A Little Perspective on Running Your Own Business

I was pinged the other day through LinkedIn by one of my wife’s former colleagues.  Here’s the nut of her request:

… suggested that I contact you to see if you’d be willing to talk with my husband.  He is currently a principal / management consultant at … and is trying to break out of the MC industry to be able to spend more time at home and less time traveling.  … said that you were able to do this and I’d appreciate it if you could give him some tips for breaking free.  He has always been a MC since graduating college and needs guidance on other positions / roles where he can use his skills and feel challenged.  And, of course, still make a good salary. 

Those of you who follow me on this blog, through my MSDN answers, through my jQuery Library for SharePoint Web Services, or via Twitter (@sympmarc) may not realize it, but I do work for a living.  I have my own company called Sympraxis Consulting LLC.  I don’t push it much across those vehicles much because I find it truly annoying when people push too hard. (And here I am pushing a little – I’m not perfekt, you know.)

Here’s the quick perspective that I shared in case anyone else finds it useful:

In my case, it was less “breaking out” and more “changing the rules”.  I worked for some big firms, and loved it much of the time.  Then I went with a very small firm (I was the third hire) and most recently started my own consultancy.

So I still do much the same sort of work, but I do it on my terms.  There are three major benefits that I see:

* I answer to every single employee, but they are all me! (I started Sympraxis Consulting with a partner, but he has moved on to a great new position.)
* I get my own rate. Low overhead, same rates, more $$$ for me and my family.
* I do the work that I choose, whether that means taking something purely for the $$$ or because it’s totally cool work.

With all benefits come some downsides:
* The work is not predictable or steady.  You need to be able to deal with the gaps.
* You have to do everything yourself. That means sales (my least favorite activity, but I’ve gotten more comfortable with it) and managing QuickBooks and all of the paperwork.


  1. I’ve dabbled with independent consulting a few times. It is definitely not for everyone. The independence is great, but you have to be able to stay focused and self-motivating; not an issue for me. I really like the flexibility of playing different roles, but some people I’ve known want to only do what their specialty is.

    The real trouble I’ve seen is in balancing the sales leads with the current work. If you are heads down focused and not looking for the next engagement you will have longer gaps between projects.

    • Mike:

      Thanks for the thoughts. One of the things I neglected to mention above that is actually incredibly important to me is that I can now operate under my own code of ethics. I’m not saying that everyone I have worked with doesn’t share my code, but it’s nice to be absolutely sure that I won’t be put in situations that make me squirm. I have this honesty and integrity handicap that I carry with me, and I don’t like to sacrifice it. Too many people in our business (and any other, of course) aren’t burdened with this.

      Balancing sales vs. delivery is indeed very difficult. For me, I don’t feel like I can deliver as well if I’m out pounding the pavement, but you have to do some of it. I prefer to go after new work while I’m not fully engaged, so thus the gaps. Not fully efficient, I know, but referring back to paragraph one, I’m OK with it.



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