New project and identities

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Jeff Nichols has been working for almost a year on an intranet project for a large company. Jeff’s a smart guy with an interesting blog. That tells me that his project is probably interesting with lots of tough problems to solve. Thanks to Jeff, I’m now working on that project as well. The project is fascinating but I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to share about it; probably not much more than anecdotes and general things learned. I’ll find out more about that when I get started next week.

The structure of the project is a bit interesting. I’ll be working for a consulting shop who has the contract with the end client. The project isn’t a full time gig, although it will keep me quite busy the next two months, but the consulting shop asked me to become a part-time employee in order to simplify their accounting. So for the first time in more than two years I’m an employee again. I’ll be working remotely, dealing directly with the client, and largely setting my own hours, so it’s much the same as what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years. Still, something about being an employee feels different.

This change has made me think once again about my professional identity. I started a blog entry on the subject almost exactly one year ago but never finished it, partly because I couldn’t effectively put my thoughts into words. And partly was because I figured no one would really care. I was thinking too much about my audience and not enough about myself. But I find that I think about the subject often and writing about it helps my thoughts coalesce. What I’m trying to say is that for the rest of this entry I’m writing for me. If you aren’t me you might not be particularly interested in what follows.

I started consulting two years ago when the company I was working for went under. It was the third time in 12 months that I’d been laid off when a startup went under. I was laid off (the third time) on October 31, 2001 as the economy was softening. After looking for a job and collecting unemployment for a while, I ended up with a bit of contract work for projects run by people I knew from past companies. A few months later, I decided to formalize the contracting I was doing and converted this site from a personal site and blog to a site advertising my services and professional blog. You can still see the old site in several incarnations (mostly without stylesheets or images) in the Internet Archive.

Since then I’ve waffled between wanting to appear as a big company and positioning myself as an independant consultant. What I’ve finally decided on is being myself. People that want to hire me for a project want to hire me, not a faceless company. People hire me for my experience and expertise, not because I have a team of people ready to swing into action for them. The voice of this blog is mine, the thoughts and ideas presented here are mine. If you like them, perhaps you’ll hire me. If not, then we probably wouldn’t have worked well together anyway. (I even experimented with writing this blog as we instead of I, but I didn’t like it.)

So that’s who I am, an independent consultant. Perhaps one day I’ll be in such demand that I’ll need to hire a staff to help with the work, but for now it’s just me. So if you want to talk to me about some work, whether it’s a small project, a short- or long-term contract, or even a permanent position with your company, let me know.

January 2, 2004 4:24 AM

Yeah, it's tempting to try and look Big and Solid when you're out trolling for leads. I wasn't particularly confident that a solo contractor would go off as well as a large company with computing and fine arts graduates out the wazoo. But so much of my business is word of mouth stuff, or it's friend-of-a-friend stuff, and the 'we' thing is hard to pull off when your best form of advertisement is still 'Hey, I know someone who does that stuff.' So now I'm just Raena Armitage, sole trader. I haven't even registered a trading-as name. Less paperwork isn't a bad thing, either. ;)

January 4, 2004 6:27 AM

Interesting insight. Given the experiences with Enron etc. it seems that way too many people are trying to appear much bigger than they are. In that light I believe you are right that people want to hire you (if they do :) and not SOME company. Really made me think...

Brian Hess
January 5, 2004 2:35 AM

Will it be "Kalsey -- Consulting Guy," then, instead of "Group"? That's kinda cool, actually. :-)

Adam Kalsey
January 5, 2004 9:27 AM

But then I'd need new business cards, a change to my bank account, and countless other things. Besides, I really would like to put together a group of really good freelancers and operate as a group -- but that's another entry...

Mike Rohde
January 13, 2004 9:06 AM

Adam, I can see your dilemma. However, if in your attempts to be seen as a larger group and get called on that by a client in an important meeting, it could be a big negative. I like your approach of just being honest and that it's just little ol' you doing the work. I think those who see your work and like it will not care if you are a single person or if you subcontract -- as long as you do the work they want and are true to what you represent online. I suspect if you got a project that would tax you too much, you would either decline it or gather a distributed team to complete the project. One positive aspect of mentioning your signular work status, is that clients with smaller projects might actually like knowing a real guy whom they get immediate responses from and can call on the phone directly is the one doing there stuff. Clients may really appreciate that they have direct input and can work collaboratively with you and not an assitant or customer service rep. This could be seen as a real plus compared to being bounced around a big firm, never talking to the "head honcho" or even the same person each time you call. Best wishes yto you on your future endeavors Adam! :-)

February 20, 2004 8:50 AM

I think that making good money at your own computer is a good idea. The type of work can be offshore programming, affiliate and so on. Think it over. Working only for yourself - get more money and feel no control.

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