This is an amazingly popular question.
I haven’t really answered it publicly.
I get paid for what I know, and how effective I can be in getting things done. It’s really that simple.
I work out of my house, and I rarely travel. I’ve been in 48 states (including Alaska and Hawaii) and have visited over 20 countries. I’ve traveled enough!
Some of my clients I have been engaged with for nearly a year – and we have never “met”. We talk on the phone, IM, Skype, etc. But we’ve never been in the same state together even. Everything we do, we do online; documents, meetings, scheduling, tracking, prioritizing, etc.
Some of my clients I do meet in person though – it all depends on what is needed, and what people are comfortable with. One of my clients is an Iraqi living in Australia. Another is Indian and lives lives in England.
One of clients who has a project I have an equity position in refers to me as the “Launch Director”, which is about as accurate as anything, I guess. Because that is what I do – I launch products. I am not in Marketing. I am not an IT guy. I am not a programmer. I am not a Database Administrator. I do not provide hosting.
But I know about all of those things. I have connections to development teams in 6 countries. I have access to security and database experts. I work with several hosting companies (but I prefer to launch with sites hosted on Rackspace).
I work from abut 6 am until I fall asleep. I am available to my clients via IM/Email/Skype for an average of about 20 hours a day. Having customers in many time zones can make for a very long day. Fortunately I have never required much sleep.
Since I ran a global support organization in the past I am also very used to this “work-style”. I am used to dealing with foreign cultures, holidays, time zone differences, etc.
I love working from my home. I love the solitude, most of the time. I love the ability to work without interruption when I need to. I love the fact that my kids (if not all of my friends!) understand that when I am working, I am working.
Mostly, I like launch days.
Until recently I have not been involved in anything I can talk about – I’ve been a behind the scenes paid consultant (with the prerequisite NDA’s). But now I have an equity stake in a couple of projects that will launch in the next quarter – those I will be able to tell you about. I can’t wait until I can!
So that’s how I make money – I help other people launch their ideas. And occasionally I sell some of my ideas. Just today I transferred ownership of an idea to another social networking site. I can’t talk about it now, or for the foreseeable future. But some ex-coworkers of mine will recognize it when they see it – hopefully soon.
The most important thing I have learned as a consultant though is that I MUST keep up with new trends – new technologies. So I spend a lot of my time reading. I probably dedicate 8 hours a day to reading about trends and technologies that I am NOT paid to read about. But some day I will be. I’m always learning – and the more I learn the more valuable I become. At least the more likely I am to get that “next” customer.
And if you are a consultant or work at a large company – learning is important. Knowing “what is next” (or what might be next) is important.
Reading is important.