Chances are, at some point in your career you’ve thought about leaving your job and becoming a contractor. Thoughts like this tend to pop up when things aren’t going well in your permanent position or long hours are taking their toll. The working life of a contractor can seem very appealing. But is the grass always greener? What are some of the pros and cons of becoming your own boss and leaving the safety net of a permanent position? Let’s have a look at what you can expect as a contractor and whether it’s for you.
If your skills are in demand then being a contractor can give you the ability to choose which projects you take on. There are lots of elements that you can tweak that will benefit your personal life and add some flexibility - like working closer to home or negotiating the hours you work. You can decide your hourly rate and the type of work you carry out too. Being a contractor can give you the chance to specialise in a particular niche, which can lead to more work.
You’re running your own business and it’s up to you how you run it. With this comes the hassle of accounts, red tape and forms to fill in; so if you think you’ll struggle with the business side of things then a permanent position can be a better fit. You’ll also have less security as a contractor and rights at work, so researching organisations you can join and knowing how they can protect you is a good idea.
Being a contractor in an industry that has demand for your skills can be very lucrative. You can decide how many projects you can work on and when. The more experience you have, the more you can potentially earn. You can also be generously compensated when you work overtime, happy days!
It’s vital that you work on marketing yourself though, so that you can maintain your level of income, as there will be times of the year etc when your income might not be as stable. And there’s always a level of uncertainty around your work and no assurances that you’ll secure future contracts when one contract ends. Holiday pay and sick pay aren’t guaranteed either.
When you can move from contract to contract, it can be a really interesting way to meet new people and contacts, and gain a lot of experience. Working with the same people every day and similar locations can get boring, so being a contractor can give your work a new lease of life. You don’t have to get involved in petty internal politics at work or the general stresses of permanent positions either, as you’ll always be moving on.
It can get lonely being a contractor, as you might not feel like you’re part of a team, so if you value the social aspect of a permanent position then contracting might fall short. That’s not to say that you can’t get involved in work banter, there’s still lots of opportunity for that wherever you work!
It’s up to you
There are disadvantages to working as a contractor but if the pros outweigh them then it can be a really fulfilling way to work. Some permanent positions still have elements of uncertainty and might not be challenging you in the right ways, so contracting can reward your experience and skills and teach you valuable lessons about running a business.