As businesses look to cut their costs, they may consider hiring contractors for IT projects rather than taking on full-time staff. With the variety of projects and levels of remuneration on offer, the life of a freelancer contractor can look like a tempting one. But is it really for you?
First, you need to decide why you’d want to become a freelancer. Hating your current boss isn’t a good enough excuse. If you need security and a regular income, it might be best to look for another full-time post. If, on the other hand, you are drawn to the idea of change and working with different teams on a range of different projects, contracting might suit you.
Of course, as you’re going to be working for yourself, you will need to market yourself. Shameless self-promotion is essential. Referrals and jobs will initially come from your current contacts, so pump them mercilessly and use them to network with others who may be able to provide you with work. Don’t be coy; you are a brand now, and you need to make sure that people are aware of you. One way to do this would be to join a professional association, but my travels around the internet haven’t yielded any joy for Kenya-based contractors. Hopefully this is something that will be set up in the future.
No matter how good an all-rounder you are, it’s always better to specialise. Simply calling yourself an IT consultant is unlikely to get you a single client. Focus on the areas where you have the strongest skills and experience and highlight how you can help clients with these. Don’t be tempted to moonlight in an unfamiliar field, as any problems will be laid down at your door, damaging your reputation.
Finally, if you do decide to make the jump into IT contracting, don’t expect to start coining it in straight away. It’s best not to expect any significant income for the first year to 18 months. Don’t be discouraged, however, as once you’ve established yourself the cheques should start coming in more frequently. If you want more freedom to manage your career and more variety in your work, you could do far worse than become an IT contractor.
Update: The Computer Society of Kenya (CSK) is, apparently, the relevant trade body, but I’m ignoring them as they haven’t updated their website since 2004, which is a very poor show.
[Image by Danorbit]