Almost 4 years ago, towards the end of my tenure at Fidelity, I started getting the itch to become a well-paid consultant. I invited our team’s super expensive Java consultant for a cup of coffee. I picked his brain about what it was like to consult, how lucrative it was for him and how he got started. It was 2004 and this guy was making $200/hr, and it showed. He had even branched out, hired a bunch of other Java guys working ‘for’ him. He was taking 30% of what he billed for them. He had no office, no CEO, no overhead and he was living in style in some ritzy downtown loft.
He had three big chunks of advice for me: 1) Don’t consult without two months of income saved, 2) Start consulting as soon as you can. It wasn’t for another 2 years that I built up the fortitude to go on my own — and I had huge help in the fact that the PM of the project I went to consult for was a good friend. Well, it was obscenely lucrative, but I was quickly drawn back into the allure of a full time job.
I was recently reminded of all this by the sudden realization that for the first time in the Flash world, at least that I can remember, there are more talented developers on the consulting side (independent or at consulting firms) than within in full time jobs at regular companies. I’m not saying that there aren’t a ton of very talented people in full time company jobs. I work with many here everyday, there’s folks at companies like Adobe, still folks at Yahoo!, Disney, etc.
To me, for the first time, the scales have really tipped. Try this exercise… write down the 25 best and most notable Flash and Flex developers you can think of. I bet at least 15 of them are independent or working at consulting firms. And I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case this time last year.
It’s part strategy, and part osmosis. Smart consulting firm owners know that the more talent they collect, the more of a dependency other companies have on them (and other firms) to farm out work because they can’t hire it themselves. And hand in hand with that, once top talent starts pooling at one firm, others are attracted there to work and learn from them.
As long as stuff gets done well, it’s quite awesome. Sure, things cost more and more, but there are advantages as well. Being a consultant can really put you in a specialist mode. It helps you see a wide variety of projects and scenarios. The best thing non-consultant firms can do is get their existing talent educated and trained and hope that their technology attracts the interest of some special developers.
Enjoy it while the technology is so hot. The third piece of advice from my wealthy Java consultant was simple: No technology is hot forever, so enjoy it while you can.