Friday, December 30, 2011

For Your Protection (by Karl Wiegers and Gary K. Evans)

As an independent consultant, you must provide for yourself and your family the health, life, and disability insurance that W-2 employees get from their employers. You must also obtain coverage to protect your business practice. Insurance is a significant expense, but it's mandatory—you're conducting a business, not playing a game of chance. Coverage and exclusions vary widely, so shop around and make detailed comparisons of the coverage of each type of policy. You're tempting fate and gambling with your home, livelihood, and future if you don't consider at least the six types of insurance described in this post. Remember, nothing posted in this blog constitutes legal advice; check with your insurance agent to understand your coverage needs.

Business Liability: This affords protection against liability if you cause harm or damage while engaged in business activities. You should never even consider walking onto a client's location if you do not have liability coverage. If you hit a client's employee with your car in the parking lot, or if you trip over a power cord and send a workstation crashing to the floor, you'll want some financial protection. Your personal automotive or umbrella liability insurance might not cover you in such a case. Even it provides coverage, the limits might not be adequate to protect your business. Consider coverage of at least $1 million per incident, with $2 million general aggregate coverage.

Clients sometimes request to be listed as a named insured on your liability insurance policy. This is easily accomplished with a phone call to your insurance agent. It's a minor nuisance. I'm willing to do this because it's easy and it lets me throw the client a bone while I'm negotiating other contract terms that I care more about.

Business Property: This type of policy covers losses you might suffer to your business property, such as electrical damage, a dropped laptop, theft, and so on. If you operate your business from your home, your homeowner's insurance policy may or may not provide coverage if equipment or materials that you use in your business are destroyed, say, in a fire. I (Karl) obtain both business liability and business property coverages through State Farm, where I also have my automobile, homeowners, and other personal insurance policies. Depending on what coverage limits and deductibles you have for business liability and property insurance, the premiums should be in the range of two or three hundred dollars per year.

I did have to file a claim under my business property policy once. My laptop experienced a static discharge that killed the mouse buttons. The computer couldn't be repaired. My State Farm agent said to buy a new computer and send him the bill. They immediately reimbursed me for the cost of the replacement computer, less my $100 deductible. That one incident made up for many years paying premiums for these coverages.

Professional Liability: This category of coverage is also called errors and omissions insurance. This is basically malpractice insurance to protect you against liability caused by negligence or a mistake on your part that causes financial or bodily harm or loss to a client or customer. Certain types of consulting services are more likely to need E&O coverage than others. You might consider an E&O policy if your business includes designing, developing, testing, or certifying products for your clients. Talk with a lawyer about this one.

I (Karl) have never carried E&O insurance. I do not directly create software or software-containing products that my clients use themselves or sell to their clients. I primarily provide advisory and training services, although for certain clients I have also created process-related documents such as templates for key project deliverables, process descriptions, and the like. My consulting and training agreements include a limitation of liability clause, which indicates that I am not responsible if the client experiences any loss or lack of benefit from the services or products I deliver. My intent here is to avoid having the client sue me if the client complains that a class was no good just because, say, the students didn't apply any of the practices I taught them. So far, no client has ever asked for a refund and I haven't been sued. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Life: If you're single, make sure you have enough life insurance to bury yourself. If you have a family, carry enough to protect them for the years you would have provided for them if you had survived. Too little insurance means your spouse may have to go to work or get a second job to provide replacement income for your children's education or other necessities. To determine how much you really need, explore available commercial and shareware programs and insurance calculators on the Internet. Term policies are cheapest for younger workers, but a whole-life policy may be more appropriate if you have trouble saving money on your own, as it builds up cash value over time.

Health: Though it's a necessity, health insurance frightens many people contemplating the move to independence. But it may not be such a scary proposition. It can be prohibitively expensive or even unavailable if you (or your family members) have a history of medical problems. But if you're healthy, have few pre-existing conditions, and are able to self-insure by carrying a large deductible, the premiums might not be outrageous. Again, costs and coverage plans vary widely. If you're self-employed, your health insurance premiums are generally tax-deductible, subject to certain limitations.

You skip this one at your peril. Nasty things can happen even if you’re young and healthy, and being a road warrior increases the chance of an accident. I (Karl) slipped on some ice-covered steps in Dallas (!) in December of 2000 and fell, tearing two of the rotator cuff muscles in my right shoulder. I’m very dominantly right-handed—my left arm exists mainly for visual symmetry—so this was not a fun injury. Fortunately, I didn’t need surgery, but had quite a bit of physical therapy. Had I not had health insurance, this could have been an even more unpleasant experience.

