AQIII - Quebec Association of IT Freelancers

Member's Corner

What to do when an opportunity is not a good fit

What to do when an opportunity is not a good fit

Oct. 14, 2016

There will be other opportunities.

An opportunity is either a perfect fit or a shitty opportunity. There is no grey area when it comes to quality.  When you are faced with a bad opportunity, you leave it where you found it.

You don't dig and brew crap to make it viable.  

Never try to turn a crappy opportunity into a mediocre one. Your time is much more valuable. And so is your brand image. 

Be specific about what you are good at. 

Where is the intersection between your passions, goals and profits for your company? Identify it and go there immediately. 

Do only the things you are good at.

Be clear about who you need to sell to.

If you have not taken the time to identify an ideal target and opportunity, you are wasting your time chasing opportunities that should never be pursued. 

Define the ideal target and opportunity. Approach them only. 

Identify partners who are top of the line.  

Who are the people who offer complementary services to yours and who are among the cream of the crop? 

Identify what their opportunities look like. 

Only refer to the top of the top. 

Being nice is for losers. If you want to be nice, refer an opportunity to a top dog. That's being nice. 

When you refer an opportunity to a "moron", his mediocrity rubs off on you.  

-Never send a crappy opportunity to a top guy. 

-Never refer anything to a "moron".

Identify the leaders in your industry for their expertise and refer only the best opportunities to them.

If you can't identify a top performer, just say, "I'm sorry. I can't help you." 

And leave it at that.

From one member to another: views, opinions, tips and tricks

Practices with intermediary firms

Practices with intermediary firms

Sept. 23, 2016

*Texte republié*

A member of the AQIII recently contacted me to tell me about a situation she had experienced. Here is the gist of what she told me:

« I gave firm X permission to send my C.V. to a client I know. After some time, I asked about the situation. It took three days for the representative of firm X to finally give me an evasive answer that my application had not been accepted. As I know the client, I asked someone I know to check who had been submitted. To my surprise, my name was not submitted by Firm X. What should I do?»

His experience reminds me of similar ones that I have experienced myself and that other consultants have told me about. 
The practice is as follows: a firm finds that there is a consulting mandate to be filled. It has a candidate to present. How do you ensure that you increase your chances? It's very simple, they call as many consultants as possible who could carry out the mandate. They are asked if they can submit their CV for the assignment. Once the consultant has accepted, they are told not to send in their resume from other firms because, "You see, if two firms put in the same resume, we'll both be eliminated. (Which is true as far as I know.) So the consultant is reserved. He cannot be submitted by another firm and will never be submitted by the firm that booked him as they already have another candidate. Sometimes the firm will also ask to sign an exclusivity agreement for the entire client or for the position only, for a period of one to three months. "You understand, if I make the effort to introduce you, I wouldn't be right for you to go through another firm later on" (well, come on!)

This is a deplorable practice on the part of these firms, which shows a great lack of respect for us freelance consultants. I like the firms, I consider that by doing business with them, I outsource my representation function. Once I have a contract, I outsource my billing function. The difference between my paid rate and the invoiced rate is the price of these two outsourcings. However, I have decided not to do business with firms that have overbooked me. I am also very wary of firms that my fellow consultants have indicated to me are overbooking or block booking.
It is possible that a firm decides not to present my application because they have found someone else, that is the law of the market. However, if they tell me early enough so that I can try my luck with another firm, that would also be the law of the market.

I think the relationship between the firm and the consultant has to be one of trust. If the firm agrees to put me forward and then doesn't, that's a very sure way to break that trust. I come back to my colleague's question: "What to do? Individually, not much. It's rare to find out why you're not selected. It's even rarer to have evidence that the firm is practising block booking. In talking to other colleagues, it was mentioned to make a "black list". The suggestion was explored from a legal point of view by the AQIII last year. In short, any entity doing this would be liable to prosecution. Could the AQIII make a template clause to be grafted onto the exclusivity agreement to require the firm to prove that it is submitting the resume? Perhaps, but that would create other problems.

