I’ve worked with a few people to develop a consulting “brochure” to help them make some money while looking for work.

Generating income is one big benefit of being a consultant. Another is keeping your skills current. A third is having a reason to get up in the morning and having actual work to do.

All that may be obvious. A less obvious benefit to developing a consulting brochure is that you get to look at what you really want to do, what skills you love to use and are really good at, and the value you deliver sufficiently to get paid for it.

It doesn’t have to be fancy and printed; in fact, it’s better as an electronic PDF attachment to an e-mail. You can use it to network, announcing to people that you are launching a consulting practice and they should feel free to pass this on to people who might be interested. In this way, your name gets out there attached to precisely the kind of work you want to do full-time. You never know what will happen. Just yesterday, one person just landed a full-time job doing exactly what she described doing in her consulting piece.

Knowing what you can and want to do is the key to finding your “right fit work” whether that is working at a job or starting your own business. Being a consultant is your own business.

Often, the biggest challenge is shifting your mindset about how you get paid. Employees get a salary and usually work whatever hours they need to get the job done. Consultants get a fee, usually on a retainer or project basis, and sometimes with a daily or hourly rate. Your time and expertise both are resources, and consultants need to understand the relationship between the two.

Here are some ways to start thinking about Fee Structure.

1. How many hours can you give each client a week or month?

  • That determines your ideal number of clients
  • Can have a range of services, some more time intensive than others – all are valuable
  • No client needs to know what you do for the other
  • Managers have multiple clients all the time; as long as you meet the client’s needs, they don’t care who else you work for (with some bizarre exceptions)

2. How much client turnover do you expect? Meaning how long will clients sign up for to work with you? AND how much time off during the year do you need, are you willing to give yourself?

  • Rule of thumb is to figure 40 weeks of the year working (sometimes people figure 32 or 36 weeks, depending on how constant the clients are)
  • Some of your time has to be focused on marketing your services and getting new clients
  • Your fees are sufficient to cover all your costs; shared among several clients, you can give them a relative bargain AND make what you want to make

3. What’s the basis on which you want to get paid? Here are some options and what they mean.

  • Monthly retainer, where over a year the client gets an average number of hours a month, with some months heavy and others lighter. This is best all around because you and they can count on regular income and expense, so it’s great for budgeting. Only caveat is you must produce enough outcomes for the client to be satisfied with this monthly outlay. This is a great method when you are involved in a lot of different projects or areas with a client, including “soft” projects like advising, coaching, and strategizing with a senior person.
  • Project basis, where you get paid for producing a specific outcome over a period of time. Usually there are several payments, one upfront to get started, then one or more milestone payments tied to progress, and a final payment to be paid after satisfactory completion. This is the best method for facilitating an entire strategic plan (not simply advising), writing a funding proposal (or indeed any kind of writing where there will be edits), and delivering a specific product within a specific time frame.
  • Daily or hourly rate, where you are paid for your work based on an estimated time involved. This kind of payment is best when you are doing something that is pretty straightforward and it is easy to give the client an accurate estimate of how much time is needed. Examples of such services are training, word processing, facilitating a retreat, advising on strategic planning, and one-on-one coaching.

So think about yourself as a consultant. What would you do? What services would you offer? What could you do for a client that they would love to pay you for? How would you talk about what you do? What would be your 5-second pitch description of what you can deliver to a client? Chances are that’s what you want to do in a job, too. You may even discover that you love being in business for yourself.