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Basics Of Consulting

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A Wednesday Night Lecture held 2000.10.25 9PM ET, hosted by Barbara Peisch and Nancy Folsom

We'll be discussing the various aspects of running a consulting business. Some references we'll be using during the presentation include our column on CoDe Magazine (, The 1999 Developer's Guide by Whil Hentzen (, and two books by Janet Ruhl, The Computer Consultant's Guide and the Computer Consultant's Workbook ( Although it's not necessary to read these to benefit from our presentation, you will undoubtedly find these a valuable resource later.

Although we do cover some of this topic in our column in CoDe, the column's focus is specifically on client relations, and the topic for this presentation is broader, covering other aspects of consulting.

We would like this presentation to be mostly Q&A, and would like to get it started with questions submitted ahead of time. If you have a question you'd like to submit, you can e-mail it to Nancy at
or to Barbara at
See also: Consulting Eight Roles
A couple of questions for discussion (Thanks for writing!):

1. How does one find clients?
2. How often does a bid turn out ok vs. turn into a black hole that sucks all of your time?
3. Guarantees - do you do anything for free, even if it is because you messed up?
4. Specs - I have found that no client can provide a reasonable spec, so that means I have to draw it up. Clients are hesitant to pay for it. How do you deal with that? Also, what happens when you are given a local experts time, and it turns out that they only know 60% of what you need to know?
5. How do you deal with the stress? ;)
6. What is the difference between a contractor and a consultant?
7. How do you set your rates?
8. How do you protect your code in case of non-payment?
9. How about long-term maintenance pricing? Retainer, by-the-hour,
by-the-modification etc.
Did everybody but me find it that easy to set up the business end of consulting? *g* The following are some of the questions I had when I started consulting. -- Nancy Folsom
10. How do I find health insurance and what about COBRA?
11. What kind of insurance do I need? Where do I find it?
12. What are the benefits of incorporating? LLC? Sole proprietor?
13. What kind of tax does your State have? Gross receipts or sales tax? Do they tax out-of-state clients?
14. Do I need an accountant?
15. How do you write contracts? Do you need a lawyer?
Editor's note: This was a wonderful chat with a large number participating. Since the questions and answers were interwoven in the conversation I decided to break them out for readability. It's a good thing I come from a family where everyone talks at once, so I'm already good at this! < g > -- Cindy Winegarden

Since it's so long, I've put it on it's own page.
I found an interesting problem elsewhere - the consultant contracted with a small company that intended to load the software on 15 or so machines. The small company was bought by a larger company that wanted to load the software on 1500 machines. There was a lawsuit (consultant won) and he recommends writing something of the scale of the licensing into the contract.

Another thing I saw was that a contractor posted his contract on the net as an example. Someone else borrowed the legal language and was eventually sued. The borrower sued the original contractor for providing a poor contract. -- Cindy Winegarden
See also: Aspects Of Consulting
Contributors: Nancy Folsom, Barbara Peisch, Cindy Winegarden
Category Wednesday Night Lectures Category Consulting
( Topic last updated: 2012.09.13 09:34:40 AM )