If you’ve worked in IT for some time, no doubt you’ve come into contact with plenty of IT contractors. The ‘mavericks’ of the IT world, they seem to be remunerated at much higher levels than permanent staff, although they do have to usually have to work away from friends and family for days, weeks or even months at time.
You’re a contractor if you work for a company that you’ve no other attachment to for a fixed-term contract, rather than a full-time employment contract. You’re usually taken on board by a company on a fee-per-hour basis because of your skills, with the purpose of helping them to complete a project. Once the project has ended and your contract has run its length, then your association with that company ends.
So, what do you need to consider if you’re thinking about becoming an IT contractor?
What the client gets out of it …
Many organisations are quite happy to use contractors in conjunction with permanent staff. Contractors are generally more flexible when it comes to the hours they are willing to work, and offering someone a short-term contract only to then discover that they do not have the skills necessary means they are much easier to discard once the contract has expired.
Contractors also come fully-loaded with necessary skills, saving time and money on training. They have experience in different working environments and on different kinds of projects, which can be invaluable.
There are also no issues to deal with regarding sick pay, vacation pay, redundancy pay and national insurance contributions.
What the contractor gets out of it …
Because of their experience and niche talents, contractors usually earn more money than regular employees. They are also – to most intents and purposes – their own boss, which means if there are plenty of roles available across the industry, they can pick and choose where they work and whom they work for, and can take extended breaks if they choose.
It also helps them build up an impressive CV with many varied employers and locations. Some opportunities – such as working in a different country or different continent – are only open to contractors as relocation is usually only temporary.
What to be wary of …
Contracting can be more stressful than regular employment. You’re in competition with lots of other contractors with the same skills, many of them are likely to be more skilled and more experienced than you, so there is never any cast-iron guarantee of work. If you’re a regular employee and you leave work on a Friday it’s extremely unlikely that your job will not be there for you come Monday morning.
You also do not receive sick or holiday pay, and you’ll have to cover your own travel and accommodation issues, as well as making sure you’re meeting all your tax liabilities.
How to be a successful IT contractor …
You need to be skilful and be able to transfer those skills to different environments. You also need to be approachable and communicative, and know when to speak up and when to keep quiet. You also need to patient as you build up a solid portfolio of clients and successfully completed projects.
If you’re tempted to make the leap of faith, make sure you do your research. You can’t sell your skills if no one wants them. If you do your homework correctly, then a successful contracting career could just be around the corner.