Consider setting up a Health Savings Account if you have a high-deductible health insurance policy. The HSA allows you to set aside several thousand tax-deductible dollars per year in a special bank account. You can use this account to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as deductibles, prescriptions, and even over-the-counter medications. The HSA makes those out-of-pocket expenses tax deductible as well.

Disability Income: Everybody knows that carrying life insurance to protect your family when you die is worth considering. However, you have a much higher probability of becoming disabled than of dying in any given year. Statistically speaking, a healthy 35-year-old who works in an office has a greater than twenty percent chance of becoming disabled for three months or longer during his or her working career. Disability income insurance provides you with some income if you become disabled and are unable to work. Shop around and talk with many different agents and providers, because many insurers no longer offer this type of insurance, and the coverage that is available comes in various flavors. Disability insurance policies obtained through professional organizations, such as the IEEE, are likely to be cheaper than buying an individual policy directly from an insurance company, but may not offer as many options. It's always a trade-off.

Becoming disabled without having disability insurance means that you'll have no life insurance payoff (you're still alive) and you're a cost liability (you still have to be fed, bathed, cared for, rehabilitated and so on). Coverage is based on your current income, so plan to review your coverage once a year as your income changes. Note that in the United States, your disability insurance payments typically stop when you reach the age of eligibility for full Social Security retirement benefits—but your disability remains.

As with all insurance, you hope you never have to cash in, because that means something bad happened. But bad things do happen. Karl has a close friend who was a highly regarded software consultant. At age 47 he suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident while driving home from a consulting gig, thanks to an idiot talking on a cell phone (please don't talk on your cell phone or text while driving). Now 60, Norm has not worked since that accident and will never work again. He told me that having private disability insurance has made the difference between him being able to continue living in his house and living under a bridge.

By the way, if you are finding these blog posts useful, please consider making a donation to the Norm Kerth Benefit Fund. Click here for more information about Norm's situation. Every dollar helps. Thanks!

A Useful Tip: Client contracts often require you to carry certain insurance coverages. These are nearly always negotiable, though; see the post titled ”Everything’s Negotiable”. A fellow consultant once gave Gary some great advice on insurance in general. Whenever a client insisted that he carry some obscure type of insurance, he would negotiate that the client pay for it for the duration of the project. Then it would be factored into the overall cost structure.

(If you found this article helpful, please consider making a donation to the Norm Kerth Benefit Fund to help a consultant who has been disabled since 1999 with a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. You can read Norm's story or donate here. Thanks!)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tips for Writing for Magazines and Websites

A lot of software magazines were published in the 90s and early 2000s. Now there aren't as many. But there are plenty of websites that publish articles on every aspect of software development and project management. Writing for publication is a good way for consultants to gain visibility for their ideas and expertise. Since 1984, I've written about 170 articles for more than twenty software magazines and websites. Working with so many different editors has given me a good feel for how to prepare articles for publication.

Knowing Your Audience


If rule number one for effective writing is "know your subject," rule number two certainly is "know your audience." Before you submit an article for publication, think carefully about what kind of people read that periodical or visit that website. Read previously published articles so you have an idea of what topics, content, and writing styles appeal to the readers and—just as important—to the editor. Are the articles highly technical in nature, perhaps including code fragments or research data? Or are they written in a conversational and informal style? Are figures, diagrams, or tables commonly used,? Are most of the articles how-to tutorials, or opinionated essays, or reports of trends in the computing industry, or what? Do the authors incorporate much humor in their pieces? How long are the articles on average? Are the articles broken up into sections with subheadings? It's a good idea to make sure that your article will fit nicely with the content that people expect to find in a particular periodical or website. You might be able to get a lot of this information in the periodical's writer's (or submission) guidelines.

Fitting In


I work hard at trying to make my submissions look like a natural fit for a particular magazine. For instance, I always try to get a sense of how many words the editor wants. Magazine articles typically range from 2,000 to 4,000 words in length. Articles intended for website publication are generally shorter, perhaps 700 to 1,500 words. If an editor asks me for 2,000 words, that's what he gets. If you submit a 3,000-word article, it simply won't fit in the space the editor has in mind for it. The most likely outcomes are either rejection or substantial editing if he likes your story but needs something shorter. In rare cases you might persuade the editor to run a longer article as a series of shorter pieces, but don't count on it. (As a side note, a figure is generally counted as 200 words.)

