Freelancing in IT, as in any industry, carries a certain number of risks compared to permanent employment but at the same time comes with the potential to offer significant rewards and a flexible lifestyle that makes it incredibly appealing to a large number of people.
The structure of the industry
IT is an industry that requires very specific skill sets and experience and, as a result, tends to attract a particular type of person, especially those who pride themselves on possessing specific technical expertise and who also have a desire to solve problems. It is fair to say that these skills and this attitude are highly valued by a wide range of organizations in virtually any industry. At the same time, IT roles are often project-based and are consequently, by their very nature, temporary. It is therefore possible to make a very good living offering IT services out to companies or customers on a freelance basis
The length of any given contract will vary enormously depending on the requirements of the role. Length may range from a few days working to deliver a particular project to an immovable deadline, to more long-term contracts lasting months or even years. In the latter case, a contractor can very often find themselves, at least from a cultural point of view, having to adopt the attitude of a permanent member of staff.
Hints and tips for starting out
Here are some things to consider when starting out as a freelancer in the IT industry:
- Administration. Becoming a freelancer means effectively running one’s work life as a business, with all of the administrative challenges this brings. With this in mind, umbrella company services can be invaluable as they will take on the management of the sort of tasks that can be extremely onerous in terms of time and complexity, but are still essential in order to operate effectively, and legally, as a business. Companies may cover areas such as insurance, invoices and statutory rights, for example.
- Publicity. Attracting new business, and maintaining positive relationships with existing clients, is absolutely key to being a successful contractor. Any opportunity to promote oneself should be considered, from the regular channels such as websites and agencies through to more subtle methods such as social networking and personal recommendations.
- Research. It is critical to set a fair price for work delivered so a contractor should do their research and ensure their rates are fair but competitive. Too much, and a freelancer can price themselves out of the market, too little and they can undervalue themselves and make their lifestyle unsustainable as a result.
An important decision
The decision to operate as a self-employed contractor in the IT industry is not one to be taken lightly, and there are a number of serious considerations that should be taken into account to ensure success in a competitive market. Perhaps the most important consideration is how to actually operate in a self-employed way on a day-to-day basis, and enlisting the right support to achieve this most effectively is key to success.
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