Consultancy Rant

If you hire a consultant to do something for you, chances are you’ve done this because either you don’t have the time, you don’t have the skill, or both. It would be helpful to all involved if you would remember this. When hiring a designer, let the designer design. Don’t naysay color combination choices, dont’ move graphical elements around, etc. These decisions were made by an expert with years of experience in doing just that. If you hire a copywriter, don’t edit their work until it is more yours than theirs. If you hire a programmer, don’t tell them how to make their function work better. Let the experts do the job you’ve hired them to do. Anything else, you’re likely to be insulting the expert and wasting your money.

Any project must have client input. Ideally, this input is at the beginning, getting the scope & expectations of the project. Later, you will get to approve one or more options presented to you on. Once this is done, minor edits and suggestions may be presented to the consultant, but you should not assume that these will become part of the consultant’s solution. Many consultants will claim a collaborative process. When they say this, they mean up until they finish concepting. You will, with a collaborative consultant, probably spend more time in meetings, brainstorming, deciding on the exact scope & expectations of the project. This should, in fact, take up most of the budget of a project. Once this is complete, all that is left is for the consultant to produce their solution for you. Your involvement, and collaboration has come to an end.

As with any relationship, trust is a key element in a consultant-client relationship. Because you researched, took bids and finally chose and hired a consultant, it as assumed that you trust them to get the job done right. Until this has been proved different, grant them the benefit of this trust. If they break this trust, fire them and get a consultant that will do the job right.

When dealing with creatives, remember 2 things: First, keep an open mind to new possibilities. You’ve hired them to think outside the box, so expect something different. Second, you are most likely not the intended audience for the project (why would you spend so much money that’s just for you?). So listen to the consultant when she describes to you how and why this solution works for your intended audience.

(Sometimes I fear these off-the-cuff, reactionary posts will come back and haunt me. I’m resisting the urge to edit or remove this post until I’ve a calmer, more collected, more informed opinion (although, being a consultant, I’m fairly informed). So be warned that I reserve the right to disagree with myself on a second thought, but the above’s an initial foray into this endless discussion.)

8 Replies to “Consultancy Rant”

  1. I’m reading “Make it Bigger”, by Paula Scher. I love her work, I think she’s awesome, and the book is great too.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1568983328/qid=1035057712/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/002-1862060-7402420?v=glance&n;=507846

    It’s a bundle of cash to buy, but worth at least 3 times the price in the first 2 hours of reading (i.e. I would pay a consultant or corporate coach more money thatn that to tell me the same stuff).

    Anyway, she has lots and lots to say about this issue. Here are a couple of tidbits. (This is all design-related but could easily be translated to other consulting feilds)

    First, she’s big on strong clients. If the client is strong – decicive, smart, fast, etc. – then actual collaboration from beginning to end makes sense, even past the conceptual phase.

    Second – and this she credits another designer for – you have smart and stupid clients, and you also have energetic and lazy clients. If your client is smart and energetic, you will get alot done. If your client is smart and lazy, you will have to work harder, but it will probably be okay. If you client is stupid and lazy, this is unfortunate, but they will be inneffectual so this can also be worked around. But if they are both stupid and energetic, then you’re in trouble.

    Third, she talks alot about how designers give their power away. Mostly to marketers, business people, project managers, etc. It’s not that designers should be able to do what they want – quite the opposite. Designers should be doing more of the marketing, business developement, project management, etc. themselves, because design is about planning. When designers do less of the “business stuff”, they get disconnected from the client and the client’s objectives. It’s tempting to retreat into the “art” stuff, but then the projects are more likely to suck because the decision making is being handled by others.

    Fourth, and the last tidbit for now, is a reminder that being a design consultant is really two jobs – creating design and explaining design. These take two different skillsets and attitudes – in fact she says she tries to never do both in the same day – but you need them both. Clients tend to make bad decisions more often because they’re uninformed than because they’re stupid.

    Anyway, she says all this way better in the book than I am right now, but I thought I’d send that along while I’m thinking about it – and waste 15 mintues when I should be working on actual projects…

  2. I’m reading “Make it Bigger”, by Paula Scher. I love her work, I think she’s awesome, and the book is great too.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1568983328/qid=1035057712/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/002-1862060-7402420?v=glance&n=507846

    It’s a bundle of cash to buy, but worth at least 3 times the price in the first 2 hours of reading (i.e. I would pay a consultant or corporate coach more money thatn that to tell me the same stuff).

    Anyway, she has lots and lots to say about this issue. Here are a couple of tidbits. (This is all design-related but could easily be translated to other consulting feilds)

    First, she’s big on strong clients. If the client is strong – decicive, smart, fast, etc. – then actual collaboration from beginning to end makes sense, even past the conceptual phase.

    Second – and this she credits another designer for – you have smart and stupid clients, and you also have energetic and lazy clients. If your client is smart and energetic, you will get alot done. If your client is smart and lazy, you will have to work harder, but it will probably be okay. If you client is stupid and lazy, this is unfortunate, but they will be inneffectual so this can also be worked around. But if they are both stupid and energetic, then you’re in trouble.

    Third, she talks alot about how designers give their power away. Mostly to marketers, business people, project managers, etc. It’s not that designers should be able to do what they want – quite the opposite. Designers should be doing more of the marketing, business developement, project management, etc. themselves, because design is about planning. When designers do less of the “business stuff”, they get disconnected from the client and the client’s objectives. It’s tempting to retreat into the “art” stuff, but then the projects are more likely to suck because the decision making is being handled by others.

    Fourth, and the last tidbit for now, is a reminder that being a design consultant is really two jobs – creating design and explaining design. These take two different skillsets and attitudes – in fact she says she tries to never do both in the same day – but you need them both. Clients tend to make bad decisions more often because they’re uninformed than because they’re stupid.

    Anyway, she says all this way better in the book than I am right now, but I thought I’d send that along while I’m thinking about it – and waste 15 mintues when I should be working on actual projects…

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