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The shift from permanent to contract work has changed the way many people work. This change has been welcomed by those who want to have more control over their career, their earnings, and their work/life balance. However, making the switch from permanent to contract work takes some planning and preparation.
There is no one-size-fits-all route to success as a contract worker. However, the following strategic approach provides a well-travelled roadmap for those considering making the switch from their current permanent role to life in contract work.
Take a good look in the mirror. As a contractor, what you see is the product you’ll be selling. What is your specialism? What marketable skills do you possess? What qualifications, experience, and accomplishments demonstrate these skills and specialization?
Before setting out in contract work, you must ensure you are financially prepared to do so. It’s crucial to know your worth, and to ensure you are properly compensated. You’ll need to allow for taxes and other expenses, too.
Understand, too, that you should prepare for periods between contracts when you are not earning. You may be on a much higher rate of pay for contract work, but you don’t get paid for the time that you are not working. Also, you must get to know the law surrounding contract work. By definition, contract work is short-term. Many contractors start by providing contract services to the company they were previously employed by. This often warps into long-term contracts, which can be viewed by tax authorities as permanent employment — and you really don’t want to fall foul of the tax authorities.
Your resume is your marketing document. Update it to highlight your strengths, skills, and experience — and keep it up to date.
The tone of your resume is important, too. You’re not seeking full-time employment, but are marketing yourself as a valuable and reliable asset to be hired for short-term contracts. Show that you are highly adaptable, and able to hit the ground running from day one.
Finding work is the key to your success as a contractor. You may have been offered contract work. Indeed, it is the offer of a short-term contract that stimulates the switch for many. But what happens after your first contract ends?
The strength of your network could dictate the strength of your life as a contractor.
Many contractors register with one or more contracting agencies (or staffing agencies that provide contract workers). This has many benefits. The most obvious being that it shifts the onus to find work away from you — meaning you get more time to earn money rather than time spent looking for your next contract.
Some agencies may also undertake the payroll work for you (like operating under an umbrella company) and offer a limited set of benefits.
You may not have interviewed for a while, and how you perform at an interview could be the difference to landing your next contract. You’ll need to demonstrate that you understand the business, and have the skills and experience to be the best person for the contract role. Plus, you’ll need to show that you have the personality to be compatible with the team with whom you’ll be working.
There are two ways to make the break from permanent employment and enter the world of contract work.
The first is to make a clean break. Quit, work your notice, and start on work at your first contract. This tactic certainly has its attractions. There’s the relief that you’re on your way to working on your own terms. There’s the excitement of starting out on a new path.
The second method is to ease slowly into contract work. Take a few part-time contracts while you are still working, and dip your toes in to get a feeling for the water before swimming to the deep end.
Whichever you decide is best for you, prepare yourself mentally for the switch. Don’t neglect your responsibilities with your current employer, and do make sure you know the notice period you must give so that you don’t miss the start date of your first contract work.
And keep onside with your employer — you never know what fate awaits you down the line.
When you have made the break and begun life in contract work, there are two things that the most successful contractors are really good at doing.
The first is being organized. Whether you gain work through your own efforts or via relationships with contract agencies, it’s crucial that you stay organized in all you do — for the company that hires you and for yourself.
Second, never stop developing your skillset. What’s relevant today fades away! Stay up to date with industry developments, innovative technologies, and evolving regulations. It’s crucial to remaining in demand for contract work in the long term.
What’s your next step?
For a confidential discussion to learn more about the benefits of contract work, and to make a fully informed decision about your future, contact Catalyst today,. or check out our latest contract jobs.