Why Hire Me instead of a Big Consultancy
Why should you hire an independent consultant instead of going to the big consultancies like Rackspace, Deloitte, Slalom, Mission, OpsGuru, or even AWS itself?
DevOps != Application Development
First of all, most of these big companies focus on DevOps; that’s Development Operations. DevOps is the practice of applying software development practices to operations. This centers greatly around automation. For instance, traditional I.T. will log into each server and apply operating system updates. DevOps will create automation around this, so all servers can be updated at once.
DevOps is great, but their focus is on little scripts to automate operations.
Developing quality applications is a whole different discipline. The complexity of applications requires engineering practices, not just scripting.
DevOps is the bread and butter of the big consultancies, and writing applications is just their side gig. For me, it’s the core of my professional life and hobby since my first Commodore 128.
At the big consultancies, the little team you hire will be dealing with big company bureaucracy. Internal meetings, time cards, unresponsive I.T. and management getting in the way and, worst of them all, us vs. them perspective. (You are the them!)
I quit the big consultancy and left the baggage behind! I work for my clients, in the interest of my clients. If you have an in-house development team, I work with them as an embedded expert to accelerate them into the cloud.
When you contract with a big consultancy, you don’t know who you’re going to get. The contract may be for “One 50% architect, a 100% developer, a 20% project manager, and 30% business analyst.” (The percentages are how much of their week that they work for you.)
Who do you get? You could get a twelve year veteran and technology leader, but you may just as likely end up with someone two years out of coding camp! The odds are they will have fewer than five years of experience.
I don't want to give away pricing of the big consultancies which, while not really secret, aren’t published. So let's give a baseline price of $x/hour. Everything will be expressed in terms of x.
I've been working at a big consultancy where an application solution architect rate is $11x/hour and a software developer is $9x/hour. Of course you don't just get these; you have to buy a team which includes a project manager, $8x/hour, and you might even pay for the non-sales principal just to manage the relationship with you, for another $12x/hour. Typically only the software developer is working for you full time though, with everyone else fractionalized. This is a shame, because nearly all application architects started as engineers and are much better values, in productivity and quality, than the engineer.
In the end, you are paying for a team billing at a total of around $20x/hour but delivering results at a rate that a single highly experienced software engineer and architect could do on their own.
That's the problem.
Big consultancies have all this extra overhead. Now if you have a big project and scale this up to a team of five engineers and a full time architect, it starts making more sense. The overhead becomes less significant, you don't need to manage a bunch of individual consultants, and you'll likely spread the work among individuals with different skills, backgrounds, and experience ranging from two to fifteen years. You're still paying a lot, averaging to $10x/hour each, but there are positives.
On the other hand, one highly skilled very experienced, quality and customer focused all-around application software engineer and architect can do a lot when unconstrained by big consulting company bureaucracy, limitations of a narrow project contract, and internal politics. (Finding and hiring one of these old-fashioned well-rounded engineers is the challenge!)
But wait, you say! These are North American rates, are they not? You can cut that 'x' value in half by going to India or the middle east. Yes, but....
These "offshore" consultancies still have all the overhead, so the ratios still apply. You can keep 'x' and think of this as closer to $10x/hour for the full team instead of $20x/hour - half the price. However, you also usually get even less experienced engineers (the rockstars tend to move to North America after a few years). One very senior engineer is easily worth two or three junior ones, destroying the cost advantage. Perhaps worse, thanks to time zones, you have little insight on day-to-day activity and every problem has a minimum 24 hour turn-around time.
How I’m Different
I am a traditional software engineer, not just a developer. I will do discovery, write requirements, architect a cloud-native (usually) serverless solution on AWS, architect the software, write the software with test driven development (TDD), and automate the whole pipeline.
I will work with your in-house team and mentor by example to new strong practices.
I will not lock you in to be dependent upon me. My deliverables are not just code, but documentation so anyone you choose can take over. I want the products that I help you build to grow and succeed after I'm gone.
I can say this, because it is what I have been doing since I started working for consultancies in 2014.
My rate as an independent consultant is between $7x/hour and $8x/hour (depending on terms).
My rate is much less than a junior or mid-level software developer from the big consultancies. It is even less than that small offshore team. Also, since the rate is truly by the hour worked and not by the week or contract, you are not paying for any downtime or overhead time.
I can be cheaper than these consultancies, yet more productive, because I don't have the same overhead and profit margin to cover.
Contracting with me instead is a win-win: You spend less, deal with fewer people, avoid restrictive statements of work, and benefit from 34 years of experience and expertise. I earn more and enjoy a little downtime between projects. (I remain available for post-project support though.)
My hourly rate is all-inclusive. I provide my own office, computer, individual software licenses, and insurance. Travel is billed at cost. Clients may provide corporate software licenses and specialized hardware as needed, and retain ownership of these.