Surviving as an IT contractor

Computers are now essential tools for administering a business on a daily basis. With that increased dependency on technology comes a necessity for people who can troubleshoot problems and provide support when things go wrong.

The field of information technology, also known as IT, has become a very lucrative one, with many computer specialists opting to become self-employed independent contractors. Whether they work strictly from a home office or go on-site to directly run tests or perform other maintenance tasks, IT contractors offer an invaluable service to companies and businesses.

Characteristics of successful IT contractors

Self-employment means securing work for one’s self, so being a self-starter is a necessity for anyone aspiring to be an IT contractor. IT contractors also have to be able to quickly adapt to new environments and projects.

Handling the business end of self-employment may seem simple, but the complexities of running a business can quickly add up. An IT contractor has to be able to deal with budgetary issues, financing, accounting and contractor pay. Some contractors will set themselves up as a limited company, securing a specialist accountant to handle some of these finance issues; others may leave the administrative burdens to others, coming under the shelter of an umbrella company. The umbrella company will assist with issues such as contractor pay and tax obligations.

Successful IT contractors must have a skillset that is current and wide-ranging. The more impressive a contractor’s skills and knowledge the greater the chance of securing highly competitive contracts with generous pay rates. It also ensures future work for a contractor if they have a reputation for being at the top of their field. This means making the most of online learning programs and any continuing education coursework that may be had. Generally, an IT contractor will need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, skilled knowledge of archival software, database software, configuration management software, as well as thorough knowledge of a variety of computer operating systems. Knowledge of computer languages, including C, Java, C# and C++, is also important.

IT industry structure

Roles within an IT department will generally fall into one of two categories: Applications or Infrastructure. Applications include the core applications that are the foundation of the company, including ERP systems, financial systems, and employee management systems. It will also include a number of other applications such as document management systems, intranet portals, data warehousing and other business intelligence. Infrastructure includes all the hardware and software used within the business, as well as email and desktop software. All of these roles within IT may be outsourced.

Contract lengths in IT will vary; the position may be one of staff augmentation, filling in for in-house IT staff that are on vacation or adding to staff during busier times, or it may be as part of a team working on a longer-term project.

IT contractor success

Succeeding as an IT contractor begins with being well prepared, highly-skilled and willing to adapt and adjust to a variety of work situations. IT contracting can be a very lucrative and exciting career, allowing the contractor to use their skills while being their own boss.


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