It’s been one month since I announced my consulting launch, so I thought I’d check in with an update on my progress so far. I’m hoping to do this on a monthly basis, in order to stay true to my aim of building in the open.
It’s still very early days for my experiment, so I haven’t got much to report on the goal front, but as a reminder, here are the goals I set myself:
♻️ Create sustainable revenue
- Reach an average revenue of £5000 / month - I’ve been spending the last month trying to build my brand, and I have yet to make a dent in my revenue goals, so no update here. One interesting side effect of posting this revenue goal is that I’ve had some people make the mistake of trying to use it to reverse-engineer my day rate. Please don’t do this, as you’ll only be disappointed when it comes to the contract process. I see this as an initial revenue milestone to prove the validity of the business, nothing more or less.
- Maintain a 4-day work schedule - I’ve found the lack of structure at this early stage of the business quite challenging, as I’ll discuss below. Nonetheless, I’ve been pretty good at keeping my work within these limits - the flexibility of choosing your own work time is nice, when working on ‘internal’ work such as brand building.
🌱 Help organisations that align with my values
- 100% of clients pass the 'credible argument for good' test - This has been a useful way to screen initial approaches for work, so I’ll continue to use this metric.
✨ Build a reputation for excellence
- 100% of clients would like to work with me again - While I wouldn’t call them clients, it was really gratifying to see some of the responses and endorsements from my network when I initially announced this experiment. I’m very grateful to those people I’ve worked with in the past who boosted my announcement, or left positive feedback.
- X% of new work comes from client recommendations - It’s too early days to have a number for this, but some of the work I am exploring is as a direct result of previous roles, so this is starting out well.
Over the last month, my main focus has been on promoting the existence of my consulting experiment, as well as trying to build my reputation through writing relevant content.
The soft launch of the consultancy centred on blog content promoted through social media channels. I put out my launch article on LinkedIn and Twitter. Of those channels, LinkedIn was by far the most effective, resulting in around 70 reactions, comments and reposts, and approximately 3000 impressions. Twitter, by contrast, fell very flat, with single-digit engagement and only a couple of hundred impressions.
I think that the issue here is that Twitter requires a very different posting strategy to LinkedIn. Instead of long-form content, effective use of Twitter seems to rely on drip-feeding interesting content via regular threads and tweets. Most of these might not land, but the occasional one will blow up and drive a lot of engagement. I’ve always been a fairly low-posting Twitter user, so I struggle with this pattern. However, given that Twitter has been undergoing a fairly rapid transformation into a dreadful tyre-fire thanks to the Musk acquisition, I’m leaning towards not using it as a platform for work promotion in future.
The other avenue for promotion that I’ve relied on is word-of-mouth discussions with friends and ex-colleagues. This is a smaller but much more engaged group of people, and I’m hoping one that will continue to yield useful results and contacts.
Aside from these update posts, I’ve been working on some more long-form content around engineering management and team growth. A couple of weeks ago, I published an article about self-development as an early-stage engineering leader. It ended up growing to a slightly unwieldy size, and took longer to finish than I’d hoped, but I was happy with the content. Disappointingly, it didn’t seem to resonate with my (admittedly small) audience. I have a couple of theories why this might have been the case:
- Too long - The article wasn’t short enough to digest in five minutes. Even though I provided a TL;DR summary at the end, it’s possible people were put off by the volume of content.
- Too generic - While I hope the advice in the article was useful, perhaps it wasn’t specific or engaging enough for my audience to apply easily.
- Not enough reach - It could be that the article just didn’t find the right people to read it, because I have a small audience.
I’m going to continue to experiment with this kind of content, but I’m really interested in any feedback - please, if you like or dislike any of my content, or think it could be improved in some way, I’d love to hear about it. Critical feedback is particularly welcome and valuable.
The biggest challenge I’ve experienced with my consulting experiment is consistently motivating myself to develop the business. I know from experience that I work effectively when I have extrinsic motivations - for example, accountability to an employer, a colleague, or a client. However, finding that inner drive to consistently do the work needed to get clients in the door - when the only person I’m accountable to is myself - doesn’t come easily to me. I’m very much of the mindset that consistency and intrinsic motivation are learnable skills, but I’m going to need to keep practicing them to make consulting a success.
I’m going to continue building the brand and looking for potential clients for the next month. With the end of the year approaching, I’m conscious that many businesses will be winding down work and preparing for a big start in 2023. That said, for organisations with budget windows following the calendar year, some teams will be in a ‘use it or lose it’ situation with remaining budget - if that’s you, and you want to get a few days of useful consulting booked in before the holidays, let me know.
I’ll keep on writing valuable content around my areas of expertise - I’m approaching this through the lens of “What would I have found useful to read when I was getting started in my engineering management career?” I’m also thinking about local organisations that I can work with to increase my profile within the Bristol tech community, as well as how I can make better use of in-person meetups and events to find potential clients.
As a reminder, if you’d like for us to work together, you can contact me at
work at jw.pe, or send me a message through another medium if we're already in touch. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!