Category Archives: Tyger Das

TYGER’S TALE: ADVICE FOR SELF-EMPLOYMENT – PT 3.

Downtime:
Everyone I know who is self employed goes through a period of work scarcity at some point in their career. I’ve been there. It was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I was young, I took things for granted, didn’t appreciate things and I needed some humbling. Plan for this. One of the benefits of being self employed is that I know exactly what is coming in and going out in terms of bills. Pay yourself, before you pay your bills and use that money to build up a “emergency saving slush fund”. Either by saving or safe investing(i.e TFSA). In Ontario, if you are self employed you can still pay into EI. It’s your option. Being self employed doesn’t mean, you can’t have nice things. You can still have nice things as long as you can afford them.

Also use this period to assess if this is where you want to be in terms of your career goals and to further your education. Look at emerging trends and position yourself accordingly.

Don’t dwell on the negative. Don’t go through a period of self doubt. You give it power and allow it to manifest and also make yourself sick. I’ve interviewed consultants for clients who have been out of work for a period of time. They may not realize it, but when you’re negative, it permeates through who you are. Potential clients can detect it.

Depending on your situation, sometimes it is worth moving backwards to go forward. A number of years back, I had two potential clients. One kind of the same old same, I’ve always done, the other a pure management consulting gig with a big Consulting company, that paid less. After much debate, I took the management consulting gig and added a new dimension to my skill set and career. These days that skill set is more in demand then what I use to do and has opened up a new world of clients. Take calculated risks.

Lessons I’ve learned:

    • Trust your gut. If you’re uneasy about a project, organization or the people, walk away.

    • Always read and understand contracts. Never assume anything. Ask questions. If the answer is unsatisfactory, have a lawyer look at it.

    • Get everything in writing in the contract.

    • Everything is negotiable on a contract.

    • Have a lawyer. It’s been rare, but I’ve had issues getting paid in the past. After exhausting all avenues on my own, having a really good lawyer to advise you helps. If you’re doing cross-border corp to corp business agreements a lawyer is useful, some States have some interesting laws.

    • Never do work without a signed and agreed contract in place.

    • Don’t get stuck in a niche or vertical. Expand your skill set and industry experience

    • In your contract, set the project scope as best as possible. This sets expectations for both sides.

    • I always provide work plans and estimate costs where applicable for projects. This is to avoid surprises on the client side, when I bill. I also track my portion of the project cost with the client. If we’re getting close to the high end of the estimate, I let them know.

    • It’s okay to do business with organizations that are in bankruptcy re-organization, however to reduce financial risk to yourself, its best to work off a financial retainer. Monitor that financial retainer with the client and have them top it off when it starts to run out.

    • Get yourself a very good accountant. One that specializes in self employed people or small companies. It took me 3 tries to find the right person who understands both CRA wording and tax laws.

    • Not all clients are equal.

    • Always be professional.

Tyger Das is a management consultant with 13+ years experience who originally started his career as a programmer. His experience includes executive advisory, business strategy, business systems analysis, marketing strategy, program/project/vendor management, marketing, consulting or IT operations (including offshore) management, best practice(s) implementation, business process re-engineering (six sigma), cost and work effort reduction through business process optimization, change management and technical(IT/IS) or advertising RFS/RFP process management. Some of Tyger’s past and present clients include: Aon, RBC, CGI, General Electric, Maclaren McCann, various US and Canadian health agencies, General Motors, Ford Europe(Jaguar, Land Rover), Diageo PLC(Pilsbury, Guinness & Co. and Smithwick’s, Burger King), NASA, Rogers Communications, various municipal, provincial and state agencies, a number of non-profits, Porsche AG, a handful of boutique advertising agencies and the National Basketball Association.

Connect with Tyger on LinkedIn

TYGER’S TALE: ADVICE FOR SELF-EMPLOYMENT – PT 2.

Searching for work:

When I first started out in self employment by virtue of my skill set, I was basically stuck in one vertical. I have learned from other consultants to strategically gain experience in as many different verticals and industries as possible. You don’t want to get stuck in a niche or stuck in one vertical. Niches and verticals go through recessions. You want to gain as much experience as possible. Self employment works well for this.

I’ve learned being successful at self employment is largely self-driven. You need to constantly be “on the look” for future projects even while you’re working at a client. It’s very self motivated. In the course of a day or a week, I’m constantly in dialogue with existing clients, old clients, intermediaries, contacts and other self-employed people

So how have I managed to find clients?