My way of doing something was to write this article. Do you have any suggestions?

NOTE : If you want to better understand the modalities and steps leading to win-win negotiations with intermediary firms, the AQIII invites you to consult the Guide to Best Practices with Intermediary Firms that it developed in 2015.

Yves B. Desfossés, MSc, ITIL v3 Expert
Desfossés consultation
Member of the steering committee of the AQIII in Quebec

The four levels of engagement: what Silicon Valley taught me about collaboration and managing my time

The four levels of engagement: what Silicon Valley taught me about collaboration and managing my time

Aug. 26, 2016

Not enough time?

Business opportunities or projects come your way, each one as incredible as the next, but you lack the time to do them all.  

This is a challenge that all entrepreneurs and leaders face as their expertise, network and reputation grow.

In an environment where opportunities abound, it is crucial to learn how to invest your time, resources and capital to create maximum impact.

At Silicon Valley, Reid Hoffman has developed a guide that he uses to better manage his time and remain a valuable contributor. 

Specifically, Hoffman thinks in terms of level of commitment before embarking on a company or project. 

Tableau - Hoffman

These levels are not binding: you can move from one level to another in the future. To be a strategic ally in your network, it is important to position yourself as a committed and proactive champion. Even so, you need to validate what level of investment you are willing to offer and be clear to the people involved. 

Find out more about this:  

The four tiers of engagement: What Silicon Valley taught me about collaboration and time management
Par Reid Hoffman

Catherine Roy

Torture via PowerPoint

Torture via PowerPoint

July 27, 2016

I recently had to endure PowerPoint torture once again.  You know, when a presenter reads you a series of slides containing pages of Word documents!

Of course, the presenter in question has difficulty reading his own slides because the writing is so small. Plus, you are able to read his slides faster than he can. In short, we've all had bad presenters, but when it's amplified by a PowerPoint, that's when I give up.

Scenario: You are asked to present the results of your work to an audience of your client's employees. You have to present a certain amount of information, preferably without losing the attention of your audience.


  • Wouldn't it be good if they remembered what you said?
  • Would it help if the audience were convinced that what you are saying is right?
  • Do you think that if you convince them to go in the direction you are proposing you are reaffirming your value to the customer?

If you have answered yes to some of these questions, but are not sure you can do it, here are some tips to help you.


Cognitive load is the amount of work the brain is given to interpret what is presented to it[1]. When a presenter speaks and at the same time presents a slide with a lot of text, there is a distraction of attention. Furthermore, if the text is difficult to read or the image contains a lot of information, the brain is overloaded and, as they say, "loses bits and pieces".

Richard E. Mayer in his 2005 book elaborates on the notion of cognitive load. "He argues that memory is limited in its ability to process new information, but can easily process information already acquired. It is therefore useful to link what you are conveying to a format that is compatible with the audience's experience." For example, if you are talking to video game enthusiasts, you can use the analogy of completing a level to reach the 'big boss'. For project managers, you can use the project plan as an analogy. The aim is to make it easier to understand and classify by organising it in a pattern familiar to the audience.

The purpose of a presentation is to give the information in a more digestible way to the audience. (If your text and animations are more relevant than you are, shut up and click on next until the end. At least you won't be hurting the audience with your babble). My working assumption is that you are more interesting and articulate than your slides. Therefore, the audience's attention must be focused on you. By distracting your audience from your speech with your slides, you sabotage yourself. One mistake I have seen repeatedly is that the presenter uses the content of the slides as a reminder. This (wrong) practice causes the presenter to read his slides. At this point, he breaks contact with his audience himself and once contact is broken, it is difficult to re-establish. There are a few ways to avoid this mistake. You can use the presenter mode in PowerPoint. You can also have cards on hand. Of course, it is best to know the exact sequence of events and the text almost by heart.

When I make a presentation, I practice it at least 2-3 times to "get the text in my mouth" and to find the rhythm of the presentation. This break-in period helps to identify most of the blockages in the flow of your presentation.


