Feel like your clients always want too much? Wish you could do more than break even? Tired of feeling like you jumped into the deep end of the pool every time there's a Drupal upgrade? Here are some simple ways to make Drupal consulting fun again.
1. Listen to what your clients are actually asking for
Say your client wants to have a block that they can put 'anything' into. Obviously Drupal data is in many forms, views, content types, nodes, beans, entities...it's not that simple especially for non-technical clients. (See Mike's upcoming book Model Your Data with Drupal for more info on how to keep Drupal's data structures nice and tidy.)
Stop and ask yourself what is it that the client really needs?
Is the design of the page just not interesting enough? Do they want more control over their site? Is there info that they are missing? Is it possible to give them a few things they could put in the sidebar?
Or is this an internal thing. Do they get random requests from higher ups to highlight this or that? Are they worried about what they might have forgotten to add coming back to haunt them? It's easy to forget when you're consulting all the politics that come with working in an organization.
Rather than just say "out of scope," take a moment to think like a consultant and not just a coder. Your client will be happier if they get their needs met instead of getting a knee jerk response. If it is out of scope just quote them how much, and give as many alternatives as you feel comfortable doing. Empower them to be a decision maker in an otherwise obfuscated process, it will make you both much much happier. And the better you become at communicating with your clients the more likely they are to ask for more features, and gladly pay for them.
2. Know your value
Once you know what your client is really asking for it's easier to know what your work is worth. A promotion? Turning that several thousand dollars a year paper project into a sustainable web application? New work coming in? No more phone book ads? Expanding their market globally? It varies from client to client but taking time to think about the value you provide is critical to getting work, vetting new clients, and keeping yourself happily coding.
Another thing to pay attention to is market rates, there are advantages to working with a consultant versus a shop. Less overhead, and instead of having to talk through three different people you get one person who knows your site inside and out. Make sure to include these advantages in your value structuring, and don't be afraid to come closer than you ever thought you could to bigger shops rates.
If you are way low for the same kind of work potential clients often assume you're not as good, and feel like they should get the basement bargain every single time because of it. Humans find the web harder to conceptualize value with, so just like plumbers it's our job to make it easier for them to value what's going on behind the walls. You'd be amazed how much easier it is to grant odd requests when you know you're getting paid enough. It changes everything.
3. Get off the computer and talk to human beings
Did you know that Drupal 8 no longer has a 'sites/all/' directory? If you're following the new changes at all, than most likely this is old news. If you're not then you might want to start doing some investigating, Drupal 8 has huge changes in just about every category.
Meetups, events, online communiqué, all of these are ways to keep up. It's easy in the thick of things to avoid the extra time and effort. (Insert argument in Sarah's head before almost every meeting.) But by making time to learn and socialize you add to your business value AND make the world a better place by sharing what you learn with others.
Speaking of online communiqué with all the changes coming to Drupal 8 we have some awesome educational videos, posts, etc. coming over the next couple of months. All leading up to some exciting top secret things we are hoping to launch in the fall. Get a head start on D8 and our future classified project's beta pricing by signing up for the mailing list!