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Career Spotlight: IT Consultant

Career Spotlight: IT Consultant

October 16, 2007

As the overall US unemployment rate holds steady at less than five percent in 2007, and the pool of qualified IT labor continues to shrink, those looking to hang a shingle as an independent IT contractor have some great career opportunities.

Not only is there a market demand for consultants, but it’s becoming a much more popular IT career path. A recent study reported that IT workers are among the most likely with 66 percent reporting they would consider freelancing.

The big caveat is that to make it as a contractor you not only need to provide superb skills to clients, you need to be a marketing guru, a business expert and, at the very start, a work-a-holic. The hope is that after you’ve established yourself, word of mouth and referrals will keep a steady stream of business knocking at your door.

Working As A Contractor/Consultant
The best way to see what working as a contractor or consultant is like is to talk to those actually in the field. Luckily there are several who blog about their work, the issues they face, the continual hunt for work and grappling with the issues that come into play with clients and their expectations.

One of the best blogs is published here at InsideTech. Doug Berg started HotGigs, a company that brings consultants together with the staffing firms that recruit them and the companies that hire them. He’s worked with job candidates and consultants for many years, serving as a consultant, an employee, a hiring manager and managing contract workers.

He says he loves reading Justin Opitz’s take on the freelance world. The Boston-based developer, says Berg, has published what could be a credo for many consultants: How to work with recruiters. ]

“He doesn’t mince words; he talks about how to keep focused on your goals and walk away from projects that don’t fit, how to deal with recruiters who won’t take no for an answer…and how to keep your project search on a professional level,” says Berg.

Consultant and recruiter Daniel Sweet of the blog FRACAT (Free Resume And Career Toolbox) has posted a good consultant vs. contractors article that’s worth reading.

Himawan Nugroho spent his time between jobs last year as a contractor…and discovered it offered a level of control and empowerment that he’d never had before (although he now works for Cisco in Singapore). His blog is interesting look at the art of contracting outside the US. He’s also got an excellent set of tips for organizing your life as a self-employed expert.

Keep on top of what’s happening in the freelance gig world by reading Doug’s blog here.

The Job Outlook
More than half (55 percent) of companies have used freelance workers, or plan to, according to a new Sologig.com survey. Sologig.com is just one of many sites that help IT contractors and consultants find projects and jobs.

According to the survey, 36 percent of companies that hire freelancers or contractors say they are primarily hiring technology-based freelancers.

Of those companies that hire freelancers and independent contractors, 20 percent say that given the shortage of qualified labor, they are relying on independent tech talent more than a year ago. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of these companies intend to hire freelancers or contractors in the second half of 2007.

“Freelancing can not only help workers achieve greater work/life balance, but it can also contribute to greater job satisfaction because it offers variety of work and allows workers to pursue their entrepreneurial passions since they are effectively running their own businesses,” said Ben Jablow, senior director of Sologig.com. “From the employer side, hiring contractors gives companies access to diverse perspectives and allows them to control costs and respond quickly to changes in the marketplace.”

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The Salary Scale
Freelance rates vary depending on a slew of variables including the specific project, market demand, geographic location and even the client size. Do some research by reaching out to other IT contractors and investigating their rates and compensation on projects you’re likely to be handling.

If you’re just starting out you likely want to offer lower priced services at the start. The reason is you don’t have a portfolio of work to justify asking what other experienced contractors are getting when it comes to rates. As your list of work accomplishments grow you can easily adjust your rates to reflect that experience.

Yet, while you don’t want to really undersell your services, you definitely don’t want to price yourself out of the market. Even if you do underestimate a job rate you can always boost that rate on the next similar project.

According to the Sologig.com survey, when it comes to compensation, one in 10 employers said they are willing to pay $100 per hour or more for freelance or contract help. IT continues to be one of the strongest segments, with 56 percent of IT employers reporting that they are willing to pay $50 or more per hour.


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