December 3, 2008

The Bill Murray Effect.

I make most of my money as a consultant to various clients who need a bit of advice when it comes to online communications and social media. I’ll admit that most consultants are expensive — not necessarily overpaid, but expensive.

A recent post on Indexed made me realize why I don’t have a problem with consultants making a lot of money doing what they do.

Many consultants make lots of money on their consulting gigs so they can devote their time and resources (often for free or for cost-recovery) to projects that are near and dear to their heart.

I call it the Bill Murray Effect.

Bill Murray occasionally makes movies like Garfield—horrible films which have no redeeming qualities whatsoever but make Murray a lot of money—so that he can devote time to making great low-budget films like Broken Flowers. The Garfields in his repertoire keep his cash flow coming, and the films like Broken Flowers allow him to pursue his interests and passions.

Like Bill Murray, many consultants charge high rates (most of the time, the rates are worth it for the expertise they bring, so they’re not really overcharging) to clients that can support those rates so that they can use some of their other time to evangelize for their passions like transit or the open web.

I help organizations working in certain domains I’m passionate about — domains like public transit, open government, youth development, and online literacy — for free during my spare time when I’m not working. I can do that because my clients pay me a wage which can support my day-to-day expenses as well as the time I take for my interests and passions. In the end, everyone wins: my clients know that they’re getting someone with connections in the field and who takes time for personal and professional development, and I get to help out causes I truly believe in.

You don’t have to pick between being a consultant and an evangelist. It’s quite possible to find the time, money, and wherewithal in your career to do both.

Heck, if Bill Murray can do it, you can too.