Independent Consultant, the untold side (a short)


So I spent a few years working as an independent consultant focused primarily with younger startup companies. I have a number of people saying “wow so much per hour why would you leave that.” Either that or they said “wow startups that is always exciting.”  Well…there are a lot of reasons to do it, and others to leave it.

  1. Your time off is not ever yours. You always take the call, try to close the next deal or want that client to speak for long enough to get that next billable hour. If that is a little league game, or a soccer game for your kid, you still take it.
  2. You put up with interesting notions from clients. I had one who they and I agreed on a price per hour, and a number of hours per week maximum. End of the week, turn in my bill to the CEO of this 25 employee company, he draws a line through the total, divides it in half and says here, we’ll pay you this much this week, and maybe next time I can pay the rest. When I asked about next week’s hours he said, yeah that might take us a while but we really need you to keep helping.  I didn’t.
  3. You say lots of problems with number 2 can be solved with a retainer. Ok let’s talk about that. I charged this one company a retainer equal to 30 days of the hours to be spent on the project. At the end of those 30 days we had agreed that I would then bill out every two weeks but after the work is completed. Ok no problem. After burning through the retainer and the next two weeks I presented a bill. The owner of the company said, oh yeah…I have been meaning to talk to you. You are going to have to start taking your salary in equity. Which was never discussed….ever.
  4. I have had more than one company hand me a paper check that bounced.
  5. More companies than I can count insist that I invest personal assets before I can draw a consultant check, but only after agreeing to paying me for my time.
  6. I found one company I was helping the owner try to figure out why they weren’t turning profit. Well it turned out the CEO was using company credit cards at “gentlemen’s clubs” every weekend.

Yes, startups can be exciting. They can also be looney tunes. Be careful if you tread in that world.


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