Episode 030 – Escape the Staff Augmentation Abyss

Staff augmentation is the use of outside personnel temporarily to augment the capacity of your organization. While this is a powerful tool for many organizations to have in their arsenal, it’s not beneficial for you as an independent consultant to build your business from staff augmentation roles. The reason is those staff augmentation roles are almost always paid based on the amount of time worked, and these roles typically lead to overworking and commoditized rates.  

When you’re stuck taking staff aug and contract roles, you’re not creating the business model that’s leading you to the income and independence and the impact that you wanted to cultivate when you started your business in the first place. 
Listen in as I share with you how to get out of the staff augmentation abyss and into the business owner zone, where you can create the business, schedule, and income you desire.

On this episode, I discuss: 
[01:25] What is the staff augmentation abyss
[08:43] The five red herrings (main reasons) why you think that you may fall into a staff augmentation abyss
[16:18] The real root cause of the staff augmentation abyss
[21:55] How to escape the staff augmentation abyss


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**note: This is an automated transcript, so please ignore spelling errors and grammar mistakes*


Welcome to the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. I’m Melisa Liberman, a fellow IC and business coach. On this podcast, I teach you to become a consistently booked independent consultant without becoming a pushy salesperson or working 24/7. If I can do it, you can too. Listen on to find out how. Welcome back to the podcast. We’re on episode number 30. And today, we’re going to talk about one of my favorite subjects, how to escape from a staff augmentation a bit if you’re in one. And so let me tell you what that is. What do I mean by a staff augmentation of this or a staff augmentation, right? And then we’ll dive into it today. All right, I want to make sure that you end up in a place where you’re making the money that you should be making in your business and you’ve got the time off that you wanted to have off. And that balance when you became a consultant, running your own business in the first place. This is so important. So I want to make sure that we get you out of the staff augmentation zone and into the independent consultant, business owner zone that you intended to be in when you created your business. All right, so let’s start off I want to just give you a definition of what is staff augmentation. Essentially, staff augmentation is when a company hires an external resource like you to provide them with additional capacity. So they’re looking for another set of hands, they’re looking for more hours in the day, they’re looking for more bodies, or one body or many bodies to do more work. Because they’ve got too much work on their plate and not enough people. That’s the very bare essence of it. It’s this type of work staff augmentation is almost always paid based on the amount of time worked. So they’re buying your time. They’re usually by the hour, sometimes by the day. A lot of times these types of roles will come to you through recruiters because a company will hire an external recruiter. But you know, I used to do this all the time, hire an external recruiter to go find a contractor, or a consultant to do some work that we didn’t have the capacity for. A lot of times these roles are filled by recruiters or potentially maybe someone you used to work with in the past. They know you they trust you. So they’ll approach you and say, Hey, can you come and work for me for a while, I’ve got this project that I want to complete, don’t have enough people, right? So why does that matter? Really, why it matters is that when you’re doing staff augmentation type work, you are not making the amount of money that you are capable of making these staff augmentation rates are notoriously lower than what you would normally be paid. If you had gone out and landed a client on your own. If you had gone out and landed a client where it was, you know the high value a return on investment that you’re selling versus selling additional capacity. There especially lower if there’s someone in the middle taking a cut of it right like a recruiter or a marketplace, taking a cut of the work that you’re doing, then it’s even lower.


The other reason why I really want to focus on this for you is that these staff augmentation roles typically lead you to overwork. Because you’re paid by the hour. You’re incentivized to work more hours, right? Oh, no problem. I’ll take on that extra deliverable. No problem, I’ll go to those additional meetings where I may or may not be needed. But I’m going to err on the side of going because you asked me to clients, and you just keep accumulating hours and hours and hours, while at the same time. Maybe not even realizing that you’ve sacrificed the work-life balance that you wanted to achieve when you created your business, that you’ve canceled vacations that you’ve pushed off time off all of that stuff, because you’re wanting to almost stockpile money in case something happens down the road, right? Like hibernation, stockpiling all the nuts if you’re a squirrel, to the squirrels hibernate, I don’t know. It’s like then all the nuts that they’re, you know that they’re storing in the tree. I’ve been watching too many kids’ movies. Anyway. Do you see the point here? The point is that these types of staff augmentation roles lead you to be underpaid. They lead you to work more because Because of their structure of them, and human nature, and as a result, you’re not creating the business model that’s leading you to the income and the independence and the impact that you wanted to create when you started your business in the first place.


