So I was sitting at home today thinking about how I can line up new work. I have a few projects slated to take me around the world but nothing in the next two weeks and nothing beyond that. So I went to my favorite job site and searched for local opportunities (I would rather stay local than travel.)

I applied for a “Project Manager” position and, as a backup, a “Technical Writer” both in my area of expertise. The first company called me back almost as soon as I pressed the submit button. We talked about the position, which was for a large company and they offered to submit my resume that day and scheduled an interview for the following morning.

Now one thing you have to understand about these kinds of companies is that they are the middle-people. They find jobs, pair them with contractors, and skim a healthy 30% off of each hour billed. It’s a great business to be in and very similar to how full-service consulting companies work. The person that calls you only wants to know two things:

  1. Can I submit the resume of this person to my client? They don’t care even if it’s a stretch, they just want resumes to submit. Remember it’s a numbers game in that they receive requests for personnel all day long and want to pair up those requests with prospects as fast as they can.
  2. What is the MINIMUM rate a consultant will ever work for? Remember that 30% I told you they skim off the top? Well they don’t always get 30% and sometimes get more but they are always trying to maximize profits so after discussing your qualifications they always try to lowball you. Here are some examples of how they the consultant to lower their rate. “Oh, the client is not really wanting to pay very much.” “The position is listed at a lower pay level.” “We are locked into a billing range and don’t have much wiggle room.” They will ALWAYS say this and then ask, “What is the lowest you are willing to accept to take this position?” They then take that rate and determine what their cut will be.

Before you get on these calls you have to know two things:

  1. Understand the position (you probably already understand it much better than the recruiter who is not technical at all.)
  2. Know what your minimum rate is. It’s important to know what you are willing to work for in order to make ends meat. To do this you have to have a budget (another story) and determine your “burn rate”. This is the rate as which you go through cash including all corporate expenses (insurance, dinners, supplies) and personal (your monthly budget).

Later in the day I received a call back from the person posting a job for “Technical Writer”. I talk with the person who told me that although the position was listed as a technical writer what the client was really looking for was an analyst who could go gap analysis, project tracking, make remediation recommendations, and much more.

It sounded strangely similar and so I asked what client it was. Usually they don’t give out the client name because that may get them out of the picture. If the consultant knew the name of the company they may just go direct. They told me and to my suprise it was the same exact company as the other firm wanted to pitch me to. I suppose this kind of thing happens all the time, but this was new for me.