Insight for Independent Consultants

I’d like to help you thrive as an indie consultant

My Indie Experts email list is a place where I do that. If getting better at attracting opportunity via your expertise is interesting to you, please join. Two ways to get this insight; inbox or RSS:

    The further you get from hourly billing

    I realized the other day that the further you get from hourly billing, the harder you have to work at describing your services.If you ditch hourly billing (I think that could be very good for you, so I’m in favor of it, and you can get support with that here: https://www.ditchinghourly.com), you’ll have to come up with other ways of pricing your services. Daily or weekly billing are just different units of time, so those don’t count.Your left with custom proposals or fixed scope, fixed price packaging of your services.These can be far more profitable than hourly billing, but they put more pressure on you to work hard at describing your services.I don’t have a complete solution for this, but I can suggest that as you describe your services (assuming you have more than one option), you consider making it super super simple for your clients to understand why they might choose one option over another.Here are some ways you might help them do that:👉 Do your services fit different size companies or different levels of complexity? Ex: This service is ideal if you have 1 to 50 employees, but this other one is right if you have more than 50 employees.👉 Do your services fit different levels of client maturity/sophistication? Ex: If you have no existing back end, this service is right for you. If you have existing or legacy systems in your back end that need integration, this other service is right for you.That’s not an exhaustive list at all, but it’s enough to get you thinking.I work with people 1-on-1. If you’re interested in learning more, click this link: https://philipmorganconsulting.com/11-retainer/-P

    The means by which expertise is cultivated

    Last week  I had a chance to speak with David C. Baker about… well, about this:positioning services - Experiential marketing learning for independent consultantsYou specialize so you can 1) develop a marketing advantage and 2) get smarter faster. Specializing means you see more similar client situations in a shorter period of time than a generalist ever could. This helps you quickly develop economically valuable expertise in serving a specific type of client or solving a narrow range of business problems using your tech skills.Pattern recognition, as David has done a great job of explaining in his latest book (https://www.expertise.is/), is the underlying mechanism by which we develop expertise. Focus accelerates pattern recognition. So far so good.In my discussions with clients, I see this somewhat overlooked “middle layer”. The middle layer is the means by which expertise is actually cultivated, and because it varies a bit from firm to firm, it’s not discussed very much.In this conversation with David, we set out to explore this overlooked middle layer more deeply.You might be curious exactly how you do things like:👉Create economically valuable intellectual property (the kind that won’t become worthless simply because of a change in the popularity of a language, platform, or framework).👉Understand more about how you can create business value for your clients beyond just building them the software they need.Start to credibly call yourself a consultant rather than a developer, software engineer, or coder.If any of those questions are relevant to you now in your business, I think you’ll find my conversation with David to be very relevant: http://consultingpipelinepodcast.com/090We talk about the means by which you can develop economically valuable expertise. This conversation is a combination of mindset-ey stuff, along with very actionable ideas about looking deeper, looking broader, and looking in more disciplined ways for the data and patterns that you can use to move the needle more effectively for your clients.I hope you enjoy this conversation with David C. Baker as much as I did: http://consultingpipelinepodcast.com/090-P

    Contraction in the iOS / macOS conf space

    This article is interesting: http://subfurther.com/blog/2018/01/15/the-final-conf-down/Interesting excerpts:The immediate and obvious takeaway is the significant contraction in this space over the last two years. By my count, the US now has only 9 conferences that are exclusively for iOS/macOS developers…I say “only” because it was only about 4 years ago that CocoaConf ran more conferences than this by themselves in a single calendar year. And now, CocoaConf itself is gone; its organizers, the Klein family, run a single annual conference in its place, Swift by Northwest. The remaining conferences are almost entirely held on the coasts in cities like NYC, DC, and of course SF. Only one is in the South, and none are in the Midwest, Texas, or the Southwest.——I’m curious:Do you get consulting work from tech-focused conferences? (let’s define consulting as getting paid to provide advice for a client as much as or more than you get paid to write code for them)Do you attend non-technical conferences because you know or bet that you will meet prospective non-technical clients there?Why do you think there are fewer iOS / macOS conferences in the US now than there were a few years ago?-P

    What’s your favorite guitar solo of all time?

