Contracting is a career choice favoured by many in the technology sector. If you have been considering making the move into the contracting market, I hope this article helps give you some insight into the pro’s and cons of handing in your notice from your nice comfortable permanent position and jumping into contracting.
The first thing to consider is: at what point in your career do you look to make the move? This is very important question. If you try and make the move too soon, it will be difficult to secure work as there will be plenty of competition from more experienced candidates. I would recommend you make the move when you are an expert in your field, you have been working for 5+ years, you have built up the technical or business skills that will hold you in good stead, and you are considered the ‘go to’ person in your current organisation. I must caveat this by adding that this timeframe can be dramatically reduced for some people. I remember early in my recruitment career speaking to a Developer earning £50 an hour 16 months after finishing university!
When you have made the leap of faith, you will then need to secure your first contract. You will need to sell yourself and your skills to potential clients. Networking with colleagues, registering and meeting with recruiters, promoting yourself online and attending industry events are all ways to help secure your first and subsequent contract roles. After two or three contract positions, you should start to build up a reputation in your market and your name will become better known, which will make it easier for you to secure new contracts. Remember to get a reference or two from each engagement as this will help you to secure your next position. Some contractors with exceptional reputations and excellent networking skills very rarely speak to recruiters or even update their CV, being able to pick and choose positions offered to them by their network. However, always bear in mind that there is always a risk of being out of work for periods of time between contracts and so you need to prepare for this financially. I know some very good contractors, who have had more time off than they would have liked between roles.
There is no doubt that there are plenty of benefits of opting for contracting as a career choice. It can offer you flexibility, enabling you to experience working in a number of different organisations in diverse sectors or geographical areas. Contracting can also free up time to pursue other activities outside of work. It is a lot easier to have a month off between contracts than asking your permanent employer for August off. Another factor, which comes up when talking to contractors, is that sometimes (but not always) you can avoid some of the workplace politics, which comes from people jockeying for position in permanent roles. Additionally, you can improve your earning potential by contracting. If you are a contractor, who does not take much time off between contracts, you will be better off financially by contracting. I know one contractor who, when picking a position, will base their decision on whichever contract is the longest with the highest rate and the longest notice period.
I hope this has helped provide some insight into the contracting world. If you are reading this as a contractor, do tell me why do you contract and what advice would you give to someone considering contracting? If you are thinking of becoming a contractor and would like to discuss the options available to you, please drop me a line and I’d be delighted to offer you some complimentary and confidential career advice. My contact details are firstname.lastname@example.org / 0203-865-4632