T&D/PI: Consulting – SubContracting – Freelancing Redux

The Water Is Not Fine – Still – No Joke

Even though this is April 1st – April Fools day – this is not a joke post.

I’m a reactive writer. I read something – and if I disagree with it – I work out my thinking on that by writing about that.

And I happened to submit my article just in time to join others who were “Sounding Off.” (It’s a thing.)

That was true – my trigger to write something – in 1985 – when I had read an earlier article suggesting “Come on in, the water’s fine” – encouraging others to leave their full-time jobs and join the ranks of consultants.

“No,” I thought.

And as I read people’s laments about all of this – again 34 years later – I re-offer my thoughts from 1985.


My 1985 article as a PDF: consulting-subcontracting-freelancing-cnspi-1985

I had already had numerous people approach me by 1985, about my transition into the world of Consulting 3 years earlier in the fall of 1982, seeking advise.

I didn’t tell them – “Come on in, the water is fine.”

I had already seen too many people struggle with this – when it was their choice, and when it wasn’t their choice.


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I had joined a small Consulting firm – that had 3 people the day before I joined them on November 1, 1982.

It was Ray Svenson’s management consulting firm out in the western suburbs of Chicago – and had been in business for about 6 years – and was working with F500 firms doing Strategic Planning for T&D. He wrote a great book on it (now out of print).

I had met Ray while I was at Motorola back in 1981 – and had heard him talk about a concept he called Curriculum Architecture. I was intrigued and did one for my manufacturing clients – and in doing that I had mapped out not only a T&D Path for Manufacturing Supervisors – but I had mapped out a methodology and project plan – using the Rummler/Gilbert-based Performance Modeling approach that I had learned at the job I had before Motorola at Wickes Lumber – and an early version of deriving the enabling Knowledge/Skills off of that Performance Model that was different than how we did this back at Wickes.

My new approach to Analysis of Enabling K/Ss – was more of a BOM (Bill of Materials) concept adaptation that the Rummler/Gilbert approach we had used at Wickes.

Ray had me do a Curriculum Architecture Design for one of his clients based on the Performance Analysis and K/S data he and one of my former wives (Karen) had done in the summer of 1982 for Exxon USA – Exploration. In fact – they had modeled their approach to their 1st CAD project based on my early methods – and process – tasks & outputs.

I worked two weekends that summer of 1982 Mapping out a modular curriculum – on a Path – with Specifications for each of the modules on that Path.

Ray like it and his clients loved it – and when he decided to expand his business and my wife told me about it – I asked for the job. He hired me and wanted me to own the Curriculum Architecture Design part of the business. It was a natural follow on to the Strategic Planning consulting efforts he and Karen were doing.

Note: That effort is covered in several posts in the past – and you can find those by searching on “Exxon” in the search box upper right corner of my website home page.

So I entered the game via a successful firm doing consulting doing business with F500 firms – with a defined product/service for me to do, that was unique, as no one else was on anybody’s radar doing anything similar. And my “price” (daily rate) was established by Ray who knew what others were charging for the level of experience that I brought to the party.

In thinking about all of that when asked by others for advice, I came up with the thought that I formalized as I wrote this 1985 article.

PowerPoint Show

Consulting – Contracting – Freelancing 1985

Consulting – SubContracting – Freelancing

People may quibble with my “fine distinction between SubContracting and Freelancing – fair enough.

“Adopt what you can and Adapt the rest.”

Sometimes you have a choice about jumping into the water of Consulting – SubContracting – Freelancing.

Sometimes you do not.

In any event – please think through the following …

  • If you find yourself in the deep water – treading water – focus 1st on what you are selling, and be able to “name” those products/services.
  • Then look for who your competitors are/would be – and determine what their pricing is – by the hour or by the product/service rendered.
  • Then determine how you will compete with them and take some of their business away from them. Figure out what your “competitive advantages” are, or could be – and how to get there.
  • Will you compete on offering better Quality, Speed, Flexibility, or Pricing?
  • Determine your Marketing & Sales strategies and tactics.
  • Then start.

One final comment – sometimes I think that people calling themselves a “Consultant” when they’re simply a “pair of hands” – is a big mistake. A Marketing/Sales mistake. Call yourself one after you’ve earned it – not before.

And by the way – many Consultants – like me – are hired for both their expertise and experience – and for their willingness to work as a hired pair of hands – willing to roll up their sleeves and help out – and not just sit at the conference table and pontificate – as some might imagine. :)

Good luck to all of you our there starting out – by choice or not – as a Consultant – SubContractor – Freelancer.

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