We’ve all had that fantasy: quitting our repetitive desk job, leaving whatever stuffy office we’re holed up in from AM to PM all week for the last time and going freelance. The good news: this is actually a feasible path to consider nowadays. The freelance industry is experiencing steady growth and we’re happier for it: according to the 2012 Freelance Industry Report, 90 percent of respondents reported feeling happier after going solo.
So if you’ve ever been curious about what it takes to make your own career in IT, here are a few quick tips to keep in mind when planning your future.
Create a Brand and Learn how to Market Yourself
Arguably the biggest disadvantage to freelancing is the loss of a steady income. But this job insecurity comes with the advantage that you can profit from your specific skillset, and select work that you’re passionate about. As a freelancer or consultant, you need to learn to market your abilities and so, as you grow and expand your clientele, you will have a recognisable personal brand. This can even become the foundation for your own IT consultancy business in the future
The Networking never Stops
In addition to building your brand, you need to network like crazy, especially when first starting out. Most of your business will come from friends, friends of friends and word-of-mouth recommendations, so don’t be afraid to approach an old boss and seek out new business opportunities. If you’ve left things on good terms, someone who is still company-side can be a valuable ally.
One of the most important aspects of working for yourself is making sure you are properly insured, and professional indemnity insurance protects you against loss of documents or data. Even if you haven’t made a mistake or if you’ve provided what you believe to be the best advice/support you could offer, a client could still end up dissatisfied and challenge your services. Working for yourself is a great path, but a risky one, and you need to make sure you’re covered – research more about professional indemnity insurance here.
When you are working as a freelancer or consultant, it’s incredibly important to make sure you and the client are on the same page for any given project. Craft a detailed plan of the project and payment with the client before you start anything.
One-stop IT shop
‘Technology consultants increasingly serve as the de facto IT staff for small and midsize organizations…When a consultant shows up to eliminate a virus infection or install a software application, end users starved for support almost always pelt the technician with additional service requests,’ writes Eric Eckel, managing partner of IT consultancy company Louisville Geek, in an article for TechRepublic. So even though you may have a particular skillset or strength within the field, be prepared to complete tasks across a variety of areas.
If you are serious about becoming a freelance IT consultant, it’s going to take a lot more than reading this article. You’re going to have a strategy, build up your arsenal of skills and be prepared for some bumps in the road. But the more companies outsource their IT work, the more projects that could float your way. If you’re prepared to live and breathe tech, then perhaps it’s time to hand in your notice and start printing business cards.