Finally, I recommend reading Cliff Atkinson's book to improve the structure of your presentations. For the visual aspect, the book "Zen Presentation" is a continuation of "Beyond Bullet points". Les clubs Toastmasters are useful for improving your public speaking.

Also, for those who prefer online references, here is a companion article on cognitive load and two compilations of things to consider:

TED is like the world cup of presentations. After reading the stuff on the previous two sites, check out some TED talks and see how the recommendations are applied.

There is an extension of TED here in Quebec City and another in Montreal. Here are the presentations by Quebecers last year.

By putting these tips into practice, you increase your chances of not subjecting your audience to torture.

Yves B. Desfossés

[1] Tiré du Livre « Beyond Bullet Point », Cliff Atkinson, ISBN-13: 978-0735627352

Starting up on your own: How to succeed as an independent consultant or freelance

Starting up on your own: How to succeed as an independent consultant or freelance

June 17, 2016

For those of you who are fluent in the language of Shakespeare, I have a reading suggestion for you. It is about Starting up on your own: How to succeed as an independent consultant or freelance de Mike Johnson.

As the title suggests, this book is aimed at the self-employed. Although an entrepreneur can get advice from it, the book is primarily aimed at self-employed people who want to work on their own. The author makes a distinction between the two roles: the entrepreneur dreams big and wants to build a business that will outlive him or her, while the self-employed person wants the opposite, to remain humble and serve his or her clients to the best of his or her expertise.

The book starts with a series of reflections on oneself to find out if one has what it takes to become self-employed. Then, the topics covered are quite diversified: marketing, business development, travel, location, cost-benefit analysis, etc. The explanations are very detailed and supported by the author. The explanations are very detailed and supported by concrete examples, from the design of your business card to the layout of your home office and the reconciliation with your family.

In conclusion, this book is the type of book that can be reread from time to time, in order to take stock, adjust and continue in the right direction.

Have a good read!

Simon Gaboury

          Author's website

          Publisher's website


What is a leader thinking about?

What is a leader thinking about?

May 20, 2016
  • Does my team feel proud of the work they do? Are they challenged in ways that match their abilities?
  • Do my team members know how much I appreciate them?
  • How can I express my gratitude?
  • Does the team work well together? Is there a sense of camaraderie?
  • How healthy is my team? Is anyone feeling burnt out?
  • Are there risks I can anticipate and mitigate?


  • Are we moving in the right direction? Are we doing the work today that will get us to where we want to be in 6, 12, 18 months?
  • * Am I training my replacement? Who would do my job if I am promoted, leave or quit?
  • Are others training their replacements and sharing knowledge? Who would do their job if they were on holiday or left?
  • Is my team exposed to new and innovative ways of thinking?
  • Are we meeting our commitments? Who needs to be informed of potential risks?
  • How do we train new employees? Are they able to be ready and comfortable quickly?
  • Do my team members have a voice where decisions are made? How can I ensure that our work is strategic and not reactive?
  • Is my team inspired? What vision have I shared? Does my team get up in the morning and solve challenges?
  • Have we embraced the company culture and are we proud of it? Do we see the impact on our customers' lives?
  • Does my team have the right skills to solve problems? How can I encourage them to develop further?
  • Is our team engaged in their community? Are we passive participants or change agents initiating the conversation?
  • How can I be an advocate for my team? Am I inspiring people both inside and outside the company to join us?

Condensed from a post by Laura Ward, Director of User Experience, Paypal.

Catherine Roy

The power of no, or knowing when to say no to a project

The power of no, or knowing when to say no to a project

April 22, 2016

For some time now, I have been coming across articles on the power of "No". "The difference between successful people and even more successful people is that the latter say no to almost everything. - Warren Buffet

If an opportunity is not a 'Hell Yeah!', then it's a no. Remember: you only have 1,440 minutes in a day. You can't give them away that easily.

Sometimes circumstances make it necessary to accept a project. Saying no is also very difficult. However, keeping in mind the added value of our collaboration in an adventure for our company and our long-term freelance expertise is paramount.


I came across an "inforgraphics" that describes perfectly those situations where a no is necessary.