    What’s your favorite guitar solo ever of all time?Mine is Roy Buchan’s on his live performance of “Down by the River” on the “Sweet Dreams Anthology” album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLhdS-8-YS8Do you find this a difficult question to to answer?You probably do because I didn’t specify a genre.The question is a lot easier to answer in the following permutations:What’s your favorite acoustic blues guitar solo? (Mine would probably be Tab Benoit in “Shining Moon” on his album “Nice and Warm”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBvO0Rtp_T8)What’s your favorite electric blues guitar solo?What’s your favorite funk guitar solo?What’s your favorite highly-politicized rap metal guitar solo?What’s your favorite rap metal bass guitar solo?What’s your favorite speed metal guitar solo?What’s your favorite math rock guitar solo?It really helps if you have a genre, doesn’t it! Or some other constraining factor.The same thing is true when clients are evaluating services for some need they have. It’s easier for them to choose a best option when you fit into a “genre”.Give them that constraining factor on their decision-making by specializing.Get help with that now: http://thepositioningmanual.com-P 

    Cooking the books

    I would like to know more about your preferences RE: book format:https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSevXXQa53tQyZKWpvLu6KYkzPdu-02lEmQQbef0qhJwcKt2Gw/viewform?usp=sf_linkThat’s a super short 4-question survey asking about your preferences RE: book format. Basically do you prefer electronic or physical formats?It’s anonymous, and I’d really benefit from hearing about your preferences here:https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSevXXQa53tQyZKWpvLu6KYkzPdu-02lEmQQbef0qhJwcKt2Gw/viewform?usp=sf_linkThanks!-P

    The hardest thing is actually leaving

    Check out this pretty interesting piece of content marketing from BMW: https://youtu.be/7O4Xp6QndfwIt’s a very interesting short interview with a Elspeth Beard, the first English woman to ride a motorcycle around the world.At one point in the interview she says:——I always say the hardest thing is actually leaving. Once you leave, and you’re on the road, and you realize what an amazing experience you’re having, all your fears and all your worries about doing the trip will just go.——That is exactly the same with specializing. If she’d said it about specializing, Elspeth’s sentiment would read like this:I always say the hardest thing is actually deciding. Once you decide to specialize, and you’re on the journey towards super-valuable expertise, and you realize what an amazing experience you’re having, all your fears and all your worries about specializing will just go.What’s holding you back?-P

    Focus on outcomes

    Quick marketing challenge for you:If you ran a ballroom dance instruction studio and wanted to pick one single benefit of your services, what would you pick?…………………List member Thai sent me this awesome example of doing just that. Picking one single benefit to emphasize: http://aperfectweddingdance.com/positioning services - Experiential marketing learning for independent consultants(You can click on this link to see a bigger version: https://pmc-dropshare.s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/wedding-dance-scD09MHPYU.png)There are lots of potential benefits of knowing ballroom dancing. The hard part is picking a single one to emphasize.There are lots of ways your software development skills could create value. The hard part is cache invalidation… err…. the hard part is picking a single type of client to create value for.But you didn’t get into business for yourself because it’s the easy way, did you?-P

    50% don’t practice anymore

    What would you do to monetize your tech skills if you couldn’t write software?I came across a Quora answer that was very interesting. From http://qr.ae/TU8m13:——Q: Do some doctors go through med school then residency and eventually find that that practicing medicine isn’t for them?A from David M Joseph MD: This is actually very common. By our 30th reunion, roughly 50% of my medical school class (at Harvard) were no longer involved in direct patient care. The majority were still involved in medicine in one way or another, and usually in impressive positions; running a major research lab, Chief Medical Officer of a major pharmaceutical company, Dean of a medical school, President of a major top-30 University, Healthcare CEOs, Medical Device Inventors, etc. A few were no longer involved in medicine at all, practicing law or in finance.——Doctors find ways to monetize their expertise without doing their equivalent of writing code. What about you?-P

