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Seven Deadly Sins of Independent Computer Consultants

The life of an independent computer consultant can be extremely rewarding - both professionally and financially. But success can be quickly derailed if you commit any one of these deadly sins:

Let recruiters submit your resume without your knowledge

When you're working with recruiters, are they telling you which clients are being presented with your resume? Are they getting your permission to submit you to the client? If not, and another consulting company submits you for the same position, you risk being categorized as a double submittal and subsequently risk loss of consideration for the position.

Insist that your permission is required before any recruiter can send your resume to a client. Walk away from any recruiter who won't.

Allow your technical skills to get outdated

As technologies evolve, so must you. The pace of technology change is fast and furious, which is precisely why clients need you. Keep learning and stay focused on technical skills to ensure an ongoing stream of lucrative projects. As opportunities arise to assume management/staff roles, make sure you don't get too far removed from technical proficiency. That's the foundation of what you are.

Ignore the customer-service aspect of your job

Situations often arise on the project that demand flexibility from consultants... overtime, expanded project scope and project extensions are some common occurrences. How you handle these can easily affect future relationships with both clients and consulting companies. Regardless of the defined project scope, stubbornness is not recommended.

Some issues clearly require renegotiations and should be discussed with the consulting company. Working a few more hours a week than anticipated, however, is an opportunity for give and take - and an opportunity to enhance your reputation. Have you ever considered, for example, noting on your timesheets that you worked 43 hours during a given week, with "3 at no charge"? Could be a low-key way to market your customer-service orientation and commitment to the project.

The path towards consulting success and being highly recruited is your flexibility and willingness to help clients through their challenges.

Be a no-show

Not showing up at the project after you've committed to it or walking out midway through completion is a direct blow to your valuable reputation. Don't do it. It's a small world and word will get around.

Immediately try to renegotiate rates

Obtaining the best rate you can is laudable. Trying to renegotiate after you've been accepted for a project is not. Like most of these "deadly sins", the downside of this is the potential damage to your reputation. You may be perceived as one who doesn't keep your word. And if you don't keep your word on one thing... you can see the inference.

Now if during the course of the interview you ascertain a wider project scope - or if a project is significantly expanded after it has begun - then rate renegotiation may be justified. But don't forget: if this was a project through a consulting company, defer rate discussions to the account executive.

Write a lousy resume

Let's face it...for most of us, resume writing isn't something we relish. At best, it's a necessary evil. But until someone figures out something better, it's your entry into consulting companies, clients and ultimately, projects. Of course, it goes without saying (but we'll say it anyway!) that the last thing you want to do is trump up your resume with inaccuracies or exaggerations. But don't sell yourself short!

List all your technical skills and your professional consulting skills and accomplishments. How did you help the client achieve their objectives? What problems did you solve? Illustrate how you proactively identified potential trouble spots and suggested processes that helped stave off problems or increase efficiencies.

What if listing all these great successes makes for a long resume? Who cares?! Forget that old adage about keeping your resume short! If you've got it to flaunt, flaunt it.

Create problems for the client

Technical expertise is the foundation for computer consulting success, but the reinforcement is solid working relationships with clients. Don't jeopardize this by creating problems while you're on assignment, such as:

  • not getting along with client staff
  • excessive amount of personal phone time and/or Internet usage
  • bringing personal problems to work
  • inaccurate reporting of your hours

You're there to solve problems, not create them.

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