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From Serf to Surfer: Becoming a Network Consultant Paperback – April 15, 2000

4.9 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Establishing a network consultancy frequently has more to do with happenstance than with any sort of coherent business plan. People typically develop competencies, do favors here and small jobs there, and then break with the day job when they realize that the independent work is a job unto itself. Knowing this, Matthew Strebe and his contributors on From Serf to Surfer have refrained from presenting any sort of recipe for success as a consultant. Instead, Strebe has mixed tales of his personal consulting career with universal truths about freelancing. The result is a fantastic book that is both entertaining and informative, and which belongs in the backpack of every technical consultant. From Serf to Surfer absolutely nails the proper mix of hard technicalities and soft business skills as they apply to freelance computer and network consultants.

The personal anecdotes are by far the best, since Strebe writes with a hilariously dry style, revealing the silliness that underlies every consultant's business worries. "A combination of sunlight and anxiety woke me up," Strebe writes in an account of a typical consulting day. But there's a lot more to this book than the author's excellent insights into life, taxes, and the customer's psyche. You'll find explicit advice on maximizing tax deductions on business vehicles (buy a dedicated business vehicle), keeping your cool in the face of idiotic clients ("call your mom and resolve all your outstanding childhood issues"), and getting set up with the equipment you'll need (there's a list, complete with makes and models). Read this one, particularly if you're already a successful consultant and think you know it all. --David Wall

Topics covered: Freelance consultancy in the computer networks field. In addition to loads of hilarious and salient stories from the primary author's career, this book contains a great deal of information on such business technicalities as project management, marketing, contract negotiation, client relations, accounting, taxes, and so on. The tax and legal stuff is U.S.-focused, but consultants everywhere will appreciate what Strebe has to say.

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Product Details

  • Series: Networking
  • Paperback: 307 pages
  • Publisher: Sybex Inc; 1st edition (April 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0782126618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0782126617
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 7.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,278,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 19, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is very specific to consulting in the computer networking arena. I am in this field and this book is right on the money. It addresses 90% of the questions I had as an aspiring independent contractor.
After having moonlighted a little as a network consultant, I've always wondered how best to bid projects, set rates, and other questions of this nature. Strebe openly presents to the reader what to many would be considered "trade secrets." Excellent material and very relevant. Great samples and examples.
Some of the subjects like personal grooming seem a little obvious, but the irreverent style and humorous anecdotes prevent one from feeling "preached to." (Also, I can't fault Strebe for including these subjects, as apparently such things are not obvious to everybody!)
My one nit-picky criticism would be that the cover art portrays an amateurish look, which doesn't do the book justice. Nonetheless, the five stars are well deserved.
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I was heading out on my own in 2001 and my younger brother (also a network engineer) had a copy of this book and gave it to me. He's a fan of Strebe's writing style from other books, and although the unfortunate cover art almost turned him (and I until he explained) away, he bought it.
The book is really pretty useful. For retainers, I use a version of his retainer agreement. However, there are some things that my experience has found are different than his experience.
For example, mailing DOES work. I bet he sent a letter. You don't send just a letter. You send a letter and YOUR BUSINESS CARD. Because out of 1000 businesses, almost nobody might need you right now, but if your card ends up in 20 rolodexes or 50 rolodexes from that mailing, over the course of a year you might get ten calls from that mailing. Calls are worth the $37.00, if that's the formula. Trust me. .... I don't do it every month or even every other month but it does work, and him dismissing it out of hand because he tried it once and didn't get any calls is a little irresponsible.
Another thing is, this book is I'm sure quite true for Matthew Strebe's experience, but if you're doing this in the post-Tech-bubble world, you're going to have to expect that it's going to be harder to find the relationships and big jobs than it was during the years Strebe was gaining his experience as an independent. I'm doing okay, my business is growing SLOWLY but steadily (which is what every entrepeneur I've met and talked to since I started doing this has told me is completely normal) and if you have solid skills like Strebe and I do, you'll prevail eventually and it is worth it.
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This book provides for all MIS guys like myself a better understanding of the life of a consultant. The author gives a solid view of "a day in the life of a consultant." This insight was invaluable to me in helping me make a decision to become a consultant and easing my fears about being able to break the 9-5 job chain.

I assume that this is what many people are looking for, which is, to overcome fears and feelings of insecurity that are natural when striking out on your own.

Although maintaining a steady job is quite reassuring, your own success is continually being redefined and no longer lies with how effective you are at climbing the corporate ladder but instead with your own "personal success". Breaking your fears of uncertainty is probably the toughest thing about becoming a consultant.
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If your not currently an independent Network Consultant and you have ever dreamed of breaking those 9-5 chains, this book is for you. If you have already broken those chains and are looking for additional good advice, this too is a great book for you! Matthew Strebe obviously speaks from experience. His open honesty is not only on the money, he made me laugh out loud as it seems we have shared many of the same joy's and agony of going it alone. I highly suggest this book to anyone in the field as it offers excellent and accurate advice in the crazy field we are in. This is a must read. GREAT JOB Mr Strebe!
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I am halfway through this book and laughed out loud in the company of my friends who asked what I found so funny. I tried to explain, but it was definitely an insiders joke. The scenarios are a great insight to what it must be like as a consultant and the book gives a crystal clear path on how to set yourself up. I wish that I had read this book earlier and I may not have made some of the mistakes which he warns about, though he has saved me from making some that I had plannned eg newspaper adverts A great and entertaining book.
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I would encourage any aspiring network consultants who are considering going out into the buisiness world all by their lonesome to pick up this book. The book is a very easy read with many insighfull tips all throughout. What's better is I found myself laughing outloud at some of Mr. Strebes experiences and much of the witty off-beat humor with which this book was written.
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Since the author is [was] involved at the time in network consulting, he writes about doing network consulting the right way; learn from his experience and mistakes. The technology discussed is outdated [10mbit hubs and frame relay leased lines] but the business advice is rock solid. I recd my copy today and have already read past the first 100 pages; easy to read and he gets the point across without being pedantic.

This book not only guides in the right direction but helps to avoid alot of the pitfalls for anyone starying out in this industry!
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