Unscrupulous IT agents – Twice I Got Shafted by Them

Unscrupulous IT Agents

This article on unscrupulous IT agents was posted as comments after one of our articles. We felt it warranted a wider audience.

IT Contractors Perception

Forgive me but none of this really helps improve the IT contractors perception of IT agents.

The problem here is lack of respect (by both parties).

Take two things which have happened to me in the past and which cost me money.

First Instance of Unscrupulous IT Agents

The first IT agent had me in an interview. That’s a day effort for me, by the way, researching the company, making sure I’m up to speed on the technologies involved and going to the interview.

Now you agents expect us IT contractors to uphold our end when we agree to do work for you at a client.

The client offered the contract.

Then a day later I get a call to reduce the rate. I was not happy but did knock 5% off.

Then I got a call back. It was not enough.

IT Contractor in London

So I brought it down to my break even point but expected 6 months not the original 3. Again the agent accepted this.

The next day a call from the agent – the client has found someone even cheaper.

I suspect this is a lie, the figure they quoted was well below what is a livable wage in London and this was for an IT contractor.

In this instance the agent should have been upfront with the client (that in your words he is working for) as to the costs involved, and certainly when accepting services from his supplier (the IT contractor).

The price we give as contractors is the price of the service you are buying. If we contractors jacked up the price on you then you would be up in arms.

Second Instance of Unscrupulous IT Agents

The second instance of unscrupulous IT agents involved an agent with whom I accepted an IT contract.

I was asked to start on the Tuesday.

I accepted.

Literally minutes later I was offered a second contract. Having accepted the first I turned it down.

Monday Evening at 5pm I got a call saying the client was not going to sign off on the budget!

IT Contract

Yet again, the agent got my assurance that I would do the work before he got it from the client.

If an agent has work then they should ask the IT contractor to agree-  and not until then.

Be up front with your client. Tell them what the costs are.

Also a number of your fellow agents seem to be somewhat lacking in technical know how.

How on earth can you sell something to a client without understanding it! I’ve had agents ask me to explain the technology they want me to work on and actually admit ignorance.

IT Contractor Comment on Unscrupulous IT Agents

Out of curiosity, what would readers in his position?

If you had accepted a contract and then minutes later were offered a better one what would you do?

Top Ten tricks Agencies use. Recruitment Consultant replies

Tricks Agencies Use

As a recruitment consultant…

As a recruitment consultant I read the article “Top 10 tricks used by recruitment agencies” with some amusement.

Not that I thought it was unfair, it was just that there were a couple of tricks agencies use which I hadn’t used for some time – and I know most of the tricks agencies use.

It was like a trip down memory lane, every consultant has tried them at some stage of their career.

OK let’s be brutally honest with ourselves here.

Yes, there are times when consultants can come across as being shallow, money-orientated shysters (some more than others). However, every agency could also come up with a list of contractors who are just as bad and who have let them down at some stage.

Table of Shame

All IT contractors will have had some bad experiences with agencies and will have heard of dozens more from other contractors.

If you all got together, say on this forum, and started to swap scams and the names of the sharks trying them on, you will be doing everyone a favour.

Why not have a Table of Shame.

If a contractor has a legitimate complaint against an agency, let other contractors know. If the agency wishes to address this complaint let them do so.

If, however, the same complaint is constantly levelled at an agency then you’ll know that it wasn’t an isolated error from a desperate consultant but standard business practice.

You can then decide if you wish to deal with these agencies in the future.

Feedback on Tricks Agencies Use

At the same time you could let agencies have the same type of feedback. We can let you know which contractors have let us down so that you know who is giving the rest of you a bad name!

The named individual can have the same right to reply.

Eagerly awaiting your feedback lads and lasses!

Mick Collins Senior Consultant Coyle IT

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I passed Interview and got contract offer. Should I ask for more?

Contract Offer

We got sent this from Frank after he got his contract offer (not real name).

IT Contractor Frank

Hi Gerry,

Need a bit advice, I am leaving a contract with the companies blessing as I have family issues. (wife expecting).

My CV got put forward by two agencies for the same role somewhere else, one offered £380 and the other £405.

The £380 per day agency came back with an interview offer and I succeeded with a contract offer.

