For the last ~6 months I have been doing Product Management Consulting a small group of clients. An opportunity came up and I took it.
The Primer to What I Do: There is a client with some mobile product related need. Sometimes it was inaccurate analytics, sometimes it was issues developing the roadmap, sometimes it was setting up user acquisition, and sometimes it was simply helping instill good product sense among the team. After talking over the needs, figuring out if working together makes sense, then it’s negotiation and defining the work to be done.
While I don’t know yet if the life of independent consulting is for me, there are some real benefits that I want to share for anyone else considering.
Tackling New Problems
As a Product Manager working on the same product, there is not a huge variance in the problems you face. Sure, new things come up, but the chance of something completely arcane and random happening is minimal.
When working for different clients in different stages of development, different people, different levels of experience, and different industries, the stuff you can come across may be completely foreign. For those, like me, who love new challenges and learning something new, the life provides constant excitement that may be hard to come by you are one company.
Flexible Hours & “Free Time”
Working full-time, I would put in between 50-70 hours a week. For my clients, they usually didn’t need (or could afford) that level of effort, so I found myself with a lot more time to myself. What does that mean: I have a lot more time to pursue personal project that were on the back-burner. Even had time to hit some conferences and meetups I never had time for before. Also, you can double up on clients for bigger payouts and more interesting work.
BUT … the converse is that to remain working with a project, you need to spend that free time developing relationships and keeping opportunities in the funnel. You are your own Business Development and without making a name for yourself, you are dead in the water. Turning someone’s need into a paying contract takes time, meetings, and discussion. And even after spending the initial time, it can still easily fall apart.
On a per hour basis, expect to make 1.5x to 2.5x of what you made as an employee. If you work 40 or more hours a week, this adds up. And now all that “overtime” are actually billable hours.
BUT … the reason you charge more is because you have no health insurance, no paid time off, no 401k, and none of the other benefits employees get. You will need to pay for your own insurance (or be married like me) and manage your own retirement. If you are good with money, it does pay to go independent.
Sense of Accomplishment
The reason people are hiring you is to fix one or a million more problems. If you’re good, you will fix them (or some of them). These problems are usually core to the business and have huge impacts. What this means is that in a short time you can have a very large impact for your client … maybe more than you would get at a larger company.
Also, I say this as a consultant who executes. I haven’t been on a project where I could just sit and make recommendations … just to clarify my role as a “consultant”
It’s simple … what feels better, keeping a large boat afloat or single handily saving a smaller boat from sinking.
At the end of the day, it’s a different lifestyle and is not for everyone, but I have found some very specific benefits in the life of the Independent Consultant. There are just as many (if not more) negatives I will say though, if you have the opportunity to try it … try it! It’s been transformative for me.