IT Contracting: Is it Right for You?

The debate over working as a contractor versus a permanent employee is a classic one. Some benefits of working as a salaried permanent staff member are well known (such as security and an extensive benefits package). However, contract work also has its benefits and its drawbacks. If you’ve been contemplating a break from your 9-5 job, here’s a look at the realities (good and bad) of working as an IT contractor.

Flexible Schedule

Nothing makes a contracting position more appealing to a woman juggling busy professional and personal lives than the promise of more freedom and flexibility! Indeed, for a working mother, the freedom to choose your own work hours instead of having to stick to the rigid office hours schedule seems like a real treat. Independent contractors aren’t told by the company what to do and how to do it.  What is important is the end result and how it’s reached is up to the contractor. If you work as an IT consultant through an agency, you might also be able to enjoy the flexibility of making your own work schedule as long as your project is completed on time. An IT contract assignment might also be a great option when you return from a long maternity leave as the flexibility can help you adjust back to the work responsibilities gradually.

Unpredictable Future

When you work as a permanent employee, you know what your benefits are, what your schedule will look like, and you can avail opportunities for career growth at your firm. When employed at an established company, there is a definite ability to predict the future. This is not the case with short term contract assignments. Thus, before jumping into IT contracting, you need to consider if the idea of not knowing what you will be doing after your project ends sounds scary or exciting.

Larger Professional Network

Consulting also provides a continued focus on networking. This is especially beneficial for women, as this is often something we don’t continuously prioritize.  Skilled contractors will likely get the chance to work at several of the top companies in their area. By forming lasting connections with their colleagues and managers at these companies, contractors develop a robust professional network to draw from in the future. As an added bonus, they get to meet lots of people with similar interests.

Potential Gaps Between Assignments

Contract assignments tend to last from 1 month to a year. When an assignment ends, you might not always have another project lined up.  Most contract jobs slow down around the holidays and at the close of the fiscal year when budgets are reevaluated.  Thus, if your contract work ends during a slower period, you might be left without a new assignment for a while. Therefore pre-planning your schedule and finances for these downtimes is very important; otherwise you might be left unprepared.

Varied Duties

Short contracting projects give you more opportunities to work on different teams and projects. By the very nature of consulting work, instead of working on similar tasks day in and day out, you have a guaranteed supply of fresh responsibilities when you begin a new project. As a result, IT consultants often have a strong and diverse resume that includes many clients and a variety of projects, which adds value to their professional worth.

Tied to a Contract

If you are considering contract work just to try something new but your preference is fulltime work, be aware that timing might not work in your favor. During your contract assignment, a very appealing fulltime opportunity might occur with you being months away from completing your project. In this case, you might not be able to break your contract and the fulltime offer might not be waiting for you by the time you finished your contract work.

Greater Pay

On average, a contractor can earn more than a permanent employee in the same role. The reason for this is that contractors have two major advantages: they pay less in taxes, and they can deduct their expenses. As an independent contractor, you are responsible for paying your own employment taxes and are not entitled to company provided benefits, but you also take a lot more of your pay home.  If you are employed through a consulting firm, you are an employee of the consulting/staffing firm and you get their employee benefits and they will deduct your taxes as well. However, you will still be able to charge much more hourly than what you would get as a salaried employee to make up for the shortness of the project.

Might Need to do some Convincing to Get a Full Time Offer

When you decide to look for a full-time permanent assignment after working on contract projects, hiring managers might question your commitment to a long term position.  Therefore, they might be hesitant to hire you fulltime and believe you may not stay with them long term if a more lucrative contract appeared.

IT contracting is not for everyone. As with any job, there are clear pros and cons. It is important that you weigh these to decide if it is right for you. However, few other work options will give you the variation and flexibility that contracting provides so it is definitely worth considering.

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