And do you manage to say no?


Catherine Roy

The (non-functional) skills of the independent consultant

The (non-functional) skills of the independent consultant

March 24, 2016

Recently I was reading version 3 of BABOK1 and I found something in it that I wanted to share with you. In chapter 9, it talks about the underlying skills of the business analyst. I think these skills are essential for the independent consultant.  

I won't copy the book here, but I would like to express why these skills are important and how they help the independent consultant to be more productive for their clients. Of course, these skills do not exclude the fact that, in addition to being competent in one's field, one has to be a bit of a salesman, a bit of an accountant and a bit of a tax expert. However, mastering the skills presented here can help you to achieve your mandates and to have others.




The skills are as follows:

  • Analytical thinking and problem solving
  • Behavioural qualities
  • Business knowledge
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Knowledge of tools and technologies


Let's take these skills one by one.

Analytical thinking and problem solving
This skill is used to identify the root cause of the problems your client faces and to seek the most advantageous solution to the problem. Is it worth explaining the value to a client of having someone who is able to get to the bottom of things and produce a solution? The skills to be mastered are: creative thinking, decision making, learning, problem solving, holistic thinking, conceptual thinking and visual thinking.

These are the skills that enable the consultant to work on the "real deal". It allows us to ignore the noise and provide a new and beneficial solution for the client. Always ask yourself: Am I delivering more value than I cost?

Behavioural qualities
I could have spent the whole post on this one skill. Behavioural skills are part of that "soft skills" that parents have heard so much about in recent years. A big part of your ability to stay in business as an independent is behavioural qualities. For some clients, this is even more important than technical competence in your field. Behavioural skills include ethics; responsibility; reliability; organisation and time management; and adaptability.

It is by demonstrating his behavioural qualities that the consultant establishes the bond of trust that is essential to be effective with clients. This is also how renewals and referrals are made.

Knowledge of the business field
It is well known that to be understood, you have to speak in the language of the person you are talking to. Knowledge of the business field allows you to do just that. In thirty years of practice, I have never been as successful as I have been since I learned to "speak manager".  Business knowledge requires the consultant to have business acumen, knowledge of the industry, knowledge of the organisation where he or she works, knowledge of common solutions to common problems and knowledge of the methodologies to achieve them.  It is through knowledge of the business domain that the consultant is not only effective, but also efficient. Remember, the benefits of hiring you must exceed the costs!

Communication skills
It is not enough to speak, write or present. You also have to communicate. To communicate, you have to take into account what the other person knows and does not know, and convey it in an orderly and logical way. You also need to know the expectations of the person you are talking to (knowledge of the business field can help). Communication is not only verbal or written. You have to take into account the non-verbal (observed and transmitted) and know how to listen.  Communication skills are the foundation of the information you receive and are essential to get your client to agree to your proposals. 

Interpersonal skills
The next step in communication skills is interpersonal skills. These are skills such as leadership, influence, facilitation, teamwork, negotiation, conflict resolution and training. Each theme is the subject of several books, conferences and the like. The better your personal skills, the more successful you will be.

Knowledge of tools and technologies
Well, I assume that for this part you are covered; especially in your field. However, I want to reiterate that knowledge of communication tools is necessary for all aspects of the consultant's non-functional skills. Don't be one of those people who writes a letter in Excel or makes a form in PowerPoint. Speaking of Powerpoint, one of the worst torments you can inflict on an audience is reading a "slidocument". You know, those presentations where the presenter has his back to the room and reads out slides written in 12 point form...

I hope I've given you some of the insights you need to be successful as an independent consultant. You have to learn constantly. When do you have a book on your field? How up-to-date is your knowledge? 

1- Business Analyst Body of Knowledge

Yves B. Desfossés

Will Phil come out of his den this year?

Will Phil come out of his den this year?

Feb. 26, 2016

The recent news is enough to make you smile between the predictions of Phil the Pennsylvania groundhog and Fred from the Gaspé.  The future will soon tell us if the Quebec groundhog has a better "nose" than its counterpart on the other side of the border.

