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Flying Solo? Make Sure It’s Not Cutting into Profit

Flying Solo? Make Sure It’s Not Cutting into Profit

Thursday, April 14, 2016/Categories: business-tips

Starting a tech business on your own requires a streak of individualism, a trait that many IT pros seem to share. In fact, when we look at our customers, we find that 64 percent of them run a one-person business. Maybe it’s the freedom, maybe it’s the peace and quiet, but something about working alone appeals to a good number of IT folks.

There’s danger in flying solo, though. When you run a one-person operation, you face some unique challenges that put your business at risk. You might…

  • Exhaust your business connections.
  • Run out of new business opportunities.
  • Have fewer resources to gain professional development and new skills.

So how do you combat these challenges and make sure your business adventure ends up like Charles Lindbergh's nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic? For starters, you may want to:

  • Get involved in professional groups. 
  • Connect with the local tech community.
  • Join an accelerator.
  • Remember to devote time to development.
  • Carry technology insurance.

Read on for more details.

Expand Your IT Network with Professional Groups

Your network might be a good size, but is it big enough to sustain your business?

Big companies often outsource their work to contractors, but many are hesitant to hire someone they’ve never heard of, says Lonnie Emard (@LonnieEmard). After working in senior IT positions at BlueCross BlueShield, Emard began working with (@IT_oLogy), a nonprofit that focuses on getting more students to study IT and offers professional development to current IT professionals.

Emard suggests that by getting involved in professional organizations, tech solopreneurs can meet other IT professionals who are looking to hire contractors for one-off projects – or they can introduce you to those who are. It’s a good way to jumpstart your network and begin building up your clientele.

Find New Opportunities through Local Tech Communities

Freelance web developer Wes Bos of writes on his blog that many firms won’t touch a project smaller than $10,000 or $20,000. But for a freelancer, these gigs are major wins. By going to tweetups, Bos connects with larger companies who can pass smaller work to him.

You can think of the tech field like an ecosystem where big players and small-time consultants fit into their niches. When you’re starting out, you have to figure out what your place is in this environment. Connecting with the local tech community – online or in person – can help you find your niche and let people know you’re in the market for that type of work.

Get Advice and Potential Partnerships via Accelerators

If you have any accelerator programs in your area, consider joining. These programs often offer technology business tips, business coaching, and funding advice. On top of all that, they’re another way to meet new people and learn about new opportunities.

Consider Nirupama Mallavarupu's example. She already had 20,000 parents using the startup of which she is coufounder, (@MobileArq9), a school directory and Parent-Teacher Association platform. But she didn’t have a full-scale e-commerce platform. As part of the TechLaunch accelerator in New Jersey, Mallavarupu met a software architect who had expertise in the area. After getting to know each other at the accelerator, Mallavarupu decided she wanted to hire the architect to build the platform.

Don’t Neglect Your Own Development and Marketing

The biggest technology business risk may be tied to the nature of technology itself. That is to say, one day you could wake up to find you’ve become obsolete.

Remember, as an entrepreneur, you’re responsible for your own professional progress and development. You can’t rely on company programs or helpful coworkers to teach you or goad you into learning new skills. When you have the time, make sure to:

  • Take classes.
  • Pursue IT certifications.
  • Attend seminars, workshops, and lectures.

Use your updated knowledge and let everyone know about it. Don’t be afraid to take a few (calculated) risks with your newfound skills to grow your business and offer new services.

Carry Technology Insurance for Your IT Business

Lastly, a lot of tech professionals who do freelancing or consulting work don’t think of themselves as businesses, but they are. That means they have the liabilities other businesses have, including professional liability.

If a client thinks you failed to deliver what you promised or performed shoddy or incomplete work, they could sue you to recoup their losses. Professional Liability Insurance can mitigate this technology business risk and protect your business. It may help pay for:

  • Legal defense costs.
  • Court fees.
  • Settlements or judgments.

Simply put, any technology business, no matter the size, should have technology insurance. It can keep your solo-flight in the air if you happen to run into a rough patch.

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