Plenty has been written lately about what the future will mean for traditional careers like those on offer today (see Biggest Model Shift in the next decade….no permanent employees!). The contingent workforce is the way of the future allowing employers flexibility and giving employees the opportunity to integrate their work into their lives rather than the traditional work/life divide (see The end of the 9-5 workday). This is not a new concept, we’ve seen the demand for contractors ebb and flow over the years with the market and with it the fortunes of contractors rising and falling. The trend is heading back towards flexibility and contingency but before you pack your hover-board and pile in the DeLorean, let’s look at whether contracting is for you.
Pros and cons.
Apart from becoming an early adopter of the ‘new normal’, there is a range of benefits in becoming a contractor. You will enjoy in-built flexibility, working on an hourly rate, released from the 9-5 paradigm. You can keep an arms length from office politics (see Avoid the pitfalls of office politics). There will be variety, new and interesting projects and an increased ability to work across different companies and even industries. It’s often a good way to get a foot in the door, even with imperfect industry experience, if you bring the right skills you might find it easier to get a contract in a different area as there is less commitment from the employer and therefore lower perceived risk compared with a permanent hire. Employers often have the ‘try before you buy’ concept lurking in the back of their minds.
On the flip side, being flexible means you won’t be paid if you’re not needed. There are no guarantees when your next contract will come along. A sharp shift in the market can quickly affect the number of roles and the hourly rate - back in 2008, contractors went from naming their price to being grateful for a role. Sometimes contractors aren’t brought in for the juicy project but to carry on the day to day while the permanent incumbent is challenged with variety. There is also more admin, taking responsibility for your own tax bill and following our recommendation of engaging an accountant to make sure you’ve got your sums right.
When to jump?
So if you think contracting is for you the next question is going to be when should you make the move and join the new flexible workforce? This is the question recruiters fear most. The "How’s the market?” question. Because it depends. And that really isn’t a satisfying answer. We can observe trends, the general improvement and decline in the employment market, the seasonal fluctuations, the random, unpredictable peaks and troughs. But none of this helps you as a permanent employee wanting to take the plunge into the contingent talent pool. It really depends on your level and your specialist experience and while the general market conditions might support or discourage quitting your day job for a future of flexibility, it comes down to your individual circumstances in the current climate. Your best bet is to call us to help you predict your future.