IT consulting isn’t for the faint of heart. Even the most ambitious and confident people can fail in this industry. But there are a select few who find unbelievable success. So, whether you’ve been in the business for decades or are just starting out, keeping up to date with the latest consulting best practices allows you to remain competitive and continue providing exceptional service to your clients.
The Keys to Being a Successful IT Consultant
So many people love the idea of consulting. While they may not admit as much, they secretly think that it’s easy, comfortable work that allows for flexibility in a low-pressure environment. But consulting is so much more challenging – particularly IT consulting.
Going into consulting because you think it means you won’t have a boss is a fallacy. You actually end up having dozens of bosses who are constantly calling you and barking orders. You can also do away with the notion that it’s good part-time work. As a consultant, you’re always on standby, even when you’re supposed to be on vacation.
If you understand these things before going into consulting, you’ll be much better off. But perspective isn’t everything. Even with the right mentality, there are plenty of things you need to do in order to be successful.
Let’s check out a few of the top tips every IT consultant needs to know.
1. Know Your Stuff
Business owners are smart and savvy. They didn’t get to where they are today as a result of blind luck. When they come to you, they’re looking for value. If you’re simply providing them with information they already have, then you’re wasting their time and money. In order to excel in IT consulting, you have to know your stuff.
Part of knowing your stuff involves arming yourself with the right tools. You don’t have to know everything, but you do need resources on hand that are capable of helping your clients with whatever they need.
For example, a ticketing system software helps simplify incident management and associate parent-child incidents for easier management. A screen-sharing tool lets you help clients even when you aren’t physically in the same room. The more tools you have, the more value you can add.
2. Surround Yourself With the Right People
If you’ve never been involved with consulting before, then you’ll be surprised by all of the different moving parts and how they can complicate things. Trying to figure everything out on the fly will leave you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, which is why it’s imperative that you surround yourself with the right people.
In your personal and professional network, it’s good to have people with consulting experience. This gives you people who you can call or meet with for big-picture guidance on how to handle certain consulting issues and challenges.
3. Be as Flexible as Possible
If you’re used to a stable 9-to-5 job where you take an hour for lunch and leave work at the office when you clock out, consulting is going to be a rude awakening. Hours change, lunch doesn’t always happen, and there is no leaving work at the office.
With consulting, flexibility is the name of the game. Systems go down in the middle of the night, employees decide to quit in the middle of the day, and tech changes are rarely predictable. The most successful IT consultants are the ones who are flexible.
4. Be Observant of Industry Evolution
One of the unique things about IT consulting, compared to other forms of consulting, is that it’s very dependent on what’s happening in the marketplace at that very moment. Whereas management consultants can use the same principles for years, an IT consultant has to constantly evolve.
One of the best things you can do is engulf yourself in the IT world. Be observant of industry evolution and constantly tweak your approach to reflect important changes. Your clients will be wowed by your commitment and are much more likely to trust your guidance when they know you’re current. This also becomes a selling point for future clients.
5. Be Prepared for Abandonment
“Consulting companies have a high churn rate. Some consultants claim that they have never lost a client, but that’s a bunch of horse crap. If a customer doesn’t renew their contract, I consider that a lost client,” entrepreneur and consultant Neil Patel says. “You never know how long a client is going to last, so make sure you do everything possible to keep them.”
Patel went from commanding less than $100 per hour to four-figures per hour, in part, because he keeps clients satisfied and cuts down on abandonment. Aside from providing quality work, he has done this by clearly setting expectations from day one, hosting weekly update calls, sending out monthly reports, and regularly asking for feedback.
The point is that you have to be prepared for abandonment. Clients are going to leave. Your goal has to be to reduce churn, not eliminate it. You do this by keeping clients in the loop.
6. Hone Your Soft Skills
Technical skills are a must as an IT consultant, but don’t overlook the need for the right soft skills. It’s these skills that will allow you to set your services apart from your closest competitors. Some of the must-have soft skills include: active listening, problem solving, clear communication, team building, conflict management, and the ability to articulately present your findings.
Adopt the Tortoise Mentality
As a consultant, you have to be the tortoise – not the hare. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. Consulting isn’t something you hastily enter, trying to make a quick buck. It’s all about building relationships over time. Business may be slow in the beginning, but things will start to snowball. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself passing all those “hares” who thought it was a good idea to take shortcuts in the beginning.
While IT consulting isn’t nearly as easy as it looks, it also doesn’t have to be impossible to break through. Follow the right pointers, avoid common pitfalls, and you’ll be just fine.