We've got some good news for anyone thinking about starting an IT consulting business
– you are probably going to be in high demand. That's because a lot of small- to medium-sized businesses don't have
the resources for an in-house IT department. Instead, they turn to folks like you to solve their tech needs.
But even if you have the technical chops, you may not know exactly how to start an IT consulting business. There's a lot
more to it than the ability to restore a database or replace a motherboard.
You can find generic tips on starting a business all over the web. However, starting an IT consulting firm requires some
finesse. To help you out, we've gathered tips from IT consultant who've been there before and can offer their hard-won
1. You Need to Keep Learning
Learning never stops for IT consultants. New technology is invented every day, and existing technology continuously
evolves. Keep up with the latest tech developments and updates to existing systems that may impact your customers.
"An IT consultant will encounter new things every day and only through experience do you figure out how to deal with
these unexpected issues regularly," says
Brian Anderson, an
IT consultant and owner of
ADVYON Business Technology
(@advyon). "Schooling alone will not prepare you for an IT
consultant job. New IT consultants need to be pliable, teachable, humble, and fast learners."
Joerg Laves founded his
company IT Secure (@ITSecureService) almost a decade ago. He says
despite all of his experience, he's still learning.
"One of the nice things is that I never have it figured out," says Laves. "I always learn something new, which makes it
2. But Don't Just Learn IT – Learn How to Run a Business
It's definitely important to make sure your technical skills are up to speed, but don't lose sight of the fact that
you're running an IT business. There's a lot more to it than simply troubleshooting clients' computer woes.
"Many IT consultants, when starting a business, don't understand business," says Anderson. "Balancing a checkbook,
having a budget, working with the necessary tools, and creating the proper procedures for success eludes many."
But if you ignore the basics of business, you risk ultimately going under. If you need pointers, there are several books
that can teach you the skills you need:
SCORE also offers a lot of programs designed to help new business
owners, including classes and mentorship.
For more help, check out our articles "14 Questions That Will Make You a Networking Rock Star" and "Intro: Building Relationships to Keep Your Client Pipeline Full."
3. Get It in Writing
Before you take on any type of client work, spend some time creating standard client contracts that outline terms, such
- Project scope.
- Payment terms.
Working with a signed contract can alleviate a lot of headaches and may prevent some lawsuits. If you work more in the
consultant mode versus strictly taking care of IT problems, invest even more time drawing up contracts if you want to
retain intellectual property rights for your work.
"Contractors will likely produce work-for-hire items owned by the customer, where advisors can determine this through
the nature of the contract so that they retain ownership," says
Andrew Townley (@atownley),
founder and CEO of consulting firm
(@archistry). "As an advisor, you want to retain
ultimate ownership of everything you do because that's the unique IP [intellectual property] you're developing. I'm talking
about the techniques, templates, and methods – not the proprietary company information, of course. Customers then get
irrevocable licenses to use, extend, and further develop what you give them, but you maintain IP ownership."
If you haven't created a contract before, don't worry. We've got some sample
contracts that can help you get started.
4. Be Wary of Kickbacks
There's no shortage of companies eager to establish partnerships with IT consultants. They want to become your company
of choice so that when you recommend a software or hardware purchase to a client, it's theirs.
But favoring one company really limits your options and may not be in the best interest of your customers. That's why
some of those who've been in the IT trenches recommend not getting too cozy with a particular company.
"Don't accept kickbacks from any one program or hardware supplier," says
One Stop Tek
(@Onestoptekshop). "If you get a little kickback
from ordering from Amazon or another marketplace, that's fine, but keep your options open. I still have yet to find a
company who can handle the different needs of my clients. By staying free from kickbacks, I don't try to force them into
While it's not the end of the world if you get a few perks once in a while from a supplier, don't let that be the
deciding factor in what you recommend.
5. Learn How to Communicate with Clients
As an IT consultant, it's your job to solve your clients' problems. However, sometimes they may not be able to clearly
articulate what those issues actually are. As Laves points out, a lot of the time when you ask the client what the problem
is, they won't have an answer.
"If the customer knows what the issues are, they'd solve them themselves," says Laves.
Other times, you may encounter clients who think they know more than they actually do. Either way, it's up to you to
diagnose the real problem, find the solution, and communicate all of that in simple terms to your customers.
"You need to be able to understand what the customer is trying to accomplish and be able to put the technology aspects
into clear, non-technical terms," says Townley. "Those that think they know are often harder because you need to help them
understand the boundaries of what they actually know."
For more on starting an IT business, read "6 IT Consultant Tips for When You're Just Starting Out."
About the Contributors
Brian Anderson is an IT consultant, web developer, technology entrepreneur, and owner of ADVYON Business Technology. In his professional career, he's an information
technology guru with a specialization in how small businesses use and converge different technologies. ADVYON Business
Technology, his small business, was created in 2008 in an effort to empower people and small businesses with all of the new
Ryan Burr is the founder of One Stop Tek.
He has extensive knowledge in building websites, brands, businesses, and IT security. He listens to his customers' concerns
and then optimizes what their business needs to function in an easier, more efficient manner. Thumbtack.com has rated him
#1 in computer consultants, social media marketing, computer organizers, and security consultants for 2015 and 2016. The
Henderson Award Program honored Ryan in 2015 and 2016 as computer consultant of the year. He has also been featured on
NBC.com as a business and money saving expert.
Joerg Laves is the founder and owner of IT
Secure in Manchester, New Hampshire. IT Secure is a managed services provider focusing on small- and medium-sized
businesses and has recently been included in the MSPmentor 501 list of best IT service providers worldwide. Prior to
starting IT Secure in 2007, Joerg managed support organizations for Bay Networks, Digital Equipment, Eastman Software, and
in the VoIP space. His experience includes working in the business intelligence and port security solutions arenas. Joerg
graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Management and an MBA from Bentley University.
Andrew Townley is the founder and CEO of Archistry,
a consultancy providing advice to ensure customers successfully execute their strategies by addressing, monitoring, and
managing all relevant business and technology risks. He has over 20 years of security, IT, business, and management
consultancy experience working with private and public sector clients in the US, Europe, Middle East, South America, and