Agency Truths – 10 Things a contractor really should know about agencies

Agency Truths
Agency Truths

Agency Truths

This article, about agency truths, was written to our Comments section, but we think it deserves a wider audience.

See whether you agree with me or the agent.

Don‘t Listen To Gerry

After reading Gerry’s article The Ten Things a Contractor Absolutely Must Know I feel the need to warn all people who are considering contracting to take some of the advice offered with a medium to large sized bucket of salt.

I have been a very successful agent for nearly 10 years and have never felt the need to lie to anyone, or to hassle information from contractors. These tactics, which I hear about, are merely amateurs trying to earn a buck when market is booming. I would imagine that these people do not stay in the business for long.

Industry Rogues

Unfortunately there are amateurs in all industries, including IT contracting itself. However, I would never write an article warning agencies to do away with contractors and place only permies because contractors do not turn up for contracts, leave for better positions or lie about their rates, etc.

If they did that then the contracting world wouldn’t spin. Hundreds of thousands would be out of work, instead of tens of thousands of contractors. I remember a few occasions when it was only a few contractors.

Specialist recruitment companies created the buoyant world of IT contracting.They were very respectable in their practices whilst making it big enough for all to enjoy.

Most still have those respectable practices – I and many others always will. Otherwise we wouldn’t be around to enable contractors to drive the big cars they deserve from all the years of learning their intelligent trade.

Advice About Agencies

So, if you are considering contracting, my advice is to get to know what agents work in your specialist area. Talk to them on the phone and talk about your market. If they press you for information then blacklist them because they are not going to help you. They are trying to help themselves. You do not need to give references until you have a job offer pending.

Any human with half a brain can tell who a good agent is from a useless blagging nugget, like the ones Gerry McLaughlin unfortunately keeps meeting.

Agency Truths – We Are Your Best Friends

If there are ten things about an agent that a contractor must know, they are:

1) Agencies created the work for you to be a contractor.

2) Agencies will always create work for you to continue being a contractor.

3) Agencies insure debt i.e. we pay you even if we are not paid. Last year we lost a large sum of money from our bottom line in doing this.

4) Agencies pay you quickly and regularly (and wait for months for their money).

5) Agencies spend time keeping very up to date on working rights regulations (that change on a regular basis).

6) Agencies spend time keeping very up to date on HMRC changes within the contracting community (that change on a regular basis).

7) Agencies keep very up to date on what skills are marketable now and in the future.

8) Agencies protect your Ltd Company from being considered invisible by HMRC. This means that after 24 months of working for a customer, the customer will not receive an invoice for 24 months NI and then subsequently fire you (this happened!).

9) Agencies act as a buffer between you and the client in (sometimes awkward) negotiation discussions (make sure you know their margin).

10) Agencies buy you beer (well I do).

Contractors and Agents Need to Know Each Other

I can think of a lot more than 10 but wanted to finish with beer because contractors and agents need to know each other. Whilst drinking beer, or talking to contractors on the phone, good agents offer market knowledge without expecting your leads in return – and good agents will disclose their margin if you ask them what it is.

If they do not disclose it then they are taking too much to justify it, and you then need to discuss it with your customer and take joint action (personally I would get a new agent and then split the different with the client).

Respectable Agency Margin

A respectable margin should be between 15 and 20% so that the agent can afford to buy you beer after the expense of turning over your invoices, running an office and insuring you (there’s another one I missed)

So, Gerry please be aware that this is not a bash at you for your comments. Everyone should have freedom of speech. However, I do think that your anti-agent views do not actually constitute good advice to contractors, or people who are considering contracting. You have obviously met some idiots down the line!


George, agent from Richmond (oh no, now you’re going to say we earn too much).

Agency Truths – IT Contractor Comment

So, there you have it, some agency truths from an agent.

Readers can decide if they agree with this agent or not.

For more crucial advice on dealing with recruitment agencies click on Agencies Advice.

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