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Business Development

From FREE to FEE

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As a consultant, you'll probably often be hit up for free advice. I give away a lot of my time to good causes, but have to balance that with billable time—otherwise, I go out of business. 

In this case, a friend from a CEO-roundtable asked to "pick my brain" at a time when I was quite busy. The purpose of this note is to tell her "no" without offending. My mentor, Joe Sabah, referred to this as "Going from FREE to FEE." P.S.—Cynthia did not elect to pay one of our consultants, which was no surprise.

From: Cynthia Tempest [mailto:ctempest@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, September 27, 20— 2:20 PM
To: wsfrank@careerlab.com
Subject: Free Lunch  

Bill - I'd like to buy you lunch, and since nothing is really free, I'd like to pick your brain about changing jobs.

I'm looking to move to the D.C. area, and I'm trying to figure out how to make my resume/package look more attractive.

I got my current job with a one page cover letter and a 2 page resume, but feel that is probably not adequate now.

Interested in a semi-free lunch?


From: William S. Frank [wsfrank@careerlab.com]
Sent: Wednesday, September 27, 20— 2:34 PM
To: Cynthia Tempest
Cc: [I copied several consultants in the firm]
Subject: Career Meeting  


I'd love a semi-free lunch, but am booked solid for the next three weeks. One of the other senior consultants in our firm would enjoy helping you. However, it wouldn't be semi-free, since I have to pay them. Our normal consulting rate is $200/hour or $1500/day. I could give you our "friends and family" rate which is $150 per hour. Let me know if this sounds workable, and I'll make the connection.

With best wishes,

P.S.—You can meet our team at http://www.careerlab.com/team.htm

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William S. Frank, M.A.,
25 Reasons I love consulting.
by William S. Frank
  1. Brand. You are your own brand, and you can define it any way you want. For many years, I provided outplacement to the ex-employees of Schlumberger, the world's largest oilfield service corporation. When departing employees left the company, they didn't request outplacement in their severance package. They said, "I want Bill Frank."
  2. Demand. The world will always be full of terrible problems that need solving.
  3. White Hat. I can be a helper and get paid for it.
  4. Pay. I can be paid to do things I'd gladly do for nothing.
  5. Variety. Every day is different.
  6. Happiness. At this stage of my career, I only work for people I respect and care about. If a client micromanages me or is otherwise no fun, I complete the assignment and replace them.
  7. Talent. I'm using 110% of my talents and stretching myself to the max.
  8. Change. I can change my focus any day I want. If you're a McDonald's franchisee, you don't say, "Hey, I've got this great idea for a meatball sandwich—let's try it out today." In consulting you can adjust your focus hour-by-hour, as long as your clients still understand and appreciate what you do.
  9. Income. No one else would pay me as much as I pay myself.
  10. FUN. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing.
  11. Retirement. I can write and consult as long as I am physically and mentally capable. Peter Drucker worked into his 90s, and when asked which book was his best, he said: "My next one."
  12. Job Security. Although clients come and go, no one can come into my office and say, "Pack up your stuff . . . You don't work here anymore." In 29 years, I've only had one employer: ME.
  13. Travel. I don't have to travel unless I decide to. I travel if it's both FUN and profitable—or at least FUN.
  14. Commute. I live five minutes from my office, a corner office in an upscale six-story tower. In winter, I leave a heated garage at home and drive to an underground heated garage at work. There's seldom time to hear even one song on the radio.
  15. Vacation. Consulting is more fun than vacation (except on Wailea Beach in Maui).
  16. Friends. I have developed hundreds of close acquaintances and several lifetime friends.
  17. Time. I can work as much or as little as I like: four-hour days or 18-hour days. (Of course, my income will reflect that.)
  18. Employees. I can work with employees, subcontractors, partners, or alone—I've done it all.
  19. Passive Income. I've developed several products that provide "mailbox money." I earn while I'm sleeping.
  20. Ethics. I've never had to violate my values or personal code of ethics. I've never had to lie, purposely deceive or harm others, or promise things I can't deliver. I go to bed with a clear conscience. That doesn't mean there's never any conflict. But the conflict is conducted according to generally accepted business practices.
  21. Virtual. My career is fairly portable. With the Internet, e-mail, cell phone, and FedEx, I can work nationally, even internationally from my office—or anywhere in the world.
  22. Purpose. I make a difference in peoples' lives every day. I see it in their faces, hear it in their voices, and read it in their thank-yous.
  23. Experience. Every painful or joyful life experience makes me a better consultant. So does every person I meet or book I read. Grey hair can be good in consulting.
  24. Structure. I have to work very hard, and the clients expect superb results—but I get to structure my days, weeks, months, and years.
  25. Boss. Most of the time, I love my boss.
As I was posting these letters online, I realized I want to communicate my love for consulting. It's just a great business. The single letters, taken together, may create a picture of enjoyment, but in a burst of creativity I listed some of the reasons consulting is such a good fit for me—and perhaps for you, too. They are not prioritized; this is just how they came out.