If you are working in a permanent role and considering making a move to contract work, you may be apprehensive about whether it will be right for you. There is a big difference between contract and permanent work and you need to understand the realities of it, before you make the move. Contracting can be highly rewarding and you can certainly earn more money, but it does take the right skills and a certain attitude to be able to enjoy it. These are some of the things you need to be a contractor.
Confidence in Skills
As a contractor, you will be expected to go into a role and hit the ground running and you need to have confidence in your skills to be able to do this. They say, in contracting you live by your skills and you die by your skills. If you’re confident in what you do, this will shine through and you’ll have no problem converting client meetings / interviews into lucrative contracts. If you are apprehensive about your abilities, it will make it more difficult to find roles. Clients of contractors can be less patient and forgiving if the contractor takes a long time to deliver results. Broadly speaking, the expectations that clients have of contractors (as against, of employees) are higher.
Permanent work is (relatively) secure. You know where you’re going, what you are getting paid and at the end of the day, you’ll have a job to go back to each day. This isn’t the case with contract work. Although you are given a set time period and it’s unusual for it to be reduced, it can be – and that’s the uncertainty with contract work. It can end at any time and there’s no guarantee that a new contract will start, when your current contract ends. You need to be comfortable with uncertainty to work as a contractor. Unless your current client is willing and has the funding to extend your services, you can work on a contract for 6 months and have some down time for a few months, before you take on another contract. This is what many contractors do and it can be quite an enticing prospect!
One month you might be dining out every night of the week, the next you could be eating noodles out a bowl, that’s the uncertainty of working as a contractor. Some contracts will have a great hourly rate, others won’t and you have to be able to manage your money so you can maintain your lifestyle. You will also be faced with lifestyle choices – some high paying roles may require you to travel a bit. This may mean that you bear the travel expenses, so there are a number of variables to consider.
The employer will expect you to find solutions to problems – and quickly. If you are a solutions oriented person, working as a contractor may be suited to you. Employer’s pay contractors well, so they expect them to be switched on and able to manage their own workload well.
Although you need to be careful about how you integrate yourself into a company (think IR35!), it is important that you have the right soft skills. Some contractors take the ‘lone wolf’ approach, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing. You should be able to communicate well with your colleagues, while also maintaining your workload. You should also be able to work well under pressure and maintain a cool head.
Overall, contracting can be a rewarding proposition. One, because you can often choose what opportunities you wish to be considered for, and what you can let go. Having said that, a contractor needs to be resilient and adaptive to make the most of the opportunities.