Scheduling on a short timeline

Sometimes you need a software consultant, but you're on a tight timeline and you're not sure if there is enough time to hire one.

Every consultant operates on their own schedule, and if you're betting on working with someone specific, you need to make sure they'll be available.

There are three ways to make sure you can hire a software consultant when you're on a tight deadline.

1. Communicate early

If you have the benefit of some advance notice, or if you can see the timeline crunch coming, this method is the best.

What you want to do is to communicate with the consultant as early as possible. Even if you're not 100% ready for them, it's important to start a dialogue. This is especially true if you haven't worked with them before. Most consultants give priority to existing and past clients first, so if you're new they might not be able to give you any attention.

Communicating early can mean a lot of different things. It could be sending them an email to start a discussion, or calling their office to set an appointment to talk with them. The important thing is to start and to let them know about your timeline.

2. Reserve their availability

Depending on the consultant's forecasting and existing projects, they still might not have any availability for you when you need them. This happens a lot when a consultant or service is in high demand. They just can't serve everyone.

If they do have availability, get your project reserved in their schedule. Some consultants will add you without any other requirements, others will ask for a signed contract or deposit upfront.

In any case, you'll want to do what the consultant needs so you don't lose your spot. I've seen clients lose a consultant because they were informally penciled in and then the client wasn't around to actually start the project on time.

3. Keep the conversation going

Which brings us to the third technique, which is to keep the conversation going.

The back-and-forth exchange between you and the consultant shows that you're still interested, just like how follow ups work in sales. The goal is to keep yourself on the consultant's mind. That way you can work with them when they're ready, and also build the relationship you have with them.

This doesn't have to be aggressive either. A short email every week or every other week is enough for most consultants. Also, if things change in the project (like deadlines, budgets, or staff) let your consultant know. You don't want to surprise them at the last minute with something major.

Tight timelines can be tough to plan, but with the right consultant and a bit of flexibility you can make it work.

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