ERPCX Blog

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Five Traits of a Great Virtual Consultant
February 15, 2013

Not everyone is cut out to be a great virtual consultant. But those that are often find the experience highly rewarding, both from a monetary point of view and a quality-of-life point of view. Virtual consultants get to work at home, at a Starbucks, or anywhere else they choose. They set their own hours. And in most cases they are not prohibited from working a full-time job in addition to doing one or two virtual consulting projects on the side. Handling a few virtual consulting projects successfully is also a great way to build a reputation, and therefore a good business, for yourself — which can lead to more independence and more projects.
Sound inviting? Great! But before you apply (or at least before you apply through the ERPCX) you should reflect on whether you’ve got what it takes. If being successful on a virtual consulting project can help “make” your reputation as an SAP consultant, than messing up on one (especially your first) can do a lot of harm. Like the adage says, you only get one chance to make a great first impression.
So here are the top five traits of a virtual consultant we would consider crucial (and which we will ask you to demonstrate, should you still decide to apply):

1. Ability to work independently (highly motivated, meets deadlines, etc.)
This should not be too tough to prove. SAP consultants often work on their own even when they are employed full time by a large consulting firm. If you have that experience then you know, working independently is a lot of different even from working on a small team. The only way anyone knows you’re doing a good job is if you meet deadlines and turn in good work. Face time doesn’t count. And you can’t “BS” your way through meetings to score political points. Nor do you have the support of teammates, either emotionally or professionally. You’ve got to develop your own support system, usually through the Internet. So, show us some successful projects where you were working on your own (regardless of your employment status) and we can check this box off.

2. Uses the latest technology (good Internet connection, latest tools, etc.)
Other than a missed deadline or shoddy work, there’s nothing more frustrating for a client than being told the consultant can’t open a file or recreate a problem on his or her computer. You should have remote access to a fully provisioned SAP system (like we offer here at ERPCX), the latest development tools, and great connectivity — including screen sharing tools and high bandwidth.

3. Active in forums (like SDN, ERPCX) so you know what’s going on in the industry
Do you blog? Do you read and comment on articles published in the SDN, ERPCX or other SAP developer forums? Have you built up your own professional network using social networking tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter? As we said above, independent contractors have to know how to create their own support systems. They should also be highly motivated. If you’re someone who engages with your peers and has informed opinions about the latest industry trends and issues, then it’s a good bet you’re not going to need a lot of handholding. It’s also likely we won’t have to sell your skills or background very hard to clients because they (or someone they know) will know who you are already.

4. Great track record of project success
As stockbrokers say in their TV commercials, “past performance is no guarantee of future results” — but it sure helps. The key here is knowing, and also being able to say, what was so successful about the project you worked on. What problems did you solve? Were they technical or business problems? What role did you play in that success? What can the client do now that they could not do before — new functionality, faster performance, new business opportunities? At the core, a virtual consultant is a small business owner, and as a business owner you have to be able to describe what your value is to customers. No one else will.

5. Great communications skills (phone, email)
Selling yourself doesn’t end when you get a virtual consulting job. You have to sell yourself every day. Again, it’s the difference between just being a worker bee on a project and being able to truly collaborate as a professional with your customer and with other independent consultants. When you work in a team, under a project manager, you can rely on the manager to be that interface to the customer. But when you’re a virtual consultant, you have to get along with the client on your own. And if you’re working offsite, and collaborate with the client mostly through texting and email, it gets even harder. Of course, if you’ve got all the other traits on this list, then you are probably a successful communicator as well.
And we would sure like to communicate with you!

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