Becoming An IT Contractor: My Top Tips
You’ve probably heard that becoming an IT contractor can be very rewarding. Alongside potentially higher earnings, many contractors experience greater work flexibility and increased control over their career trajectory.
However, for first-time IT contractors, the thought of making the jump from permanent can be daunting.
As a Director at VIQU, I focus solely on securing IT contractor talent for my clients. As you can imagine, this means I’ve spoken with many top IT professionals interested in becoming IT contractors.
If you are relatively new to contracting or you’re interested in becoming an IT contractor but don’t know whether it’s for you, my advice below is a great place to start!
Work out whether your personality suits contract work
Not everyone suits being their own boss. In fact, as a contractor, you’re far more than just a boss. Alongside your actual skillset, you’re marketing, business administration, business development, finance…
When you’re new to contracting, you need to be a highly motivated and driven self-starter. Opportunities are not going to fall into your lap. You need to be able to feel confident in selling your skills to clients/agencies and negotiating contracts. Contracting can feel like a never-ending cycle of applying for new work and meeting new people and you need to be prepared for that.
However, if you’re someone who wants to take control over your career, is happy switching between contracts and companies regularly, and push for what is in your best interests – contracting could suit you to a T.
Do some market research
If you are interested in becoming an IT contractor, have conversations with recruiters about the potential day rates you could achieve based on your experience. Or even better, if you know contractors in a similar job role to you, have a chat about day rates, what clients want to see in terms of your skillset, industry experience, soft skills etc., and how to communicate this on your CVs. Understanding current market conditions and what you are worth is crucial to being able to negotiate potential opportunities and contracts.
Change up your CV
Your CV should be focused on displaying the skills/sector experience that are relevant to the contract opportunity you are applying to. If you’re thinking about becoming an IT contractor, you should have multiple CVs available to showcase skills and projects that relate to the specific role you’re applying to.
Seek advice from accountants and legal professionals
For a first-time IT contractor, you have a variety of choices on how to receive payment. There is:
- Setting up a limited company,
- Becoming a sole trader,
- Working through an umbrella company.
Whichever path you choose, financial advice is paramount to becoming an IT contractor. If you do choose to set up your own limited company, you need to seek professional advice, so you know how to operate compliantly within the law.
Additionally, as a contractor, you will often be reading and negotiating contracts. Unless you have a background in the legal sector, I would recommend seeking professional advice before signing anything. Unfortunately, not all agencies are reputable and honest in their approach. Some will try to hide clauses to use to their advantage, impacting you negatively in the process.
Update your LinkedIn
If you are new to contracting and have been in the same permanent job for a while, using LinkedIn might not be a current priority for you. However, having a regularly updated LinkedIn with all of your experiences, skills and client recommendations can be as valuable as a CV. Previous clients/ managers and colleagues can “endorse” you or “recommend” you, this can all help to prove your suitability as a potential hire.
LinkedIn is a platform recruiters and employers will utilise. By using the #OpenToWork feature, you can let your connections, and even recruiters and hiring managers know you are available for a new contract. Additionally, make sure you brainstorm the keywords (skills, technologies etc.) that you think a recruiter might search to find someone with your skillset. Ensure those keywords are distributed throughout your profile to boost your visibility.
Understand legal requirements around IR35
The purpose of IR35 is to ensure contractors are paying the right amount of tax and aren’t working as “disguised employees”.
It is the end client who makes the determination on whether the role is “Inside” or “Outside” IR35, unless the company is listed as a small company. Knowing the difference between “Inside” and “Outside” IR35 and the nuances, is vital if you are considering becoming an IT contractor.
Due to the nature of contract work, clients are often looking for contractors to start with them within weeks, if not days. Contractors often fill temporary gaps and assist with emergency situations. We’ve had circumstances where companies have needed a contractor to start within 24 hours, though up to a week or two is also common.
If you are new to contracting and are actively applying for work, keep in mind that you may be asked to start immediately. Ensure your CV says how much notice you need or whether you can start immediately, in order to make your situation clear to the recruiter or hiring manager.
Get some interview practice in
As a first-time IT contractor, you will find that interviews are different to interviews for permanent roles.
Interviews are usually:
- Only one or two stages
- More focused on technical skills than soft skills (depending on the role)
- More succinct
- Less focused on whether you will be a great team fit
In general, as a contractor, you are providing a service to fill a skills gap the company has. Therefore, they tend to not be as concerned with assessing company fit. Whilst companies do value someone they know will have the soft skills to communicate and get on well with the team, often your purpose is more practical than a permanent team member.
Take control of your career
As mentioned earlier, as a contractor, you will need to be driven. If you are thinking about becoming an IT contractor, it’s good to consider what you want your career to be and how you may achieve this. Contractors aren’t given the training opportunities at work that permanent members of staff receive because they’re temporary. However, don’t let this waylay your career. Between contracts, consider going on training courses or away days that can help you get the necessary skills and knowledge to boost your career.
With the nature of contracting, you often are able to choose the type of work you want to do. Investing in your career development is vital for a first-time IT contractor.
Plan ahead and be proactive
As a first-time IT contractor, you have to be proactive when your contract is nearing the end. I would recommend talking to your client, or the recruitment agency (if you’re working through one) 4-6 weeks before your contract ends to enquire about an extension. Don’t leave it too late and find yourself between contracts.
For more help and advice on becoming an IT contractor and finding your first contract role, contact our recruiters today.
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