I want my rate matching ideally with what was offered by the second agency.

How should I go about this?

I am assuming the client is paying the agencies the same amount.

Thanks in advance

Dr. McLaughlin’s IT Surgery

I don’t think you can assume that the client is paying the agencies the same amount.

They may have taken your CV from the first agency as it was the cheapest. I think that is what anyone would do.

However, you may be right. The first agency may be taking more than the second agency.

You just know and it is likely that you never will.

Play Hardball with Contract Offer

The only thing you can say to Agency 1 is that you were put forward at the higher rate by the second agency and play a bit of hardball.

However, agents are very quick with their answers and playing hardball is a bit of a risk.

The agent is likely to say that the first agency probably got rejected as they were too expensive.

Agency Rate

The only way would be to call up the client and ask the agency’s rate but that is too risky.

You might even lose the job over it if they tell the agency.

So, you hold no cards.

Contract Renewal

However, you at least have an indication that you might be able to get more money in the future, i.e. the contract offer at renewal time.

It is actually worse to find out that the agency is taking a small cut for you as that means that you won’t be able to get any more out of them at renewal time and that you’ll have to get it all from the client.

If I were you I would take the contract offer and after a while, when you’ve got both legs under the table, ask the other contractors what they get.

Ask the Client

If you get on well with your client you could ask him or her how much the agency are taking for you.

If you get on well with the Secretary who processes the contracts then you might ask him or her.

Once you have that information that gets you in good position for renewal negotiations as you can get a bit from both the client and the agent.

From Frank

Hi Gerry,

Thanks for your advice. I told the agency I wanted a higher contract offer as I could have been put forward for a higher rate via the second agency.

I also told them my current company was offering me an extension on a better rate!!

After receiving a few calls from the agency to lower my rate I got an extra £20 per day from them!!

I’m happy!

Dr McLaughlin

Well done Frank.

It just shows you that if you are prepared to play hardball with the agency that you can win.

Frank got 80% of the extra he wanted on his contract offer.

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Contract Hell | Ten things that will make your new IT contract hell

Contract Hell

There are things which will make your IT contract hell, but you don’t find out till you turn up for the first day.

Here are some shockers that you might find to make your contract hell for the next six months for you:-

1. First Contractor

You’re the first ever contractor that they’ve had at the company or department.

They’ll expect not just another project body but will expect you to be a guru, a whiz, and several times more knowledgeable and productive than any of them for the money they are paying you. You cannot hope to be even nearly as good as what they expect you to be.

2. No Talking

There is a strictly ‘no talking’ policy during working hours.

3. No Restaurant

There is no company restaurant, or even worse, you are not allowed to use it, and you have to eat every day at an extremely crowded Greasy Spoon by yourself, or alternatively at an extremely expensive restaurant.

4. Tricked at Interview

Although you were told that it would be development work using your up-to-date skills, you’re told that the project ‘hasn’t started yet’ and that you will be assigned, ‘in the meantime’ some Cobol maintenance work.

5. Poor Companion

You get sat next to a really dull bore, who keeps talking to you about subjects in which you have not the slightest interest.

6. Contractor Hater

You get sat next to someone who doesn’t like contractors, thinks you shouldn’t have been hired, and rebuffs any attempts to get on with him or her.

7. Poison Chalice

Your boss tells you on the first day (but not at the interview) that you are replacing someone who is going to be sacked, so you should get as much information out of him or her as possible before the news is broken to them.

8. Passover Problem

Alternatively, the guy you are replacing is a permanent worker who is going to be laid off but has been told that he has to stay on for a month to pass his or her work and knowledge over to ‘the contractor’.

All of the Permies will hate you for taking the job of one of their colleagues.

9. No Advice Needed

Your Project Leader is extremely youthful but doesn’t want any help or advice from an experienced contractor.

You know that the project is going to go belly up but no one wants to listen. It’s very de-motivating and you really ARE just taking the money.

10. No One Knows You

You turn up on the first day and no one knows that you were coming. The guy who interviewed you a month before is on holiday or worse still, was seen off the premises the week before without mentioning he had hired you.

Contract hell is even worse if the contract is away from home and even worse still if it is in a foreign country.