Through some amazingly good fortune, I have managed to publish every written piece that I have ever submitted for publication. Sometimes it took me several tries. If the first periodical rejected my submission, I would modify the article to fit in with the next one to which I submitted it. On a few occasions, it took me up to four attempts before my piece was accepted for publication, but eventually I succeeded.

It's not always necessary to submit a full manuscript. If you have an idea for an article, float it past an editor who you think might find it interesting and see if you get a nibble. If no one is interested, maybe you don't need to spend the time writing and polishing the piece. One year, I outlined a series of nine possible articles for one magazine editor. After we agreed on the topics, I began writing them at my convenience. The more you understand about the readership the magazine is targeting, the easier it is to get a proposal accepted.

Delighting the Editor


My philosophy is to make the editor's job easy. I want the editor to immediately sense that my submission feels right for his publication and audience. That's why I try to make my manuscript conform to the publication's house style as closely as I can. As an example, if it is not customary for the publication to have sections titled Introduction or Conclusion, then my submission won't contain them either. It's an old dictum that in an article or a presentation you "tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them." That's not a bad policy, but you can do that without having sections explicitly (and mundanely) titled Introduction and Conclusion.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I've always had the impression that the less work an editor has to do to turn your submission into a published article, the more favorably inclined he will be toward you in the future. For each of my professional interactions—an article, a book, a presentation, a consulting gig—my goal is for the other party to think, "I'd be happy to work with Karl again." Making an article require as little editing as possible is one step toward this outcome. Of course, it's also essential to actually deliver what you promised or were expected to deliver!

If you really want to get on an editor's bad side, missing deadlines will do it. Magazines come out at fixed intervals and websites have to deliver a stream of fresh content; they aren't going to wait for your late article. I take great pride in having never missed a deadline for delivering articles, conference presentation materials, or book manuscripts. Not everyone is like this, though. More than one frantic editor has called me to ask if I can plug a hole in the magazine because some other contributor didn't deliver when promised. Editors will come back to you if they know they can count on you to deliver on time. Emergencies do arise, so if you find that you cannot meet a writing commitment, tell the affected parties as soon as possible so they can adapt.

Dangling the Bait


Editors also appreciate catchy titles and intriguing opening paragraphs. These are often the places that editors need to work on to make an article fit the magazine's style or format. Often, the editor will replace the title the author supplies, so don't get overly attached to your initial title.

A clever title initiates the connection between author and audience. Some of my article titles promise a certain number of tidbits of wisdom: 7 deadly sins, 10 traps to avoid, 21 success tips. Other titles are intended to make the reader ask, "Hmm, I wonder what this is about?" Some examples are:
  • "See You in Court" (about an engagement I had as an expert consultant for a party in a lawsuit)
  • "When Telepathy Won't Do" (key practices in requirements engineering)
  • "Know Your Enemy" (a tutorial on software risk management)
  • "Just Too Much to Do" (described a project prioritization spreadsheet tool)
  • "Stop Promising Miracles" (about a project estimation technique)
Try to come up with a title that both accurately reflects what you're presenting—truth in advertising is important—and piques the reader's interest in just a few words.

Setting the Hook


I work hard on the opening paragraph for each article. You have a very short window in which to grab the reader's attention. If you don't engage readers with the first paragraph, it doesn't matter what you say in the rest of the article; they likely won't read it. Busy people aren't likely to forge ahead, patiently hoping the article gets interesting at some point. Make your opening catchy enough that a reader can't help but keep going. I often start with something that will get the reader nodding in agreement with me from the outset, such as an indication that I feel the reader's pain and frustration:
 
Software managers sometimes assume that every skilled programmer is also proficient at interviewing customers and writing requirements specifications, without any training, resources or coaching. This isn't a reasonable assumption. Like testing, estimation and project management, requirements engineering has its own skill set and body of knowledge.
Once readers get the idea that you can provide them with some benefit, then you can reel them in and wow them with your wisdom.

You Have Arrived!

If you establish a reputation for writing high-quality material, delivering it on time, and stimulating reader interest, a magazine editor might even offer you a column. I remember how excited I was in 1986 when I received an invitation to write a tutorial column on assembly language programming for an Atari computer magazine. I could write about anything I wanted, knowing that it would be published, and that I would have a sustained income stream to boot. That was a lot of fun.

