Many IT professionals want to be freelance IT consultants, but what are the benefits and drawbacks, and how can you make the transition successfully?
In-house IT specialists who become freelance consultants follow a well-worn path.
The appeal is simple; wages can be higher, the employment offers more variety, and you are not bound by the typical work schedule.
However, turning freelance comes with its own set of pressures and obstacles that a full-time employee does not have to deal with, such as never knowing when or where your next job will come from.
Nonetheless, it is obviously a popular career path.
According to The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), the number of highly trained freelancers increased by 47% between 2008 and 2018, reaching 4.2 million persons, with approximately 6% of them working in information technology and telecommunications.
So, whether you’re analysing your present in-house employment or actively seeking change, this article should provide you a thorough summary of what to expect.
What exactly is an IT consultant?
To begin, it is necessary to define the word “IT consultant.” Unlike in-house IT professionals, who are tasked with a variety of responsibilities ranging from technology maintenance and support to the more proactive work of improving systems, processes, and the experiences of people who use them, IT consultants work alongside clients (often including these in-house IT professionals), offering strategic advice and guidance on the use of technology to meet business objectives and challenges.
These company problems might include everything from increasing security and productivity to increasing workflow efficiency and even satisfying sustainability targets. The IT consultant is primarily responsible for incorporating these factors into a strategy plan for improving IT across organisations. However, the IT consultant’s role also includes procurement advice, as well as supporting tech onboarding, training, and gathering end-user feedback.
Should I work as an independent IT consultant?
Liam Shah is the Head of People and Development at QUANTIQ, a leading technology consultancy that helps clients in industries ranging from retail to healthcare, professional services, and manufacturing digitally transform and streamline their processes through the use of cutting-edge enterprise technology.
“Being a consultant is a lot richer experience if you are searching for technical difficulties, diversity of work, the best colleagues, and exposure to cutting-edge technology,” he says.
“You get to work with a number of clients and industrial sectors on a wide range of integration projects, so you can always expand your knowledge.”
What exactly does an IT consultant do?
An IT consultant’s day-to-day operations can vary substantially from project to project. “It suits someone who is willing to take responsibility, control circumstances, is methodical and diligent, professionally curious, willing to go the additional mile, open to travel, has a commercial interest, and appreciates problem solving,” Liam Shah continues.
“The roles available are extremely diverse, ranging from installation to design, project management, support, sales, and account management.”
As a result, the list of IT consultant skills is lengthy:
Excellent time management and project management skills.
Ability to communicate properly and swiftly develop relationships.
Self-assurance in decision-making and leadership, as well as teamwork.
Thinker who is logical and analytical.
Presentation abilities that are clear and succinct, as well as the ability to transform technical material into more consumable formats.
Adaptability and adaptability.
Using patience, empathy, and understanding to provide exceptional customer service.
How much does an IT consultant make?
Freelance consultancy has the opportunity to make a better compensation, but it comes with the stress of seeking work and higher client expectations.
So, how much do IT consultants earn in the United Kingdom? “IT consultant wages vary enormously,” says Liam Shah, “but as a rule of thumb, a low level consultant should expect to average around £35-45,000, mid-level is around £45-60,000, and senior level roles are around £60,000+.”
Often, a freelance consultant would work for one client full-time for a defined period of time or until a project is completed, and pay is based on project length and consultant expertise.
Victor Omosevwerha, the founder of Gridlockaz Consulting, has been an independent IT consultant for 19 years. He has worked on projects ranging in duration from three months to four years.
“You’re exposed to all kinds of technology, but then you’re supposed to have a very deep understanding very quickly and be able to deliver answers,” he says of the heightened expectations that come with charging premium rates.
“The type of people who can prosper in this industry are those who prefer to constantly study and learn new things.”
“If you’re not inclined in that way, this might not be the profession for you.”
Along with demonstrating that you have the necessary skills to finish projects on schedule and on budget, you must also demonstrate your commitment, which may entail working late and travelling to tasks.
“As an organisation, we operate a 40-hour week, but the needs of the clients drive when you are needed occasionally, and of course there is travel on top of that,” Liam Shah adds.
“You must be willing to travel at least 50% of the time.”
However, once established, in-demand freelancers may discover that they may negotiate their conditions before taking on a new assignment.
Victor Omosevwerha agrees, but emphasises the potential for more efficient working methods: “I used to travel a lot more, but these days I spend about 60% to 80% of my time working remotely and have a much better work/life balance.”
“You only get to that stage after you’ve accumulated a certain level of abilities and have earned trust in what you can do by working alone and delivering assignments.”
As with many positions, a consultant’s remuneration in the UK is determined by the client’s location, size, and industry – in many circumstances, any IT consultant salary will have a performance component.
Contract employment is also an option, with daily costs based on consultant experience and, in particular, the skills necessary. The current daily rates range from £150 to £550+.
How to Become an Independent Consultant:
Building a robust pipeline of paid projects is one of the most important issues for anyone considering becoming a contractor.
Many freelancers choose to work with a consultancy that matches them with clients, which saves them time marketing themselves and finding new work, albeit they do charge a fee, often between 10% and 15% of the contract’s worth.
Many others, on the other hand, prefer to advertise themselves, frequently using platforms such as LinkedIn and online job boards.
“It’s critical to have an up-to-date CV that focuses on your achievements,” says Liam Shah.
“Discuss the projects you’ve completed, including the scope and desired conclusion.” Was it completed on time and under budget?
“Discuss your system experience and the breadth of your expertise, as well as what you are searching for and hoping to achieve in the future.”
“Aside from that, there are a variety of functional areas that can assist, such as project management experience.”
While developing a specific area of expertise might be beneficial, it should not come at the expense of more broad skills, as consultants must be versatile and adaptive.
Finance, supply chains, retail, HR, development, and system architecture are all possible specialisations.
Starting a consulting firm:
One of the first major decisions you’ll have to make as a freelancer is how to establish yourself as a business.
It’s important to do your research and get guidance, but according to Stephen Hollins, a director at MyPay, which provides payroll, invoicing, and administrative services for contract and freelance workers, you have two basic options: create a limited business or work through an umbrella company.
“If your annual turnover exceeds £20,000, a limited company can be an excellent alternative due to the tax efficiency it gives and because it keeps your business liabilities distinct from your personal funds,” he says.
“However, you must be wary of a regulation known as IR35, which states that if you contract your service to a client but are essentially functioning as an employee, you could face a large tax liability.”
“This is something you should discuss with your agency or accountant before beginning a project.”
“An umbrella company can be a perfect alternative for freelancers working on lower-paying, short-term jobs or those who do not want any additional administration.”
“The freelancer is basically hired by the umbrella firm, which pays them and makes the appropriate tax and National Insurance Contributions on their behalf.”
Is it time for you to start delivering IT consulting services?
Becoming an independent IT consultant is a huge step that requires an entrepreneurial mindset as well as exceptional IT knowledge.
However, if you possess these characteristics, a career as an IT consultant might provide numerous advantages.
“My advice to anyone thinking of becoming a freelance IT consultant is to go and write your CV right immediately!” says Victor Omosevwerha.
“However, you cannot be complacent. Even when you’re working, you should always be looking for work.
“Your task is to be a skilled job seeker.” You’ll be alright if you keep that mentality.”