Ah! The banes of being a contractor!

I’m sure you could add a few more to this contract hell.

Build your CV – The perfect way to do it | IT Contractor

How to Build Your CV

The article on How to Build your CV is from Aussie contractor site www.Brainbox.com.au.

We have all had the experience of having to build your CV depending on the requirements. It is always a difficult task.

Anyone who says they don’t like sales is already at a disadvantage because your CV is your sales pitch.

If you want to land an interview these days you have to be able to present a CV that is punchy and stands out from the crowd and that doesn’t mean it’s printed on pink scented paper or attached as a word document with some groovy background that starts playing the Rocky theme when opened.

A CV should never exceed 5 pages and should be clear and concise offering relevancy to the position.

Build Your CV – Critical Points

There have been many articles on the do’s and don’ts on how to build your CV and I am not going to labour on this area.

However, there are some critical points to be aware of in the market these days.

Recruitment agencies do a wonderful thing called scanning your CV.

I had a great conversation with a scalper recently that was quite proud of the fact that she could scan up to 100 CVs a day.

I got to thinking; if they are scanning your CV then it is unlikely they are going to know you from a bar of soap unless there is something they are scanning for.

Build Your CV – First Page

The valuable lesson from this first point, the first page of your CV needs to be a doozey!

Use headers and footers to add personal details such as contact details, address, email address and phone numbers.

The first half of the page should be an executive summary of who you are, what you do, and the sort of roles you excel in this should compliment your cover letter.

Then create a table of key skills. Tables are important for the visual learners. Do not exceed these limits.

Build Your CV – Pages 2 to 4

The next 3 pages should be work history, accomplishments and value adds that you have produced.

The last page should include training, associations, competency in products and hardware, software and skills pertinent to the work you have done.

It is pointless demonstrating abilities in telco billing systems, for example, if you are not going to be working in a telecommunications company or you are not going to be working with billing.

Build Your CV – Proof Read

Once you have put this together give it to someone else to proof read.

Do not get attached to your CV. If someone doesn’t understand something, change it until they do!

This is important because most recruitment consultants don’t understand it either.

If you are going to use Acronyms, abbreviations always spell it out in full the first time and note the abbreviation in brackets, that way people know what you mean.

The second thing is grammatical and spelling.

Spell checkers will not fix grammatical errors or the tense the document is written in, nor will it rectify passive writing.

It is a certain fact that if the consultant likes your CV and decides to send it on to the client they will miss this, I know some of the consultants say they check that before they send it on to the client but they don’t.

When you build your CV, get as many people to proof your CV until there is “no comments” left and all possible mistakes have been identified. It is like a university paper it must be letter-perfect.

The key headings that I like to use in a CV are as follows:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Bullet points of what your skills and capabilities are e.g.
• Substantial experience as a senior manager, IT&T manager, IT&T business analyst and consultant, service delivery and project management in delivery of IT&T infrastructure projects.
• Strong, balanced business, customer and technical orientation to IT & T projects and sound IT process development.
• Sound business analysis and project management background through a thorough understanding of IT service delivery, outsourcing and business knowledge.

KEY SKILLS

Table containing the key/buzz skills, these are the words that some agents do matching searches on and are the preliminary culling process before they even know your name. e.g
• ITIL CERTIFIED
• GENERAL MANAGEMENT
• OPERATIONAL MANAGEMENT SERVICES
• PROJECT MANAGEMENT- PMBOK

CAREER ACHIEVEMENTS

Usually in chronological order from most recent to past. This is where many people come unstuck especially contractors with a long history of roles.

As a rule of thumb the last 5 to 8 years of work history is sufficient.

Make this information clear with dates and the names of organisations clear, job titles are also important as many employers and recruiters like to see you sporting the same title as the job you are applying for.

WORK HISTORY

To cover the rest of your working experience I like to include a heading called work history in which I enter simple information including the name of the organisation the time I worked for them and the position title.

I think it is important to do this because it demonstrates career progression.

Especially, if for example, you joined the military years ago when you first left school, or you started out in a trade and re-skilled yourself.

This demonstrates the ability to develop the skills and clear career progression when you build your CV.

