By Margaret Hansen
Ideal for some and dreadful for others, contracting work, also called freelancing or consulting, might be in your career picture.
Economic Outlook Seems Favorable
According to a recent Robert Half Tech survey, one in five IT executives who plan to add staff will hire a mix of full-time and contracted workers. Information Technology is one of the many industries using contractors these days.
Design, engineering, accounting, journalism as well as specialized business fields provide some additional popular contracting work, but opportunities can be found in any field or industry.
At a time when hiring full-time staff isn't always in the budget, employers are hiring contractors, allowing flexibility in their payrolls so that they can continue with critical projects. Typically - though not always - of a project-based nature, contracting positions vary from short-term to ongoing, part-time or full-time.
Pros and Cons: You Decide
The pros and cons of contracting are subjective; it depends on your personality, work preferences and lifestyle.
Self-discipline, motivation and being able to work with or without the support of a team are common must-haves. The ability to handle uncertainty and work independently is crucial. The flexibility to adapt to change is also key. These are 1099 jobs, meaning that you make your own schedule, pay your own taxes and get your benefits elsewhere.
Expect little free training and development - you'll pay for this yourself. The up side is that you get to choose your training and you can write it off as a business expense.
Many offsite contractors enjoy the flexible schedule, working when they can around family responsibilities, for example. The hourly pay is higher due to the inherent risk to the worker and the lower overhead cost to the employer.
If security, predictability and routine are at the top of your values list, contracting is probably not the solution for you. But if you like delivering outcomes as an independent contributor, perhaps it is.
How Do You Succeed As a Contractor?
Networking is a necessity. It keeps you in touch with potential clients. After many years in a profession, it's not easy to build up your professional network overnight. Making it a regular event to reach out to present and former colleagues will keep you fresh in their minds.
Specialized skills that you could provide as a service will make you more marketable and valuable to a client. Think of what you've achieved in the past and how that could help you stand out.
Keeping good records matters; you'll need to track expenses for tax purposes and project hours worked for pay. Hire a tax accountant to make the most of your income while staying within the law.
Many people try out contracting as a result of job loss or other life change and end up landing a full-time position or continuing on with contract work. Either way, it looks great on a resume and keeps you working, focused and maintaining an income.