Freelance is the future – but is it for everyone?

There is a growing trend in the number of IT professionals who are looking towards becoming independent freelance consultants. More and more people are looking for a project-oriented type of work, which provides an opportunity to work in a specific area and specialization. However, it takes a certain skill set to become successful as a freelance IT consultant.

The number of freelancers is growing rapidly

We are bombarded with concepts such as gig-economy, platform economy, and freelance economy, and there is a clear tendency, where more and more professionals move away from the traditional work structures towards more individual and independent work arrangements. For example, statistics of the US labour market show that freelancers make up approximately 35 percent of the total market, and it is predicted that this statistic could reach 50 percent by 2027. The same trends are also showing in Europe. Freelance is the future.

But even though more and more professionals choose to be their own boss, it still takes something extraordinary to succeed as a freelance IT professional in the long run. Because while it may be popular and may sound impressive to have the job title of freelancer, one needs to be aware of some of the requirements companies put forth for external IT consultants. 

Successful IT freelancers are specialists

Although the market for all types of freelancing is growing rapidly, we still see that when it comes to the market for IT freelancers, the highly specialized freelancers are the ones in highest demand. Most often it is only these specialists who can meet the clients’ demands for an external resource.

The crucial common denominator for these requirements is a professional capacity, specialist knowledge, and considerable experience in the area in which the client needs help. A good IT consultant must be knowledgeable, resilient and bold enough to set goals for the end result. He or she must be able to thrive under the pressure of expectations and be able to land in an organization and deliver from day one.

Client focus is critical

Next to the professional skills, the best IT consultants also understand that completion of the task remains the consultant’s primary function and justification, and the focus therefore always must be on the client and the assignment. It is all about listening to the client and getting an understanding of their expectations.

Moreover, the best consultants have the ability to visualize the final result of a project already from the beginning while also being able to pinpoint the potential issues that might arise during the project. This particular skill first comes with a certain amount of experience and extensive professional knowledge.

Read: “Tips from a colleague: Flexibility is advantageous”

Furthermore, consultants who are flexible and adaptable are the most successful. It is a clear advantage to have a mind-set and an approach that allows you to withstand the relatively high pressure of expectations as well as maneuver in an environment full of different stakeholders with its own distinctive social rules.

The importance of communication

Good communication skills always produce the best results. Consultants are brought on board because of their insight and experience and must therefore be able to advise on technical and complex matters while also being able to communicate their ideas to the clients – this is crucial for the success of the project. The ability to communicate critical information coherently and precisely, and always adapting the message to the audience within a highly complex context, is just as important as some of the “harder” technical proficiencies.

Requires the right DNA

On a more personal level, one must thrive with the greater risk that is associated with freelance work and be prepared to take on a more exposed role in comparison to that of a permanent job.  Freelance consultants do not worry about job security.

In addition, it requires a certain drive and passion for one’s work – and especially for the project one decides to undertake. A good consultant is enthusiastic about challenges and wants to succeed.

Read: “5 personality traits that characterize the good consultant”

Finally, it is a clear advantage to have a thorough and dutiful approach to work, which is characterized by the fact that one always does the due diligence required and always delivers thorough results on time. A successful consultant is professional.

If you recognize yourself in the above and if you can see yourself performing under the pressure and the uncertainty associated with the role of freelance consultant, then you certainly have the potential to be successful as an independent freelance IT professional.

Read: “Taking the plunge as a freelance IT consultant”