(If you found this article helpful, please consider making a donation to the Norm Kerth Benefit Fund to help a consultant who has been disabled since 1999 with a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. You can read Norm's story or donate here. Thanks!)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Are You Worth?

One of the first things you'll have to do as an independent consultant is determine what to charge for various products and services. There really isn't a guidebook for setting prices. It's very much a matter of what the market will bear. As with most services, the more experience you have and the better your reputation, the more you can charge. Many of the consultants I've known over the years charge less than they could probably get away with. It's hard to know how much you can command until you push the limits.

The best advice I ever got on setting prices came from a great book by Gerald Weinberg called The Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving & Getting Advice Successfully. Weinberg's Principle of Least Regret states "Set the price so you won't regret it either way." In other words, set your price so you're happy whether the client says yes or no. I keep this principle in mind every time I quote a price to a client for a prospective engagement.

For instance, I have one course that I have taught, mostly in two-day format, 181 times in the past fifteen years. That is, I have spent nearly one full year of my life presenting this material! It is not interesting to me anymore, although it is still in demand. If a client asks me to teach this course now, I really would rather not do it. Therefore, I will ask for more money to teach that course than for another course that's more interesting to me. If the client accepts my outrageous offer, fine—I'll be there. I'll do the best job I possibly can, smiling all the way to the bank. But if the client decides my fee is too high, no worries—I'm happy to stay home. I might quote a lower price if the engagement is local or involves travel to someplace I would like to go anyway, perhaps to visit friends or do some wine tasting or sightseeing. So I have a base daily training fee, but then I adjust it based on numerous factors for a given situation.

Weinberg's principle has been valuable for me when setting prices. It also served as a good way to regulate how many commitments I made during those days when I was fortunate enough to receive lots of inquiries. If you're hungrier, you might be tempted to charge less to boost your chances of landing the gig. During the rich times, though, you can quote higher fees to make sure you don't exhaust yourself by accepting every possible opportunity that comes along. It's all a matter of balancing your supply of time (and interest) with customers’ demands for services.

When I launched my independent consulting career some years ago, I set my prices based on what I saw other experienced consultants were charging. Back then I charged $1,500 a day for consulting and $2,500 a day for training. I figured that training was a higher-leverage activity. The client received more value per day for my services; therefore, I was entitled to more compensation. Over the years, those rates went up. But I still know some established consultants who are charging only maybe $1,500 a day to deliver training. In my view, they are underpricing their services. Obviously, you'll get paid less if you're working through a parent company that contracts out your services or an agency that finds jobs for you. They're working on your behalf and are entitled to their slice.

There is a school of thought that says the higher your price, the greater the perception of value to the prospective client. Therefore, you will get more work if you charge more. Sometimes this strategy works, at least up to a point. I do have some colleagues who said that when they raised their training rates, they did land more gigs. Obviously, though, there's an upper cap beyond which the market is no longer interested and prospective clients will seek lower-priced options. As more competitors enter your domain, this will also exert downward price pressure.

I observed this in the field of software requirements engineering. I got into the game relatively early, with a well-received book and numerous articles and presentations in this area. I was able to establish fairly significant training fees. However, as more and more people wrote books about requirements and developed their own training materials, requirements training became more of a commodity. I couldn't command the same fees and still be competitive, although certain clients did want me personally to teach the class. It's all about what the market will bear.

Partway through my career I also began offering a service of off-site consulting at an hourly rate that works out to less than my usual daily on-site consulting rate. This way I can provide useful services to clients who perhaps don't want to spend a lot of money, have small questions or projects, just want me to review some documents for them, or want a little coaching on specific topics. In fact, most of my consulting work over the past several years has been done in this off-site fashion. I don't have to travel, I can work in my pajamas if I wish, and I can work however many hours per day I want so long as I meet the client's deadlines. I've even done large-scale and long-term engagements like this for remote clients, which has worked out well for everyone.

I suggest you base your price for a specific engagement on the value you're providing to the client. If I'm delivering a presentation with an unlimited audience, that provides more value to the client than a class whose attendance is restricted. If I'm helping one person with some project questions, I will probably provide less value than if I'm developing, say, a new requirements process to be deployed across the company's development organization.

It's important to keep in mind the objective of a win-win outcome. Most of the time, a client and a consultant can agree upon a fee structure that satisfies all of the participants and seems fair to all of them. If you can't, walk away from the engagement.

