How I Started Consulting


So I realized I could use a little more income, at least for a couple of months. My first instinct naturally was to set a little money trap on the lawn, but our pet rabbit said I looked like an idiot holding a string tied to a stick that propped open a little box and that anyway I didn’t even know how to bait a money trap. I thought seat cushions would do it for sure, but all I did get were the peanut sprinkles from the tops of doughnuts. This lead me to the alternative route of consulting.

Consulting, I learned from my father, is pretty sweet work. The core of it is to find a company that wants to do a thing, walk around their offices while wearing a suit and nodding grimly, and then handing out a thick set of binders and tell them to go ahead with whatever they wanted to do, and then submit an invoice. It’s a toss-up which is the harder part, the nodding grimly or the suit-wearing, because I have these weird mutant feet that curve way too far to fit in any shoes. If I fit my heels into the shoe heels, my toes rip through the front of the shoes, and vice-versa; I’ve lost many heels to a stubborn shoe. The last comfortable pair of dress shoes I had featured a little sidecar shoe for my heels, causing people to stare at my feet and then sidle away. This was fine when I was someplace as an employee and not responsible for my presence or appearance, but it won’t do when I’m representing myself. I set out wearing the shoe boxes as camouflage.

So my next part was setting my price. The trick is having to name a fee higher than I comfortable charging for grim nods, but I understand the logic. Companies have to feel they’re getting their money’s worth from being told to go ahead already, so the more unsure they are that I’m worth it, the more sure they are that I am. Sorry, had to pause there, lie down on the couch, and consider that maybe this is why we can’t have a good economy. I’m feeling better now.

The next chore of course was networking, because without that I was just a guy in uncomfortable sidecar-shoes waiting for people to give me money and stare at them. Thus, on to Linkedin, where I found that all the people I used to know in college have gained certification as Network Scalability Facilitations Operators. Well, not quite everyone. That guy from the weekly newspaper nobody read who had that great prose style about how we should “inculcate the young with radical ideas of decency and fair play” is also promoting his e-book about optimally monetarizing your social networking leverage points. The poor fellow has clearly gone quite mad, and next reunion weekend we’ll have to sit on his chest and pour the new Billy Bragg album all over him.

So with Linkedin all stared at, the next task was the hardest, since it required setting up unhappy meetings and seems to go against simple business sense, and that’s firing customers. See, the naive business person figures that more customers is good because it means there’s more customers. A more sophisticated understanding comes when you realize that every difficult customer is first of all a customer, and you don’t have to deal with the difficult ones if you don’t want to.

Since I was starting without a base of customers, this meant I had to go find people who looked likely to grow into difficult customers and tell them I was breaking up with them, professionally anyway. So I went to the Arby’s, where there’s always quite a few people having what seem to be sad meetings with financial advisors, and told first the financial advisors and then the people that I was sorry I couldn’t consult for them any longer. Most of them took it quite well, and there’s even this advisor-and-client who really hit it off with me. We ended up splitting four orders of curly fries with horsey sauce, and Monday after next they’re taking me to a minor league ball game.

That’s all taken just a couple of days of effort consulting, and while I haven’t got any work out of it, I’m doing extremely well on an income-per-hour basis. Meanwhile our rabbit’s set up a money trap in the yard.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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