With this unprecedented economic halt here in America and around the world, independent consultants find themselves in a strange place. With workplaces shut down, many consulting projects have also been stopped or delayed. And with so much uncertainty, many have ceased searching for new clients as well.
Impact on Independent Consultants
We asked several members of the Alliance of IEEE Consultants Networks Coordinating Committee (AICNCC) to share with other consultants what they are doing during this difficult period. While everyone we spoke with agreed that things are fluid at present, that doesn’t mean consultants should be passing the time idly.
Jacob Beningo, AICNCC chair and CEO of Beningo Embedded Group, says he is “reaching out to current and past clients to ascertain the impact to their operations and offer them support, as many companies are now learning how to operate efficiently with a remote workforce. Early on during the crisis, I had one client ready to agree to a significant contract — only to call back the next day to say their budget had been reduced — and that now they only had a third of the amount they had previously agreed to. Unfortunately, this theme is becoming common, as companies take a narrow and short-term view of the economy.”
Other committee members are reporting similar trends. William Kassebaum, a long-time committee member and IEEE volunteer, said that several possible projects that were developing, have all been put on hold. And Hermann Amaya, another long-time committee member, added that all his client visits have been cancelled.
The AICNCC imagines that many consultants across the country are facing similar situations. Unlike many full-time employees who are still being paid, when consultant contracts end, consultants no longer receive income. Some consultants who take contracts sign W-2 forms, making them eligible to apply for unemployment benefits. However, most consultants have to adjust to closing contracts, with no new ones to replace them.
How to Stay Busy, Productive?
One thing consultants can do during this shut down is focus on improving their skill sets and business practices. Kassebaum said he is reviewing his internal infrastructure tools, and examining different software tools such as Harvest, Forecast, QBO, Astra Finance, Calendly and MailChimp. He will also be looking at ways to build credit to help finance his survival during these times, and spur growth later in the year. Kassebaum is also researching topics of interest, and providing his input through social media, websites and blogs.
Amaya is now doing more research for contracts online, by checking government databases. To be specific, he is reviewing the terms of his past 16 federal contracts, to find out other possibilities — such as the NAICS Codes awarded, Department of Defense agencies that awarded contracts, and reviewing client power utilities requirements for possible contracts. “I’m also taking advantage of free webinars, and considering taking an online management course from MIT,” said Amaya. “In addition, I’m also looking to diversify my business offerings by learning different software platforms.”
Beningo is reviewing active projects, deadlines, general business cash flow, and making adjustments for the period between now and June. Further, he is taking advantage of this time to clean his office, and reorganize his files and workspace, so he can be more efficient when things ramp back up. With a little extra time available, Beningo is also developing new offerings and products for clients that he will launch, as the crisis begins to turn a corner. Lastly, he is holding remote workshops; continuing to write his newsletter; and again, staying in touch with clients — looking for opportunities to engage with them. Beningo reminds everyone to prepare now, for the project onslaught that will undoubtedly come later this year.
Lastly, AICNCC members recommend that — like everyone else — consultants should look to spend more time with family, catch up on sleep, and spend time on some activities to motivate you. Reenergize yourself — like catching that big one that got away!
Want to engage more with the AICNCC? Committee members will be monitoring social media through the Consultants Exchange in IEEE Collabratec, and in the IEEE-USA LinkedIn Group. Join, ask questions, and engage with the committee.
Daryll Griffin is IEEE-USA’s program manager for career, member and innovation activities.