So You Want to be a Consultant!
by Lisa Sieverts, PMP, PMI-ACP
(Reprinted with permission)
Lisa Sieverts, PMP, PMI-ACP, and owner of Facilitated Change explains the work, challenges, lessons learned and the path she took to become a Project Management Consultant.
I started my consulting company, Facilitated Change, in 2003. I had recently moved to the Monadnock region of New Hampshire from Boise, Idaho. I had spent the prior twelve years working for Hewlett-Packard, first in the California Bay Area and then in Idaho. My role at HP was technical in nature, working in data center operations. Over time, I moved from “team lead” to “project lead” and finally to “Project Manager.” In the process, I discovered the Project Management Institute and the wealth of information available. It was such a relief to realize that I didn’t have to invent project management — there was already a Body of Knowledge that I could learn and use.
I became a Project Management Professional in 2001. Having my PMP was essential when I first started my business in New Hampshire. It provided the credential that helped clients to trust me as I took on my initial consulting projects. I became an Agile Certified Practitioner in 2013. I'm currently serving as Director of New Media for our Chapter.
Project Management consulting includes several different types of work. Since starting my business, I have worked as an outsourced project manager, fulfilling all of the standard responsibilities of a PM. I have served as a mentor or coach to newly hired PMs. I have provided two- and three-day training courses to dozens of companies in the greater Boston region. I also teach both traditional and Agile project management at the graduate level, and am currently teaching at Harvard Extension.
As a consultant, I have worked in many different industries, including precision manufacturing, software development, non-profit, higher education, personal care products, and more. My clients have ranged in size from small three-person companies to larger 1000-employee organizations.
Many of my projects have an information technology component to them, where I can offer the most subject matter expertise to my clients. I have also worked on events, construction, manufacturing and documentation projects.
The primary challenge I face as an independent consultant is attracting the next consulting position. Most of my referrals are word-of-mouth at this point, but I still focus on getting the word out. I do this by seeking out opportunities to speak, for example, at PMI chapters.
Regarding lessons learned; I’ve had to learn to be extremely careful about the amount of work that I take on at one time. The difference between “not enough work” and “too much work” is razor thin for the single-person consultancy.
Five years ago, I would have told myself to spend less time worrying about the “next gig.” I now have confidence that there will always a “next gig” and that I can never predict the source.