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An experienced consultant smiling in a meeting with two others

Category: Succeed as a Consultant

Freelance 101: How to start as an independent IT consultant

This blog entry will tell you everything you need to know about how to get started as an IT consultant.

25 October 2022

Are you an IT expert with several years of experience, and do you dream of working independently and being your own boss?

It's actually not that complicated to get started as a consultant, and we've made it easier for you. When you start out, there are many opportunities, but you also face challenges. Check what is required and how to get started.

We cover these topics: The trend to be an independent consultant, the reasons to become a freelance IT consultant how you can succeed as an independent consultant, and how you can obtain stability as a new freelance consultant.

This article will help you understand what you can achieve as an independent IT consultant, project manager or business advisor, and the considerations you need to make to succeed.

Common questions related to starting up as an independent consultant:

      • How to become a consultant?
      • What are the main reasons to start for yourself?
      • What motivates IT specialists to become freelancers?
      • How do I check if my IT skills are in demand?
      • How to find new assignments as a freelance consultant?
      • How to create predictability as an independent?

 

  At the beginning of my career, I was not very good at celebrating small victories ...  In some of my first projects, I was surprised when the feedback centred on the fact that we had not celebrated enough.

Niels-Erik Jørgensen

 


Is working as a consultant just a trend?

The labor market is constantly changing. Technological developments affect the way we work and live. Complex and extensive projects strongly increase the need for flexible and specialized expertise.

At the same time, there is a critical shortage of IT expertise in Scandinavia. And an excellent way to cover the need for knowledge is to use flexible resources from independent IT consultants. Everyone is looking for competent IT specialists, so if you are one of them, you have opportunities.

At emagine, we have observed that the freelance consulting model is not only a current trend, but also the future of business and IT industries. The best consultants can merge the security of stable contracts with the freedom of picking and choosing projects which allow them to grow and develop as professionals.

If you are tired of your 9-5 routine and dream of further developing your expertise, all on your own terms, then read along.

Consultant: Roy Johansen

Consultant Roy Johansen

Roy Johansen is a  digital advisor and business developer and takes assignments via emagine in Norway. As an experienced consultant, he thinks the best thing about being a freelancer is the flexibility and autonomy to make ones own choices, deciding which tasks and projects to work on.

“It is inspiring to experience how the client develops with the expertise I contribute,” says the experienced IT specialist who is a freelance business developer and project manager.

Four reasons to become a consultant

IT consultants are experienced specialists. Those who succeed have the driving force, personal qualities and competencies required.

There can be many reasons why you want to start as an independent consultant. We have gathered some testimonials in conversation with hundreds of freelancers who decided to become independent. Here are some of the most important reasons to start for yourself.

 

  1. Better finances
    Not surprisingly, many people want to be paid better when starting out for themselves. Independent senior IT consultants earn well. The vast majority believe this is the most important factor, but it rarely controls the choice.
  2. Control of career
    The importance of having control over one's own working day is highly valued. It's about being able to choose customers, assignments and expertise yourself, in short, being your own boss.
  3. Flexibility
    Flexibility is central to many. This includes where and when you work, but also how you carry out the work. Many no longer want to be locked in the limitations of a permanent job and operational tasks.
  4. Doing what you love (and are good at)
    Much like music comes first for a musician, an experienced IT consultant looks for challenges and expertise - these matter more than the financial gains.

An experienced engineer or IT project manager often says they want to work with specialist expertise. The focus is on the areas of expertise you operate in and want to cultivate.

Consultant: Ulf Jørgensen

Ulf Jørgensen

Ulf Jørgensen is a Danish long-time IT expert with an international career spanning across the globe. In his changing consultant assignments and with his many years of experience, Ulf Jørgensen often faces tasks that involve business problems he has seen before. Usually, IT is the tool, but the goal is ultimately a business solution.

“The collaboration with emagine has successfully provided me with projects that are a good match for my profile. They are good at finding the best possible consultant for the project.”

Critical factors for success as an independent consultant

Good timing and the right skills are essential if you want to start for yourself. This increases the possibility of you landing new projects and achieving a sense of predictability around them.

With an growing demand for IT skills, there has never been a better time to become a consultant!

Whether you call yourself a freelancer or an independent consultant makes little difference. As your own boss, you will have business activities in your company, contact customers, find projects and run for yourself. It can seem overwhelming; therefore, a partnership like with emagine would be beneficial.

These factors make the choice easier:

 

      • Growing needs for expertise in Europe

Europe is facing a substantial digital boost and a critical competence need for IT expertise and experience in both the private and public sector. You can be the one who knows most about 'the next big thing' and can use your background and interests.

 

      • Are you a specialist?

Consultants are hired in because they are specialists in an area where the client has no expertise. And the consultant will solve their problem.

What specialized IT skills have you worked with in the last five years? Because if you want to stand out in the competition with other IT experts, you must have recent and relevant experience.

Both developers and project managers have attractive skills that the market demands. If it is updated and certified, you have an excellent opportunity to succeed as an independent IT consultant.

Look up examples of some in-demand IT areas of expertise.

 

      • Do you have the necessary qualities?

Not everyone who works with IT thrives on great variety and new projects. But for those who do, there are many benefits and some requirements.

You must be willing to take on a demanding client and tasks that do not always seem perfect. At the same time, you must defend your professional integrity - be an advisor, problem solver and sparring partner. In other words, you must be curious, have self-confidence, and show commitment to your work.

Evaluate if you have what it takes to become a successful freelance consultant and read which personality traits a good project manager should have.

 

      • How will you find assignments?

With the need for IT expertise in the Nordics, new technology and business models make it easier to find assignments for freelancers. But as a start-up, it can be challenging to find clients. In that case, a permanent relationship with a stable consulting partner such as emagine will help. You get assistance with administrative tasks and have a separate sales department that works for you.

A lot changes when you realize how easy it is to find assignments and new clients. And you can put the spotlight on being the professional you are.

Consultant: Ewelina Wielemborek

Ewelina Wielemborek

Ewelina Wielemborek is a Polish consultant who has been working on a large-scale project through emagine – as a Scrum Master, her main task is to empower her team through different agility levels.

“Even though I have a technical background, I like to work with people. Working with people gives me more satisfaction than working with code. The role puts me right in the middle of all these things.”

How to get stability as a new freelance consultant

You've come this far - you want to be your own boss and make a difference as an independent consultant. You are motivated, you have the right skills, and there are assignments out there...

But what about stability and practicalities? Here are some guidelines to ensure a smooth transition and consistency in your new life as an independent IT consultant.

 

Start carefully and prepare well

You have a permanent job but want to start your own freelance business. Where do you even begin?

If you have a family, they must be taken into consideration.

Start by discussing how you will get through the start-up. Set up a simple plan and budget and find out how much you need to earn as a minimum. Make sure you have a buffer before starting out on your own.

 

Are you going to apply for a leave?

Can you work part-time, or do you have to resign? A talk can be helpful if you have a good relationship with your employer. Investigate opportunities to work more independently or to have a smooth transition with part-time + freelance tasks. Since you are a sought-after specialist, such arrangements may be possible.

Then start planning when to quit. Suddenly you are involved in practical decisions, and things can go quickly. First, you must create and register a company from which you can send invoices. Check out useful resources with the taxation office, incubators resources and for start-up help in your city.

 

Don't forget your network.

You undoubtedly know someone who has started for himself, so hear how they got started. Check out [this article] for easy upgrades you can make to your LinkedIn profile to expand your network even further.

 

Are your skills in demand?

You can check whether there are assignments in your areas of expertise with consultancies and job agents. On our website you can see all the newest projects.

It will also help if you chat with someone who works daily to find advisors (a sourcer) for jobs. They can quickly give you feedback on whether you have the right profile and enough experience, whether something should be changed in your CV, or what you should focus on.

If you are in a permanent job, you can create a consultant profile at emagine and set the status to 'in permanent employment'. This way you can check the demand yourself before taking the leap.

Keep track of available assignments, preferably half a year before you can start.

Remember that many clients are willing to wait for the right consultant.

 

Get practical help

You don't necessarily need a separate website, but a good LinkedIn profile and a clear CV are crucial. At emagine you also get help with that.

When it comes to pensions, you can opt out in the very first phase, but check what your bank or insurance company offers.

It may make sense to have health insurance if you choose a sole proprietorship, then you are insured in the event of your own illness. Remember that insurance is for 'worst case' scenarios, and you can avoid such fixed expenses in the beginning.

Don't forget to join associations and groups, and make sure you stay up-to-date professionally. Life as a freelancer can be lonely, so attend meetings and nurture your network. It will surely give you opportunities.

 

The labor market

You need to have a backup plan.

Research your country's labor market and determine whether you can return to permanent employment if your freelance career doesn't kick off.

If you have organized yourself well as an independent consultant, you will also receive money in the event of illness and other social benefits. So the security is there if you choose to become independent.

Be true to your plan and give yourself enough security to dare to gamble, flexibility and independence await you when you become your own boss.

Your checklist for getting started as an independent consultant

Are you an expert and have the qualities to be a consultant?

Do you want to be your own boss?

Check your motivations - what inspires you?

Are your skills in demand - check the opportunities in the market.

Contact relevant intermediaries and consultancy houses; check if there are assignments within your areas of expertise.

Create a plan, time-frame, and budget for a start-up - set aside a buffer.

According to your plan, choose the type of and the official registration of your company and take care of practicalities with an accountant.

Get a 'sales department' - create a profile with a consultant intermediary and apply for assignments early.

When will it happen? Resign or take time off - make a move!

Ready to find out more?

Ask us how we can help you succeed.