Launching an IT consultant business? Here's what you need to know
If you’re contemplating leaving the corporate world behind or just wanting to take advantage of being your own boss, becoming an IT consultant can be a rewarding and lucrative career choice. Bear in mind, however, being a consultant requires specific skills, knowledge, and experience. Keep reading to find out what you should know if you're interested in becoming an IT consultant.
What do I need to be an IT consultant?
In general, if you want to become an IT consultant, you already know it requires a combination of technical skills, power skills, industry knowledge, certifications, business knowledge, and networking. It's also important to stay up to date with the latest trends and developments in the industry and to continuously develop your skills and expertise to keep your consulting business competitive in the job market.
Here are some basics:
Education and Experience
IT consultants typically need a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology, or a related field. Additionally, most clients prefer to hire someone with significant experience working in the IT industry, such as in software development, network administration, or database management.
As an IT consultant, you will need to have strong technical skills in areas such as programming, networking, security, and data analysis. You should be proficient in one or more programming languages, such as Java, Python, or C++, and have experience with database management systems and network protocols.
Power Skills (also known as human-centered skills)
In addition to technical skills, IT consultants must have effective communication, problem-solving, and analytical skills. As a consultant, you’ll need to be able to explain complex technical concepts to non-technical clients, work well in teams, and be able to think critically and creatively to solve problems.
It’s critical for IT consultants to stay up to date with the latest trends and developments in the industry. You should have a good understanding of emerging technologies, such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence like Chat GPT, and blockchain, and be able to advise your clients on how to leverage these technologies to meet their business objectives.
Many IT consultants choose to obtain industry certifications to demonstrate their expertise in specific areas. Popular certifications include:
- CompTIA A+ Certification: This certification is widely recognized as the industry standard for entry-level IT technicians. It covers topics such as hardware, software, networking, and security.
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA): To designate yourself as an expert in network installation, configuration, and troubleshooting, you need this certification. It is a popular certification for IT professionals working in networking.
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): This certification validates expertise in Microsoft technologies such as Windows Server, Exchange Server, and SQL Server. It is useful for IT consultants who work with Microsoft products.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): This certification focuses on cybersecurity and information security. It covers topics such as risk management, cryptography, and security architecture.
- Project Management Professional (PMP): This certification will exemplify your expertise in project management methodologies such as Agile, Scrum, and Waterfall. It is useful for IT consultants who manage projects for clients.
- Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Solutions Architect: This certification demonstrates expertise in designing and deploying scalable, fault-tolerant, and secure systems on the AWS platform. It is useful for IT consultants who work with cloud computing.
These are just a few examples of the many IT certifications available. The specific certifications that may be useful for you as an IT consultant will of course depend on your specific area of expertise and the types of clients you work with – or desire to work with. It's important to research the requirements of the clients and industries you are interested in working with to determine which certifications may be most beneficial.
IT consultants need to have a good understanding of business and organizational dynamics, as well as the ability to align IT solutions with business goals. You should be familiar with project management methodologies, such as Agile and Scrum, and be able to manage projects from conception to completion.
Building a strong network of contacts in the IT industry can be helpful for finding job opportunities and building your reputation as a consultant. Attend industry events and conferences, connect with other professionals on LinkedIn, and join professional associations such as the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP).
What are the benefits of becoming an IT consultant?
If you’ve made it this far, you may now be wondering what the benefits of becoming an IT consultant are. One of the greatest benefits is the opportunity to work with a variety of clients and industries. As an IT consultant, you can work with businesses of all sizes, from small startups to large corporations, and in a wide range of industries, including healthcare, finance, retail, and more.
This variety can be exciting and challenging, as each client and project presents unique opportunities to gain experience and grow as an IT professional. It also allows you to expand your knowledge and expertise in different areas of information technology and stay up to date on the latest industry trends and technologies.
Another benefit of being an IT consultant is the flexibility and autonomy that comes with running your own business. As an independent consultant, you have the freedom to set your own schedule, choose your clients and projects, and work from anywhere. This flexibility can be particularly appealing to those looking for the perfect work-life balance and who want to have more control over their career.
Finally, IT consulting can be a lucrative career path, particularly if you have specialized skills and experience. As businesses increasingly rely on technology to drive their operations, the demand for IT consultants continues to grow, now is the time to strike while the iron is hot and get yourself established as a reliable consultant.
How do I protect my IT consulting business?
There are several types of insurance policies that you may need to consider to safeguard yourself and your IT consulting business. Some of the most common types of insurance policies include:
Professional Liability Insurance: Also known as Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance, this type of insurance protects you in case a client accuses you of making a mistake or error in the performance of your professional services. This policy can cover the cost of legal fees, settlements, or judgments against you.
General Liability Insurance: This type of insurance protects you in case you are held responsible for a third party’s bodily injury or property damage. For example, if a client comes to your office and trips on the stairs, sustaining an injury, your general liability policy could cover their medical costs.
Business Owner's Policy (BOP): A BOP is an enhanced insurance policy that combines general liability insurance with coverage for your business property, like computers.
Cyber Insurance: This type of insurance protects you in case of a data breach or targeted attack such as malware or phishing. This policy can cover the cost of legal fees and damages in case your clients or their customers suffer financial losses due to a data breach for which you are responsible. A cyber policy with Hiscox also includes access to Upfort Shield – a powerful cybersecurity platform providing software protections, live consultative services, and security training content.
Keep in mind the specific insurance policies you need as an IT consultant depend on the nature of your work and the risks involved. At Hiscox, we can work with you to help you assess your risks and recommend the appropriate types and amounts of coverage. Ready to get started?