Book Review: The Secrets of Consulting

This book paid for itself in less than ten minutes.

Secrets of Consulting
Secrets of Consulting

I do consulting work on the side, and like many consultants, I’m never sure if I’m quoting the right billable rate.  When I picked up this book several months ago, the first thing I did was turn to chapter 12, “Putting a Price on Your Head.”  Gerald Weinberg explains several simple points with stories, including:

  • The more they pay you, the more they respect you
  • The less they pay you, the less they respect you
  • The money is usually the smallest part of the price
  • Set the price so you won’t regret it either way

Reading just those four sections alone took me less than ten minutes, and they convinced me to double my hourly rate for new clients.  Much to my surprise, people are still asking, “Okay, when can you start?”  Granted, not everybody says yes – but then again, not everybody said yes at the lower rate, either.  And whether they say yes or no, I’m fine with it, because I’ve set the price so that I don’t regret it either way.  If they say yes, it means more work for me, but I’m delighted to do it because of the rate.  Before reading this book, I used to focus on setting the price in order to win the deal – not to make myself content.  As a result, I had more work than I could handle, but I cringed whenever I went to do it.  Now, I get excited at the chance to do work for clients, because I know all of us are getting value out of it.

To say the book’s advice worked is a massive understatement.  The Secrets of Consulting confirmed a few things I’d learned the hard way, and taught me several more before I got burned.  I’ve also drawn a few new conclusions by piecing things together from the book; for example, what I’m really selling is advice, not execution, and I shouldn’t be so quick to take control of the keyboard during meetings.  Instead, I should grab the whiteboard markers, illustrate why something needs to be done, and then walk the company’s own staff through doing it – no matter how small it is or how fast I can do it.  Even the smallest tasks can become teachable moments.

Gerald uses friendly, casual language that’s easy to read.  You can pick up the book, turn to any chapter, and dive in without reading prior chapters.  Each page holds its own set of valuable lessons illustrated with enjoyable stories.

I highly, highly recommend The Secrets of Consulting, and I sincerely appreciate Karen Lopez of InfoAdvisors (Blog@DataChick) for recommending it to me.

Note: I’m on a cruise ship this week and won’t be responding to comments until Monday, January 11th.  If you post a comment that requires moderation, don’t fret – I’ll approve it when I get back.

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13 Comments. Leave new

  • I am struggling with this currently. Setting the price to win the deal is always on my mind but I have found out like you state it doesn’t pay in the long run.

    I’m adding this book to my 2010 reading list. Hoping to read 50 books this year.

  • Frank Fernandez
    January 5, 2010 11:54 am


    First, Happy 2010 for you and your family (to me, family is the most important aspect of life, even above SQL, LOL!)

    I have followed you for a while now, (I think right after I became a DBA) and always meant to ask you a few questions:

    – If you were to put together a checklist, or step by step guide on how to tune a SQL Server, which steps would you take and in which order,

    – Also, I am a full time DBA and I would like to do more consulting on the side, as you do. How do I start? Any hints?

    This would probably get me started on this year and I really value your advise!

    Enjoy your cruise and the time with family, it is something that will not come back.


    Frank Fernandez

  • A great book that has benefitted me for years. (Especially the bit about the “Orange Juice” test.)

    He goes by Jerry, by the way, and can be found on Twitter (@JerryWeinberg). He just tweeted about your post above, which is how I found it.

  • So glad you liked this book. There is so much good stuff in it-even advice that isn’t unique to consulting. I’ve also realized that I need to get more focused on advising and less on the keyboard.

    My favourite section is Rudy’s Rutabaga Rule: Eliminate your number one problem and your number 2 problem gets a promotion.

    I reread this book more than once a year just to help my focus.

  • Thank you for posting information on this book. I’m always unsure [timid] when it comes to charging, and certainly other aspects. This is a book I definitely need. Thank you very much!

  • just bought it on Amazon. Thanks.

  • Wow, that’s funny! I stumbled hear via Google looking for something and I can’t believe I saw that book on your site. I’ve had this for quite some time – I want to say since the 80’s. I’ve had it so long that I don’t remember anything about it except the cover. It’s like a surprise trip down memory lane. Your excitement about it makes me want to go dig it out of the garage and give it another read.

  • Reply
  • The author of this book, Jerry Weinberg, has made a huge impact on my life — and not just my consulting life. You can read about Jerry’s current story, with requests to keep buying his works, here:

  • Hi guys,
    Im going to present a presentation about this book in my class under course og Decision Making . I just borrow this book. I have some difficulty with English cuz it is not my first language. can U help me guys? I wanna review this book in 15 min.
    thanks in advance

  • Thank you for your response quick
    actually, I’m looking for a review of the chapters of the book to present them in 15 minutes.
    i wanna put them in Powerpoint slides.

  • Adel, the chapters are very quick reads. Partially because Jerry is such a great writer and partially because they are enjoyable stories. I suggest you read the book, think about how those stories and “laws” apply to decision making, then make your slides. You might want to choose a story to tell in your own words or even tell a story from your experience that fits with the law.

    Good luck.


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