If you're like a lot of technology professionals, you may be intrigued by the idea of owning a business: you get to set your own hours, take projects that actually interest you, and avoid dealing with an unreasonable boss.
But even if business ownership sounds good in theory, it can be difficult in practice. And even if you never had dreams of launching your own consultancy, you may find yourself with little choice:
- Challenger, Gray, & Christmas reported in June 2014 that mass layoffs from technology companies increased 68 percent from 2013 to 2014. Microsoft led the pack with announced cuts of 18,000 employees, but it was by no means the only giant letting employees go: Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Verizon all slashed their workforce in recent months.
- In 2013, recent college graduates with technology degrees had a higher unemployment rate than liberal arts students: 14.7 percent for information systems majors, nine percent for computer science majors, and only 6.4 percent for drama majors. While it's true that the jobs technology students get tend to pay higher, it's also true that 16.8 percent of recent grads (2013 — 2014) were underemployed , which means they weren't earning at the top of their potential.
- More retirees are returning to work, many because they need the money. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found in 2012 that the percentage of working seniors (aged 75+) increased to 7.5 percent in 2011 (up from 4.3 percent in 1990). At the same time, seniors' jobless rate (i.e., the number of people looking for but unable to find work) increased from 2.3 to 5.6 percent in the same time period.
In other words: whether you're starting a business because it's a lifelong dream or because it's a financial imperative, there's a lot more to it than actually performing the IT services you've been studying or practicing for years. Obviously, this guide is not comprehensive — there have been entire books written about every topic we cover here. Think of it as a crash course in running a business to help you navigate everything other than the technology work you do.
To put it together, we talked to experts in finance, marketing, HR, sales, accounting, and other areas who have experience working with small technology businesses. What follows are concrete, practical tips for making your business as successful as the individual projects you complete. We also spoke with several IT entrepreneurs and asked them what advice they would give themselves if they could travel back in time to when they first started their businesses. You'll find those helpful hints sprinkled throughout.
If you find this guide helpful, or if there's a business-related question you'd like answered, please let us know ([email protected]). We have plans for future publications, and we'd love your input!
“Most important in the tech field: we must keep up with the latest developments, as these sometimes affect the products we sell, our pricing and our offering. It is very easy to find yourself behind and offering obsolete technology.” —
Orit Pennington, owner, TPGTEX Label Solutions
Next: Chapter 1: Before You Start