If you’ve been working in the tech industry for a length of time, you may be looking for a change that will keep you involved in the industry. One option that many find appealing is to start working as a tech consultant. This option gives you the freedom of being your own boss, while also letting you stay involved in the tech field, where you can continue to learn and grow. However, before you do start a consulting business, it’s important to understand a few basic concepts that will help you succeed as a consultant.
A Good Professional Isn’t Always a Good Consultant
In fact, the things that make you good in your traditional tech job may keep you from excelling as a consultant. IT professionals are tinkerers by their nature and they love nothing better than to be left alone with a project until they figure out the best way to fix or improve upon the item. Conversely, working as a consultant means working for a variety of clients on a broad range of problems. If you don’t think you’ll be good at this kind of multitasking, consulting may not be a good fit for you.
Keep in mind, a successful consultant only succeeds when their customers succeed. Customer success is the only way that you can rank your own personal success.
Protect Your Assets
When you start a consulting business, your greatest asset is your own expertise, but you may also provide hardware and software for which your clients will be billed. These are all valuable commodities, but that doesn’t mean your clients will respect your trade. Unless you establish a policy of requiring upfront payments, you may find that your clients are reluctant to pay for your services. Some may never have had any intention to pay, even when they first contacted you. It’s best to take upfront payments than to continuously suffer losses at the hands of unethical clients.
Clients Expect You to Know Everything
Every endeavor has its downside and tech consulting is no different. One issue that many tech consultants face and one that can become frustrating is that clients will expect you to know everything about all types of tech. If you specialize in one area, such as cybersecurity, you may choose to take the time to explain that your expertise are specialized in that area. However, even if you do explain the limits of your craft, you’ll likely be inundated with off-topic inquiries. In the end, the best thing you can do is show your best patient demeanor and remind your client that there are some tech problems you’re not qualified to solve.
Know How to Price Your Services
It can be easy to charge clients an hourly fee. That certainly makes it easy to understand, but a flat hourly fee doesn’t reflect the resources you bring to the service. In addition to tangible products that include hardware, software, and peripherals, you’re also using your knowledge, expertise, and skills to solve the client’s problem. Consider what a full-time tech employee would earn to do the work on an hourly basis and compare that to an honest assessment of your own skills. This will help you arrive at a fee that truly reflects the services you’re offering.
Never Turn Down a Project
Saying no to a potential client can earn you a negative reputation if you do it enough times. More importantly, you’re turning down an opportunity that could work to your advantage. If you really don’t want to take on a particular project, the best way to handle the situation is by quoting the client an exceptionally high fee, such as twice your usual rate.
The client is either going to take the project to another consultant, which lets you off the hook without declining the offer, or he’ll accept your fee. If he accepts the fee, you’ll make a considerable profit and you may learn that you have an opportunity to re-evaluate your normal fees.
As you start consulting, you’ll make plenty of mistakes. All new entrepreneurs make their fair share of errors, but learning from them helps them to grow into shrewd business managers. In the same way, you can learn more about consulting as you begin offering your services. You may find that it’s not for you, but there’s also the possibility that this will be an exciting new direction for your tech career.
Author Bio: Douglas Pitassi is a freelance writer and small business blogger.