Tips for Becoming an Independent IT Consultant

Tips for Becoming an Independent IT ConsultantThis is a sponsored post written on behalf of GoToAssist. All opinions are 100% my own.

I spent a brief time as an IT consultant for a company that had plenty of audio engineers, but no one with any website or internal IT management experience. These folks were technical-minded and natural problem solvers, but finding the time to sit down and troubleshoot technical issues not related to audio was an investment that was much better spent with an outside consultant.

A great deal of this time was spent on Google researching solutions. A lot of the ideas I introduced to the table came from a blend of my experiences and the results of trial and error testing at home.

During this time, I quickly learned just how rewarding being a consultant could be. You get paid more than a regular employee, deal with new and interesting challenges on a regular basis, and your hours are pretty much your own to make. It’s an excellent option for anyone with a certain set of skills and experiences that might be beneficial to a company. Small businesses often rely heavily on consultants and contractors as the costs involved with hiring employees can sometimes be overwhelming.

So how do you get started as an IT consultant? There are the obvious legal and tax considerations to take into account, but what about the tools that can help you get things done?

Here are a few of the tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Create a Dedicated Testing Environment

Often, the bigger problems require some thought and effort outside of the workplace to get right. As an independent consultant, you’ll be responsible for providing your own equipment with minimal inconvenience to the customer. The only tools you get to take home are the ones you brought with you, so having a good home testing environment gives you a leg up on those larger jobs.

Imagine taking on the task of setting up remote access for a client. You know how to do it with your own programs, but what if your client is determined to use something you haven’t tried before? It can be fairly embarrassing to “figure it out as you go along” with the client sitting right there, looking over your shoulder. Give it a test run in your own office first. At the very least, you can show up to the meeting with documentation to help make the process easier for the client. (You can usually bill for that, too.)

Remote Access and Monitoring

Small businesses regularly turn to outside IT consultants when they don’t have the ability to host an IT department of their own. It costs a lot of money to pay salaries to a full-time IT staff, and paying a consultant to be available on an as-needed basis is a huge cost saver. By adding remote access and monitoring software to your toolkit, you’ll be able to make yourself available for your client whenever they need you, regardless of where you are in the world.

GoToAssist is one such option. You can maintain monitoring for servers and workstations from multiple clients, set up unattended support so you can fix problems and perform upgrades while the client is away, and even provide live remote desktop support from an iPad or iPhone. It’s one of the most (if not the most) flexible remote assistance solutions on the market today.

You can try GoToAssist free for 30 days by signing up here.

Be Honest

Being a consultant can be an extremely rewarding business decision. Unfortunately, not everyone involved with hiring a contractor is thrilled about the idea of bringing someone in from the outside and giving them access to company assets. It’s a natural response, and there are enough bad consultants out there to ruin the business for everyone else.

Set yourself apart by being blatantly honest with your clients. They aren’t paying you to beat around the bush or give them false hope. Tell them when a job looks too big for you to take on. Speak up if a bad idea is sent your way and provide workable alternatives. Being honest also means being realistic with your time and budget estimates. I’d be much more inclined to hire a contractor who costs a little more if they have a reputation for being able to consistently complete jobs under budget, and within the allotted time.

Even a busy consultant can stay in a company’s good graces after turning down a job if they come across as being the most competent and honest in the area.

With these tips, you should be a little closer to achieving your dreams of breaking free from the corporate machine and setting out to become an independent IT consultant.

2 comments On Tips for Becoming an Independent IT Consultant

  • You need some Business Skills. You are after all running a business. I found most of my IT skills by experience but one of my majors in formal education was Business Management. I have see lots of good IT skilled people fail because of a lack of understanding the fundimentals of running a business

    • That is a great point Thane. Being successful and running a proper business means taking the time to get incorporated, making sure you have your accounting in order and a good system for tracking invoices. It also takes a strong understanding that the company needs money to function, you can’t just draw every time the business makes out of it.
      Working from home takes a ton of discipline as well. It’s dangerous to have free access to the fridge, coffee pot, video games and 200+ Digital HD Channels.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson