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IT Contracting is the life, isn’t it? You put your bare feet up on your desk, make a few phone calls to clients who eat up your advice like caviar, and then just count your money.
Not quite. There are lots of things that can go wrong when professionals go independent. So it’s a good idea to survey the road for some of the most common potholes, and to consider making a pit stop before you blow a tire and lose control of your business.
1. You Stop Prospecting for New Business
Countless IT consultants get in a rut and work with the same small group of clients year after year. Stability is great, but if you don’t regularly test the market for more challenging projects and prestigious clients, you could be missing stellar opportunities.
Our advice: Learn how to fire a client and market yourself and your business.
2. Your Fees Don’t Keep Pace with the Market
You have a longstanding relationship with a client and can’t seem to find a way to move your fee up from $60 an hour. Rising expenses chip away at profits, and it’s obvious that other potential clients would pay you $90 an hour, no questions asked.
Our advice: Rationalize what you charge.
3. You Enter Agreements Blindly
Work for hire, hold harmless, irrevocable assignment — who knows the meaning of all that legal mumbo jumbo? You’d better find out — with the help of a lawyer if necessary — or you may end up in civil or bankruptcy court.
Our advice: Get everything in writing.
4. You Give Away Your Intellectual Property
Your client takes that ingenious little algorithm you wrote, turns around and licenses the code to five other companies for a cool $500,000. It’s all perfectly legal, and what do you have to show for it? Resentment.
Our advice: Leverage your intellectual capital.
5. Your Home Office Gets Out of Control
Your office looks like an office supply store that got hit by a tsunami. You’ve actually lost business by misplacing contact information. Or maybe your toddler knows where to find that flash drive, and she’s using it to test her new molars.
Our advice: Get organized and stake out your territory.
6. Bad Work Habits Lower Your Productivity
Billing by the hour can be profitable, but not if you keep clocking out to watch TV or shop online for stuff you can’t afford because you’re not billing enough hours. Even if you think you’re spending time wisely, there’s probably room for improvement.
Our advice: Bone up on time management.
7. Your Work Becomes Your Life
Do you work every weekend? Is your spouse preparing to hit you with a conjugal negligence suit? If so, you need to put work in a larger perspective and get a life. If you don’t, your professional creativity and productivity will suffer.
Our advice: Plan to make a vacation happen.
8. You Fail to Ride the Technology Curve
Technology is key to your business productivity. Do you frequently rekey lots of data? Wait around while your PC completes tasks? Spend hours looking for basic information? If so, you’re losing your competitive edge.
Our advice: Mind your technology.
9. Your Professional Skills Stagnate
What’s new in your field this year? What have you learned this month? If you don’t have good answers, your stock value will drop like a dotcom’s in spring 2000.
Our advice: Stay sharp.
10. Your Grapevine Withers
What’s the contractor’s most valuable business property? The Rolodex. If you don’t keep up with customers, colleagues, rivals, mentors and other players, you’re toast.
This article originally appeared on Monster Career Advice.