BUSINESS APPLICATIONS

This is the opportunity to demonstrate your skills, experience and abilities when you build your CV. In this part of your CV is the nuts and bolts of how your business acumen.

It is useful to present this as a table that is relevant to what you do when you build your CV. It is also the area of the CV that you can tailor for different roles in application for different positions.

Operating and Application Systems

– 8 years – Windows XP & 2K Pro (Desktop & Server)
Netware, GroupWise, Lotus Notes, Citrix

Service Management
Helpdesk/Technical Services

– 12 years – ITIL Fundamentals, Touch Paper, Solve HP Open View Desktop Manager, Remedy and Peregrine.

Financial Management

– 4 years – Oracle Financial Systems
In house developed billing systems
EPPIX Mobile customer care and billing system, various Telstra Billing systems.

Project Management & Business Analysis

– 12 years – Microsoft Project, Microsoft Visio, Word templates, Front Page, Publisher,

Other

– Various – Lotus Notes, Exchange, 2K3 Server, NDS
Cognos, SQL Database for reporting only

Do try to keep this table relevant to the position you’re applying for and make sure that the information meets the essentials outlined in the position description. This is paramount as the recruiter again will scan this information.

TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT

Finally this is the area of your CV that contains the critical training and certifications. Do not put copies of your certificates and degrees with your resume. Carry them with you if necessary when you meet with the recruitment agency, or fax copies if required after contact is made with the agency.e.g

Current Qualifications and Certification
MBA Science &Technology – University NSW (1997)
Windows 2000 MCSE
CNNE
CCNA

Programmer

C++, Visual C, SQL

Membership

Australian Institute of Management

That’s pretty much it. Do not include References on your CV!

Two reasons, head hunters will ring those people without your permission to check if they are in need of recruitment for positions as body shops want to collect titles and names of companies to fatten their potential client prospects and secondly, you don’t want your referees getting phone calls before you have even been approach about the job.

I know they say it never happens but it does!

Never discuss rates until you have an interview with the recruiter or client, a number of times the recruiter will discredit you for a role because you are too expensive (more likely they can’t make enough out of you after your cut).

I often explain to recruiters that my rate is negotiable based on the requirements of the role and I will only be able to make a true assessment of that when I have had the opportunity to discuss that in an interview with the client.

The reason is, you got it, the agency hasn’t got a clue on the complexity of the role.

Remember these items when you build your CV.

How Agency Workers Regulations affects IT contractors

Agency Workers Regulations

What exactly is Agency Workers Regulations?

The fundamental principle of Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) is to provide agency workers with the same basic working and employment conditions of that of a comparable employee (someone doing similar work to you on a permanent basis for the client) after a qualifying period; this being just 12 weeks.

After this qualifying period, you would have the right to the following conditions;
– Equal Pay to that of a comparable employee
– Commissions, bonuses and over time rates
– Annual leave
– Night work
– Rest periods and breaks
– Access to staff facilities; i.e. canteens, childcare schemes and transport
– The right to hear about vacant job opportunities

NB: In the event that you actually receive better conditions than the comparable employee (e.g. pay), the regulations would not require your pay to be brought in line with that of the comparable employee.

What Agency Workers regulations doesn’t cover…

– Pensions
– Redundancy payouts
– Occupational sick pay
– Share schemes
– Loyalty schemes or long term-service rewards
– Any payment relating to maternity, paternity or adoption leave

How will this affect you as an IT contractor?

Firstly, it’s important to establish what the main objective of Agency Workers Regulations actually is;

Agency Workers Regulations is being implemented to protect the more vulnerable, lower paid agency workers who could be exploited by unscrupulous hirers.

We are of the opinion that the majority of IT contractors are not exploited and deemed ‘vulnerable’.

IT contractors enjoy the flexibility, pay rates and working lifestyle associated with contracting.

Whilst we completely oppose unscrupulous hirers taking advantage of lower paid temporary workers, we feel it inappropriate to implement the agency worker regulations in such a broad manner.

The Recruitment and Employment Federation (REC) found that 80% of flexible workers were satisfied with their assignments, which would suggest that the Agency Workers regulations (AWR) would only benefit a minority.

Is anyone excluded from the regulations?

