Self-employment on the rise for tech professionals: is this a good thing?

In today's crazy economy, self-employment or entrepreneurship may be the best way for IT professionals to go.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

IT jobs are increasingly being staffed by self-employed or contract professionals. Is this a good thing?

Patrick Thibodeau just put together a report in ComputerWorld that points to the growing reliance of organizations on freelance, independent IT professionals to get things done.

IT worker-By Michael Krigsman
Photo: Michael Krigsman

For starters, he notes that 18% of all IT workers these days are self-employed, according to data from Emergent Research. The number of independent IT workers are growing at a rate of seven percent a year, the research group calculates.

Another firm, Computer Economics, pegs the percentage of self-employed IT workers in larger enterprises at 15% -- up from just six percent in 2011.

Emergent's Steve King says the growth in contract IT labor is all about quickly pulling in needed skills on a moment's notice. "In today's world, change is happening so quickly that everyone is trying to figure out how to be more flexible and agile, cut fixed costs and move to variable costs," he is quoted as saying.

So, enterprises save money (of course), and also gain more agility as they tap into the contract pool for the skills they need. In today's cloudscape, there are many types of skillsets that are needed to either deploy cloud applications and services, or better integrate them into existing enterprises. Add that to skills needed to handle all the new types of databases and frameworks (NoSQL, Hadoop) and mobile technologies. It's very difficult to maintain a bench with every conceivable skill for unforeseen (as of this month) opportunities that arise.

Enterprises need to establish dynamic confederations of teams and contractors that are available to pursue new paths of business as situations arise, and then be able to just as quickly stand down these teams.

But is it a good deal for IT professionals? Some argue that the contracting and of IT jobs is diminishing opportunities for meaningful employment. In some cases, it may even run afoul of government employment regulations. (In a famous case a few years back, Microsoft suffered the repercussions of categorizing some IT workers as contractors). 

But for many professionals, it's a chance to build a more entrepreneurial career with more variety. It means more independence, and very likely, more job security than a full-time job. An IT contractor may be working with several clients, and as some clients end projects, other clients can be engaged. Working full-time for one company is essentially having one, single client.

This is an amazing era in the tech sector. All the tools and platforms one may need are available, sometimes at no costs, online. An IT professional can quickly launch a practice or business with low start-up costs.

Ultimately, in today's crazy economy, self-employment or entrepreneurship may be the only way to go. 

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