Your mission when you are on the bench (should you choose to keep your job) is to get staffed on a project. The most important metric rating your performance is utilization, and the bench bleeds this dry. Forty hours multiplied by 52 weeks is 2080 hours that you could be charging to the client (at least). As a relatively new consultant, you are likely expected to be utilized at between 75 to 100 percent. Eighty-five percent is typical, and at that utilization you will need to bill 1,768 hours. Notice I said nothing about vacation, training, bench time, administrative time, recruiting help, etc. Ultimately, these count against you, though they may be necessary, required or worth insignificant brownie points.
The math is discouraging, but you may be able to make it up. You may be in a situation where you can bill more than 40 hours a week. Clients often have hour limits for budget and project management reasons; I have had experience with 42, 45, and 50 hours a week, as well as one open to what I needed to work. The most I've ever charged was 76 hours, and I'm just lucky that rental car didn't up in a ditch in rural Illinois.
One major distinction is necessary; chargeable vs. billable. You may be charging your time to the project, but are you billable to the client? Billable is the gold standard; this means you are a walking fountain of revenue and thus safer from “resource actions,” etc. Chargeable is good, but billable is better.
As a new consultant lacking in contacts, getting staffed is not easy. Resource managers work with partners. They know what projects are going on and upcoming in your area, and it's also possible to get staffed in another area. I was, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I don't think newer consultants should be tied down to such specificity, especially with no say of their own so early on. You may never even get a project in the area you are attached to, but the label and structure of things certainly doesn't help facilitate cross area work.
-Taylor O'Neal is a supply chain consultant for a major consulting firm. He graduated from Miami University School of Business in 2005 and Indiana University's Kelley Masters of Information Systems program in 2006.
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