Internet Consultants Career
Internet consultants use their technological and computer skills to help people or businesses access and utilize the Internet. Their work may include implementing or refining a networking system, creating a Web site, establishing an online ordering or product support system, or training employees to maintain and update their newly established Web site. Some consultants work independently, and others may be employed by a consulting agency.
Internet Consultants Job Description
The job of an Internet consultant can vary from day to day and project to project. The duties can also vary depending on the consultant’s areas of expertise. For example, an Internet consultant specializing in creative work may design a Web site and help a company create a consistent visual message, while a consultant who is a “techie” may get involved with setting up the company’s intranet or Internet connections. The entrepreneurial Internet consultant may help a business establish an online storefront and an online ordering and processing system. Some Internet consultants who have considerable business experience may work with CEOs or other company heads to analyze the company’s current use of the Internet and determine what markets the company is reaching.
Some consultants work independently (running their own businesses) and are paid for their work by the hour; others may be paid by the project. Those who work for consulting firms may be salaried employees of the firm. Some businesses may require that the consultants be onsite; this means that they work on a particular project at the company’s office for several days, weeks, or months. Many consultants work out of their home offices and only visit the company occasionally such as when meetings are necessary.
Frank Smith, an Internet consultant in San Diego, California, started working in this career, because, as he puts it, “I was essentially a computer geek and a technology freak. I was interested in computer technology early on and just continued to learn.” Smith has a degree in business administration and was previously employed as a project manager for a manufacturing firm. The appeal of working at different locations, meeting a variety of technological challenges, and working independently, however, enticed him into the field of consulting, as it does many people. Smith added to his computer knowledge by learning many software programs and programming languages. He also took classes that focused on special elements of Web site design, networking, and image manipulation. Internet consultants must constantly update their knowledge to keep abreast of new technological developments.
Smith says it’s not difficult to love his job because there are no typical days and no typical projects. “I may work with a company to develop their Web presence, or I may simply analyze what they are currently doing and give them some tips to make their Internet and networking connections more efficient.” One of the first things a consultant may do on a new project for a company is to meet with key people at the company. During the meeting the consultant gathers information on the business and finds out what the company hopes to do through the Internet. “I don’t simply design a Web site and get them on the Internet,” emphasizes Smith. “I get a feel for their company and their business. I look at their current marketing, advertising, and sales material and make sure their Web site will be consistent with their printed material.”
This means the consultant’s work involves researching, analyzing information, and preparing reports based on their findings. As Smith notes, “This takes time and research. Sometimes I go home from a meeting with a stack of material about the company, and I study it to make sure I am familiar with the company and its focus.” Internet consultants must know their clients to be successful. Smith adds, “I believe this is an important business aspect that is sometimes overlooked by consultants and company executives when they go on the Internet.”
Internet consultants may also develop the entire Internet setup, including the hardware and software, for their client. The client may be a company that is upgrading its equipment or a company that has never been connected to the Internet before. Some consultants also train company employees to monitor, maintain, and enhance their Web site.
According to Smith, consultants who have business experience and business degrees, as well as some technical training, will be the most highly sought. “A good consultant needs to have a working knowledge of the business world as well as computer and technological expertise.” The consultant with an understanding of business is able to offer clients more thorough service than the consultant who is only a computer whiz. “Many consultants can put together a Web site for their clients,” Smith explains, “however, more and more companies are beginning to look for the consultant who can offer added value, such as business analysis or marketing skills that will enhance their business and its products and services.”
Although Smith feels there is currently an abundance of work for Internet consultants, he believes that demand may slow as companies get connected to the Internet and establish their presence. New technologies, however, are constantly being developed. The consultant who keeps up with technical changes will be able to offer new and old clients improved and different services.
Some people may use their computer skills to work as consultants in a sideline business or as a supplement to their part-time or full-time job. Linda McNamara is employed on a part-time basis as a Web site designer with a government agency in Illinois. In addition to that job, though, she also works as an independent Internet consultant. McNamara partners with another consultant to operate a business that designs and maintains Web sites for small enterprises in the area.
Although McNamara does not consult on the large scale that Smith does, she, too, emphasizes that consultants need to have good communication skills. “Everyone has a different idea of how they want their Web site to look,” she says. “This requires that I have the ability to listen, communicate, and perform according to expectations.”
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