While companies complain about lack of analytic talent, professionals complain about lack of jobs. Everyone wants to work for Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Intel, Apple, Twitter or some hot start-up. It creates fierce competition getting a job interview, let alone a job. But companies that do not belong to this circle see very few candidates applying for their data scientist open positions; in addition, they are only hiring what I call technical developers (defined by a narrow set of technical skills, usually R, Python, NoSQL, Hadoop, Map-Reduce, software engineering). They are not interested in real data scientists, so many data scientists that would apply would (erroneously) not be perceived as bringing value, and not interviewed.
The problem with consulting is of a different nature. Companies are looking for the cheapest consultant having the minimum set of qualifications to perform the task (the candidate will be asked to provide details about previous projects). Because the work is performed from home, consultants compete with people all over the world to land a gig. Analytic professionals in India, found on websites such as Elance, charge $30/hour. On Statistics.com, you can hire consultants in India for $59/hour.
When I wrote my article about my salary history, a few people mentioned that my consulting rates (from $45 to $100/hour) were absurdly low given my expertize. But compared with rates in India or Romania, it is actually not low. Those charging $150 to $250 per hour are having a difficult time finding new clients. And if all your great skills and expertise are not considered useful to a client, he won't pay for it, especially if this expertise is not used to generate greater revenue. Indeed, many PhD statisticians work as part-time adjunct professors with salaries even far lower, or write other PhD students theses for a fee - typically for $5,000 - as these are the only clients that they can get. So, in some sense, there is more talent than the job market can absorb, especially for PhD's.
So what are the solutions, for a consultant?
Here's a list of ideas:
Some arguments to convince a client to work with a more expensive, US-based consultant
Finally, if you really have great expertize spanning across multiple domains, the easiest solution might be to just stop consulting and make a living as a business or growth hacker:
Instead of helping businesses protect themselves against hackers, you become a hacker, knowing that you can outsmart all the consultants and experts working for these companies. I'm talking about legal business and growth hacking. You can create your company, for instance a website selling books listed on Amazon; you don't actually sell the books, you get a commission each time a website visitor goes to Amazon to purchase a book listed on your website. Traffic hacking (one of the hacking systems among many others used to optimize your business) could consist in generating a huge volume of high quality web traffic, through creation of hundreds of (fake) interesting profiles that automatically post interesting stuff via a well diversified set of mailing lists and social networks, without being detected (each profile posting no more than 3 links or pieces of content per day; a different IP address is used for each profile). Your business acumen, network security, traffic scoring, and fraud detection expertize allow you to defeat the algorithms designed to block you. Instead, these algorithms generate false positives because they rely heavily on spam reported by users; you can take advantage of this to get your competitors blocked. Note that this business model does not require any sales or talking to people and is typically run from home. Other advantages include higher revenue, no meetings, no boss, and better job security. If you are good at financial engineering to reduce taxes and other money issues (I call it financial hacking), you will even make more money.