To Be, Or Not To Be: An Independent Consultant

I’ve been in the Web Development field for over 16 years and during this time I have worked as a consultant and as a fulltime employee. If you ask me which I prefer I would say I prefer being a fulltime employee but not for the reasons you might think. As a Consultant I experienced working for consulting firms and as an independent consultant. Both options are viable ones which I would recommend to any developer seeking to make a move away from the fulltime employee scene. Both offer great pay opportunities and a level of independence that is refreshing and rewarding. They also ask for a higher level of commitment when you consider how your level of responsibility is increased when you become a consultant.

IT consultant
IT consultant (Photo credit: Todor036)

How could this higher commitment level impact you? Consider this, as a consultant you will no longer have tuition reimbursement available to you unless you are lucky enough to be hired by a consulting firm that offers it. Most likely you will be hired by a consulting firm that only offers this benefit to fulltime employees, not short-term consultants like you. Add to this that you will have to keep up with new trends in the field of your choice if you want to stay competitive. As a consultant you are only as good as your level of experience which can be limited to the type of work you are contracted to do. Unless you make a commitment to keep your skills up-to-date you will not remain competitive. The consultant market is full of opportunities but most of them are for short-term contracts and as a consultant you won’t have the luxury of choice, at least not at the beginning. You will have to be focused and committed to your choice if you want to succeed.

If you are looking into becoming a consultant you must consider more than just your experience and what pay you could expect, you need to consider the fact that what you have taken for granted as a fulltime employee will be your responsibility. It will be on you to secure many of the benefits your HR department offered. It will be on you to track your expenses in order to deduct them come tax time. It will be on you to market yourself in order to secure new contracts and keep earning money.

At first glance, choosing to become a consultant seems like a no-brainer but I’m here to tell you it is a very serious decision which will impact your life considerably. Make an informed decision, do your homework and research all aspects of consulting before committing to becoming one.

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