I’ve written extensively on what it means to be an IT consultant – it boils down to getting paid for your technology services rendered. This means that the act of providing consulting services without getting paid is inconsistent with the nature of being a consultant. On the other hand, part of being a friend means that you give freely – without expecting anything in return. It seems like being a consultant and a friend can never co-exist. This statement is absolutely false, and here’s how I came to terms with helping my friends resolve their technology issues whilst also making a living as an IT consultant.
State The Obvious, I’m A Consultant
There’s a saying that “what’s understood doesn’t need to be said”, however this implies that there’s already an understanding. Not all my friends understood this during the early days of my consulting career, so I had to remind them (and myself) that I’m now a consultant. Providing IT services and charging associated fee was now my means of income. It may seem trivial but it’s very important to state the obvious with friends and family as it relates to your profession – especially if you’re an independent consultant/self employed. Stating the obvious allowed me to be upfront and transparent about my intentions. It also set the tone and established the mood.
I Signified That My Time Is Important
During billable hours, friends get cut off after thirty minutes. I strongly believe that time is the most precious commodity on earth and I used this mindset to justify charging my friends for my IT expertise. The way I see it is simple – I gift my friends with the most precious commodity on earth, however I can only give a limited amount since I do not have an abundance of it. I found a great balance between consulting and friendship by offering my friends thirty minutes of free help. If I’m able to help resolve the issue within thirty minutes then that’s awesome and I feel like a great friend, however anything more than thirty minutes will require me to put on my consultant hat and start billing.