I hear about this all the time from consultants, they tell me things like, you almost I feel like I’m trapped right now. Because I’m paid by the hour, the clients work me 50 6070 hours a week. And the client thinks that’s okay because they’re paying you by the hour, right? And you in some way think it’s okay because you’re making more money than you would. But if you take a look at the bigger picture, that’s not the type of life you wanted to create when you started your business. Another way someone just recently explained it to me was, you know, most I feel like I’m just another pair of hands here. They hired me to have another pair of hands where I go out and do this work. And I know that I could be making more money twice as much money as I am right now. I don’t want that for you. I don’t want you to be stuck in this staff augmentation of this. So that’s why we’re here today. Today, I’m going to cover three different topics. The first thing I want to cover is, what are the root causes of this stuff? augmentation of this? How do you get into the situation in the first place? And there’s five what I call five red herrings. They’re the five reasons why most people think that they are falling into a staff augmentation abyss. Why do they feel like they’re stuck in that staff augmentation right? Their red herrings, though they’re not really the root cause. They seem like they would be but they’re not. So I want to share those with you to get them off the table. So you can see that there are red herrings, probably a nicer way to say they’re an excuse. And then we can talk about the real root causes. I’ll share those with you. And then I’ll give you the formula to start working on so that you can escape this abyss and get yourself into a business model that you really enjoy delivering against. And that gives you the income and the flexibility that you desire. Okay, but before we dive into all of this, I just want to give a small caveat. We’re talking a lot about how to escape staff augmentation today. But I’m not here to vilify staff augmentation it certainly has an important place in corporate America and the way that work gets done. I’m not here to say that there’s anything wrong with it at all. In fact, the bulk of my career, I spent as an executive for a SAS software company that created software that automated the staff augmentation workflow, if that makes sense. So this was my life. This is so much of my network is still in the staff augmentation sphere. So I really love it. But I don’t love it for you. Because I hear from you. So many of you saying to me, Melisa, I’m stuck in this rut. As a staff augmentation person, you might not use that term necessarily, but I’m stuck getting paid hourly, doing work that I could have done 10 years ago, 20 years ago. And I’m not making the income and the impact or having that flexibility that I thought I would have when I started my business. So that’s why we’re here talking about self augmentation and how to escape it. Alright, it’s for you, for you to get to the business model that you want to have created for yourself. So let’s dive into those five red herrings. These are the root causes that most people think create the staff augmentation, right or the abyss that you might have fallen into. And I am here to tell you that these are not real root causes. So let’s just get these off the table. So then we can peel back the next layer to figure out what the real root causes for you. It’s usually one of two things. The first of those five red herrings is thinking that you don’t have enough time for business development. And I know you could give me 29 different ways to show me that you probably don’t have enough time for business development, that you’re knee-deep in the client’s delivery, and you literally don’t have enough hours in the day. I’m sure, especially if you’re on a project right now, you could make that argument. But I want to point out to you that you are a business owner. So this is a nonstarter. This is an excuse because you’re a lot better at client delivery than you will be at business development. So it’s so much easier to prioritize all of your time where you feel more comfortable. Or you feel like I have to do this for the client. But at the end of the day, This is not a reason for you to stay stuck in the staff augmentation zone. It is not a reason for you to continuously rely on recruiters to bring you to work or marketplaces to bring you to work or, you know, former colleagues to bring you to work that’s hourly, where they’re just needing more capacity. You are a business owner, you have to make time for business development. I’m not telling you to make, you know, 20 hours a week, but you got to take 30 minutes a day. You’re a business owner. And that’s an excuse. It’s not a real reason. The second red herring. So this is another root cause of why people say to me, you know, most of this is why I keep getting these types of staff augmentation type jobs, because I’m not good at business development.


If I was good at business development, then I would be able to create a pipeline, and then I would be able to, you know, attract potential clients, and sell them the value and the ROI of what I do. But I’m not good at it. So I keep attracting kind of this low-hanging fruit. I don’t know what I’m going to do. seems impossible to escape. This is not a real root cause. I mean, I agree with you, let’s just say you’re right, you’re not good at business development. I wasn’t either when I first started my business. And it would make sense, right? We were incorporated before we started this business. And a lot of us relied on salespeople to bring us clients, and then we would deliver against the clients, right? This is different. Now you’re wearing that hat too. So you might not be good at business development, you might be right, that you’re not good at business development. But you’ve got two choices here, you can either continue to say I’m not good at business development, and continue to take the low-hanging fruit, which is the staff augmentation roles that are underpaying you, and continue to be underpaid and underutilized and undervalued and stay stuck. Or you can figure it out as a business owner. I figured it out. It took me probably three years to be honest with you, but that doesn’t mean that was unpaid for three years. But I got a lot of people telling me no, no, no, we don’t need what you’re, you know what you’re offering until you figure it out, right? Figure out the formula of what works for you. So that’s the second red herring. The third Red Herring is, well, this is just what’s coming to me. This staff augmentation seems like it’s, you know, it’s just what’s coming to me. Maybe I’m not meant to do other work that’s a higher value. Maybe I’m not as much of an expert as I thought I was. Maybe other people don’t see me as an expert, I’m just getting these staff augmentation roles. That is also a red herring. And it might be just what’s coming to you. But it’s not the root cause of why you’re stuck in staff augmentation. What it actually is, is that you haven’t built up that business development muscle yet. And staff augmentation doesn’t have to be your destiny unless you let it be. So go figure out the business development side of your business. It’s not a personality that you were either born with or not, it’s a skillset that you have to develop. You’re not stuck here. There is a way out of this staff augmentation of this, but you can’t hang your hat on these excuses. Okay, the fourth red herring, is I need the money. I need the money. So I’m going to take on this staff augmentation role.


