[Baypiggies] Thoughts on starting a career as a consultant?

John Withers grayarea at reddagger.org
Tue Jun 22 20:07:38 CEST 2010

I can handle a couple of these, others I don't know so much about.

Note that I have been w-2 for the last 7 years, so my thinking might be
somewhat out of date.

1. Hook up with a good designer who understands code and dealing with
clients. This a must or you are going to severely limit the range of
your possible contracts. In my experience about 50% of the people you
run into are going to need the whole shebang. Or, as I have seen more
than once, they start with a designer, realize they don't actually like
what is happening, and start casting about. If you have one in your
pocket, your stock shoots up. You can email me personally if you want a
reference to someone I think is quite good and have worked with.

2. Healthcare and taxes are brutal. Spend some time getting to know
about these issues. Then sit down and start drawing up how many hours
you have to work at what for you seems a slightly low rate, a medium
rate, and a high rate. Then compare your rates with others who are
working as freelancers and see how they stack up. Too many people don't
do this before they leave a W-2.

3. Attracting those first few clients is a pain, in my experience. After
that, it just kind of rolls on its own if you do good work. Being good
at speaking and promoting is a definite plus. Donna, on this list, is
really exceptional that that. I don't know if she still does, but she
used to speak at the drop of a hat. 

Speaking and writing for groups that aren't all tech heads brings in
money. In an entirely different field, I once wrote a set of articles
taking down pretty much verbatim some stuff from a guy who was good at
sandblasting. Got them published in a sign magazine. I rapidly became an
acknowledged expert in the field of sandblasting signs. I didn't know
crap about sandblasting; I knew about writing. But that exposure and a
couple of grants put me through college. I dropped the whole thing once
I was done with school, but I could have made a whole mediocre career as
a writer/expert in the sign trade.

4. Managing client relationships is a nightmare, period. Scope creep
happens. Random crap happens. I have been on both ends of this. Right
now I am being a nightmare client for a designer/developer team. It
isn't really my fault and more the organization I am embedded in, but it
is ugly. A two month project has stretched to almost a year. And my
developer is handling it brilliantly. He blocked the time at the start
of the project, charged a low amount for blocking it, and then when we
ran over, he allowed as how he was still on it, but that he couldn't
guarantee turn around times anymore and very nicely made it obvious that
was on us. And kept billing in dribs and drabs as we actually made
decisions. By being flexible and chill and putting up with our crap, he
is going to end up making at least half again what was originally

Moral of the story from me watching him handle this better than I used
to: be totally flexible, but when the project goes sideways require your
clients to go to some kind of regular hourly billing and a lowered
turnaround expectation. Put this in your contract and everyone ends up

Hope this random rambling spew helps.


On Tue, 2010-06-22 at 10:35 -0700, Stephen Lacy wrote:
> Hey all,
> I've been a software engineer for well over 10 years, mainly C++, but
> Python for about the last year, and I'm really enjoying it.  
> I'm getting more and more interested in transitioning from a
> full-timer at a large company to being a Python+Django freelance
> consultant.  My background is mainly in engineering, not design, but
> of course I'm fully versed in HTML+CSS, I'm just not the best person
> to be designing interfaces from scratch or doing complex visual design
> & graphics. 
> Has anyone here made this transition before?  How did it go?  My
> biggest fears are:
> - How am I going to attract clients? (Although this list, and sites
> like djanggigs.com seem like pretty good sources to start.) 
> - Am I good at managing client relationships?  How hard will this be?
> (billing, scope creep, missed deadlines, etc.) 
> - What about the graphics/visual design side of things?  What do you
> usually do for this, or has the client already outsourced a design and
> they just need implementation?
> - Maybe I just want to get a FT position with a web design&build firm
> instead?  What are the pros/cons of that approach vs. freelancing?
> Any thoughts or experiences from people who have done this transition
> would be great.  Thanks!
> Steve
> _______________________________________________
> Baypiggies mailing list
> Baypiggies at python.org
> To change your subscription options or unsubscribe:
> http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/baypiggies

More information about the Baypiggies mailing list