"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." - Albert Einstein
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On My Own - Doing It By The Numbers
Over the weekend I got my first call on a consulting opportunity. A few calls later I realized something - I hadn't figured out how to price my "product!"
It's pretty hard for someone to buy something (or even determine whether they're interested) if they don't know the price.
Of course, that realization came after I nailed down something even more important...my resume.
I promised lots of friends, colleagues and former co-workers that I'd let them know how things are going, so I plan to catalog the steps in my process here on my blog in the unlikely event that someone else decides to pursue a similar path.
I know this has probably all been written about before, but some of us are just too darned bull-headed to learn lessons from other people and need to make our own mistakes, carve our own paths.
Step #1 - Define Your Product (aka Update Your Resume)
I know most people probably keep their resumes current by looking at what they've done every few months and then summarizing the accomplishments on their resume. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those people. I've never been good about updating my resume while I have a job; it's only after I become unemployed that the effort seems worthwhile, and of course at that point I struggle to recall what the heck I've done over the past months and years.
My last employer implemented a web-based goal tracking system that each employee was supposed to update quarterly. Annual performance appraisals were based in part on performance as documented in the goals system, so the wise employee set good goals and tracked them religiously. This type of system would be a good source for items on a resume, if only I'd taken time to 1) document all my goals and tasks and, 2) keep a copy for myself. Oops! Anyone who's reading this, learn from my mistake - take advantage of the personal HR information your company tracks about you...it could come in handy as your career evolves.
The good news for me is that, in retrospect, certain things tend to stand out from the day-to-day paper shuffling (excuse me, bit shuffling!), and while updating my resume is a tedious task I'm generally able to compile a strong set of accomplishments to present to a prospective employer/customer.
Step #2 - Establish Your Brand (aka Get A Website)
I'd been meaning to do this for quite awhile, and being suddenly unemployed served as the motivation to just get the job done. I visited GoDaddy and bought my first domain name; I'd already begun working on a site using Google Sites, and so undertook to learn how to map my Google Site to my newly-purchased domain. A quick search of Google Sites Help and then GoDaddy Help revealed the settings I need to change on Google and at GoDaddy to make things happen. Made the changes, then let things flow through DNS caches across the Internet and Presto!, my site was live.
Granted, it's starting out pretty barebones (resume only), but it is a start, and something on which to build.
Step #3 - Price Your Product (aka How Am I Going To Make Ends Meet!?!?)
This is the tough part, because there are so many things to consider. Can I get someone to pay me what I think I'm worth? Should I accept less just so I can bring in a paycheck?
If you're already being paid by the hour, you know what at least one company is willing to pay for a particular job or skill. Those of us on salary need to take the extra step of breaking down our annual pay into an hourly rate. I checked Wikipedia to see what information I could find about the typical number of hours worked per year in the US, and found a link to a table of statistics maintained by the OECD, which asserts that the average number of hours worked per worker in the US in 2007 was 1,798. Dividing my annual salary by that number gave me a good estimate of what my billing rate would have to be in order for me to have income equal to my base salary. Of course, I'd need to bill at a higher rate if I wanted to take into account my total annual income, which included performance bonuses.
Of course, if you've established a lifestyle which allows you to survive on a modest income, you can consider a lower billing rate, which is likely to make you more attractive to prospective employers/customers.
Having put some of the building blocks in place, I'm now focusing more on marketing. Of course, I need to put together my business plan, too; I need to chart my course from "making ends meet" to "financially independent," and that only happens through planning.
Tomorrow, though, I'll be focused again on technology, as a couple of interesting items crossed my path. Stay tuned!