And my question to you is, do you first of all, do you need the money? In the bigger picture? So many of us are used to having a paycheck, which means consistent cash flow? Are you taking a staff augmentation role, because you’re afraid of not having consistent cash flow? When you do have reserve money in your business to flow to you in the times when you’re in between projects? In that case, you don’t quote-unquote, need the money? It’s an excuse to take the staff augmentation role to get yourself out of fear, out of fear of Oh, no, what if, what if I can’t land a deal? And then this gap happens in my income for longer than what my reserve supports? You’re not betting on yourself in this case, right? So really look at that and say, Do I really need the money? And if you really do need the money, sometimes that’s the case where maybe you have no business reserves, and you do need the money, you need the income. Then ask yourself how can I structure this in a way that gives me space so that in addition to delivering this project, I’m also continuing to build a pipeline, so I don’t get back into the spot again. So that was a fourth red herring. And the fifth one is thinking that you’re going to just take this role this time, this staff augmentation role this time, and figure it out next time. It’s like, I’ll start the diet on Monday, right? Most of the time isn’t true, will you really figure it out next time. A lot of times, it keeps happening over and over again, where you keep talking yourself into taking it, taking the staff augmentation role, versus saying enough is enough. And I’m going to figure out how I land roles that give me the level of compensation and the level of impact and the level of flexibility that I desire in my business, the business model that I really want to create. So those are the red herrings. Those are what we think are the root causes of our staff augmentation of this. And they’re really just excuses. They’re excuses, keeping you playing small. And I tell you this with your best interest in mind because I’ve done most of this myself, too. And I don’t want you to linger in this any longer. I want you to help get out of this today, so you can move forward. Okay, so now that you know what the root cause isn’t, now, let’s talk about what the root cause is the root cause of this staff augmentation of this, and for almost everyone that I find in this position, it’s really one of two things. The first is you’re really not sure what to do as an alternative to landing staff augmentation-type roles. You’re taking what comes to you grabbing that lowest hanging fruit because you’re not sure how to create a powerful business development process. Or the second reason, the second root cause is that if you really look yourself in the mirror, you’re seeking out or accepting these staff augmentation type roles, because they feel safest to you. You know you can do them, you know, you can succeed, you know that you could do it in your sleep probably. And it feels the safest versus putting yourself out there. And going through a whole business development cycle and selling something that is a higher impact on the client, higher ROI to the client, and higher stakes. That’s a really big reason why people stay in the staff augmentation of best because they don’t believe in themselves. Even though you have every capability. And on paper, you’re amazing. It’s you and your brain that’s holding yourself back with that self-doubt that just nags and nags and nags at you. So let’s dive into each one of these. All right, the first one is, that you’re not sure what to do as an alternative, you’re stuck in confusion. And when you’re stuck here, not knowing what to do, or what’s the right thing, how to create business for yourself, how to create a pipeline for yourself how to sell things for yourself, you become passive and confused and uncertain in your business. And when you’re running yourself from that place, of course, you’re going to be spinning your wheels, right? You’re thinking things like this isn’t going to work, or I’m not sure what I’m gonna offer. I don’t know if anyone’s gonna want it, even if I do figure out what my service offering is. I don’t know how to get in front of the right people or I don’t know the right people, all of these questions and self-doubt and undermining of yourself end up running your business instead of you running your business. And you can see that running your business from this passive defeatist place is never going to yield you the result that you want. This is the true root cause. It’s not that you don’t have enough time. It’s not that you can’t be good at business development. It’s not that it’s all you’re capable of. It’s none of those things. It’s all of the self-talk that’s going on in your head that is keeping you confused and unclear on what to do. And thinking as soon as you come up with an idea, shooting it down. And as a result, you’re spinning your wheels and not taking action to figure out what will work for you in your business. What could work as a business development process that leads to clients that you can’t wait to deliver against and that are paying you what you’re worth? So that’s the first root cause is all of that internal dialogue that’s keeping us playing small in these really easy-to-deliver staff augmentation type roles. And that really leads me into the second one as well, which is you’re finding these staff augmentation roles on purpose. You might be out there Finding them on purpose, maybe not directly on purpose. But that’s what you’re attracting, you’re attracting those recruiters, you’re taking those recruit those roles that recruiters are offering you because you don’t want to have a gap in your cash flow. But if you peel back the onion, you’re seeking out these roles because they feel the safest. If you’re just super honest with yourself, like I said a minute ago, if you look yourself in the mirror, you’re thinking to yourself, This is all I can deliver, this is what I can deliver, and feel like I’m gonna