PMean: Course proposal on setting up an independent consulting practice

I was asked to prepare a proposal on a short course about consulting for an upcoming Statistics conference. I had talked about this in an earlier blog post. Here is the official submission which includes the course description, outline and objectives, some information about my qualifications to teach the class, and a summary of how this class fits into the theme of the conference. Here’s what I wrote.

Title: How to Start and Run an Independent Statistical Consulting Business

Description: An independent statistical consulting job is both rewarding and challenging. If you follow this career path, you will need to learn many business skills. This course will review practical issues that you will face in setting up an independent consulting business. Should you set up a Limited Liability Corporation or a Subchapter S corporation? Should you bill by the hour or by the project? What insurance do you need? Should you have a standard contract in place prior to any consulting work?

In addition to these legal and accounting requirements, there are human issues that you as an independent consultant will have to face. Your most important job is finding new clients. The best method, by far, is “word of mouth” and there are several strategies that you can adopt to enhance your visibility and increase the number of referrals that you get. You also need to know how to keep your current clients happy. This class will include several small group exercises where you will share your thoughts and experiences on how to handle specific cases involving independent statistical consulting.

No specific knowledge about business models, accounting, or legal issues is assumed

Outline & Objectives: Course outline: The first lecture will cover the types of independent consultants and the contrast these with a consultant who is part of a larger organization. This will be followed by a small group exercise where students discuss their career goals in one/five years. This followed by lectures on company types (sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability corporation) and a discussion of the pros and cons of billing by the hour versus by the project.

A second small group exercise presents a hypothetical consulting project and asks each group to plan an estimate on the entire project cost or on the hours needed. Additional lectures will cover contracts, accounting, and insurance.

The last two lectures will discuss finding new clients and keeping existing clients happy. This includes a third small group exercise on a hypothetical consulting scenario that has gone sour. Students will discuss whether they should end the consulting relationship or find ways to get the interaction back on track.

The target audience is anyone who is considering a career as an independent consultant or who is curious about the advantages and disadvantages of this type of work.

About the instructor: Steve Simon is a part-time independent statistical consultant with P.Mean Consulting and part-time faculty member in the Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

He presented a short course at the inaugural meeting of the Conference on Statistical Practice in 2012, “Promoting Your Consulting Career in the Era of Web 2.0″ and has led a roundtable discussion on the same topic at the 2011 Joint Statistical Meetings. A brief summary of this talk is on his website:

He also was a panel member at the 2011 JSM on “Successful Statistical Consulting: The Practicalities” and discussed “How Independent Statistical Consulting is Different.” For a brief overview of this presentation, see

Dr. Simon is the author of a book published by Oxford University Press, “Statistical Evidence in Medical Trials. What Do the Data Really Tell Us.” He has a website ( with over 1,300 pages on statistics, research ethics, and evidence based medicine and is an active participant in the Statistical Consulting Section Discussion Board.

Relevance to conference goals: The first theme of the Conference on Statistical Practice is “Communication, Impact, and Career Development.” This class addresses a very specific type of career development, starting and running an independent consulting business. The course will cover business skills, such as billing, contracts, and marketing that participants need to advance their careers. This course will emphasize communication with clients and customers, both to attract new clients and to keep existing clients happy.