What is contracting?
Contracting is when you are hired into a company to provide your expertise to complete a specific project or task for a fixed period of time. There is an agreement on the scope of the role and typically a start and end date.
An independent contractor is traditionally referred to as someone who is set up as their own entity. See the full definitions from this government resource. You can also fulfil contract roles through an agency who will hold your employment and process payments for you under a ‘pay as you go’ arrangement.
The nature of contracting means work is often skewed towards project-based work. Professional contractors are recognised as being highly skilled specialists in their field who are able to quickly adapt to an organisation, deliver for a new team, and expertly manage vital projects or tasks for the business from start to completion.
Why are ambitious professionals making the change from permanent employment to contracting?
The last 20 years have already seen a global shift towards contracting as an engaging, flexible and lucrative way to work. The challenges and restrictions from Covid19 have further impacted this trend. Here are some of the reasons for the appeal.
Current climate creating a huge demand for flexible talent
The current global pandemic has accelerated the trend of organisations to move away from permanent employment and employ more flexible staffing options. Organisations globally have stopped perm hiring during this economically unstable time. As these organisations prepare to recover from the crisis they are finding they need to react quickly with a workforce who are flexible, highly skilled and can hit the ground running.
The past has shown us that during recessions and times of economic uncertainty, contracting survives while perm hiring freezes – and according to Yvonne Kelly (Director of NPA and founder of Glow Up Careers) this is definitely playing out now, and will continue for the next few years.
Higher rate of pay
Contracting pays more than the permanent market, particularly for the premium skills in demand. It is not unusual to see the net amount of a paycheck being 1.5 or even double that of a perm employee. There are certain company benefits (sick pay, holidays, pensions etc) that you aren’t eligible for as a contractor, but as long as you factor these in when negotiating your daily or hourly rate – these can easily be covered.
Flexibility and freedom
Oncore’s founder Brenton Henderson says, “Contracting gives you that real flexibility and the freedom to choose whether it’s the company, the role, the city, and even the country. Contracting puts you in the driving seat of your working life.”
Interestingly, Oncore’s recent Contractor Insights Report (2020) highlighted that 70-80% of contractors cited flexibility as one of their key drivers for being a contractor.
Variety of what you do
Contract positions can offer a fantastic mix of projects that can challenge, excite and educate you as a professional. You can gain a real breadth of experience across different industry sectors, organisations and people.
Matthew Pepper, Senior Business Analyst and Career Contractor of 20+ years, reflects that ‘You’ve got to really enjoy what you do, and first and foremost I found contracting as a way to work particularly enjoyable’!
Matthew goes on to explain with contracting, “you get to come on board for a specific task, and then get to see that project through from finding a solution through to seeing the impact of the outcome. Each project is different, each company is different and each solution is different – meaning you rarely get bored as a contractor.”
Increase your professional networks
Every role you take will involve working with a new team, new suppliers – constantly building an evolving network of friends, contacts and industry connections. Brenton added “You pick up new skills and then you take those skills to your next role. And if you continue to do those things well, the roles keep coming in. It works so well if you work it well.”
Matthew agrees, saying “The nature of contracting is that you get to work with such a varied group of people, often with high skill sets and similar motivation.”
This network will prove vital to your success as a contractor, as referrals play a big part in the contracting industry. One contracting job undoubtedly leads to another as word spreads of your work and abilities.
Better work/life balance and control
Contractors don’t just have flexibility over the length of their contracts, but also the days and times they work. As your own boss, you are freer to create a work/life balance that suits you. Your terms as a contractor may not include annual leave, but if you are working an 8-month contract on a much higher day rate, you then have the choice (and the all-important funds) to take extended leave before starting a new contract. You aren’t bound by the usual four weeks, as you are in charge of your yearly plan.
Matthew and Brenton discuss this in more detail on our recent webinar here
But, aren’t I more secure in a permanent role?
Your future in a role these days is arguably more uncertain in a permanent role. With contracting, you know where you are from a timescale perspective and can plan and budget for that accordingly.
Yvonne reflects that in the past the uncertainty for contractors has always been seen as a real challenge of contracting. What will happen to the project, how long will the project last? But now with redundancies, constant change and uncertainty for permanent roles too, it has closed that divide resulting in the pro’s for contracting far outweighing the cons when compared to perm.
Matt agrees ‘There isn’t the security anymore for permanent staff. Whether you are a contractor or permanent you are potentially never more than 4 weeks away from losing your job’.
“Decide what success in your career looks like to you personally”
Matthew reminds us that it’s important not to necessarily think of career progression as moving up the hierarchy of the company. That seemingly senior level on the hierarchy may not be your bag at all. Career progression can be seen just as importantly in your technical skillset, and capability – you could progress from simple projects as you start out, through to highly complex transformation projects. That could be an amazingly fulfilling career progression, encompassing such interesting and rewarding growth for your career.
Hear from others in the contracting industry
There are many reasons, particularly now, why so many ambitious professionals are choosing the appeal of contracting over permanent employment. Contracting can afford you the money, flexibility, while boosting your skills and knowledge, without having to jump through hoops and climb the corporate ladder.
For further information about the benefits of contracting, you can listen to our panel of experts discuss and share their insights and advice about how to manage the challenges and opportunities that come along every day in the life of a contractor. Click here to watch the webinar on replay