How an IT Guy Found Job Freedom

A tech expert talks about leaving a job to start his own tech consulting firm: the pitfalls, the worries, the steps you can take.
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it consulting

Once I worked 50-60 hour weeks for an IT vendor. I spent weekend time traveling; I spent 50 or even 100 nights per year away from home; and missed a fair chunk of my son’s first four years. My aspirations changed as I got older and had family, and the company changed too. It had ceased to be fun. At times it got downright Dilbertesque.

So I quit. Now I work for my own company (I figured it was the only way I was ever going to be a Managing Director). I still work long hours but I do so mostly at home, at times that suit me. I work on projects only if I think they are a good idea. I am away from home when I want. I took most of January off to go camping with my son, and most of February to play with my hobby (model railroading if you must know).

Changing to a lower paced, lower pressure, simpler lifestyle is known as “downshifting.” For many people in developed nations, especially those of us in IT, we have sufficient surplus affluence to make it a viable option.

If that sounds like something you would like to do, there are two ways to achieve it. Either (a) make such a bucket-load of money that you need never work again or (b) follow these steps:

1) Find an Inexpensive Living Situation

Plenty of people go out on their own while still paying mortgage or rent, but if you want to relax a little, downshift, and not be a slave to the job, then you need the freedom of a freehold home. You could go live in a cardboard box, or you could make enough money to pay the mortgage off (see (a) above). It is amazing how quickly some people can clear a mortgage if they set their mind to it, especially childless couples. Alternatively, consider downshifting where you live. If you want the bright lights of the big city, it will be hard for you to escape debt. But if you go live somewhere less hectic you can also find lower property prices: moving from a major city to a smaller town or city can give you enough equity to buy for cash – we did. This does of course require you to…

2) Reduce expectations

People addicted to the high-spend lifestyle that many jobs can buy will remain job-slaves. It is a great help if you can shift to a less materialistic mindset where you value quality family time, peaceful environment, and simple pleasures over dining, travel, fine possessions and inner-city excitement. We can go camping for weeks for the price of one airfare to Bali. Besides, we already have lots of those possessions.

3) Build the right skills

Most IT people after a decade in the industry have plenty of bankable technical skills. The key skills that many lack are an understanding of business and of consulting. These can be learned. Pursuing this line of personal growth will serve you well whether you stay with your employer (see Strategies for Securing Your IT Career) or go out on your own. (So your employer should be supportive of this direction, and learning consulting skills doesn’t commit you to a decision.)


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