What are some essentials that you must have as an IT Consultant?

Fellow IT Consultants....what are some of your favorite things that you feel you need as part of your job or things that just make your life as an IT Consultant easier.  It could be anything from training, to cell phone features, to apps, to software/hardware, to conferences you feel like you must attend.  I'm just looking to see if there is anything that is helpful out there that I am missing!

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Bill BachPresident and Btrieve GuruCommented:
It really depends on where your specialties lie, but here's a starting point:
- Smartphone w/Internet access point (Provides wifi access to the 'net from anywhere)
- Fast laptop with lots of memory (Consider SSD, too)
- External drive (Encrypted) for storing all customer-specific data.
- Toolkit (if you work on PC's)
- GbE web-enabled switch (if you troubleshoot networks)
- Accounting application (to track time, expenses and invoices)
- Professional Email account (no GMail)
- Professional web site
- Million Dollar Consulting, by Alan Weiss
- A solid understanding of what you are doing (or don't do it)

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Don't forget Insurance, that's a must if your in the IT Consulting business.
"IT Consultant" is a very broad brush. What do you specialise in?

For productivity and organising, I recommend and use Springpad and Evernote - more the latter these days, it must be said.

Get yourself on LinkedIn and build up your professional network too. If you're self-employed, it definitely more becomes the "who you know" when you're building up your client base. You'll get recommendations more through endorsements than through people randomly locating you via a CV skillset.
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tchristmanAuthor Commented:
I specialize in small business networking....firewalls, servers, computer repair, wiring, etc.

What does everyone use for accounting software?  I use Invoice Expert but I'm sure there are better options.  

LinkedIn is good advice!  Does anyone know of a place where I can just get a list or calendar of IT conventions that would be worth going to?  I'm in Chicago but I'm not opposed to traveling.
Bill BachPresident and Btrieve GuruCommented:
In small business networking, stocking spare equipment is a must, too.  You should have spare switches, workstations, servers, a supply of cabling and terminators, and so on.  If you need to troubleshoot hardware on the road, the a PSU tester might come in handy, too. I'd also keep a CDROM or read-only USB stick with AV software and other common utilities.  You should have your own FTP site for uploading log files and for transferring files, too.

Accounting software may be all over the map, depending on your needs and scale.  A software package with time & expense tracking will be important, such as QuickBooks Professional, but this may be overkill for a one-man shop with only a few invoices each month.  However, the full-blown accounting features can definitely be helpful if you want everything (AP/AR/Payroll/etc.) in one solution.

I'm also in Chi-town, and I have been to ONE convention in the last 10 years -- and I'm not even sure that one was worthwhile.  Conventions simply are not what they used to be, before the 'Net.
There are two sides to IT consulting. The tech side and the business side. You need to pay equal attention to both if you want to grow and make more money. Otherwise you will be stuck answering tech support calls all day and dealing with invoices/time management headaches if you don't put some systems into place to automate things. I am going to outline things in both, but more so on the business side because I assume you have the tech tools (laptop, console cable, cable tester, Wireshark, etc) to be an actual IT consultant. This is the only way to grow, is to outsource or delegate.

Freshbooks.com, includes iOS/Android Apps. Send Invoices/Estimates directly from the software, track your time, track invoices/payments. Reports for your accountant/you when you file taxes. Cheap monthly cost. Cloud based.

Ticket Support:
Zendesk.com, good place to have customers submit requests if they don't already do it from calling you. This will route tickets and assign ticket numbers, you can put in notes as you resolve issues and it becomes an unofficial knowledge base for issues you always need fixes for without spending tons of time again on the same problems.
-Cheap cost monthly (I believe there is a free option too)
-iOS/Android app

People need to find you too. Godaddy.com and make a free website and list your contact information.

Only if you are going to be working on specific applications/systems that require it. Most Level 1-2 stuff can be self taught. These certs cost money which you don't need to be spending right now unless you need it.

Cell Phone Apps:
Only for Invoicing or Ticketing.

Hope this helps.
tchristman, Have you gotten enough information to help yet?
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