Pros and Cons of a Career as an IT/Developer Consultant

I love being a consultant. But I'm not oblivious to how most people in our industry view consultants in general. In fact, I've had my own share of bad experiences with consultants and wish that companies would be much more intelligent about screening consultants before bringing them onboard.

Early Perspectives
Early into my development career I decided that I wanted to become a consultant. I assumed that consultants were just so good at what they did that they could take their awesome skill sets from company to company and solve problem after problem. But experience over the years has sadly taught me differently. In too many cases I've found myself fixing shockingly immature code created by $200-per-hour consultants whose only real gift was the ability to create 'franken-apps' that did nothing but cause maintenance and management headaches for years to come.

A Change Of Heart
Then I had an epiphany: If companies will shell out $250/hour for results that are frequently horrendous, why couldn't I leverage my own specialized skill set and charge decent prices for consistently excellent results? So I went into business for myself. Nearly three years later I haven't regretted that decision. I've also been able to help a lot of clients solve real-world problems in ways that have helped them to improve business and save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Proof is in the Pudding
But I wish companies would be more intelligent about hiring consultants. Most of my potential clients (the ones who aren't referrals from existing clients) typically want me to prove that I have technical chops before they bring me onboard. That means they want to see references and review my industry experience. Which makes perfect sense; I mean, who would hire a senior developer or architect without looking into their skill set and experience? Yet companies frequently engage professional services companies to provide expensive 'expert' consultants without ever looking at individual resumes or experience. This means that they're frequently paying a premium for less-than-premium (or even standard) talent. Too bad most companies don't take the time to ascertain the skill-level and experience of consultants coming on board from well-known professional services firms. Maybe if they took the time to review the background and history of the experts they plan to bring on board, much of what people hate about consultants would go away.

Sound Off
What about you? Any perspectives on consulting? Horror stories? Triumphs? Think that companies should be smarter in who they 'hire' as consultants, or having any validation techniques? Sound off in the forums.

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