Consulting remotely versus consulting in person (created 2010-02-08).

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Someone was asking whether there is a trend in consulting to demand a local presence rather than allowing a consultant to work remotely. I was unable to comment on work trends, as I have only been an independent consultant for 14 months. I did point out, however, some of the issues associated with remote consulting.

Consulting remotely is very difficult. There is a strong tendency for misunderstandings to develop. These can be fixed, but it takes time.

In particular, email has a well documented history of leading to polarization. There are subtle ways that people soften their messages with visual cues and speaking tones. Email lacks these subtleties, so the tendency is to interpret most messages as black or white rather than shades of gray.

When misunderstandings develop in a remote consulting job, I often try a phone call. It's not as good as a face to face meeting, but it will often help. That being said, I much prefer remote consulting to travel, but that is for personal reasons.