What Makes a Successful IT Consultant

So you’ve decided to go out on your own as an IT consultant? Perhaps you want to be your own boss, work when you want, and of course there’s the money. You’ve got the skills and experience to do the job. Is that all you need? Not quite!

The scary thing is now you have to go out and find some clients. You may belong to an agency that supplies consultants, but you’ve still got to persuade the client that you’re the best man or woman for the job.

A business relationship between a consultant and a client is like any other relationship – it needs to be based on trust. To achieve this you need to build rapport with the client: smile, be friendly and professional, and show him or her that you can achieve their business goals in the timeframe required.

Never take on work you don’t have the skills for, and don’t take on too much work at one time. If you say you are equal to the job, you must be able to complete the project in the required time and with the highest quality. If you find you can’t do this, once you’ve started a project, you may need to subcontract someone to help you. Clients want results, not excuses.

Also make sure the project specification is absolutely clear and unambiguous. If you have any doubts, ALWAYS ASK. Both you and the client should sign it.

If the client changes the scope of the project, you are entitled to change the deadline and charge more for your services.

An IT consultant needs to be a good communicator. You should have excellent communications channels with the client to identify any unforeseen problems as soon as possible, to avoid delays in project completion. Perhaps there’s a hardware or software problem that isn’t your fault – you need to alert the client.

To be successful as a consultant you need regular cash flow. To achieve this you need to have a number of projects at different stages. Some clients take longer to pay you than others. If they take too long to pay you, seek legal advice.

You also need to understand any contract that you’re going to sign, as it is legally binding. Read it carefully. If you don’t fully understand it, seek legal advice before signing.

Don’t overcharge or undercharge clients. Undercharging is bad for you and the industry. Find out what other consultants are charging by checking their websites.

Get a good accountant. Ask your friends and associates if they can recommend anyone. An accountant can assist you with good recordkeeping, making sure you claim on your tax return everything you’re legally entitled to claim for, and GST. Remember, if you earn more than $50,000 dollars per year, you MUST charge GST.

You must also have an ABN to operate as a business. To apply for an ABN go to [http://www.abr.gov.au/ABR_BC/].

If you don’t have a website, build one. You’re an IT professional! Look at adapting your current site to your business.

Consultants need to be proactive. Software is changing all the time and you need to keep up to speed with it. Do relevant courses; attend conferences. You can claim theses costs on your tax return. A proactive consultant is a competitive consultant!

Greg Fitzgerald