Consulting 101: Payment matters
Posted November 26, 2015on:
This entry is part of my series of reflections on being an independent consultant. The previous parts were:
Today I share thoughts on a very obvious question and a less obvious issue.
The elephant in the room of any negotiation is getting paid what you are worth. How much do you charge? How do you convince others that you are worth that amount?
If you have been gainfully employed elsewhere before, you might start with your previous monthly salary as a baseline. It is a matter of mathematics to work out a daily or hourly rate. However, it is also important to take into account everything that you need to do and how infrequently you might work.
As I mentioned earlier, you might have to be your own “publicist, letter writer, content negotiator, Gebiz administrator, instructional designer, content creator, self-trainer, speech writer, event facilitator, social networker, programme evaluator, financial officer, and debt collector”. These are paid jobs too. Citing a rate for only the core work is not enough.
Being a consultant can also mean having lean spells in between work. These do not mean you are unproductive, but it does mean that you need to ride these out.
If the people you are negotiating with are not aware of these issues, you should have an open and logical conversation so they do not baulk at your fees. You should also listen to their concerns as they may have caps on what they can pay you.
If there is an elephant in the room, there is also a less obvious mouse.
Something I learnt early in my move to be an independent consultant was to look after my health. In full-time work, you can take medical leave and still draw a salary. If you fall ill as a consultant and are not available, you not only foot your own medical bills, you also do not get paid.
I took ill and was hospitalised right after I left gainful employment. I had an overseas engagement that I could not fulfil and this was not only damaging to my pocket but also to my reputation. The incident was a very valuable lesson that if I did not have my health, I could not have anything else.
This entry is the last in my second series of reflections on what I have learnt as a consultant. If I discover more that are worth sharing, I will add to the series in future.