The life and times of a Product Management Consultant … "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs January 01 2013 True Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 614 Product Management 2.456

The life and times of a Product Management Consultant …

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Just over a year ago, I left a full-time position as head of product at moo.com and dove into the un-chartered waters of freelance product management work. After nearly 15 years of full-time work, my goal was to work three or four days a week while I started my own business.

I was so attracted to the idea of flexibility and independence that freelance offers, but of course, scared stiff about the “great unknowns.” You know, little things like: “What if I can’t find any projects?” What if I’m terrible at this?” What if companies only really want full-time people?” What if I run out of savings and then can’t get another full-time job?” Panic ensued.

Well, I’m very happy to say the risk of going freelance and chasing my own little dream of being my own boss has worked out quite nicely.

Over the past year, I’ve been asked by many product managers about the ins-and-outs of freelance, so thought I’d just jot down some of the most common questions and my experiences thus far.

In this first post, I’ll talk about finding that first client and what type of projects are out there for freelancers.

How did you get going and find your first client?

It’s just like finding any other new job – it takes some time, networking, research and most of all knowing what type of project you want and sticking to your guns until you find it. On my journey to get that initial gig, I was offered a few full-time positions, which were tempting, but it took awhile to get that first freelance project.

I didn’t realize at the time – but looking back, the idea of freelance or consultant product management was a bit new to the London scene. As we all know, product management is growing quickly in London, especially within the tech and media spaces. Thus, leaders in organizations of all sizes are starting to look to Product as an essential role. However, the idea of having someone in a few days a week or to consult on a project was different, and a somewhat unsettling for many people that I talked to.

After meeting a number of people, and being completely honest about my availability and interests, it was basically all about finding an organisation that could benefit from my capabilities and experiences in the amount of time available.

So basically, just put the word out with your friends, colleagues, Linkedin network. Know what you want to do, and stick to your guns until you find it. Simple as!

What type of work do you do as a consultant?

It really depends on the organisation, its needs and what your strengths are. Once you start talking to folks, you’ll see what their needs are – Is it managing a specific product? Putting together a research or requirement finding process? Helping them build a team? Plan a roadmap? Coach others to become product managers?

The type of work you’ll do as a consultant can be as varied as the type of work you do now in a full-time positon. Of course, as a freelancer, you can choose to only take on the bits and pieces you’re really interested in … but I have to say, it doesn’t happen often that I find a project that is exactly the type of work I enjoy. So, be prepared to make some compromises.

But hey – you’re freelance – it’s up to you!

 

Over the next few weeks, if there’s interest, I’ll do a few more posts, addressing more questions … so please add your questions in the comments below, or send them directly to me: kateleto@gmail.com

9 thoughts on “The life and times of a Product Management Consultant …

  1. Thanks for this post Kate! Really inspired with the life you are living right now. I’m currently working as a management consultant in KPMG. It’s my long desire to quit full time job and concentrate on freelance works. But didn’t had enough guts. But after reading it , i have determined to chase my dream.

  2. Thanks Kate
    I have started a product management consulting in Paris and i fully share what you feel on a daily basis.
    Moise

  3. Thanks for this post. What I still struggle to understand with Freelance Product Mgmt is the following:
    Product Mgmt generally requires deep understanding of the market/industry concerned by the product. I don’t think possible to be a specialist in plenty of markets, Therefore I understand the following: a Freelance Product Manager is limited to maybe one or two specific markets/industries in which he has valuable skills.
    Am I right? If not, how can you be a good Product Manager in several markets?
    Thanks.
    Julien
    http://www.ajobilove.net/

    1. I think the problems you’ll encounter are often the same, almost regardless of market and industry, so I wouldn’t be put off if you don’t have direct experience.

      Almost always, whatever the client tells you the problem is initially, it will turn out to be about process, people, consistency and focus – ultimately, the client wants to understand how to optimise those things to get the right things done, to do those things well enough, and to thereby achieve sustainable commercial success/growth.

  4. Helpful insights and great tips! I have drop the word “consultant” as it has negative connotation around here (CEE) in relation to product management. It turned out for me that companies are looking for someone that would put product management in the order, in structured way and train the company stuff to take over. All on the job. So no consultancy (considered as blah blah), but hard work on specific product and specific tasks.

  5. Great article! I’ve enjoyed watching your progress this past year. Impressive how you’ve used your strengths to further the dreams & products of others. You have come far!

  6. Thanks for the comments and support! I’ll have a word with the “Oz-es” behind the screen at MTP and see about another instalment in a few weeks.

  7. This is a great article. I recently dove into product management consulting while I figure out what my next startup will be. Like you said at first it was tough to articulate the skills I bring to the table since as a PM we can do various things. Would love to follow how your adventures go since we have similar goals. Thanks for writing this.

  8. Thanks Kate! I am thinking of going freelance too as I start my little project on the side and I must admit the fear of leaving full time work which I have known for so long is still holding me back.

    Whereas we are in totally different fields as I am an accountant, I am sure the process will be the same so thanks for this.

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