April 21, 2021

Reader question re: small support requests

Longtime reader V (name withheld by request) wrote in to ask whether small support requests present a consulting opportunity (shared with permission):

Hi Jonathan,

Is there a way to turn a small support request into a consulting opportunity?

I’m an Enterprise UX design.

Sometimes I get a call from previous colleagues or clients “Can you help us with a few screens?”. I usually decline saying it’s too small of a project.

But I wonder can I turn this into an opportunity?

V. Longtime fan

My reply to V:

Is that the kind of work you want to be known for?

And V’s reaction:

I guess this answers my question. Thanks!

Here’s the thing...

Could you build a profitable business handling small support requests?


But is that the kind of business you want to run?

If so, great! Focus on that and optimize your organization for support and maintenance work. It’s generally pretty low margin but it can be steady and profitable if you run a tight ship.

If not, that’s fine, too! Pass the support work onto someone who you trust to do a good job and stay focused on delivering on higher value strategic/advisory work.

Whichever you prefer can be profitable, but I wouldn’t try to do both.

The low end support work will devalue the high end strategic engagement.

To use a metaphor...

Clients don’t want to hire an architect who also cleans bathrooms.