As things stand, it appears that if you are “genuinely one of the following: the self-employed; those working through their own limited liability company; or those employed on Managed Service Contracts”, you will be excluded from the regulations.

However, one area that needs more clarification is that of IR35 and the role it will play.

IT contractors operating through their own Limited company whilst being caught by IR35 are still likely to be covered under the agency workers regulations; however more clarification is still needed.

If you are a contractor operating through a PAYE umbrella company, the regulations will most definitely apply.

AWR could have a negative impact for many IT contractors

Although the focal point of the Agency Workers regulations is to protect the vulnerable, lower paid agency workers from being exploited, it could in fact have a negative impact for IT contractors that are well paid and choose temporary work as their preferred method of making a living. Here are some potential implications the AWR could have on you;

– The extra admin costs for hirers and agencies could well be subsidised through reducing contract rates offered to agency workers. This would in fact contradict the main objective of the AWR anyway, as it is meant to be improving standards for agency workers not diminishing them!

– End clients may become more reluctant to engage with certain contractors for more than 12 weeks due to the increase in ‘employee’ rights, which would result in agency workers having to find work from different clients on a more frequent basis.

– A rise in the number of contractors forming and operating via their own Limited companies could heighten the role of IR35– potentially leading to more red tape and an increase in investigations.

Summary of AWR

There are a number of things that have changed after the AWR was implemented in October 2011.

Although commendable, the Agency Workers Regulations is not suitable for all types of agency worker, which is why the regulations may change.

As an IT contractor it is important to keep up to date with the latest news surrounding the AWR, so that you can understand how it will affect you.

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Rich Contractors | The IT Contractors that become rich

How to Become Rich Contractors

Most IT Contractors get into IT Contracting as they see it as a great way to make their pile and get out. Most would rather be doing something else.

Some, I regret to say the minority, make it rich and get out, but the great majority are stuck in IT Contracting for many years and sometimes decades. They don’t bcome rich contractors.

So, what differentiates those who are able to make their pile and become rich contractors and those who don’t?

Rich Contractors keep spending down

– When you first start IT Contracting you get a lot more money than you had before as a permie – perhaps double. It is even better than that as all the extra money is free money.

If you spent, for instance, 80% of your wages when you were a permie then you are now getting 6 times as much spare money when you go contracting.

Those that make it to richness are those who don’t increase their spending by too much, so that there is plenty left to invest for the future.

Rich Contractors Invest Wisely

– The problem that most IT Contractors have is that they start investing in the Stock Market just when it looks safe, i.e. when it has been going up relentlessly for the previous few years.

That’s the wrong time to invest.

When investing in the Stock market it is best to take a long term view. In the long term the Stock Market goes up.

However, if you are out of work at the same time as your Stock Market investments are plunging, as happens in a downturn in the economy, then you are going to be in a lot of trouble.

You are going to blow all the gains you made in the times of plenty and you will be back to square one. This is a regular scenario for IT Contractors. It’s happened to me twice. It will happen to many of you in the next downturn.

The best way to invest, to become one of the rich contractors, is to take a long term view, i.e. that you are going to invest in the Stock Market at regular intervals whether the market is going up or down.

Rich Contractors Have a Safety Net

However, before you do this you will need your nest egg of cash that will provide you with a safety net so that you don’t need to tough your investment.

I would suggest that you secure six months worth of money in savings accounts that you can draw from before you touch your investments.

That’s the first thing you should do as an IT Contractors, i.e. build your safety net so that you can live for six months without cashing in your investments.

Some of you may want to build a stronger and longer safety net and make it a year’s worth of money but contractors being contractors I don’t expect that many of you will.

Your instincts will be to invest straight away as you are a risk taker and an optimist but you must suppress this. Once you have this safety net in place then you are ready to take the next step in your journey to making it rich as an IT Contractor.

Rich Contractors Invst Wisely in the Stock Market

The great thing about the Stock Market is that it pays out to the average punter which other forms of gambling don’t.

You can even be less than average as a Stock market punter and make money.

If you do the Football Pools the payout is around 28% of what you put in.

If you do the Lottery it is 50%.

If you back the horses the payout is 90% each time you back. However, if you back regularly then that 9/10ths payout becomes less and less.