As a self-employed worker, I sometimes have the impression that our behaviour is similar to that of the groundhog.  During a difficult season, we stay in our den and wait for the warm weather to come back to warm us up.

In times of fiscal restraint, especially in my region (National Capital), the last two years have not been the easiest.  When there is a change of government, new political teams often take a period of reflection and analysis before announcing new priorities and releasing budgets for new projects.  The problem is that we had two elections between autumn 2012 and spring 2014 and the recent cabinet reshuffle leaves little hope for the April 2016 budget.  Given that the Quebec City region's economy relies primarily on Desjardins/Insurance & Government it stands to reason that there are few options at this time.

The good news is that if you're reading this today it means you haven't thrown in the towel yet.  That said, you now need to implement an action plan to get back on track.  Here's a 7-point action plan for you to consider.


  • Get out of your den and stay active on the networking side.  There's nothing worse than sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring.  Talking to a contractor or colleague can be enough to get you on a new track.
  • Continue to enjoy the activities of AQIII.  Even if you have attended a "How to find a contract" event in the past, NEVER lose sight of the fact that these workshops are constantly evolving and providing new solutions to current situations (the similar workshop you attended 2 years ago has probably been revised).
  • Take advantage of the waiting period to do new training and certifications.  Your certifications and knowledge will always remain a valuable asset to set you apart from your competitors.
  • Look through the other side of the lens.  Instead of waiting for clients to offer you work, look at and contact firms or companies that win public tenders.  For example, the SME that wins a large contract to deploy software may not have a qualified project manager in the public sector.
  • Take the time to review the AQIII toolkit.  This toolkit is full of relevant material.
  • Open your horizons and do some contracting in another region.  This is not for everyone, but the need for freelancers may be greater in another region.  It may require renting a place to stay for several weeks, but it can open up new horizons and a new market.
  • Return to the permanent market temporarily.  The AQIII will not punish you for having to support yourself.  During this difficult period, some of us have taken a part-time job with days devoted to small contracts.  Staying active keeps you on the sidelines.


In the film Groundhog Day, Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) wasn't always stuck repeating the same mistakes day after day.  When he decided to get his act together, he was able to improve and pull off his "perfect day" with flying colours.  Now it's your turn!

Sarto Beaumont

The importance of developing a network of "complementary" partners

The importance of developing a network of "complementary" partners

Dec. 18, 2015

Many of you rely on intermediaries to get more stable contracts. However, you may be looking for smaller contracts to occupy some of your time that is not necessarily monetised at the moment. How do you find these contracts? Develop a network of "complementary" partners! 

These partners can be individuals or companies. In both cases, they must have needs in your field of expertise that they are not necessarily able to fill themselves, either because of a lack of expertise or a lack of resources.

In the case of individuals, try to target self-employed people in related fields where you know additional expertise may be required. For example, if you are a web programmer, try to approach graphic designers to collaborate with them on projects they get. You can then develop a trusting relationship with them and become the person to contact when they have needs to be filled.

In the case of a company, it's slightly different. You'd be surprised how many small technology companies have one-off needs that can't be met by their internal resources. You could then approach them to take on the extra work if needed.

Happy canvassing!


Jean-François Cloutier

We too often stay in our old slippers

We too often stay in our old slippers

Nov. 20, 2015

Some networks are familiar: contract givers, large companies, former colleagues or intermediaries. On the other hand, new players are changing the game by being closely involved in new technologies: start-ups, meetups, hackathons, etc. Moreover, hackathons allow us to network, to collaborate with new people, to work on a project outside our usual projects.

Why not explore these new networks, which are the complete opposite of traditional ones?


What development activity have you undertaken this week to break down doors? A follow-up call? A dinner? Prospecting for a new direct customer? Giving your business partner a boost? Or did you do the minimum in return for emails and phone messages? 
Relying on a strong network means having ambassadors for your company with potential clients and an incredible safety net to bounce back from.
How about we challenge ourselves to 3 business development calls this week? 

Catherine Roy