“Sounds good,” I cautiously replied. “Send me a list of problems you’ve solved and I’ll consider it.”
It may sound like fun to be paid to solve problems, but the client is not at all interested in paying us to have fun. They are interested in paying us to solve problems, quickly. Usually these problems have been expensively festering, and the client’s design team is fatigued and understaffed. Bringing in a qualified outsider at such times makes sense, since a fresh perspective — unclouded by burnout (and sometimes politics) — can do wonders. In my own experience, oftentimes the solution to a stubborn problem is literally within an inch or two on the schematic of where the team has previously tread, missed only because of the disruptive pressures and distractions that major problems generate.
Therefore, if you want to be a consultant that helps quickly solve a challenging technical problem, there are three qualities that you must be able to offer your client:
1. You must be experienced — with a successful track record — in solving technical problems under high-stress conditions.
2. You must be organized and methodical. The client has already had enough of hit-or-miss scrambling, and is looking for a calm disciplined approach. This means that you will have requested all relevant data on the problem and be ready to provide productive input on day one. (If you are a shoot-from-the-hip type of person, your tenure will last about 24 hours or less.)
3. You must be diplomatic and willing to work closely with the client’s team, simply because you need them as much as they need you. Hotshots or other big ego types will get nowhere fast.