Sign up for FREE to get these insights delivered straight to your inbox.
Today I have share with you a peak into my discussion with Prakash Chandran, a UX consultant to tech CEOs based in California. We recorded a 30 minutes of amazing discussion on all things consulting. The full interview is available to Consulting Club members. Click here to apply today.
The Prakash Chandran Interview
How did you get into consulting?
I'm most known for being a user experience and product designer. I spent about eight and a half years at Google doing that. And this was early days when there was like, Gmail and calendar. I got to work with a lot of great product designers there. I led the design and research team for Google's enterprise business. So that's Google for Work (nonprofit, EDU government and large businesses as well).
Afterwards I did a startup of my own. I call it three and a half years of getting the crap kicked out of me: I learning a lot; it was my business school. I learned a lot about what it was like to operate and grow a business. I sold that to a competitor in New York.
And then, after that I was like, well, what am I going to do? Well, I have all of this knowledge in operating this company. As a UX designer at Google I thought I should just consult myself out. I think there were two motivations for that one was obviously to make a reasonable living.
You know, doing so in such a way where I didn't have to work the kind of hours that I was working at Google towards the end of my career or my startup.
I think it's important to note you were at Google pre IPO, and then you were also there post IPO. So you watched this company go from a private company to a public company.
That's right. Yeah. I was there when it was 1400 people, which in Google size was extremely small. It was a really exciting time.
I got to see all of the levers that got pulled as we moved from this private company to a public company. I also got to watch that stellar growth over the next couple of years. It was an amazing ride.
A lot of our business as consultants, we get by referral. But every now and then we run into people who have never heard of us, who don't know us. How do you end up describing yourself these days? How do you describe your consulting offering to people who may have never heard of you?
I usually go directly to the CEO or some sort of head of product or VP of product. Broadly, I am a product and customer experience specialist, but what that really means is that every brand, product or service, they make a promise to their customer and I really analyze how much friction you're putting between that promise and time to value (or time to magic).
That can mean many things. Sometimes it's your messaging, or your onboarding experience or the lack thereof. Sometimes it's your analytics or data discipline within your company.
You're not measuring what it means to PQL and become like that product qualified lead. So there's a number of different things that I can do from that promise that time to magic. And I worked directly with that CEO to do that.
How did consulting start?
This whole value in pitch that I just gave you, wasn't always that clear.
I think that I first started doing what most people do, which is giving myself out or hiring myself out as a user experience designer and doing that on an hourly basis. I would go to these companies and ask if they needed UX design help? And then I would just be like an hourly, paid designer at that company.
But then I started to like, realize that, “Hey, you know what, my value is more than just the tactical design work itself.” There's something about instilling design and product discipline within an organization. It was at that point where I was kind of having those thoughts that I actually met you.
We had become friends and then you kind of helped me craft a good narrative around how I could value myself differently and who I should be going after.
After the Consulting Club Foundation Program did you already have an existing prospect list, or audience, or set of relationships? Before you launched into your V2 of consulting did you already have that?
I would say I had a network of people. I had some existing clients, but a lot of the stuff that I had to do was net new under the new me. I had a new offering, a new value and a new way of pitching my services.
I’m constantly connecting and networking with people and then that led to introductions to people I knew that I could help. I got my first one when I was going through the Foundation Program. I remember reaching out and being like, "Hey, you know this is what I do" because I was so excited to get started. "You're going to pay me this retainer instead of the hourly that I've been doing for so long." And I landed it. I was like, this is like the most that I've ever made for the least that I've ever done!
And it's not necessarily about that. It's more about I've been able to like bundle up my value and tell the story of that value to someone who needs that, who finds that valuable and is willing to pay me for it. And so I feel like that was the beginning of my journey.
What were the specific moves you made to get those early clients rolling in with the new you?
I went to a lot of these networking events, where you have different startups from the community, come and meet. It's a meet and greet mingle and you starting to talk about those services just in an in-person loose and casual way that would then lead to you.
I'd always get this, "Oh, you know, we should talk a little bit more about that" reaction. Oh, that sounds interesting. That sounds like something that I could use. I started hearing this from people which wasn't necessarily new for me. I always kind of had that first piece of the motion down.
But then it was the follow-up.
I think that was the most helpful. So you always have to put yourself out there. You got to let people know what you're doing, and then there's like that initial interest. And then it goes down to narrowing in on what value you can provide them specifically.
It was a lot of networking, a lot of talking to people and also a lot of introductions. When you talk to friends that are kind of a similar level that might do ancillary things, they're like, Oh, I'm going to introduce you to this startup. So it's really your network is your net worth.
You gotta be out there connecting with people. You can't just expect them to come to you.
But what are some tactics or strategies you use to build on that and grow your client base?
So this is something that you shared with me early on that stuck, and I really try to do this. You kind of have to always ask yourself, how can I do less and provide more value?
And, and do it in less time. Right. And that's a necessary question that you have to ask yourself, like, you know, uh, do less with a client, make more, um, and make them still get the value that you're selling yourself at. And that's, uh, that is a, that's an iterative process. And so I would say every consultant, when they first start this journey, They're in the weeds.