It is the same with casinos where the payout is 97% with each spin of the wheel.

Rich Contractors Take Advantage

However, with the Stock Market the payout is 112% percent.

So you’d have to be a bit of a mug to be able to keep losing that 12% advantage over the market.

If you think you are less than average you could just stick a pin in the Financial Times and come out with a selection of shares which should give you a 12% return.

Rich Contractors definitely pick their own shares.

Rich Contractors Don’t Buy Unit Trusts

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve argued unsuccessfully with IT Contractors not to invest in Unit Trusts.

Each year, two thirds of Unit Trusts underperform the market.

One of the reasons is that you are having to pay the costs and salaries of those employed by them so they’ve got to do much better than beat the market by 12% just to stay at even keel with it.

If you must buy Unit Trusts then at least back tracker funds which track the market indices.

I don’t know why IT Contractors feel the need to trust their money and their stock market choices to a bunch of mostly fresh city graduates rather than to pick up experience by buying their own shares.

But many of them do – and can’t be talked out of it.

Rich Contractors Stay Away From Futures Market

Also, stay away from the Futures Market.

It may look like a quick way to make money quickly but 95% of those who play the futures market get burned within 6 months.

This is a terrible waste of money and I can’t stress enough that you should stay away from it.

So, investing regularly in the Stock Market for the longer term is a great way for IT Contractors to bring forward the great day when they can bcome rich contractors and can get out.

Rich Contractors Invest in Property

However, they should diversify.

They should not put all their money into the market.

Property is another good way of making money.

It’s also a good each way bet.

It’s seldom that both the property market and the Stock Market are falling at the same time.

Rich Contractors are Successful IT Contractors

One guy I knew instead of renting used to buy a house or flat at each contract where he worked.

Instead of paying rent or hotel bills he was paying the money in mortgage payments.

When his contract finished he simply rented it out.

By the time he stopped contracting he had six different houses and was able to live on the income from those whilst accumulating huge capital gains.

Rich Contractors Keep Working

The most important thing to an IT Contractor is to be in work. Too much money is wasted by IT Contractors in time out, either deliberate or between contracts.

If you are working for 3 months and then have 6 weeks out whilst looking for a contract, work for 3 months and then have another 6 weeks out then you might as well be a permie in financial terms.

Although it is nice to have some time off, if it is deliberate, I find than non-deliberate time off wasn’t much good as it was stressful, as you didn’t know when your next contract was coming from. You wouldn’t exactly call it quality time off.

Good Rate v Staying in Work

I was always a good negotiator when it was time to look for a rise.

However, that wasn’t necessarily good as when companies were looking to start laying off people from projects, they often just lopped off the most expensive contractors.

If the average rate paid at a contract site is £400 a day and you are on £380 a day then you are much more likely to get renewed than the guy on £420. Rich Contractors sometimes take lower rates as staying in owrk is often mor important.

Bean Count

As you know when permie Project Leaders are doing this sort of thing it is often just a bean count and even though you might be better than the cheaper guy it might fit their remaining Project Budget better getting rid of you.

The main object of thoose who would become rich Contractors, therefore, is to keep themselves in work rather than in getting huge rates.

It is permissible to be able to take holidays as long as they are mid-contract but keep to a minimum those breaks between contracts either deliberate or non-deliberate

Best Strategy to Become Rich Contractors

So, to sum up what your strategy to become rich contractors should be, it would be:-

1. Don’t rapidly increase your spending when you start contracting
2. Build a safety net cash pile before investing
3. Invest in the Stock Market but regularly over a long period of time
4. Diversify by investing also in property
5. Keep working even at a lower rate than others

If you follow this strategy you should be able to both see out the next downturn which will surely come and eventually be able to get out of IT Contracting altogether after a few years and go and do whatever you want.

Good Luck in aiming to become one of the rich contractors!

Remember the IT Contractor Unemployed Horror Stories

IT Contractor Unemployed Stories

The last major downturn for contractors seems far away now. Some IT contractors are ignoring the lessons of th Contractor Unemployed Tales.

There’s no way that there has been a boom and contractors had a relatively bad year last year with the market falling about 10% and rates falling about the same amount, which is good, but IT Contractors are close to having a slight whip hand over the clients again.