knock it out of the park, I’m not good enough to do more advanced consulting models, or these are easier to price and execute, there’s less risk in them, because they’re not a, you know, a fixed fee or retainer, I’m covering my bases. But you end up creating a business model again, where you’re, you’re really picking up all the crumbs off of the floor. And the net result is that you’re underpaid, and you don’t have control over your schedule. So let me just repeat that the two root causes are you. That’s good news because you can control it, you can fix that, if it’s you, if it’s just external, there’s nothing we can do, or so much less we can do, right? The two root causes are you it’s either you thinking you don’t know what to do, and can’t figure it out. And you end up spinning kind of in confusion and uncertainty and defaulting to the staff augmentation type roles. Or the second reason is that deep down, you don’t believe that you have the level of expertise or executive presence, or capability to sell and deliver projects that are more strategic. And as a result, you end up settling for these staff augmentation-type roles. So now that we know the real root causes, I want to give you the alternative. And very simply put, the alternative is that you get into the driver’s seat, and you figure out what works for you. And that means you’re going to fail, it means that you’re going to try things that don’t work, or maybe they partially work and you have to adjust them. But at the end of the day, you get into the driver’s seat, you figure out what it is that you want to deliver, triangulating your offer. What are the services that you offer? With your ideal client type? What do they care about? Figure those two things out. There are a lot of different ways to figure those things out, figure out. And then after you figure those out, figure out your go-to-market plan, how are you going to attract those ideal clients, and then implement it and test it. It’s really that simple. The most important thing, though, that underlies all this is a productive mental model, you’ve got to be in the right headspace to say, you know, instead of saying, I’m not good at business development, it’s I can figure this out. I might not be good right now, but I can figure it out. That’s how you overcome that root cause of, you know, I’m not sure what to do as an alternative to staff augmentation, you get out of the passive mode, you get out of the confusing mode, you get out of the uncommitted mode, and you say, I’m going to figure this out. And you iterate through those three steps I gave you, triangulating your offer and your ideal client type, then defining your go-to-market plan, and then implementing and testing it and repeating all of this using the mental model all built on the mental model that I can figure this out. And the second is developing and cultivating that self-confidence that you can figure out how to sell it and how to deliver it, and that you are an expert. You can’t wait until you land the role to then say, oh, yeah, now I’m an expert, someone else validated me. That’s too late. You’ve got to put that at the beginning of the process. So those are really the elements of how to get out of this staff. augmentation of this is really understanding why are in it in the first place. What is the pattern that you need to interrupt? Where are you getting in your own way, and taking the lowest hanging fruit as a result, taking the crumbs, taking these really easy to deliver staff augmentation roles when you could be making so much more money working fewer hours. Once you understand why you’re in this abyss, mostly self-inflicted, which again is good news because now we can address that. Then you can get to the place where you transition yourself into a more productive mental model that you’re working from. And you’re able then to start testing out your business development process which is as simple as figuring out what you want to offer. To be more than one thing, there are a lot of different ways to define that. You figure out who you want to deliver your work to, what’s your go-to-market strategy? How are you going to get in front of those people, and then test it and refine it and repeat it? And this could look like 30 minutes a day if you’re working on a current client, or it could look like eight hours or 10 hours a day if you are in between clients, but you can make this happen. You just have to know that you’re not at the effect of staff augmentation is not just all you can get that you really can create that income and independence and impact that you want to create in your business. But you’ve got to take the driver’s seat to get there. Alright, so that is a formula for escaping the staff augmentation of this today. This is the work that I do with my clients. Reach out if you’re ready for help. I am here for you. You can go to consultmelisa.com. Melisa missing a letter. We’ll put that in the show notes as well. All right, I am here to help you. So have a great day, rest of your day, go put this work into action so that you can start building up your pipeline and your self-confidence, your embracing that you’re an expert, and get yourself out of this dependency and willing to take these low hanging fruit jobs because you are worth meant for so much more in your business. Right we will see you again next week.


Thanks for joining me this week on the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. If you like today’s episode, I have three quick next steps for you. First, click Subscribe on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to make sure you don’t miss future episodes. Next, leave me a review in your podcast app so other independent consultants can find it beneficial and finally put the ideas from today’s episode into action. Head over to Melisaliberman.com for the show notes and more resources to help you grow your consulting practice from your first few projects into a full-fledged business. See you next week.

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