You are here
Your definitive guide to contracting work: the good, the bad, and the reality
Your alarm goes off in the morning – your reminder to get ready to go to work. After hitting snooze a couple of times, you finally roll over, turn it off, take a big stretch and then:
A. Get up, happy to be going to work at the same office where you’ve been for the last 5 years, within the same role and industry, ready to start your day and crack on.
B. Groan, close your eyes and dream of changing up your routine to experience different work cultures, teams and environments, rather than go through the same daily grind, year after year.
If option B is more realistic, then we have a question for you: Have you considered contracting?
What is a contractor anyway?
Sometimes lumped in with freelancers, temp staff, or interim staff, a contractor is specifically any professional employed on a temporary, contract basis. It’s crucial to understand the definition of your employment and the distinction between these other categories. Online resource, business.gov.au, breaks down independent contractors, subcontractors, as well as your rights and responsibilities such as contracts, entitlements and tax obligations under Australian law.
From a personal perspective, contracting allows flexibility within your career and have a lot more ownership of where your career goes next.
Some professionals who choose contract work have many years of experience in their field, acting as consultants or specialised professionals. At PageGroup, many contractors placed for roles have about 10 to 15 years of experience, making them valuable additions to your organisation and projects. Others have worked on a contract basis throughout their whole career. Still, a growing number of contractors are just getting started in their chosen careers as they aim to gain a variety of experience in a short time frame.
If you chose option B, should you become a contractor?
Start by asking yourself the following questions to see if contracting could be the right choice for your next career step:
4 questions to consider:
1. What skill sets would companies actually hire you for?
These are the skills you should highlight on your CV or specifically focus on if someone was asking for your professional life story. Dig down deep and consider: what are your strongest skills and how can you market yourself to fill relevant needs within an organisation? Consider the market or industry you’re keen on and identify what gaps they may have with their current staff. Use these findings as a starting point.
Sit down and map out your professional strengths, and how your experience backs up those strengths. Additionally, identify transferable skills that transcend any particular industry or type of organisation.
2. What is your value-add to a company and what will they count on you for?
Companies bring in contractors for all types of projects. Maybe they need someone who can start quickly and hit the ground running. Perhaps they have a large issue to solve and need someone with the exact skill sets to bring the solution. Look at your experience and skill sets, and identify areas where you feel you offer the most value
3. Am I motivated or terrified at the thought of a less stable career?
This is where it’s time to be realistic. Some of us like to know you’ll make a certain amount per year with one stable job, and that’s okay. The world needs permanent staff as well. However, if the thought of taking the twists and turns of your career into your own hands is highly motivating and has been niggling at you for a while, contracting may be your solution.
4. How much money do I need to make?
One reality of contracting is you may have time off between jobs. If you sit down and map out exactly what your budget is, what your financial goals are and what you need to do to achieve that, you’ll have much greater clarity when making decisions about which contract roles to pursue.
How do I get started as a contractor?
Once you have defined your skills and what you’re looking for, it’s time to start looking for opportunities.
If you strike out on your own, start by researching websites that list many short-term freelance opportunities but also have longer term contract jobs. LinkedIn jobs has a wide variety of contract opportunities in the jobs function of their app, where you can filter roles for attributes such as contract, or remote work.
If you would like to pair up with someone who has contracting expertise, Page Personnel can help you get going – from identifying your top strengths to supplying a steady stream of opportunities, both immediately and down the road when your contract ends.
Myths versus reality
Finally a few myths around contracting – and the truths behind them.
Myth 1: I will constantly be looking for work
It’s true that life as a contractor involves a lot of hustle. From one day to the next, you go from being fully employed to looking for your next gig. However, the upside is that no two jobs are ever the same. As you build up your contracting experience, you can develop a strong partnership with recruitment consultants who will help track when your contract is finishing, and look out for your next role, helping to reduce some of that legwork.
And contract work doesn’t necessarily mean short term work. The length of contracts can vary, as companies hire contractors on a project basis for maternity leave covers, sabbaticals or to test a new headcount, all of which can result in contracts of a year or more. Additionally, some contracts offer the option of moving into a full time role at the end.
Myth 2: I’ll never really feel like part of a team
Depending on the company, most embrace contractors in the same way as they do full time employees. In fact, because you’re coming in from an outside perspective, you may even have more access and openness from the team.
Myth 3: If I start contracting, I will have trouble finding a full time job again
Many worry that they won’t be able to jump from contracting back into the full time workforce. As the mobile economy becomes more prevalent, more companies are embracing professionals with a wider variety of experience and exposure to varied situations. Additionally, excelling in a contract role can be a strong foot in the door to an organisation for full time roles that come up, should you decide you want to get back into full time work.
Myth 4: Contract work provides fewer training opportunities
As a contractor, you can gain varied experience much quicker than within full time roles, meaning that your opportunities to train new skills will actually be greater. Training by exposure to a variety of situations, people, organisation and projects is an inherent part of being a contractor – giving you an impressive collection of skills.
Choose contracting and take your career into your hands
The bottom line is, a career in contracting leaves room for a more varied professional experience. If you crave new situations and constant challenges, contracting may be the way to go. Perhaps it won’t make it easier to hear that alarm go off in the morning but it will probably make what comes after that a lot more exciting.
Ready to try your hand at contracting? Contact our team for more information.