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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.

Additional IT consultant resources on TechRepublic

About

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...

10 comments
Calcom Tech
Calcom Tech

Seems like our stories has some similarities. I was working for a consultancy when one of the clients randomly said to me you should start your own. Now, at the time I had tickled with the idea but made no real plans until the client said do it, and we will be your first client. With agreement from my employer, I took them on under a new umbrella while still working for my employer at the time. Eventually through dedication and word of mouth referrals I stepped away from my employer, going full time on my own.

DBSav
DBSav

When the bottom fell out of the .com boon, i watched all of my savings slowly trickle away while i looked for another job. When I found one, i swore that if something happened to this one, I would not sit back and watch my savings disappear waiting on someone else. I became a consultant in 2010 when i was 1 of 150 that were let loose nationally. Although, i have been consulting for a year now, the work does pay for itself, but isn't actually profitable to the point that I was at before. I am happier working on my own, as i am doing the exact same thing i was doing for "the company". I just have to keep track of the books and expenses now.

bdboskovic
bdboskovic

Being in the business for 20 years, 10 independant, I got some war stories. Take yesterday for example, I received a envelope without any money and a letter of terminiation. Now I have to go after it. The work is done and I'm not paid! You need thick skin to be a consultant. Otherwise, go work for a corporation and collect your pay.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

Life is what happens to you while you are busy making plans. Was in school, working part-time for a small retailer overseeing hardware & network installations, and writing software on the side. One day, out-of-the-blue I got a job offer for a "dream job" from one of my clients, which was a big step to a career in that company's field, which was my major. (Not IT) Unbeknownst to me, while I was just settling into the new job there was some sort of political upheaval going on within the company. Turns out that the partners were at odds over the future of the firm, and where it would be located. Seems the faction that had been behind the hiring of me had lost, and the firm would be moving some distance away. I was let go before I had even collected my first paycheck! The experience left me rather crushed; A career opportunity of a lifetime combining my IT skills and major had literally evaporated just as it had begun, I had quit my previous job, and I was already depressed because of the end of a long-term relationship. It really was an emotional roller coaster. But there was an upside: I had been turning down business because I was too busy with school, my former part-time job, and the other outside jobs I already had. I could have gone and groveled for my old part-time job back and restored the old routine, but I felt like I had already gone this far, I needed the change, and I might as well take the next step and try going independent. My parent's wen't thrilled; they were of the predominant middle-class state of mind of the time that the key to success was to finish school, get a job at a big aerospace company and work your way up. Good thing I ignored them, as so many of my friends who did take that track have had far less stable careers than I have. Yes, being independent is seen as being less stable than having a "corporate" job. But then again, I'm also not dependent upon a single employer for my paycheck. All in all, I cannot complain about how it worked out. After a few years of being "independent", I concluded that there was no way I could ever fit into a M-F 9-5 kind of career.

biancaluna
biancaluna

Interesting as it may lead to a good discussing what a consultant needs to have in the capability bag of tricks and SFIA standards for consultants. I worked for a large IT company for a decade, they actually taught me a lot, training in project management, consultative selling, proposal writing, ITIL, CMMI, BA methodologies and lots of hands on experience in technical, account management and project leadership roles. I developed service offerings, price models, solutions, projects, the works so when they decided after a decade to retrench me with a large severance package, I looked around and decided that I wanted to do things that were diverse. By myself. I had clients immediately, most times clients in the biginning who knew me and I built on that. I kept on educating myself to gain new knowledge and qualifications particularly in process improvement and EA. I guess consultant is a title, I just did not want to be boxed in. Why? I wanted to be independent, I had some good but also some bitter memories from working for a big corporation and part of that was the constant conflict between my values and integrity and the company's culture. Values and integrity are paramount to me, I bing that to the table and it is easier as a consultant (what's in a name, I could be called a facilitator, trusted advisor, sounding board, coordinator, visionary and planner plus mother hen and police woman/traffic cop) to listen to what I want to and do not want to do. Plus I love being able to choose my working hours. If I need time off for personal activities, I can do that. You know, I didn't call it consultant when I ventured on my own, I called it free lancer. So that is the story for me, like you Chip, it was not really a deliberate choice, but when the door opened, I pushed further and listened to the knocking. The road takes you in twists and turns, the more adaptable and creative we are, the more we can change and deal with adversity.

slrana4
slrana4

thanks for this kind of article.this article should be helpful who want to be a it consultant .

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

But the reality was I had just quit a job where I was running the Technical Side of things for the State [i]Supposedly[/i] when I was solving most of the problems for that company for the country actually. I wanted something called a Holiday at least I think that is what it's called but as I have yet to experience it I'm not really sure. Anyway the idea was that i could work a few hours per week and spend time with my Play Toys that I had not had any time to play with for years previously. The end result was that 10 ex staff members approached me the week after I left the previous employer with a list of customers half a mile long if I employed them and I now have the same staff that I tried to escape from, all of those original customers who are still in business and even less time for my Play Toys. I sent a car away to be repainted properly stripped back to bare metal any cancer removed and then repainted 6 years ago now and I'm still no closer to getting it finished than when I started. The Ducati Painted stuff is now sitting in the Wifes Daughters house waiting for her SO to paint it and that has only been 10 years since I started that project that should involve less than a liter of paint but a few hours of rubbing down and getting a good finish. I got to throw some paint stripper at the Painted bits but it took me 3 weeks to get back to wash it off and even then I didn't have enough time to do it properly. It took me 7 years to get the Tank coated with a Pressure Pack Can of Primer to stop the metal all disappearing and the remainder of the time it's been with the Girl waiting for really good weather so it can be painted in what has been described as a [b]"Home"[/b] paint job. Mind you the person in question does the top Vintage Cars that get judged so his idea of a decent paint job is slightly different to most others. Since I started this [i]"Part Time Business"[/i] I have stopped buying Classic Cars because I never get to play with them, given up whatever remained of a Life that I had and am now generally working much harder and longer than I ever did for a Boss with the added Disadvantage that my current Boss is a real Bastard who lets me get away with nothing. If there is work that needs doing it must be done before I can have any fun and as there is always work needing to be done I don't get any Free Time. Money is OK though there is a lot of responsibility for the staff that goes along with the job and it's now official I'll be a Decade late to my Funeral. I just don't have the time to lie down and die and as things go on it gets just that much harder to even consider it. Of course you have to love the work or I at least wouldn't be doing it. ;) Col

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... in one of the comments on the LinkedIn question is pretty good after you translate it into English.

kailashjoshi11
kailashjoshi11

Not sure what happened, but when I woke from the intoxicationI was alreay titled as "IT consultant"..

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

Quite often these days, corporate jobs aren't much better. People frequently don't even get the empty envelope, but just an e-mail.