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I've been a developer for financials/hedgefunds in the Northeast for about 9 years now. I'm a consultant and would like to stay that way. What do I need to do to get to around $300/hr? I've been a pure dev my entire career so it seems like doing more management would be required. Is this goal even possible?

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closed as not constructive by Oded, GlenH7, Caleb, Walter, davidk01 Oct 6 '12 at 19:27

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What do you need? A client with deep pockets, that's what. –  Caleb Oct 6 '12 at 18:39
    
(1) Verifiable expertise and experience in hard-to-find skills, (2) a willingness to travel anywhere, anytime, (3) Know somebody, networking with those who're willing to pay for such services. –  jfrankcarr Oct 6 '12 at 21:12
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4 Answers

As I'm sure you realize, the trick to getting paid $300/hr is to tell the client that it's your rate and have them agree.

Why would they be willing to pay so much when someone else they're looking into charges half that?

  • A very specific set of skills.

    • Perhaps there is no one else able to do that job you're doing (think FORTRAN/COBOL or some complex mathematical techniques.
    • Maybe the client sees that you have some other talents that they feel could add to your worth, like a specific degree / prior project.
  • Your Portfolio.

    • If you've done impressive work for very high-profile clients, a less "high profile" client might be willing to pay more if they think they're getting a better value.
  • Your notoriety.
    • This one is probably the hardest to accomplish, but if you're well known (whether locally or internet-wide) clients will be more willing to pay more for your services.
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There's an old joke about music, with a lot of truth to it:

Q: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

A: Practice, practice, practice.

If you want to earn the salary of a "rockstar developer," you need to have the skillset of a rockstar developer. And that requires years of practice and learning and coding. There's really no other way, except for serendipity. (Happening to be in the right place at the right time when someone really needs a skill you have.) But that's not something that you can depend on.

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The more experience I gather, the more I get the impression that sales talent is more important than developer skills... –  tdammers Oct 6 '12 at 17:39
    
+1 "Happening to be in the right place at the right time when someone really needs a skill you have" is often what makes (or breaks) a career. –  AsheeshR Dec 5 '12 at 16:22
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Be successful. It's as easy (difficult) as that.

When you're successful, you have lots of customers. When you have more customers than you can handle, you can increase your hour rate to discourage ones which don't have enough money to hire you.

Success doesn't depend exclusively on one, objective parameter. It's completely subjective. You may be doing more management and suck in marketing yourself, or you can be a not so good programmer but know how to present yourself and make people willing to work with you.

I knew people who didn't know anything in IT but managed to call themselves consultants and get a good amount of money from their naive customers, as well as I know plenty rather talented developers who work for surprisingly low hour rates because the customers don't understand why those developers are better than any others.

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To get exceptionally high consultant fees, you'd need to offer skills that are in high demand, and rare (and probably hard to learn, otherwise the two previous conditions would not hold for long). And you need to have a proven track record in these skills, ideally by recommendation from happy customers.

So listen to managers when they gripe about needing someone with experience in doing X (which can be a technology, domain knowledge, or managing a certain kind of project) but being unable to find anyone. Then learn that skill and get a couple of years of experience using it professionally.

Sounds difficult? Yep. If anyone could do it, they wouldn't have to pay that much for it.

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