Time for another interview with another successful consulting engineer — Kellie Hedrick, PE, of Environmental Process Solutions PLLC.
Kellie is a Civil Engineer and a Registered Professional Engineer (PE), and specializes in wastewater treatment. How about that for a unique consulting niche? She has been in full time practice since 2010, and is located in Charlotte, NC.
I first connected with Kellie on a small business forum on LinkedIn, so I asked her to share her experiences and advice here.
Here is the interview:
(1) What prompted you to consider consulting? Was there an event, like a layoff, or was it just a general itch to be on your own?
Like a lot of people in 2008/2009, I was laid off. After looking for a job for about a year, I found that it seemed people needed my assistance on more of a part time basis.
After contracting a little bit, I decided it would be better to form a company and start consulting, so I officially launched my company in 2010.
(2) How has it been going? Looks like you started in 2010, so obviously you are established in your business.
Business has been reasonably good. I really enjoy working with industrial wastewater and helping my clients gain or maintain compliance with their discharge permits.
It makes me incredibly proud to solve problems my clients are facing and the fact that I can get paid to do what I love makes it the perfect situation for me.
(3) What do you like MOST about consulting?
I like working with different companies and solving different problems. I tend to get bored working on the same thing all the time, so the variety I get with my company is very nice.
(4) What do you like LEAST about consulting?
I was never fond of the typical engineering consulting format. I prefer more of the contracting type jobs where I’m providing a routine (or maybe not so routine) service over a long period of time.
The typical engineering format seems to be to get a project, design something to fix the problem, possibly oversee installation and move on. The design aspects take so long and require more office work that I really like to do.
(5) How do you get your clients? (BTW, the number one question I get asked when someone finds out I’m a consultant.)
The majority of my clients have come from referrals either from former co-workers or from vendors I work with on a routine basis. I have gotten one or two random client calls and it seems that they usually originate from them finding my Manta page.
(6) How do you set your fees? (Second question I get asked.)
I did a lot of research initially and based my starting fees on information I found on the GSA website for government contractors. From there, I have adjusted a little to try to be generally in line with firms in my local area.
(7) How did you decide what to consult about? And why? (Third question I get asked.)
I had my area of expertise and there are many consultants working in the environmental industry, so with my focus on wastewater engineering and operations, I decided I’d see if I could make it on my own.
(8) Lessons learned since you started consulting?
Networking is extremely important. As is keeping your name out there online.
As a business owner, you start out doing all jobs and so far, I’ve found that Michael Gerber’s E-Myth Revisited book to be extremely accurate in the depiction of a person who starts on their own with a love for what they do in their business and how much of a struggle it is to expand into actually running a business rather than managing a job.
(9) What next? Do you plan to do this the rest of your career (like I did?) Or is this a stepping stone to other things?
At this point, I’m enjoying what I’m doing and where I am with growing my business, so I’m likely to stick with it for now. I haven’t made any long term plans other than the fact that I plan to work forever and never retire.
(10) Finally, what one piece of advice would you give to our fellow engineers who might be thinking about consulting?
Make sure that you learn the business side of setting up a consulting company. I’ve been at it for about 3 years now and still have a ton to learn about the business side. I love learning, so I’m still going for it.
I think I’ve been lucky to have good networking groups in Charlotte, NC where I can attend a learning session along with meeting lots of new people.
Thank you, Kellie! Perhaps your story will inspire and encourage other engineers wondering if they too could make their own JumpToConsulting. (One of the secret objectives of this blog.)
Finally, in closing – a bit of engineering humor. When I once chided my brother (a retired Civil Engineer) about his own wastewater projects, he responded “Well, it may be sewage to you, but it is MY bread and butter.” Gotta love that engineering attitude…
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