While the idea of becoming an independent consultant is appealing for any number of reasons, many established professionals working in stable hospital IT/IS positions are wary of leaving security behind and plunging headlong into the unknown. While there are many obvious advantages to becoming a consultant, a full-time job with benefits and a regular paycheck can be a tough thing to walk away from.
The good news is that leaving your healthcare IT staff position to become a consultant doesn’t necessarily have to be as risky as you might think. Depending on the kind of consulting work you get into, it’s possible to minimize healthcare IT consulting risks and continue to benefit from the kind of security and stability you enjoy with your current position.
Being an Employed Consultant vs. Being a Contractor
The first thing to understand before entering the world of consultancy is that there are plenty of consulting firms you can either work for or with that will help you land assignments. The option does exist to go completely independent as an hourly contractor (either w2 or “Corp to Corp”) , but many consultants find it an easier transition (and far less risky) to join a consulting firm.
These consulting firms, such as Healthcare IS, offer a couple different kinds of employment relationships, including one in which the consultant is a direct employee of the firm and another in which the consultant is a contractor that has the option to accept assignments from the firm, but retains some independence. While some consultants prefer the freedom and flexibility that a contract position provides, for those that a particularly risk averse, it’s possible to carve out a good career as a consultant by becoming an employee at a consulting firm.
Working as a Contractor
When some people think of consulting, the idea they have in mind is likely along the lines of what it means to be an hourly contractor. Being a contractor means being paid an hourly rate for the time you work. While contractors enjoy many benefits such as variety and flexibility, and generally earn above average hourly rates, they are not paid when they’re not working on a project.
There are some attractive things about working as an hourly contractor affiliated with a consulting firm. For one thing, contractors often earn more money per assignment. Contractors also retain more power to pick and choose which jobs they want to accept, enabling them to have more freedom and flexibility. The downside is that the being an hourly contractor doesn’t offer the same type of security as being a consulting firm employee, that is guaranteed pay and benefits.
Working as an Employed Consultant
That’s why many who are entering the world of consultancy find it’s more appealing to become an employee at a consulting firm. While being a contractor means not being paid unless you are currently working on a project, employed consultants receive regular paychecks, even if they are experiencing what’s known as “bench time.”
Many employed consultants also receive the kind of healthcare benefits you may be accustomed to if you’ve been working as a full-time employee. That’s why taking a job at a consulting firm is often preferable for those taking their first steps into the world of consulting.
Being an employee at a consulting firm minimizes healthcare IT consulting risks while allowing you to enjoy much of the freedom and flexibility that comes with being a contractor.
How to Identify the Right Consulting Firm
If you’ve decided that working as an employed consultant is preferable to being an hourly contractor, the next step is to identify the right kind of consulting firm to work for. Different firms have different kinds of relationships with consultants.
That’s why, when evaluating a firm, it’s important to ask certain questions. Will the firm find you your next contract for instance, or is that your responsibility? Will you receive a regular paycheck whether you’re on a project or not? Are there health care benefits available for employed consultants?
The Best of Both Worlds
In general, there’s been an increase in the number of consultants working across health care and most other major industries in recent years. As the traditional model of what it means to have a career evolves and shifts, qualified individuals across many industries are increasingly drawn to working as a consultant.
There are admittedly risks involved to leaving behind a good hospital job and striking out on your own, but becoming a salaried consultant is in many ways, the best of both worlds. It allows you the freedom and variety of being a consultant while minimizing the healthcare IT consultant risks many endure. You’ve just got to start out by finding the right kind of firm to work with.
Want to learn more about what it takes to enter a career in healthcare IT consulting? Download our free guide Healthcare Consulting 101: Understanding the Four Types of Healthcare Consultants for more information.