(If you found this article helpful, please consider making a donation to the Norm Kerth Benefit Fund to help a consultant who has been disabled since 1999 with a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. You can read Norm's story or donate here. Thanks!)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Consultants as Legitimate Leaders: The Goldilocks Approach (contributed by Jeanette Pigeon)

Jeanette Pigeon, President and CEO at www.aBetterBA.com, is a certified business analyst professional who has worked in government, healthcare, higher education, and marketing industries and is a business analyst leadership subject matter expert. Contact her at jeanette@aBetterBA.com.

Today, many people are protesting a perceived lack of legitimate leadership in private industry and government. By “legitimate leadership,” I mean power that is exercised fairly and is based on a relationship of trust between a leader and followers. Followers grant this leadership of power and authority because they believe an individual exhibits the confidence, competence, and consistency of behavior and communication to lead and create win-win outcomes. A leader is a guide whose ideas are the paths for a group to follow to a shared goal or outcome in a collaborative way.

As a consultant, you may have wondered how you can effectively lead a team of professionals during the short tenure of your contract assignment. Because you are an outsider to the organization and have a limited amount of time to complete a project, you need to establish yourself quickly as a capable leader who can win over the hearts and minds of others. They need to see you as a confident and highly competent guide who knows the path for them to follow, reinforced through consistency of behavior and communication, and built upon a foundation of trust. The question is how to quickly build this trust. Do you try to satisfy everyone by being overly friendly and flexible, or do you aggressively assert your dominance so everyone knows who's in charge? I recommend you use a Goldilocks approach: not too weak, yet not too strong. You want to take the approach that is just right.

As in the Brothers Grimm’s tale of Goldilocks, legitimate leadership is earned using a just-right approach. Being too weak or too strong will not earn you legitimate leadership, develop team cohesion, or motivate others to pursue a common goal to reach successful outcomes. These approaches are one-sided, and neither establishes a trusting relationship. To build trust, you must practice the “3 Cs” of legitimate leadership: Confidence, Competence, and Consistency of behavior and communication. Practicing the “3 Cs” will help you establish and maintain a relationship of mutual trust to create win-win outcomes. Let's consider each of these approaches and their efficacy in creating legitimate leadership.

Too Weak


You attempt to build trust by trying to satisfy everyone and are unable to articulate a common path. You appear to have no sense of direction, a flip-flopper with no consistent vision. When you speak, you are inarticulate or inconsistent about the team's goals or how they achieve those goals. You try to be nice to your team members and give them as much time and leeway as they want, which might conflict with what your project actually needs to succeed. Your stakeholders don't see substantive progress, so their expectations are not met. As a result, you create a leadership vacuum.

In a leadership vacuum, one or more team members may rise up and become implicit leaders of the team, undermining your leadership authority. When working in a matrix organization or with a newly formed team, members don’t collaborate, and some may constantly test your authority over the team. In the process of trying to accommodate everyone individually, you satisfy no one and don't appear to be a competent leader of a fully-functioning team. Your confidence in the face of these obvious capability and trust gaps make you appear to be out of touch and ineffective as a leader.

Too Strong


You dominate the team members and stakeholders and create a dictatorship. Team members are dragged down a path that is fraught with difficulty, delays, and failed projects. Stakeholders and team members become intimidated and won't open up to you and tell you the truth. Instead of establishing a trusting relationship with your people, you achieve the opposite.

Leading others through fear and intimidation is never effective when collaboration is your goal. You ignore the organizational culture and hierarchy, and reject or fail to solicit input from others. People resent you and what you are trying to achieve. The results can include a failure to follow your lead and even sabotage. Although you may appear to the stakeholders as a competent subject matter expert, you don't appear effective as a leader, so you don't earn the trust or legitimate leadership of your team or your stakeholders.

Just Right


You've taken the time to meet with key members of your team and other stakeholders. You've established a bond with each of them as a person and as a professional. You are sensitive to their needs and desires, and you have set appropriate expectations about working together and what will be achieved. You maintain an open door policy, encourage questions and ideas, and work openly to address concerns and mitigate risk. If issues arise, you seek to resolve them fairly and face-to-face, without creating added tension or causing others to become defensive. You walk the talk and roll up your sleeves, working alongside your team when needed. Your team is cohesive and understands how to engage you and what you expect of them. They are not afraid to seek your counsel and will let you know if issues arise before you are aware of them. Morale is high; people put in the extra effort without being asked. Stakeholders are satisfied and appreciate how efficiently and effectively your team performs.