    Danielle talks about having a “thing” to promote

    I’ve had the privilege of helping Danielle–who is a member of my email list–with her specialization decision making process.Danielle’s not a paying client, she’s simply taken advantage of the fact that this work is my mission in life and so I’ll do what I can to help anyone who reaches out to me for help with deciding how to specialize.I think Danielle and I have had maybe a half dozen email exchanges about her process of moving away from calling herself a generalist video production freelancer and into something more specialized.She has done the often-difficult work of examining different ways she could specialize. For her, defining a service offering that looks a lot like a productized consulting offering has been a hugely significant step forward in her process.In Danielle’s own words (shared with permission):——Long time no talky, hope this message finds you well. This email about having the “thing” to promote resonated with me. Now I finally understand it.Over the past few months, a new offering evolved from my video work, and from my heart. I’m now creating Family Legacy Films (in addition, for now, to my commercial work.) These are personal legacy films that give individuals and families the opportunity to share values and wisdom with their descendants after their death.Here’s part of my “pitch”:1. Wouldn’t you like to pass along your values in addition to your valuables? 2. No matter how clear your memories of someone, when they’re on the screen in front of you, there’s an incomparable difference.Right now, I’m focusing mainly on older folks or those with a terminal illness. But eventually, I’ll be attracting people (and pets) in all stages of life.All of your advice is informing my marketing but more importantly, I GET it now.I GET the feeling of promoting a “thing” rather than myself.I also GET how specializing makes it so much easier to promote the “thing” because the audience is crystal clear.Also, my own emotional-value-worthiness-in-my-head stuff is removed from the equation.My promotion for these films is not directly to the individuals and families themselves, but to the organizations and service providers with whom they interact. My outreach list includes financial advisors, estate planners, probate attorneys, elder care centers, retirement communities, etc. I’ve received a groundswell of support from these organizations and they want to help me to offer this service to their clients, patients, and residents.Wow, it’s amazing how specializing makes marketing so much more intuitive and to be frank, easier. Easy in that I know WHO to tell, because I know who and how to help. I no longer feel like I’m shouting from the rooftops only to fall on deaf ears.There’s a 3-minute video in my email signature if you’d like to hear the backstory of how this came about. I warn you, many who watch it are moved to tears. There’s mention of losing Tallie in there and since it’s not even been a year since Malcom’s passing you may be sensitive to that. But I’ll let you decide.Thanks again for your daily emails. You’re doing the good work!——The video Danielle mentioned is on this here page: https://scratchmademedia.com/legacy/#mywhy It’s well worth 3 minutes of your time if you would like to see a vivid example of what it looks like to promote a productized service rather than try to figure out how to promote yourself.I could spend a whole week breaking down for you what Danielle is doing right in that video.To begin with, she uses a compelling story to connect with her audience. She shifts the focus to the value of her service offering. Not how awesome her video-ing skills are, but how awesome the right kind of video can be in the right kind of situation.Anyway, I’m not going to go deeper than to tell you this video and the page it’s on are really good examples of how specialization and productization can make it significantly easier to connect and build trust with your ideal clients.-PPS – Was I moved to tears by that video? I ain’t saying… 😉

    Having a *thing* to promote

    One of the benefits of productized consulting is that you have a thing to promote.Here’s what I mean by that.If you’re anything like I was some years ago, you’re very uncomfortable with promoting yourself. If you define yourself as a generalist provider of [software development | design | copywriting | something else], then you compare yourself to a global pool of technical talent and wonder where you stack up. The focus is you and your technical skill in an area with very low barriers to entry.What would it take for someone to become a better React developer than you? They probably have access to the same learning resources as you do, and if they have more free time and drive than you do, what’s to stop them from being a better React developer? Not much, and if they live in a lower cost of living area, what’s to stop them from offering a lower price (better value) than you do? Not much…This is always in the back of the head of someone who promotes themselves and their skills as the product, and it leads to outright weird marketing messages because you search yourself for any tiny perceived advantage over commodity competition and try to amplify that in your marketing message.What if you were promoting something outside yourself? A defined, named service that is an entity outside yourself?How might that help you feel free to be assertive in your promotion without feeling like a self-promoting jerk?One of the benefits of productized consulting is that you have a thing outside yourself to promote.You’re not promoting yourself defined as a commodity provider of technical services; you’re promoting something that’s more like a product. Its scope and price are well-defined, and it can improve over time, and it targets a unique need you’ve discovered in the market. In terms of what it feels like to promote, it feels very different than promoting yourself. It can be quite freeing, actually.My colleague Jane Portman has been delivering productized services for years now, and she’s written what I think is a very useful manual to help others get started providing these kind of services.The book is titled Your Productized Consulting Guide, and Jane is offering members of my list a 20% discount on the book this week: https://gumroad.com/a/909816947Use the offer code PHILIPMORGAN20 on checkout to get 20% off any book package. That discount expires on Sunday, so do not tarry.-P