    Other self-employed people – Because I’m self-employed, I know other self-employed people. We stay constantly in touch with each other and try to help one another out. Some of us have similar skills and experience some of us quite different; we do all complement each other in some way. If I know someone is looking, I’ll keep my ears open; they’ll do the same for me. I have sent convertible leads to people and they’ve sent convertible leads to me.

    Simply keeping in touch – I’ve kept in touch with people from the beginning of my career to present. I’m very sociable and I talk to everyone. I’m always amazed at the number of interns and front desk people, I’ve met years ago, who are now in management roles at public and private organizations. Recently I converted a lead received by someone I worked with 15 years ago into a project. It pays to stay in touch.

    Introductions – I’ve made introductions for people and people have made introductions for me. Sometimes introductions lead to work.

    Opportunities at your existing client – Simply know what other projects are attached to your project or what other similar projects are on the horizon at your client. If what they need lines up with your skill set and experience and they’re happy with your work, you can be at that client for awhile.

    Social Media – Believe it or not, but I have converted a couple of leads that came in via social media. I have never met these “go betweens” in person, but I’m grateful for their help. But be smart about it, trust your “spidey senses”. If you suspect a scam, it is likely a scam.

    Networking – I think every skill set, technology or professional designation has its own group, a lot of them have once a month meetings. Many are free. Go to them and talk to people. Don’t go asking for or looking for business. Go to meet people and build relationships. People who go either single mindedly looking for business or for work repel people. If you’re uncomfortable going by yourself take someone with you. If you know people there ask them to introduce you to people you don’t know. If not make introductions yourself (but don’t interrupt conversations). It takes some practice. Once upon a time, I was fairly shy, now I can confidently work a room.

    Talk to strangers – Toronto, is not exactly the friendliest city on Earth. A “good morning” a smile or a “simple compliment” to a stranger tends to weird out most Torontonians. However, there is good news. A lot of cities not named Toronto in Canada, the US and elsewhere are friendly. Innocuous small talk has led to an opportunity to build relationships which has led to opportunities.

    RFS – A lot of organizations put out Request for Service (RFS) tenders via different tendering methods. In most cases, anyone can respond to them. When, responding to the RFS, read the instructions carefully and note the deadline dates. A lot of RFS have specific requirements in terms of what they expect to see in a response. These items are not options. Follow the instructions.

Benefits of self employment over full-time employment

There are no absolutes in life. Very few full-time jobs have any sort of job security. I’ve worked for a lot of public and private organizations and very few have had any sort of employee career planning. If you’re good at your job they basically want to keep you at that job. As a person, I love to learn, I love to be challenged, I enjoy solving problems, I love to think and I love to teach. Self-employment for me has allowed me to take on different challenges. I‘ve had the opportunity to manage my own education and experience and build my career the way I wanted too. I’ve worked in all different verticals, in different roles from technical to project/program management, executive advisory, business process re-engineering, change management, conflict resolution, etc. I’ve honed my leadership skills under a cross section of excellent c-level executives at some pretty big private and public organizations; these executives aren’t only excellent business people, but also people. They’ve taught me, how to listen, strategize, manage conflict and politics, negotiate, be a better communicator, lead, manage, mentor others, admit mistakes and be a better person. I don’t think, I would have gotten the depth and breadth of the experience that I currently have, if I was a full-time employee somewhere.

end of part 2… to be continued in part 3; Downtime and Lessons Learned

Tyger Das is a management consultant with 13+ years experience who originally started his career as a programmer. His experience includes executive advisory, business strategy, business systems analysis, marketing strategy, program/project/vendor management, marketing, consulting or IT operations (including offshore) management, best practice(s) implementation, business process re-engineering (six sigma), cost and work effort reduction through business process optimization, change management and technical(IT/IS) or advertising RFS/RFP process management. Some of Tyger’s past and present clients include: Aon, RBC, CGI, General Electric, Maclaren McCann, various US and Canadian health agencies, General Motors, Ford Europe(Jaguar, Land Rover), Diageo PLC(Pilsbury, Guinness & Co. and Smithwick’s, Burger King), NASA, Rogers Communications, various municipal, provincial and state agencies, a number of non-profits, Porsche AG, a handful of boutique advertising agencies and the National Basketball Association.

