Thursday, November 20, 2014

10 Points to Consider Before Becoming a Pharma Consultant

I am often asked for my advice on entering the consulting field, and I am happy to share my opinion from my own personal experience and what I have observed.

So here are 10 points to consider:

1. Family support is essential. You will be away from home most weeks. If you are someone with a young family; someone who likes to make all the decisions at home; someone who has a partner that has difficulty having you away from home---don't go into consulting.

2. Be financially stable. The consulting world is becoming more competitive and hourly rates are declining in many specialty areas. If the next on-time paycheck is critical for survival; if you cannot be without an income for six months--don't go into consulting.

3. Form your business entity. Don't mix personal and business money. Protect yourself by forming some type of a corporation. Talk to a accounting advisor who can listen to your unique situation to determine the best option for you. I am a "C Corporation," but make your decision on your needs, not what other consultants do.

4. Be realistic with your skills. Determine what your product is and refine it into tools, methods, approach, etc. Clients will readily detect when you have overstated you expertise. While it is acceptable to hone your skills and accrue more experience when consulting, it is not acceptable learn the subject on the clients' dime.

5. Charge by the hour. Consulting is typically billed by the hour, not the job. You have more control. Some clients may never agree when you are done.

6. Show something for your work. Agree upon deliverables with the client. What does "done" look like? Develop a common understanding of the client support required for the project to succeed. Know when you add value or not. When you no longer are adding value and just billing hours, discuss with the client. Warm-body-consultants give consultants a bad name.

7. Market through people who know you. Most projects come from people who know you directly and personally. Hopefully you have been building a network throughout your career from places you have worked and professional conferences. Being out in the consulting world is not a time to start thinking a network.

8. Be a consultant, not an employee. Study the IRS test rules for determining the difference between and employee and an independent consultant/ contractor. Don't allow either yourself or the client to cross the line emotionally or legally. If you feel you are "going to work" like you have all your life, you are not consulting.

9. Keep careful records. Not all clients require time and expense records. You should require it for yourself. Keep every cotton-picking receipts and a meticulous record of your hours: what you do and time. Never, ever pad the expense report or bill unreasonable hours.

10. Build-up, not tear down. You are there to help, not criticize. Avoid coming across as a "know-it-all". Lead the client to the point where they internalize and embrace your teaching. Find those among your client personnel who have that unexplainable spark, mentor them, and leave a legacy.

John E. Snyder
The QA Pharm

The QA Pharm is a publication of John Snyder & Company, Inc.

John Snyder & Company, Inc., provides consulting services to companies regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. We help our clients to build an effective Quality Management System to enable reliable supply of quality products to their patients. We also help our clients to develop corrective action plans to address regulatory compliance observations and communication strategies to protect against accelerated enforcement action.

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