It is easier than ever before to become a self-employed consultant. New technologies have created new markets, fueling an array of new gigeconomy work opportunities. Coupled with fatiguing office politics, the inability to learn new skills, and the lack of delivering meaningful work, more IT specialists are deciding to go it alone as independent consultants. And the rapid pace of innovation means that IT consultants are high in demand from some of the world’s biggest companies. If you’re considering making the move to become an independent IT consultant, here are some important considerations to keep in mind before you make the switch.
1. How will you sell yourself?
Building your network is something that needs to begin long before you take the plunge into independent consulting, and it’s something that needs to continue every day. It’s important to consider how crucial your network can be for securing your future contracts because networking is the key to a successful independent IT consulting business. The Adler Group conducted a survey in 2016 which showed that up to 85% of jobs are filled via networking. Networking well helps you to build connections within the industry which will ultimately lead to job opportunities.
Networking also means making sure you’re talking to the right people about the right things when you’re on the job. A knowledgeable IT consultant can play an influential role in the overall success of any business, particularly if the executives and senior business leaders come to understand how they can rely upon and benefit from your technical skills. One of the vital roles that you play is to work with business leaders to identify process inefficiencies which you can ease through introducing new technologies. Being able to translate these inefficiencies into strategic planning and technology integration will help to mark you out as a highly effective IT consultant. While businesses will often turn to an IT consultant in order to find ways to remain competitive, they are also often seeking guidance and support from someone with up-to-date knowledge who can advise them on the array of technology solutions out there.
2. How will you incorporate?
Many IT professionals make the move into independent consultancy because they’re good at what they do, and what they do is IT — not business law. That’s why setting up a business entity can be daunting for a lot of new consultants. But this is an essential step for a new consultant. By setting up a sole proprietorship, or a limited liability company you’ll be able to deduct legitimate business operating expenses in order to minimize your tax payments. But how do you take the step?
For most consultants, the first step is to set up as a sole proprietor. This means that there is no separate legal entity. The Small Business Administration offers a wealth of information on how to go about taking these steps. The most important element of setting up your business is making sure that you keep your business and personal finances separate from day one. For specific help on the tax implications, make sure you engage the services of a quality, reliable CPA.
3. How will you stay ahead of the curve?
Business is changing rapidly. The emerging technologies which are supporting new business models include cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning among others. Each new technology has the power to revolutionize business processes and create new models for doing business. When you’re moving into working as an independent IT consultant you first need to figure out where your own expertise lies and be prepared to stay up to date with all of the emerging trends. In order to serve your clients you need to be aware of where technology is currently, and where it is moving. For example, according to a survey carried out by LogicMonitor, 83% of business workloads will be stored in the cloud by 2020. Huge changes such as these can be disruptive for businesses, and one of the main tasks for an independent IT consultant is to help prepare clients for these changes and assist them in managing the transitions they have to deal with. If you’re working with business leaders to guide them through digital transformation you need to ensure that you’re leading by example by embracing new technology.
In conclusion, becoming an independent IT consultant requires multiple skills. You will first need to commit yourself to ongoing learning, and ensuring that you stay ahead of the curve. As a reliable strategic business advisor it’s essential that you are able to keep up with the rapidly evolving pace of technology. When you’re knowledgeable, and you can demonstrate that knowledge to the right people inside an organization, you will see your efforts pay off in a host of personal and business successes.
About the Author
Darren Hoch is a managing partner at the Stone Door Group, a Cloud and DevOps consulting company founded by independent consultants for independent consultants. Stone Door Group takes all the guesswork out of becoming an independent contractor by providing opportunities to certify on new technologies and offering a pipeline of meaningful IT consulting jobs. To learn more, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.