How do you acquire clients ? The answer is surprisingly simple: You ask to be a consulting programmer ”perhaps starting part-time as a second job ”or you put yourself in a position to be asked to be a consulting programmer.
My own introduction into the world of IT consulting came, perhaps unbelievably, when I had only six months of IT experience and before I was a permanent employee programmer of any company. I was asked by IT management of a major oil company if I would please work as a (highly paid) consultant for them during my spare time in my last six months of school before graduation from Drexel Institute of Technology (now Drexel University).
I was working for IBM as a temporary employee with the title of systems-engineer trainee; this was my last six-month industry cooperative education at Drexel. During my six months at IBM I had attended customer-education classes to learn how to program (wire the control panels) of the then- prevalent IBM unit record punched card machines that produced IT reports . Then I was sent out into major companies to program (wire the control panels of) the IBM machines in their IT data centers.
I knew immediately that I was good at doing that job. I was a very enthusiastic ”and, apparently, a very hard and productive ”worker, because near the end of my IBM co-op experience, Jack Higby, the IT manager of a major oil company, asked me to continue to work for them as an IT consultant whenever I could spare time from school.
The Drexel cooperative industry program allowed students to pay their way through a five-year program by earning money in industry during their education, and now I could earn top money as an IT consultant during my school sessions rather than take a low-paying part-time job. Doing this work solidified my chances at a programming career after graduation. I took only one job interview at graduation ”IBM.
IBM had trained me and put me in a position to be solicited to be a highly paid consultant by a major company. All I had to do was perform, and take the plunge into consulting when asked.
You can find programmer consulting opportunities by doing exactly the same things that consultants like Sam Gottlieb and Dennis Muclare have done. First, hone your programming skills. Next, position yourself to be considered for consulting jobs. The major corporations and the consulting companies that provide programming consultants have a constant need to fill their consultant programmer positions . Become expert in the software application niche of major companies, and then solicit them for a consulting job.
Most employee programmers that I know have never queried a consulting company or employment agency for a possible consulting job, and yet they wonder just how it is that programmer consultants are born.
Dennis Mulcare notes: I sell myself to customers to do jobs, work through the jobs, and then try to find new jobs within that company. I ve been with the same client for three and a half years . Typically, you work for a client for about six months. But I was always able to do the job and then find somebody else in the company that wanted my help, based on my success.
As I moved in my career from being a programmer with a company to being a systems engineer with IBM, and then a salesman at IBM, I was more independent with each step, Dennis Mulcare says. And I also had more risk with each step. But with more risk came more reward. Now, as a consultant, I have the greatest rewards. Certainly the risk is there, too, but because of the current market for mainframe programmers, at the moment there s not much risk.
It s really exciting when you can sit down with somebody in the very raw state of understanding and find out what this person s business is and be able to come back and manufacture a solution. It s very gratifying ”gratifying on different levels. It s gratifying on the level of putting together a solution and planning it out, and it s gratifying taking pieces of the solution and programming them and having the program work and do the right thing.
When you sit down at the customer s office when it s finally delivered and you see that the people in the different departments that are using your product really feel that they re saving time and being more efficient, and they say things like ˜This job I just did in two minutes ” this would have taken me a week without the computer ”that s the kind of thing that really makes you feel good.
Successful independent consultants reap the highest compensation a programmer can hope for (unless he invents, and owns the copyright to, some major piece of software). But high pay is just one of the consultant s rewards. If you venture out on your own, you ll be your own boss. You ll take on only the work you want and like. You ll be recognized as an expert who can handle the most visible, challenging, exciting projects.