Editors Note: I receive questions from new, potential, and experienced business analysts nearly every day. I do my best to help everyone out but it takes time and sometimes my answers aren’t as full as they could be. Even a thoughtful answer shares only my perspective. I host this blog not just to share my ideas, but to help you exchange ideas with each other. With that in mind, this post is an experiment where I share the reader’s question and let you — Bridging the Gap readers — Help a BA! and share your thoughts and experiences.
Today, I ask you to consider a series of questions I’ve received about how to become a business analyst consultant. I know there are a lot of you out there who are interested in this topic and also many of you who are much more successful consulting than I have been so far. I have started things out with my own answers, but please leave your answers in the comments too. There is a lot of knowledge to share here. I am looking forward to learning from you.
How did you land your first clients?
At first, I explored a lot of possibilities. I went to networking events, small business meetings, IT meetings, and any event under the sun within my limited budget. I ended up working mainly through recruiters because I was challenged on the “sales” side of things. Recruiters provided an in to some contract positions and this became the foundation of my business.
I have also found a few clients through word of mouth. One client I had met a few years back, kept in touch through LinkedIn, and then was able to provide some help when he posted a question on LinkedIn. This led to a meeting and, a few months later, a short contract.
When you first started out, did you offer a discounted rate, or free, for your first clients?
I did not do this. In the beginning, I considered a year-end promotion to give away “two weeks of business analysis” to a non-profit. I was thinking of this as a way to contribute and get my name out and build some consulting experience. But then I landed a contract and set the idea aside.
How do you charge for your work?
I have explored multiple models and presented a few fixed bid contracts, none of which I landed. The challenge I see in our profession is that to fix bid you really need to define scope. Once you define scope, you’ve delivered half of your value as a BA. Another option once you’ve built trust with a client is to do a retainer – this is essentially a guarantee to be paid upfront each month for a set number of hours. This model will provide more consistency in your revenue stream.
What sized companies are most receptive to BA consulting services?
I think this depends on your BA qualifications. I have had most success with smaller organizations because I use a less formal process and am very flexible. I also have typically worked in smaller organizations and built new BA practices in 2 separate organizations. I find that a potential client for me is a small IT shop that is taking on a project larger in scale and complexity than they normally have to deal with. They may not need a business analyst full-time, but they greatly benefit from BA support for special projects.
A larger organization would likely have a BA team in place on a full-time basis but they might be receptive to contracting with a business analyst for a special skill set. Oftentimes larger ERP deployments, CRM deployments, or accounting system migrations require BAs with domain knowledge.
On the other end of the spectrum are very small businesses. While these businesses might need a business analyst, I’ve found they are more receptive to someone who can manage a project end-to-end and wear multiple hats, including somewhat of an operational role.
Now it’s your turn. What advice would you give a business analyst looking to become a consultant?