So You Want To Be A Consultant?

I get a lot of questions about becoming a consultant.

I’ve been a consultant for close to 25 years, so I should know something about it. In reality, not so much, but I can share what I know and recommend an awesome resource or two.

Security Consulting in Oman
Oman Rocks – Friendliest People on the Planet!

Consulting seems like a Rock Star life at first.

  • I spent December literally at The Ritz on a beautiful beach in Oman, the converted former Sultan’s Palace, eating and drinking extremely well while helping to secure Omani cyberspace.
  • Then I flew home and spent a month with my kids, skiing a lot and writing about router and switch security to share my knowledge.
  • Off to Ottawa for a week, a funky city I enjoyed immensely.
  • Then working from the home office and the local coffee shop run by hot college girls (my groupies?) doing some very mentally and financially satisfying work for a client remotely, while skiing a bunch more.
  • And last week I checked out awesome live music and barbeque  in Nashville, along with some local whiskeys that do not seem to make it out of the area.
  • And hey, almost time to stop skiing and start surfing!
  • Did I mention I drink lots of Champagne and write about it online, a side gig that does make a few bucks?
  • And there is the startup in my left pocket that just may go public someday. I usually have some startup I’m financially involved in (although none have made me rich – yet).

Wow man, can I do that too?

The reality of consulting, although I love it, is far more drab.

  • Let’s see, 3 cancelled flights and 2 delayed flights in just the last week.
  • Lots of unplanned time in airports. Nothing personal O’Hare, but I don’t love you.
  • If you are good, you have an absolutely asshole for a boss: yourself!
  • Most trips kill 2 weekends effectively, which is time away from the kids.
  • Anyone really want to take 12 to 18 hour flights, usually in coach?
  • Although I have mega-flexibility at time, when on the road and often at home, I put in 12-16 hour days.
  • Chasing clients for signatures on contracts and late or lost payments.
  • And you must always be marketing (what do you think this site and forthcoming book are for, at least in significant part).
  • No steady paycheck.
  • And do not underestimate how much many consultants miss the camaraderie of the office, even those who worked from home previously most of the time.

Consulting isn’t for everyone, but it certainly has been very, very good for me.

First of all, a consultant is an independent professional who has multiple clients. A contractor, by contrast, has one contract at a time and hence one client (although a contractor can consult on the side just as a full time employee can – both are fairly rare).

Read This Book

If you want to consult, I STRONGLY recommend you get this book: Million Dollar Consulting
by Alan Weiss. Alan is a business consultant, and you want business advice.

Also subscribe to his free newsletter – or at least read the past issues. If you are serious, go read them now.

I’ve also recently found the Solo Consultants Network on LinkedIn recently which has some great info (just found it last week actually).

Random Ted Consulting Tips

And now random tips from me, speaking from experience, not necessarily expertise:

  • Before you start consulting, you want AT LEAST 6 months of cash in the bank. And if you have a job, preferably set up your first consulting gig before you quit!
  • You should specialize, but also have a wide array of skills. I do Cyber Defense, period. But existing clients have pulled me into just about everything from marketing to pen testing to corporate restructuring to business coaching to auditing. The reason to specialize is that we as humans trust specialists more – if you need brain surgery, who you going to trust: a brain surgeon or a General Practitioner?
  • I used to consult on all sorts of stuff, including social media when it was new. In retrospect, although all was fine, I should have specialized on Cyber Defense (which is still damn broad, perhaps WAY broader than ideal) all along, and I still could have done side gigs on whatever.
  • Let everyone know you are starting consulting. There is no way people can hire you if they do not know!
  • Most of my work has come from existing contacts. Stay in touch with people. There are folks I’ve consulted for throughout their careers at multiple companies.
  • The best business card a consultant can have is a published book. This is preferably in your core area of consulting, not on “Geocaching” or “Champagne” or “Collecting Belly Button Lint” – random books will not help. That said, when a literary agent showed up with a book contract on a professional topic unrelated to Security, I jumped and my clients have been impressed that I’m a published business author (geek will only get you so far). Yes, I have a literary agent, and yup, she is beautiful and talented too.
  • Everything I write on this site about being a Rock Star absolutely applies to consulting as well as being a fulltimer.
  • And one last thing: most “sure things” do not happen. Until and unless the project has started, assume it is not going to happen. Overbook, just like the airlines do , and if everything does happen, be happy, give up sleep, work your butt off, and then take a few weeks to relax somewhere with your groupies while drinking alcoholic beverages from coconuts, or whatever it is you enjoy!

It would be nice if there were a site like Odesk or Elance or even Fiverr for security consulting gigs, but I do not know of one. Maybe that is a great business idea?

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    • Brock
    • March 22, 2014

    I just got Alan Weiss’ book on your recommendation – looks excellent! Thanks

      • Ted Demopoulos
      • March 22, 2014

      You won’t be disappointed. I first read it when I started out, then forgot about it but refound it maybe 10 years later – and I once again got a lot out of it. There were things I thought I understood fully at first that I understood much better and deeper 10 years later.

      I guess what I am saying is it is great for the beginner consultant and experienced consultant as well

  1. Reply

    Thanks for mentioning how a business consultant should be flexible with their schedule. I also like how you said that they should also help you master new skills. If someone was looking into a business purpose consultant service, I would assume that they would keep this post in mind.

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