As well as prerequisite business and technical skills, there a number of character traits you’ll need to possess (or improve upon) to become a successful long-term IT contractor.
IT contracting isn’t for everyone. According to a fairly recent estimate*, there are around 120,000 IT / Telecoms contractors in the UK – representing around 14% of those working in the industry.
For the majority who make the move, contracting proves to be a wise and satisfying move, although – like all careers – there are likely to be challenges along the way.
Here are some of the key things you ought to consider if you’re thinking about making the move into contracting as a career:
- Are you a self starter? – An IT Contractor is responsible for finding their own work, and dealing with renewals. It can take a while to adjust to the new way of life, particularly if you have worked for the same employer for a long period of time.
- New environments – An IT Contractor is expected to join projects and rapidly get up to speed with the clients requirements, as well as acclimatizing to new groups of people and location.
- Dealing with finances – Whatever business structure you work under, you will need to spend some time with your financial affairs and budgeting. If you go down the limited route, a specialist accountant will take away most of this burden for you, however you must ensure you meet your TAX obligations in full. The administrative burden is lower for umbrella employee’s, however the limited route is more tax efficient.
- Contingency fund – Contracting can bring its own share of uncertainties, particularly during recessionary times. For a beginning you should avoid spending all of your earnings and set aside funds for a ‘Rainy day’ when you may find yourself on the bench. How long could you survive without contract income? Try to set aside at least six months’ living expenses in a savings account.
- IR35 – If you work via your own company you should read up on IR35, a piece of tax legislation. Essentially, to remain ‘IR35 free’ you should ensure that you are deemed not to be a ‘disguised employee’ (i.e) just a normal employee who has set up a company to reduce their tax bill.
- Skills – Alongside the traditional economic rules of supply and demand, your skillet is the most powerful tool for securing the most competitive rates. As a contractor, it is your responsibility to keep your skills up to date, and you will have to pay for any traditional courses yourself. Also, make the most out of online learning.
- Negotiating – Although you will undertake contract work on a fixed-price basis, there is usually some room to maneuver when setting your initial rate. Clearly, you will need to assess your situation carefully when pushing for a higher rate, as your position of strength will depend on the level of competition for the role, the economic climate, and how much the client wants to hire you. But you don’t have to worry about this as we will handle it for you.
- Become an expert – IT Contractors are hired for their technical expertise, so you will be expected to demonstrate your ability from the off. Although the temptation may be to keep your knowledge to yourself and just get on with the job, you will gain respect by offering help and guidance to colleagues. if you develop a reputation as the ‘go to’ contractor, renewals and word of mouth recommendations are more likely to come your way in the future.
- Flexibility – A very important trait of the successful IT contractor. You may have your heart set on a particular type or role, or location, but the contracting market may affect your plans. You need to be willing to travel, and undertake contract work that may not be ‘ideal’ in terms of your interests.
If you feel like you can work happily as an IT contractor, take a look at the contract roles we’re recruiting for now.