Legitimate leadership is the reward of those who build a relationship of trust and exhibit the “3 Cs”: Confidence of leadership, Competence as a SME, and Consistency of behavior and communication. Using the just-right approach to legitimate leadership will allow you to more easily assert the leadership role amongst your team and stakeholders, enjoying the collaborative synergy that results. You effectively set and maintain effective leadership. Your team and their stakeholders will enjoy working with you, satisfied in having achieved the stated goals. This win-win outcome will translate into a long and professionally fulfilling consulting career.

(If you found this article helpful, please consider making a donation to the Norm Kerth Benefit Fund to help a consultant who has been disabled since 1999 with a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. You can read Norm's story or donate here. Thanks!)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Out of One, Many

When I began speaking at software conferences, I wondered whether I had to develop a new presentation each time I spoke. Some people I knew thought this was necessary. But I quickly learned that it was not. In fact, I have delivered certain presentations more than two dozen times in various forums: conferences, professional society meetings, webinars, and corporations.

Generalizing this insight, you should try to leverage the intellectual property you create as an independent consultant as many ways as you can. Let me give you a great example. Some years ago, a magazine invited me to write a short article, just 1,500 words, with "twenty or thirty quick project management tips" to plug a hole in their editorial calendar. So in an about an hour I banged out a short article titled "Secrets of Successful Project Management." Over the years I have built on this small starting point in numerous ways:
  • By adding some additional content, I created a one-hour presentation called "21 Project Management Success Tips," which I've delivered ten times at conferences and professional society meetings. This longer version of the paper was published in the proceedings of these conferences.
  • I created an eLearning webinar version of "21 Project Management Success Tips," which you can view for a modest fee.
  • "21 Project Management Success Tips" was incorporated in a compilation of software project management papers published by the IEEE Computer Society.
  • By covering another nine or ten topics, drilling down into some of them, and adding several practice activities, I expanded the short talk into a full-day seminar called "Project Management Best Practices," which I've presented twenty times at companies, government agencies, and conferences.
  • I created an eLearning version of "Project Management Best Practices," which is available for purchase as both single-user and site licenses.
  • I selected about three dozen slides from the "Project Management Best Practices" eLearning course and packaged them as the “5-Minute Manager eLearning Series”, quick-hitting micro-tutorials on focused topics for busy people who don’t need to take a whole course.
  • I wrote a series of articles amplifying certain of the project management tips, which were published in various magazines.
  • I collected several of these papers into my Project Initiation Handbook, which you can purchase for a very reasonable price.
  • I combined the contents of the "Project Initiation Handbook" with several other articles on project management and some new material, and published the result as a book titled Practical Project Initiation: A Handbook with Tools (Microsoft Press, 2007).
  • Going the other direction, I serialized certain chapters from Practical Project Initiation and republished them as articles on a project management-oriented website.
The moral of the story: as you create your own intellectual property in various formats, look for opportunities to leverage it into other forms, both increase your visibility and to generate revenue. If you publish an original article in a magazine or on a web site, make sure you retain the right to reuse the material in a future book or to resell it to other magazines for reprinting. My contracts for the articles I’ve written explicitly give me this right. If you publish a book with a traditional publisher, be sure the contract gives you the right to reprint content adapted from the book in other forms, such as magazine articles and blog posts. You might be able to combine your blog posts into eBooks and perhaps ultimately into a full book. (Be aware, though: a good book is rarely just a bunch of short pieces of writing stapled together. See upcoming posts for more about writing books.)

You do have to be careful about how you use materials that you write or create exclusively for a client. You do not own the rights to a work for hire: the client does. Therefore, you may not normally reuse or resell that material. On a few occasions, I have negotiated with a client to retain the right to reuse material I created for them, sometimes by cutting my fee, so that we have joint ownership. Such negotiations are perfectly fine, if it's agreeable to the client. I recommend that you get any statement of such agreement in writing to protect yourself in the future. The same holds true if you create presentations or write articles while you are working for another corporation. Make sure you clarify who owns the material. I had to do this when I was writing for publication while I worked at Kodak.

By the way, making your intellectual property available to customers in various forms is a tip I picked up from Alan Weiss's very useful books Money Talks and Million Dollar Consulting. Those books were worth every penny.

(If you found this article helpful, please consider making a donation to the Norm Kerth Benefit Fund to help a consultant who has been disabled since 1999 with a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. You can read Norm's story or donate here. Thanks!)