it is even more acutely untrue for folks who can program but instead choose to offer the much-more-lucrative service "I solve business problems -- occasionally a computer is involved."

Very true. But also easier said than done. I'd add that problem identification is problem even more valuable than problem solving. That is, get the problem wrong and even the greatest solution is irrelevant.

The problem with patio11's blogs is that he seems to exist in a different world from most programmers, I feel.

> So $100 per hour, even though it is not a market rate for e.g. intermediate Ruby on Rails programmers

Uh, $100 an hour is $208,000 annually full-time. Unless Patrick is referring exclusively to the Bay Area upper crust, I don't know how he reaches the conclusion that $100 an hour is "not even market rate for intermediate programmers."

$100/hr is only that much if you bill 40 hrs per week, every week. It does not account for non-billable time, vacation, sick time, etc. You are also taxed higher and have to provide your own benefits. You are taking on higher risk due to the temporary nature of most engagements.

If you're billing $100/hr you're not making bad money, but it's nowhere near equivalent to a $200K W-2 job.

consultant that wanted to aim for the same as a 200k pa job would be charging around the $500 an hour rate to allow for down time holidays etc

$100 per hour for an 75% loaded contractor is $53 assuming a 1.5x overhead for payroll tax, healthcare, office, etc.

Can someone explain to me why when paying weekly people would not turn the discussion on slashing the rate in contrast to paying hourly? I don't see the disconnect between the two and why it shouldn't be possible to also go "My rate is 100$, we need 40 hours, you can only pay 30, okay, what do we slash?"

In fact, that is what I am doing right now.

When you charge $100, and the client wants to negotiate, psychologically, $10 seems like a little change, but is actually 10% of your revenue.

If you charge $10,000 / week, and the client wants to negotiate, they'd have to argue to remove $1000 / week for an equivalent change in revenue, which is much different psychologically.

Some of it is perception.

At one of the spectrum is junior offshore testers billing by the hour. On the other is McKinsey, who bills by the study. The former gets more rate pressure than the latter. Charging weekly or monthly appears more professional than hourly. (Lawyers are the exception)

People will compare hourly rates to people's salaries in a way that don't really compare weekly rates.

$200/hr seems rediculously expensive to pay a dev. but a $8k/week will intuitively be compared to the value they get from the project, and 16k to increase wbesite traffic 30% seems like a steal.

What if it's not website traffic or ecom sales you are increasing? What if the payoff is 6 months down the road?

Up to you to sell the benefits of the projects. 6 months is medium, it's not difficult to project that far.

What do you do?

The answer always involves being interested in marketing, which I find incredibly tedious and dull.

Which kind of makes the person writing it seem dull. Until you realize that's not the content or the purpose of the writing at all. The whole thing is actually, itself, marketing, i.e. somebody's sales pitch for himself. Well no wonder it's a bore.

The money someone is willing to pay you, is roughly what it would cost to get the job done by someone else. If you have a good relationship of always on time, etc, that's worth some extra, but they wont pay you $1000 if they know someone else will do it for $100. But if everyone charges $1000 and you only charge $100 they will think there's a catch, even if you do a much better job. So the real trick is to find a market niche that people pay a lot for. Then go do that, and charge market prices. When reading success stories, like in Indie Hackers, the best info is how much they pay for different services. If you see something that is outrageous expensive, that you could do for 100 times less, then that is probably a good market for you. For example $500 for a single balloon ...


How do you view and approach "productization" of consulting services that are primarily information/education-based (vs. coding something)? Specifically with a mind towards scaling beyond the limits of your available time?

Well lets make more NOISE That was the original title we commented on How I went from $100-an-hour programming to $X0,000-a-week consulting Refers to 2012 and certainly the dust has settled since then.

I'd like to know how does he make his clients millions? I feel like consultants are pretty worthless (no offense, never really saw one at work), and thus I'd feel worthless as a consultant. What could I bring in a few weeks to a company that would bring them millions in benefits? Is this true? Or is that also part of marketing yourself as a consultant, to give the impression you bring millions in value, and change the business in ways it wouldn't have had they never consulted you?

It's about impact, and impact (in a short time) is about influencing big decisions made by upper management. Consultants are specifically hired to guide upper management to theoretically better decisions.

Here's an example from a data analytics company I worked at. (I was crunching data and analyzing it, and my company was delivering "simple", actionable guidance).

Our deliverable would be a tidy presentation showing that telco X was running all these different marketing campaigns, but that a few of them were generating lots of billing errors but few increases in sales. Cutting some of the messy, under-performing campaigns would save money (which was a lot of money at the scale these companies were operating).

The company would pay us 20-50k for that advice, and I would personally earn a typical hourly wage...

