Flash/Flex consulting is winning the recruiting game — finally?

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.




> He had three big chunks of advice for me:
So what’s the third? 🙂


I mention it at the bottom of the post. It all comes together. 🙂


Gotcha. Thanks, those are great tips.

I hear what you’re saying about “strike while the iron is hot” — when Flash was hot, I was a deseloper, cause the design/programming space was where it was at on the web, for me. Ever since I switched from being a Flash developer to a Flex developer a few years ago, my consultancy has skyrocketed, and I’ve never looked back.

I think as Flex consultants we currently enjoy the convergence of a few market forces: a large demand for new RIAs combined with an insufficient supply of skilled Flex/AS3 programmers. So it’s a good time to be a Flex developer if you know your stuff. How long it will last, who knows. But I’m having a blast… 🙂

And, having been a contractor on and off for the last 8 years, if I may, I would add to that list:

1a) Even while you’re successfully consulting, keep two months income in the bank. Clients may pay late. You may have downtime between projects while you look for more work.

4) Participate in community. Got to user group gatherings, go to local conferences, and budget to go to at least one major conference a year. start a blog with interesting things on it. No one will know who you are if you just sit at home and don’t talk to anyone.

5) Expect the unexpected. (see #1, 1a) Even if you’re in the city, get at least a 700KWH UPS so you don’t lose all your stuff with a power outage. If your local power supply is flaky, get something like 10,000KWH, so you can stay up and running for a whole day if need be, or buy a small UPS and a generator if you have the space and you live in a rural area.

5a) And backup your data, regularly, cause now that you’re working for yourself, you can’t blame a missed deadline on hardware issues; the client won’t care. If you have a Mac, get Time Machine, being mindful that there are a few known issues. Get a RAID 1 drive system. Even if you have RAID 1, still back up up your system info once and a while; RAID saves you from HD crashes, not data corruption.

6) Look for new work BEFORE your current contract ends, so that ideally you have no downtime between projects.

There are more, I am sure, but those are the essentials.


Wow! Excelent tips! Thank you all! 🙂


Speaking from a startup looking for Flex devs right now, I want to at least share the other side of the coin. Consulting can be fun while you make lots of money and you feel like a rockstar because everyone wants a piece of you. But consulting is not scalable…. you only have so many hours in a day you can bill for. There is a time when it makes sense to join a good team that builds a business/product that has a large potential upside. Also being a consultant puts you at the whim of your client.. you can sometimes fall into the position of being a service provider. The client may not always make the right decision and the final product may not be at all what you envisioned.

So don’t forget that the short term gains now can put you out of sorts in the future. But I will agree that if you are a kick ass coder you can pretty much do what you want most times.

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