Considering becoming an IT contractor?

Will contracting be right for me?

Will contracting be right for me?

We’ve recently placed a candidate in a 6 month contract role – her first contract, in fact.  For many of us it is hard to imagine leaving a permanent job for a temporary assignment, but inevitably most contractors have to start out doing precisely that!  Candidates often ask us what is the best way to make the transition from permanent to contract work – in fact it often happens by accident, but if you are interested in making the transition there are a few things that are worth considering, both to enhance your chances of securing your first role, and confirming whether the move will be right for you.

Considering becoming a contractor?

Research the marketplace.  Contracting can be much more lucrative than permanent work, which is why most people want to do it!  But it is only lucrative if there is plenty of work out there for people with your skills.  You can test the market by talking to recruitment agencies and other contractors, and by keeping an eye on new opportunities online.

Be flexible.  You will also need to know what your skills are worth, and be prepared to be flexible on your daily rate.   Remember that a first-time contractor is less attractive to a client than someone who has done multiple contract roles – it is quite different to be able to walk into a role and just get started than to join a company on a permanent basis and spend time learning the ropes.  But if you are less expensive than the competition, they might just be willing to take a chance on you.

Negotiate your notice period.  Contract roles tend to be fairly urgent, and if you are on a three-month notice period, unless your skills are incredibly rare, few companies will wait three months for you.  Most contractors will be required to start within one week.  Clients are willing to pay a premium for a contractor because they need the work done urgently.  If you are serious about contracting, it might be worth having a frank conversation with your employer to see if they can assist you in the transition by offering you a shorter notice period.

Adjust your CV.  Contract roles are different from permanent roles– it is worth trying to emphasise any experience you have of project based work rather than just listing your daily duties with your current employer.  The recruiter that is looking for a contractor will want to see evidence that you are comfortable with moving from one assignment to the next, working with different teams, being flexible and dealing with problems as they arise.

Adjust your mindset.  If you love the perks of being a permanent employee, and better still if you have a flexible employer that allows you to take time off at short notice or adjust your working hours to suit your life, contracting might not be for you.  Contractors tend to work until the assignment is finished – they don’t get holiday pay.  Additionally, be prepared to travel further than you would do for a permanent role, or even stay away from home.  You will be very fortunate if every contract you are assigned to is on your doorstep, usually this isn’t the case.  Also, does your employer sometimes pay for training courses or provide financial assistance so you can gain accreditations?  As a contractor, you’ll have to fund these yourself, and it will be important that you have them, in order to stay ahead of the competition.

Finish your assignments.  Stay until the work is done, and you will gain a good reference from your contract workplace.  Job hopping is as frowned upon in the contract world as it is in permanent – don’t leave a project half done because you are offered a better rate elsewhere, it will damage your reputation and ruin your relationship with the client.  Most contractors will be invited back to client sites for further assignments if they have done a good job, and this is an easy way to secure future contracts.

Only time will tell if contracting is right for you – it is a bold move to make and one that you ought to be well prepared for.  Make sure your loved ones are comfortable with your decision too, and bear in mind that it will be more difficult to return to a permanent role if you have a recent history of short term contracts.  On the other hand, the work is varied and interesting, you’ll get to meet a lot of people and gain access to interesting and diverse technical environments, all the while earning much more than you would in your permanent role.  Trust your instincts, and don’t make the move unless you are 100% confident in your decision.