Podcast: Setting up an independent consulting practice

I’ve worked for myself for a great many years. During that time I’ve done a handful of longer projects for different groups. It’s always complicated to estimate timing and rates and the like, but I also value the control of my schedule that comes from running my own show.

I know many other people are interested in independent consulting, so Sarah and I devoted this episode of Best of Both Worlds to the topic. Our guest, Amy Rasdal, helps women in particular get independent consulting practices started through her company, Billable with Baby.

Now, long-time readers might wonder about this name and framing. When we were first talking with Rasdal, I almost nixed this one entirely because it is a personal pet peeve of mine that some people think if you work for yourself you don’t need childcare. And some of the Billable with Baby literature does talk about “staying home with your baby” while still earning good money. However, after discussing this with Rasdal, we learned that by “staying home” she just means “working remotely” — which is the phrase she recommends, and that she stresses that people do need childcare, and need to be even more professional when they no longer have a big company name on their business card.

We thought she had a lot of good tips on approaching your previous employer and other people you’ve worked with. She also offered practical numbers on what you should charge. I would note that you should feel free to ask for much more than the number she mentions, but if you’re just starting out, no one will blink at this very common rate.

So please give this episode a listen! In the question section, we address an intriguing scenario: A women Sarah and I both know has a rather envy-inducing plan for summer childcare. Her kids are going to visit one set of grandparents for two weeks (and we think another set for another big chunk of time too). If she has no kids for a few weeks, how should she use this time? I’d love to hear people’s suggestions for what they’d do if they were still going to work for their normal work hours but didn’t have offspring around for the rest of their time.

12 thoughts on “Podcast: Setting up an independent consulting practice

    1. @Louisa – yes! I wrote a post about two weeks ago or so on “How to buy happiness” referencing some of these findings. It’s a great paper from HBR.

  1. Hi Laura, I was listening to the podcast and thinking that maybe you should share strategies for the marketing part. Amy mentions devoting over 1 hour a day to that, and you also write a lot to nurture your community. How do you fit it into your schedule? Any tips and tricks to come up with ideas, write faster and recycle content while also doing strictly “productive” work? Thanks 😉

    1. @Natalia – great question. I think everyone has to do marketing of some variety, we just don’t always recognize it as such. People in “normal” jobs might do such things as presenting at a conference, or writing a paper for their company’s leadership team, and all of this is marketing in the sense of getting their names/brand out there, we just don’t think of it that way. For me, I’m always doing interviews for media/podcasts as these opportunities come to me. I blog here because I enjoy it but of course it also gives me a home on the internet where people can see what I do. My books are, in a way, marketing — they are out there spreading my ideas even in places where I can’t actually physically be. Same with the TED video — that’s been one of the best marketing tools out there for my speaking career. People watch it and see a (much shorter) version of what they’re going to get. In general, thinking about how you can “pay in” to increase your career capital is always wise. Amy’s target of an hour a day is not a bad goal at all. Between blogging and the various interviews I do I’m pretty sure I hit that (probably a bit over).

  2. I think if I had an unusual amount of childcare (ie kiddo with his grandparents), I’d split the time between working ahead, self-care, and intensive couple time. I’d prep all my slides, activities, and lecture notes for teaching in the autumn rather than doing it each week during the term, fully clear the decks on other admin activities leading for more time for writing during the term, go to yoga 5 days a week and spend the rest of the time just hanging out with my husband, doing stuff that’s more difficult with a kid in tow.

    My parents are planning a move to Europe when they retire and I can’t wait for this to be a real possibility.

    1. @Cb – it’s funny, because I think of all the things I’d do if I had a few weeks without kids (but in my normal life) and I ponder what on earth I was doing with my time before I had kids. I’m pretty sure I felt busy, but…

  3. Related to the consulting episode there are many recruiting firms who place consultants in these project roles which takes the self-marketing out of the equation which can be the most difficult part. I have been doing this for the last 3 years as a Finance consultant and it has worked out great for the flexibility I need.

    1. I was going to mention this as well. The large tech company I consult for will not hire individuals directly – they go through a number of “approved” firms. Many of these firms have their own recruiters who will actively work to place you when your contract runs out/project ends. Quality varies with these firms – in my case, I only work for firms who are transparent about their “cut” of my hourly rate (some will take over 50% and not tell you!!) and I’ve found one I absolutely love, so I don’t need to do any of the business paperwork. I’m a W-2 employee of this small women-owned consulting firm. I also have access to benefits through them (healthcare, 401K, PTO, etc).

      I do agree with Amy – the flexibility can’t be beat. And YES, you absolutely need childcare though with hubby and I working remotely and enrolling kids in afterschool classes, we don’t need much outside of the school day. It’s been wonderful for us from a lifestyle perspective.

      1. @ARC – this can definitely be a good solution for people who don’t want to go it on their own (or, in your case, whose primary client would be someone who doesn’t hire on their own anyway). Cuts down on the marketing quite a bit.

  4. This was interesting despite the fact I have no intention of being a consultant at any point! Amy is a fabulous speaker- I enjoyed her smooth and professional presentation. Am I the only one who was curious about her life as a dancer? I would have enjoyed hearing more about that!

  5. I am just now listening to this episode and wanted to agree that the idea of working remotely without childcare is one of my biggest pet peeves. Like really? You are happy if you took a shower when you’re home on maternity leave. What’s magically going to change when you start working? If I had a dollar for every time I told someone that, yes, I sent my baby to full time daycare when I worked from home…

    That aside, this was a really interesting episode! I’m in corporate consulting so I enjoyed hearing about Amy’s independent consulting business.

  6. Hi ladies, thanks for this episode! It’s the first I’ve enjoyed. I had the honor to meet Amy at the career outplacement services and have read Laura’s book Off the Clock, so when I saw that Amy had been on Laura’s show I had to listen (and am now subscribed to the podcast!)

    I would have been curious to learn more about how Amy recommends managing time as an independent consultant? She walked us through her typical day, but it would have been nice to go a little deeper on her prioritization and productivity systems so she can have the best of both worlds.

    Thanks again; I look forward to hearing more!

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