So, are you a developer who’s good at sales or a sales guy who’s good at programming? Nothing wrong with either but one has to take priority.

People still charge only $100/hour? standard Professional Services tech consulting rate is $250

I have heard " If this hadn't been a coffee date, but rather a consulting engagement, I'd be writing you a check right now." before.. Cannot remember where but your buddy read that in a book I think =)

If you charge by week, how do you keep your consulting pipeline full? Do you engage in contract negotiations while working for someone else?

By the week of work performed, not by the calendar. This is 3 weeks work. It starts Tuesday and will conclude mid February.

or yes, take an hour out of your work day for non-client stuff, and work an hour longer so it is not at your client's expense.

Lets mix some Popcorn NOISE patio11 should certainly consult putnam on how to improve his business. about: schedule your 15 minute strategy session for growing your 6 figure consulting business to 7 with sam putnam samputnam.com

This guy's greatest achievement is Bingo Card Creator... huh?

Well, if he can market that into the success he has now, then his information is probably pretty valuable!

Using that logic you should interview all lottery winners and try to get their expert advice on winning the lotto. Not saying the OP did nothing, but sometimes time and chance cometh to all men.

I think comparing his situation to lottery is reaching a lot; so no, I'll take a pass on interviewing those folks.

What I would do is interview tech employees who figured out how to take their ideas and build entire businesses out of them. Actually this is already provided somewhat in indiehackers.com. Unfortunately, it doesn't always provide useful guidance as much as highlight that right place/right time is still a big factor in success.

Don't be nasty.

Personally i would not spent a cent on the services of the poster. IMO he just earns his living by making NOISE lots of NOISE

P.S. Why to advertise the way you earn your living especially if it is so profitable?

This is by a wide margin the most bourgeois shit I've heard on here apart from the constant cryptocurrency posts. "Make disgusting amounts of money by doing nothing instead of your actual job!"

This post is just about how to actually extract a percentage of the value you actually provide to a company.

You actually have to provide that value in the first place. At no point does he mention "doing nothing".

I think there's lots of useful things to learn from the article, though I do agree that this:

> A necessary collorary to this: the principals of a technical consultancy do very well for themselves. I don't know if that is a secret but it certainly isn't well appreciated: nobody says Occupy Boutique Rails Consultancies, but the principals of them do end up in the 1%.

is not great for society and I'm highly skeptical that it's necessary. However I can see that it would be hard to do things differently -

This type of high-level admin stuff is a simple way to make an organisation efficient, and it's unclear how best to achieve the same level of efficiency whilst simultaneously not allowing the principals the power to centralise reward to themselves as well.

>unclear how best to achieve the same level of efficiency whilst simultaneously not allowing the principals the power to centralise reward to themselves as well

Everyone does literally the exact same thing but you add profit sharing to the consultancy. As the article said "Clients Pay For Value, Not For Time." Unless the principals are somehow actually providing the overwhelming share of the value rather than the people doing the work.

Well, "profit sharing" literally describes all possible potential (good and bad) solutions to the problem. How do you determine what is a good vs bad solution?

Profit sharing in the very simple and literal sense, as in X% of company profits are directly given to employees.

What would be the solution you would propose?

I dunno. In principle it's easy to automate the financial stuff but the social stuff wouldn't be automatable and distributing the reward properly is hard there. If a few people are good at communicating they might be tempted to believe that they are the ones bringing in the value, dropping the morale of the engineers doing the concrete work that is the foundation of the value being brought in.

Could you explain that to me like I am dumb? How does it relate to consulting?

At thnakee kindly Master Frodo - I know I just saved the world but once we get to bag end ill get right back on digging the potato beds it would not do for me to get above my betters *tugs forlock" :-)

> Thomas: I got at least $15,000 of value out of this conversation.

How is literally providing tens of thousands of dollars of value "doing nothing?" That's far more productive than your average web developer quibbling over how many pixels wide to make a button.

What is negative about bourgeois?

You’ll probably find your comment downvoted because you expressed yourself using language which isn’t kosher in the HN community, and you aren’t praising the writing of HNs most well known and well liked member, but I generally agree with your sentiment.

I felt gross and kind of disappointed while reading the article. I need more time to think deeply about why that is and communicate it in an effective way.

You feel the worker should give more of their value to the employer for free?

... Welcome to life? If you want to be sheltered, work for someone who will value your work and reward you accordingly.

Otherwise, prepare to deal with the cold truth that many businesses are out there for themselves exclusively.

This is the sort of naivety that Robert Tressell exposed in The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists. You need to be a bit more woke mate

Let us know when you arrive at your conclusion

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