Why did you become an IT consultant?

Learn what motivated Chip Camden to start his independent consulting business 20 years ago, and then tell the community what factors contributed to your choice to become an IT consultant.

Josh Richards asked this question on LinkedIn: Why did you become an IT consultant (or are you considering doing so)?

As with most of my success stories, I stumbled into becoming a consultant almost by accident. While working for a software development company in Florida, I developed such a close working relationship with one of their vendors that my employer loaned my services to them for months. Finally, everyone decided I should become the vendor's employee instead. For personal reasons, I didn't want to move to their location in California. My new employer was fine with me continuing to work remotely, but about six months later when they changed benefits packages they found that they would not be able to provide benefits for someone residing in Florida. They offered me the choice of moving to California or going independent.

It just so happened that less than a year earlier, I had started my own consulting company as a side business and tax write-off. I therefore decided to channel all my work for my employer through my consulting business. So much for posting a net loss for tax purposes! I liked the arrangement, because it set the expectation that I could work for other clients — in fact, it made that almost mandatory, in order to keep Big Brother IRS from trying to "protect" me as a statutory employee. Having a steady income from one client, though, made it possible for me to develop that additional business intelligently — looking for the long-term relationships instead of taking anything just to pay the bills. As in romantic affairs, it's a lot easier to do well when you aren't desperate.

A couple of years later I did move to California, and my client urged me on two or three occasions to become an employee. But by then I enjoyed my business so much that I insisted on remaining independent. I still have a great relationship with that client, and I'll always be grateful that they were willing to work with me in whatever capacity worked for me. I've had more than fifty other clients over the last twenty years, but this one's still my bread and butter. I'm sure some of them are reading this, so once again, "Thank you!"

I virtually received my consulting business on a silver platter. I don't really know if I'd have had the guts (never mind the funds) to build one from the ground up, and I have lots of respect for those who have done it or are attempting it. If I were ever in that position, I'd want to have enough money put aside to live without any income for the better part of a year, just to move my motivating factors a little higher on Maslow's chart.

What factors contributed to your choice to become an IT consultant, if you are one? If you aren't, are you considering it? And if you're a former consultant, why did you give it up? Please tell us all about it in the discussion.

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Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

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