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Stay contracting or build your own business?

Sion Smith 7 October 2021

How hard is it to start up your own business and cut out the middleman? Not as easy as you’d think! 

In the UK, we have loads of contractors. Companies rely heavily on us to build automation solutions, migrate applications to the cloud, and perform DevOps work. 

After all, Cloud, DevOps, and automation are skill sets that very few companies need 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year. 

But at some point, most IT professionals consider shifting from contracting to consulting. If you can perform the job under Accenture or AWS ProServe, you can likely go it solo. Right? 

Not so fast. When Rich and I shifted from contracting in the tech and DevOps space to launching our own consulting agency, it was a real challenge, but one worth taking! So, we wanted to share a more balanced perspective of the benefits and the challenges of making a successful transition.

The Benefits 👌

After years of writing thousands of lines of code, you finally get to build something that actually belongs to you. 

When you’re no longer a contractor, you really own the intellectual property, or IP. 

What’s more, building reusable components means that you can scale and serve lots more clients. Like OSO, you can sell off-the-shelf solutions—digital products that bring you clients from all over the world.

You can also learn best practices and replicate those with different clients and across industries. 

You get the flexibility of working where you want, when you want. Now, you’re the one writing the statement of work, and you’re the one deciding upon the terms of delivery. That increased level of control over how you operate feels good! 

Rich and I also found that you can build meaningful partnerships with large technology clients: Confluent, Weaveworks, AWS, Microsoft. You have all these companies that are laser-focused on building great digital products

But their clients don’t always know how to connect and deploy their products, which means that you–yes, you!—can act kind of as an advisor in showing them how to actually operate these solutions.

The Disadvantages 🤯

You didn’t think it was all rosy, did you? Nope. 

When it’s actually your business, you don’t always have as much time off. You can’t claim your daily rate and leave your responsibilities at the office—because now, you’re committed to making the project a success for you, your team and your clients no matter what. 

There’s more pressure to exceed expectations and deliver a service that your clients will recommend 100%. 

 

You’re now a small business. (Crazy, we know.) And running a small business means that you have to throw your hand at every opportunity. You have to write bids, write RFPs. 

You might spend countless hours trying to convince a new client to hire you—and it might be for naught. You won’t win every single one. 

Plus, you have to make sure your operational costs don’t spiral out of control! 

Yep, this means that you sort of need to be a genius with your numbers. Mistakes or under-estimates can kill you if you operate at scale. The more clients you have, the better your estimates must be.

The Challenges ⛰️

Big brands land big gigs for a reason. Big companies provide some measure of certainty and security—and many businesses see them as less risky than small, startup consultancies. 

At OSO, even though we’d worked on big gigs before, carving out a name for ourselves was pretty difficult and time-consuming. 

After all, when you’re just starting out, you’re looking for billable work. Justifying spending precious time on blogging, brand awareness, and thought leadership is tough to justify! 

Here’s the second part: you’re going to take a big pay cut when you start working on your own start up. You end up keeping loads of cash within the business instead of earning a nice day rate.

All in all, running a successful consultancy takes a ton of time and hard-earned lessons. 

Contractors are used to learning new coding languages, new deployment frameworks. But running a business requires a ton of new skills—plus determination and commitment. You need to love it!

Opportunities 💯

In light of all that, why did we start OSO? Easy. 

To be a part of a project bigger than just ourselves. 

We felt like we’d achieved something more important than implementing some build pipeline for Client X, or a new environment for Client Y. We now work with a vast variety of teams with all different experiences and maturity levels. And that has accelerated our learning and personal development.

Plus, you can make a big difference in a short amount of time.

When you have your own business, you can deploy reusable modules of code to give your clients rapid solutions. You can build digital products around the problems you see day in, day out. And these solutions—picture our Tableau Deployment Library—will help you scale.

What We Love ❤️

  • Growing a team of experts who love iterating, improving, and learning. 
  • Working with self-starters who aren’t afraid of a challenge. 
  • Building trust with our clients. 
  • Solving complex problems. 
  • Feeling proud of the solutions we build, improve and deploy. 
  • Working with companies from all over the world. 
  • Exploring how emerging technologies will shape the future!

Come Work With Us

If you love the same types of problems, solutions, and teams as we do, reach out! Tell us a little about yourself and what you can bring to the team. 

 

As we grow and scale, we’re always looking for brilliant engineers who want to shift to working with our consultancy. It might be the right path for you…

Want to join the OSO journey? Come work with us, or get in touch today. 

Contact us! 😊

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