They're super tactical. They're doing a lot of work, which is obviously taking a lot of time, but the more you really understand what your value is, the more you can do. You know what? I don't have to have one client. I can actually do. Maybe 25% of what I've been doing or do, do things at a more strategic level and then get another client.
And so for me, it was like that I had like maybe two clients at the time when I got that, maybe it was no, I got the third client at the consulting club workshop, but then I was like, Can I add a fourth? Is that crazy? Um, can I add that fourth client to, to really make things grow? So I added that fourth client and then I added the fifth client and then I added the six client and it just kept growing.
It just kept growing that way. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I'm able to make all of these clients happy, provide value to all of these people, and make more money than I've ever been making with everyone. So I feel like it's very natural to start where you're just like, it's super high touch, super high level, but then you figure out how, what your true, true value that like that kernel of the value is.
And then you grow it from there..
For people who are considering consulting what makes it effect ever special in your world in your view?
I think consulting is something that I think there's a couple of things you have to really be confident and comfortable in the value that you can bring and you have to have like a sense for who you can bring that value to.
I know I'm speaking broadly here. I can't emphasize that enough. Most consultants in our, in our world. And I think, uh, the reason why there is like a stigma around the word consultant is because it's just people trying to, um, you know, maybe value themselves really high and not really bring the goods.
And so I think being very clear, getting clear on what your value is, and then actually working with just one customer starting with one is okay. And seeing if you can deliver that value for a price that you never thought was possible and having the customer be thrilled about paying you that price, I think that's where it starts.
And I think that that's not an easy thing to get to. I think that is a muscle that needs to be exercised. It was a growing process for me. And I remember you talking me through some of that. You're constantly kind of refining and improving yourself and that includes how you pitch and value yourself.
Start with one person under the new you and then slowly start growing your from there.
What were some surprising lessons from this experience in the new you?
First, I’d always considered myself like a relatively confident person, but for whatever reason, when it came to making money, I wasn't really that confident. I think we grow up in our professional careers, always being valued by someone or some organization that we think that that is our value in the world. We just assume that that that is, and that is actually, if you really think about all the times that you are negotiating, you're always. Using a baseline of what someone else paid you before. And so having the confidence to step outside of that, to step so far outside of that and be like, actually, I'm going to design my income to number one, the true value that I bring in the lifestyle that I want to lead.
That was a surprising journey for me. I needed to kind of convince myself that I was worth it. And that took a lot of time for me. So I would say that's the most surprising thing.
The second surprising thing, which is no surprise to you and I've talked to you about this is that it's an imposter syndrome on yourself. Once you start doing that, you're like, “Should people be paying me this much money for this? Like, I actually don't know that I'm worth it. Like I kind of feel bad.” But again, I deserve to be here. There's a reason why they hired me. These people that are hiring me are not stupid people, you know, clearly the value that I'm bringing. They had to say yes. I’m not forcing them to pay me.
Both of these things are things that I'm still working through today.
If you had to argue for like the downside of consulting, what would it be?
I would say splitting your attention. Consulting at the level that we are consulting. You're not being brought in as like a junior person. You're expected to perform at the highest level for every single client. And that is mentally taxing sometimes, especially if you're bouncing like five to seven clients.
Like so one call you're helping someone raise for their next round of funding. The next call you gotta help construct a deck for a product engagement. You're constantly just switching modes and that switch can be difficult. So I would say that's something that is that's taxing.
And then I think it's because there's so much opportunity to make all this money that you naturally actually can work harder than you've ever worked. And maybe you're making the most money you've ever made before, but that doesn't necessarily net the lifestyle that you set out to achieve, you know?
That's something that I've had to learn myself.
But I was working an inordinate amount of time. It was like I was running a startup and my brain was completely taxed. So I've actually peeled back. I'm not making that much anymore.
If you had to reflect on the last 12, 18 months, what's the most important decision you've made or taken?
I moved from Santa Barbara up to Lake Arrowhead where my wife's family is from to provide more familial support for our family and for my little daughter as she's growing up because it was getting hard.
So is there an ask that you have for the consulting club community?
There's so much more to building a business. Spend time to be helpful to one another. At some point I'm going to reach out and I'm going to tap one of you to talk about finance or user acquisition and I don't want to feel like I'm being sold. I just want you to have a conversation about it. Just give as much value as you possibly can and maybe we'll work together one day. I say it that way is because I genuinely genuinely try to do that myself.
I don't say I'm going to curb my feedback to you because one day you should be paying me money for it. If you have 30 minutes with me, I'm going to give you all of my best possible feedback, and I want you to take it and I want you to run with it.
And I think that that is what makes the world a better place. And I think this community of consultants, one of the best things that we can do is to help not only each other, but other people that aren't as fortunate to be in the positions that we're in, that they haven't honed their craft yet. So let's give them stepping stones to upskill and to do that themselves.
If you are building digital products, there's no reason why you shouldn't be using a no-code backend tool, like a xano.com. So please. Come and check it out. I promise you, it will be the best decision that you've made to build your digital product or service
How can people reach you on the Internet?
I’m @prakawesome on Twitter. Not active right now, but that will change in 2021.
If you made it this far I hope this interview gave you valuable insight into the world of consulting. Feel free to drop me a note.
If you want to see how you might be able to turbocharge your income before the new year, or kick of 2021 Click here to apply today.
Vikrant Duggal Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.