Connect with Tyger on LinkedIn

Tyger’s Tale: Advice for Self-Employment – PT 1.

I’m very grateful to Hugh to allowing me to post on his blog. Thanks, Hugh.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore”
-Andre Gide

Different people call it different things: freelancing, contracting, consulting. More broadly defined, it is self-employment.
I became self-employed, not by choice, but because of necessity. I came out of school in the 90’s. The early 90’s went through a fairly severe recession. Full-time jobs or internships for new university or college grads were few and far between. Your choices were contract (self-employment) opportunities or not working. I chose self-employment. I was told by a number of people this was a negative work choice and it would haunt me down the road, but so far I have parlayed it into a successful career. Everything I learned about being successfully self-employed is from; watching others, reading and researching, asking questions and personal trial and error.

Advice and Lessons:

Rate?
When I started out, working as a programmer/analyst. Hourly rates were set in narrow ranges based on years of experience, practical programming knowledge and the economics of supply and demand. Most leads for gigs where controlled by headhunters/recruiting companies. Headhunter/recruiting companies usually tacked on an extra 20% to 25% on to the hourly rate. To keep myself competitive, I use to charge something in between what I would get from a recruiter per hour and the mark up. It proved attractive to my clients.
As my experience and skill set has broadened and become more management consulting oriented, I know from working at some of the big consulting companies at what they bill me out at to clients, my hourly has been adjusted to stay both fair and competitive.

My advice, when positioning yourself in the marketplace, especially if you have broad skill set is to have a sliding hourly rate instead of one fixed rate hourly rate. I’ve had clients, in the past that had work, which I could have done, but in terms of effort and skill was slightly below what I was doing for them and they were “scared off” because of my hourly.

For some of my long time clients, I will give them a fixed price on work as long as they provide me the scope, instead of billing them an hourly rate. This has allowed me to keep some clients for years.

I have also a slightly less than market rate for start-ups and new companies. Being a type of entrepreneur, I have a sort of soft spot for other entrepreneurs. Not always, but sometimes this has led to future work for me at market rates. Some entrepreneurs are very appreciative of any help you provide them when they’re starting out and sometimes this leads to future work at market rates.

Have some flex in your rate. Rates are determined by a number of factors, chief among them supply and demand; the economy goes through up and down cycles. In order to stay competitive and working you will have to adjust your rate from time to time. Don’t get married to a specific hourly rate.

To incorporate or not to incorporate?
This is something that depends on your situation. If you don’t have long term aspirations of being self employed are in between jobs and only contracting or consulting till you find your next full time permanent gig, then incorporation isn’t for you.

If however, you are planning to do this as a career or for an extended period of time, incorporation carries many tax advantages. Being incorporated also allows one to join organizations like local chambers of commerce and boards of trade. These organizations allow “group buy” benefits for everything from benefits, dental care, software, office supplies to local networking and RFS bid opportunities.

Contract Length?
This is a question that I’m often asked. Is a long contract better then a short one? My answer, I’ve parlayed 4 week gigs into 4 years. Every client is different, every situation is different. Expect the unexpected.

Pros and Cons of using a recruitment company?
Some self employed folks like using recruitment companies/headhunter and some larger corporations insist that you use a recruitment company(some will assign you one), especially if you aren’t incorporated. The benefit of using a recruitment company/headhunter is that you get paid weekly or bi weekly instead of net 30. The trade off is you make less per hour. Everyone has their own financial situation. Choose what suits you.

end of part 1… to be continued in part 2; Finding work and benefits

Tyger Das is a management consultant with 13+ years experience who originally started his career as a programmer. His experience includes executive advisory, business strategy, business systems analysis, marketing strategy, program/project/vendor management, marketing, consulting or IT operations (including offshore) management, best practice(s) implementation, business process re-engineering (six sigma), cost and work effort reduction through business process optimization, change management and technical(IT/IS) or advertising RFS/RFP process management. Some of Tyger’s past and present clients include: Aon, RBC, CGI, General Electric, Maclaren McCann, various US and Canadian health agencies, General Motors, Ford Europe(Jaguar, Land Rover), Diageo PLC(Pilsbury, Guinness & Co. and Smithwick’s, Burger King), NASA, Rogers Communications, various municipal, provincial and state agencies, a number of non-profits, Porsche AG, a handful of boutique advertising agencies and the National Basketball Association.

Connect with Tyger on LinkedIn