Consulting: Working late and overtime pay as a consultant

One of my favorite things about working as a consultant is that managers treat your time with respect. As a regular salaried employee, managers will say, “I need you to stay late tonight,” with the implication being, “suck it up.”

As a consultant who’s paid by the hour, when a manager says “I need you to stay late tonight,” you can always say, “No problem, I don’t mind staying if you don’t mind paying double time (as stipulated in the contract).”

In reality you rarely have to say anything like that. Good managers realize that when they ask you to work overtime they’re also saying that they’re going to pay your overtime rate. But if you’re dealing with a first-time manager you sometimes have to say something to that effect to make sure they understand what they’re asking for.

I can’t tell you how many times a manager told their regular employees that they had to stay late, and then they’d look at me and say, “Not you. You go home.” You might think the salaried employees would be angry at you for this preferential treatment, but I’ve always found that they understand that it’s part of the system. Back in the day when I was a regular employee I wasn’t angry with the consultants, I just found myself being envious about their situation.

(I write more about lessons like this in my book, A Survival Guide for New Consultants.)