Author Topic: Do independent consultants still exist?  (Read 306 times)

benali72

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Do independent consultants still exist?
« on: January 15, 2018, 06:46:47 am »
I'm wondering, do many independent consultants still exist?

My friends have largely had to mate their fates to contracting or consulting firms, or have gone native.  I recall the ICCA folded years ago.

Anyone know of any ICs still out there?

The Gorn

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Re: Do independent consultants still exist?
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2018, 07:01:16 am »
I personally know this guy http://www.computerconsultantsforum.com/forum/profile/?u=575 whom I invited to this board.

He does the "real" Jerry Weinberg I-am-so-proud consulty thing: speaking/lecturing, writing, talking up his value, and implementing. More advisory than hands on.

He's an ok guy and he's for real but I couldn't relate to him at all.

If you mean more hands on/applied computer work for hire but as an indie not through any agency... You need to look to the web design and web app milieu.

That area ALWAYS today uses social media, Gmail, and other mass market intelligence gathering type services to market itself, to collaborate, and to interact with stakeholders during projects.

You can have your independence today but it would be interacting with clients and team members using those services that you have said that you personally won't use to the extent of using your real name with an email or file sharing service.

One common thing I've observed with all gig IT workers in the past 10 years is that they are overwhelmingly committed to using cloud based services, even the ones who are not really social media mavens. The concept of keeping a private local backup is somewhat anachronistic today - but that is due the ignorance of the younger set. I think it's good to have feet planted in both worlds as a security blanket measure.

Traditional business oriented "MIS" services  for end users are now pretty universally through service companies and borks. Care and feeding of internal databases, accounting apps, scheduling and line of business operations... I haven't hear of any local indies who take care of end user business's systems, for years.

There are probably more specialized areas of programming/software dev out there that are outside the mainstream where you could maintain independence. But these tend to always have incredibly specific qualifications and barriers to entry, such as: legacy tool experience, business or technical or military domain knowledge and experience, or knowing one specific product, app or area of data or software.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2018, 09:13:16 am by Blockchain Gorn »
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benali72

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Re: Do independent consultants still exist?
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2018, 09:01:00 am »
If you mean more hands on/applied computer work for hire but as an indie not through any agency... You need to look to the web design and web app milieu.
. . .
Traditional business oriented "MIS" services  for end users are now pretty universally through service companies and borks. Care and feeding of internal databases, accounting apps, scheduling and line of business operations... I haven't hear of any local indies who take care of end user business's systems, for years.
. . .

Thanks for the feedback, Gorn. Yes, this seems to be what I'm seeing... some independents doing web design. I know two people doing that. It's pretty low paid but viable.

But almost no one that I know doing traditional MIS services. All that seems to have been outsourced and offshored to the extent no one would hire locals or indendents. I know that's what's happened at my biggest former clients. One is in India, one in north Ireland, and one has a contingent of Indians brought into to the US as H1Bs. Goodbye, job!

pxsant

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Re: Do independent consultants still exist?
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2018, 02:19:41 pm »
The one area where independent consultants can still thrive is the SMB market.   Much larger than an individual that has no money yet much too small for big agencies to go after.   I still occasionally do agency deals but for the most part I do SMB business.  A couple of examples.

*  I wrote the front desk and back office systems for a small hotel chain (think 4 Holiday Inn sized hotels).   Subsequently sold the software to two more small hotel chains.
*  I wrote a collections agency system for a 4 person collection agency.   Subsequently sold the same system to two large law firms which had collections departments.  More sales pending.   People don't realize that collections is a bread and butter department for many law firms.
*  I wrote software for a real estate management trust.

One of the keys is that I maintain copyright and sales rights to all my software while giving the purchaser a one location use licence.  That way I can do more sales with the same software if possible.

There are other examples but these are just a few.   What it takes (as with anything) is persistence.   NEVER give up no matter how bad it gets and keep an even keel no matter how nasty a customer is.  My customers don't give me a hard time because they know I am the only person that can keep their software running.   The software I deliver these days is compiled to object code so nobody else can support it.

Also, it is all a numbers game.   The more people you try to sell to, the more sales you get.  If you only have a 10% closing record, if you try to sell 100 accounts a year, you have 10 fairly big ticket sales.   And repeat maintenance business from those 10.

I rarely do anything at all with hardware.   Once in a while one of my accounts gets stuck on a hardware issue and I go in and solve their problem just as a favor (an expensive favor).   If they want to buy hardware I point them to Dell or HP where they buy the equipment and I will set it up for them for a fee.   Hardware is too inexpensive and troublesome for me to sell.   

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Re: Do independent consultants still exist?
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2018, 04:17:28 pm »
The one area where independent consultants can still thrive is the SMB market.   Much larger than an individual that has no money yet much too small for big agencies to go after.

What a TERRIFIC explanation. Thank you, Pxsant. This was really informative.

I rarely do anything at all with hardware.   Once in a while one of my accounts gets stuck on a hardware issue and I go in and solve their problem just as a favor (an expensive favor).   If they want to buy hardware I point them to Dell or HP where they buy the equipment and I will set it up for them for a fee.   Hardware is too inexpensive and troublesome for me to sell.

An incredibly wise approach. I've resold exactly two systems - both Dells - in my short history with indie computer support. Even though both deals went fairly smoothly, I learned that the hassle and responsibility of shipping, receiving, delivering, and dealing with other people's hardware is really difficult to plan for and set pricing for. Best to stay outside the transaction, accept absolutely no liability for hardware warranties, and sell your time to support the client's purchase.

As an aside: I know of a few discussion forums for independent SOHO computer support people.  They were booming about 12+ years ago. Today they're all pretty much absolutely dead.
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benali72

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Re: Do independent consultants still exist?
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2018, 09:04:49 pm »
Yes, the two people I know who still run their own businesses both do web development for SMBs. So Pxsant's observation about the SMB market makes sense in my experience.

As does the comment about staying away from hardware. The reason is you can't separate hardware from the software it runs, and who can possibly afford to support Windows and the like at the small profit margins hardware allows these days?

unix

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Re: Do independent consultants still exist?
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2018, 06:19:53 am »
The only market that is still alive is fed gov and their 1000 and 1 subs.
Brawndo. It's got what plants crave.

The Gorn

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About agencies and SMBs
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2018, 11:59:44 am »
The one area where independent consultants can still thrive is the SMB market.   Much larger than an individual that has no money yet much too small for big agencies to go after.

One note on this assertion.

In my area, even large agencies like Oxford WILL go after the smallest and douchiest of clients and that was a huge source of interference for me as an independent.

Every small company I'd approach would have already been dunned to death by the G*ddamned headhunters.

Case in point, the lame assed accounting software client I had in 1997-2003. They constantly had people in there being recruited by headhunters like Source, Robert Half, and Oxford. Which boggled me since the owners were dirt cheap and wouldn't pay a headhunter commission if their lives depended on it.

Another example was the idiot's startup I worked with in 2007-2010, run by an undeserving stupid-lucky kid. I was advertising for a developer there and Oxford was bugging the shit out of me. I even told the guy "I'd been recruited by you guys years ago and all you did was waste my time - I'm completely against your kind and I'll never ever give you an in to this project since you don't deserve it." The same guy would keep emailing and calling me.
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