Is it Time to Move into IT Contracting?
IT contracting can be exciting because it presents an opportunity to earn more money, provide greater flexibility and expand your career. Here are the benefits and drawbacks of working as an IT contractor.
Take the time to understand what it means for you and your IT future. It can mean more money, but it can also mean increased work loads and a change in how potential employers view you.
But that said, contracting jobs can be an exciting direction for your career. It offers opportunities to expand your skill set, work on numerous different projects and experience a variety of working environments. All in a relatively short period of time.
However, it is important that you research both the benefits and drawbacks of contracting before making life changing decisions.
Have you reached the stage in your career where you start thinking IT contracting is the next obvious step?
We’ve seen the rise in the IT contract market within the UK, meaning this could be a great time for IT professionals to venture into the world of temporary work and contract IT. No doubt it can be a scary decision and no two personal circumstances are the same, before diving in, make sure you understand exactly what contacting means for you.
We’ve used our extensive experience of working with clients and candidates on IT contract positions to put together a guide on the pros and cons of contracting.
The Benefits of IT Contracting
Immediate benefits to become an IT contractor are avoiding office politics of pay, being able to take longer holidays between contracts and having more flexibility to pursue training to develop the skills you want. It also allows you to continually be at the top of your game in terms of current skill-sets when it comes to marketability. Then there are the benefits of networking, where you get to meet more influential people like IT Managers of Head of IT, which can be hugely beneficial in the future.
There is no doubt that this is one of the strongest benefits to contracting and what entices many to make the change from permanent employment. Contractors can earn up to double of what permanent employees will earn in the duration of their contract.
There is also more flexibility when it comes to overtime as hourly rates are considerably higher allowing you to bring in more income. Negotiating salary LINK and working conditions also tends to be easier for contract employees over permanent ones.
Contract work will give you the opportunity to experience a variety of different working environments. You will have the chance to work on projects of your choice and with clients of your choice. This can lead to a greater sense of job satisfaction, and focusing on work projects you are truly passionate about.
Venturing into contracting brings the opportunity to vastly broaden your skill set. Working in high-pressured environments means you must learn quickly and perfect your skills in a short period of time.
For IT contractors, it means being exposed to a variety of different technologies, and this also allows greater choice in deciding which direction you go in to specialise your career. You are in control of your own career and personal development, allowing you to progress your skills and career in a time frame of your choice.
Being a contractor means you’re the boss. You are in charge of your career path and your work/life balance. This means you can take off as much time as you like, which many cite as the best benefit of being a contractor. You won’t have to negotiate promotions or annual salary reviews with HR and you get to change contracts when you see fit.
The Drawbacks of IT Contracting
While increased hourly rates are welcome, there is no guarantee of consistent income and you won’t be receiving any sick pay either. If you’re not working then you don’t get paid.
Staying in contract can be a continual negotiation, job security isn’t the same for IT contractors as it is for employees. You will need to find and maintain an ongoing pattern of work contracts to ensure you continue to be in employment. This can mean engaging with and staying in contact with one (or more) IT recruitment agency – taking on board what you can learn from them in terms of HR and recruitment skills (or you can just ask us, we’ll be pleased to help). It could mean direct marketing to companies.
Benefits that you would receive with a permanent role such as sick pay aren’t available to contractors.
When you aren’t working, you’re not earning. You also aren’t guaranteed to secure another contract when your current contract ends, meaning you need to prepare for times that you’ll be out of work.
Job benefits like holidays or days off mean no pay, as the costs will be coming from your own pocket. Hopefully, you’ll be earning enough to ensure you can afford to take time off.
Remember, as a contractor, you don’t have a HR department to rely on (unless you have a good IT Recruitment agency who have your back), to help with training and qualifications.
Travel & Relocation
Contractors often need to spend more time travelling or relocate on a temporary basis for work which is a common trade-off for the higher income rate. Be prepared to relocate or to rent somewhere during the week to fulfil your role.
This isn’t uncommon in contracting and many experienced and highly capable IT contractors manage to negotiate salaries that allows them to afford renting a small flat – especially when roles are located in London.
The flip side to this is having to endure long commutes. There are no guarantees that contract roles will be located near to where you live and unless you decide to rent elsewhere (or move) it can mean some lengthy travel times which will increase your fuel costs.
The Joy of Admin
Being your own boss brings with it a different level of responsibility. If you are just beginning contracting, you will need to choose whether you decide to go through a limited company or an umbrella company. Both will require a certain level of research to decide the best option for you.
Even when you are a seasoned IT contractor, there will be a certain amount of administration that you will need to dedicate time to, although there are also plenty of apps and services that can help reduce the time and burden of administration.
It’s important not to ignore the effect that contracting can have on your personal time. Relocating can take you away from your family for long periods. You will also need to market yourself and job hunt frequently, which can be a stressful experience.
To give yourself the best chance at beating other IT contractors, you will have to keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date to match changing trends. This could be in the form of paying for training or online courses in your spare time or when you are out of contract, meaning you are spending money instead of earning money.
For many workers, contracting can be the answer to their work/life prayers, but contracting doesn’t suit everyone. You must also be proficient in a whole set of new contracting skills in order to take advantage of the benefits on offer for IT contractors.