Career Opportunities

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On Your Own: Part 3

© Douglas E. Welch 1997

If, despite all I have told you this month, you still have the inclination to become a high-tech consultant, it is time to start thinking of your future as well as your present. While nearly anyone can start a business, it is the savvy ones who plan for the growth of that company in the long term. This week we will talk about marketing your business and deciding just how large you want it to grow.

One of the first roadblocks you will face in your new business is that of marketing. Few of us actually enjoy this aspect of our business, but it is probably second in importance only to billing and collections. While word of mouth is an extremely important marketing tool, you will have to rely on traditional methods until you develop a quorum of regular clients that can offer up referrals.
Personal experience has shown me that nearly half of your time must be spent in some marketing activity. It is only in this way that you will be able to generate a regular flow of business. One good resource for small business marketing is the Guerrilla Marketing Web Site at They offer a wide variety of innovative ways to market your new business.
As your company grows the time required for marketing may decrease, but it will always be a large part of every day. Neglect marketing at your peril. You can?t support yourself if no one knows you exist.

People, People, Everywhere...
Every consultant must make a decision about how large they want their company to grow. Some people have chosen the consultant lifestyle because they like to work alone, at their own pace, without the worries of managing other people.
This approach can limit your potential earnings, though. There are only so many hours in the day and we can only work so many of those hours. Once you are working your full complement of billable hours, the only way to increase your income will be to increase your hourly rates. Eventually, though, you will reach a point where your clients can?t, or won?t, pay those rates.
One solution to this problem is to bring in other independent contractors to work for you. While using independent contractors frees you of some of the burden of being an employer, it also allows you to expand your billable hours without raising your rates. Eventually, you might find yourself operating as head of a fairly large company without doing much actual consulting yourself.

Running your own consulting business requires more than just your high-tech skills. It requires business knowledge that most of us have not cultivated. We have been kept safe and warm in the cocoon of corporate life, but when we strike out on our own we enter the cold, cruel world of business. Make sure you stay warm by polishing your business skills as much as your technical skills.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at:

He can reached via email at