Are you the nuts-and-bolts craftsman or the conceptual strategist? And can you be successful at both? Usability expert Jared Spool wrote two provocative articles about it titled The Hands vs The Brains and Should you be Hands or Brains?
Contracting versus Consulting
If you’ve read those articles then Jared’s clarification of the hands versus brains metaphor is also essential. Good… now we’re all on the same page, so to speak.
Basically the metaphor runs like this… contractors (the hands) are the guys / girls who get brought in to build stuff – whereas consultants (the brains) are brought into work on strategy. Contractors work with their hands and consultants work with their brains, effectively explaining why contractors generally get paid less than consultants (if you read the final article). Of course, you need to be a master at hands to be good at being the brains. Jared argues the disparity between contractors and consultants is such that you will find it difficult to succeed at both hands and brains simultaneously.
Why you Shouldn’t be Hands and Brains
The first problem is that doing both means you over-or-under charge for one-or-the-other. The second is encapsulated in the following quote:
Doing one basically traps you for that client—once they see you as Hands, you’ll always be Hands to them. Same for Brains. It’s important to make your choice carefully.Jared Spool
This is my Hands versus Brains Situation
I have some experience and knowledge in the field of providing web solutions for clients in the low end of the market. I’ve been a hands guy – freelancer, contractor and in-house web developer. However, my qualifications sheet and Curriculum Vitae have significantly changed my value proposition for clients – I have industry qualifications in web design and web development, a Bachelor of Computing and I am about to graduate with very very strong marks from a Master of Business Administration with a further six month specialisation in Journalism and Media Studies.
I also believe in and practice continuous learning and therefore will continue to up-skill well into the future (on my own dime). For example, I hope to embark part-time next year on a Master of Fine Art and Design postgraduate qualification, rather than pursuing a PhD I’m not really interested in working on at this stage. And if I did another three units part-time I would earn a Master of Marketing (although I may never take that option… but then I just might take it on).So you see my point – am I hands (which I really haven’t been for around two years now)… or am I now overqualified for hands and should become the brains?
I am Probably now Brains Material
Just at a pinch I’d say that hiring me as hands would be a waste of your time and my time… hiring me as brains will get you better bang for your buck. Maybe I should be looking at setting up a consultancy next year, rather than a web design company. But I take Jared’s point… I can’t do or be both services. And to complicate matters, all those clients and employers who have hired me for hands are never going to see me as anything but the hands they previously employed.
I’m left wondering how everyone else thinks about this one – are you happy being hands? Clap if you’re happy OK, I’ll hear you.