Preferred Supplier Lists, always a sign of a downturn, are being dumped now by companies, and those that are not dumping them are finding themselves being dumped by agencies like Parity who no longer want the low margin business.

New Generation of IT Contractors

There would also be a good few IT Contractors who have become contractors since the last major downturn ended and who have not experienced a downturn in the IT Contracting market.

Perhaps they think that IT Contracting is a never-ending gravy train and are calculating how many years of this bounty they can accumulate before they can get out and lead a life of leisure fuelled by their share and property portfolios.

Even worse, they may, as many IT Contractors do, use the extra money they get from IT Contracting to take extended periods of time off and go on expensive foreign holidays and buy expensive cars.

Quality of Life of IT Contractors

They are marveling at the quality of life they now have.

They have some extra cash stuffed into a rising stock market and don’t see the need to work for 11 months of the year.

That’s all very well as a lifestyle choice – but after you have created a safety net for yourselves and not before.

We still have a section on ITContractor.com which tells the harrowing tales of a previous generation of IT Contractors who lived through the boom of the late nineties and who thought that they were on a never ending gravy train.

They should read the wretched IT Contractor Unemployed Tales.

IT Contractor Unemployed Stories

It is called IT Contractor Unemployed Stories

IT Contractors who are enjoying their new-found lifestyle should have a reality check by reading some of those stories.

I would pick out, in particular:-
Being an Unemployed IT Contractor
I have not contracted since the Twin Towers Collapsed
Remember me? I am still out of work
The trials and tribulations of being an unemployed IT Contractor
Unemployed IT Story. Why I am so angry

IT Contractor Safety Net

Now go out and get your Porsche and take the summer off till your money runs out and you need fresh cash to feed your new lifestyle.

When I write articles like this some of our readers reply that IT Contracting IS a lifestyle choice and that the reason that some permies become contractors is to enjoy that new lifestyle.

They don’t want to be working 48 weeks of any year. They want to be able to buy flash cars whilst they feel they are young enough to enjoy it.

They want to go on exotic holidays to far-flung places – and not just once a year.

They want to be able to go skiing in winter to exotic resorts.

Contractor Job Prospects

I have nothing wrong with that – as long as they have built a solid foundation. As long as they have salted away enough cash to keep them through any coming downturn.

And I don’t mean in the Stock Market.

As a previous generation of IT Contractors found out, just as their job prospects are fading and they need their nest egg, the Stock Market is plunging too.

Last time IT Contractors invested in tech and dotcom companies many of whom went bust totally or lost more than 90% of their value. Then there was the recent Stock Market crash.

Smarter Contractors

The smarter contractors had invested in property which may not have been as spectacular in terms of returns but which was able to provide them with an income during the bad times when they had no other income.

I realise that I’m sounding like an old Jeremiah but I’ve experienced downturns before. I’ve been at the pits when you think you’ll never work again whilst your cash is rapidly running out.

We have also the stories of many of those who made the mistakes that I’m asking new contractors (and old ones too) to guard against.

Do Your Calculations

Look at the amount of money you have salted away (not including that in the Stock Market which could disappear as quickly as your job prospects) and ask yourself “Could I live on this with my existing lifestyle for 2/3 years without any further income coming in?”

If the answer is Yes then go ahead. Enjoy the lifestyle of an IT Contractor.

If the answer is NO then start piling that cash up now.

New IT Contractor Downturn Coming

You can be sure that a downturn in the IT Contracting market is not more than a few years away.

On past experience I would say that it is 4-6 years away.

However, it could come sooner.

Are you prepared?

Are you already secure?

Could you ride out any downturn that comes along?

If you are not then you could be an addition to a new generation of IT Contractor Unemployed Horror Stories on our website.

Don’t let it happen.

The hidden IT contract market

Hidden IT Contract Market

The Hidden IT Contract Market is from Aussie IT contractor site www.Brainbox.com.au

In his book, ‘What color is your parachute’, contract-hunting guru Richard Nelson Bolles lists methods which clients typically use to fill empty positions.

Bolles notes that contract hunters preferred methods of finding a contract are in the reverse order of how clients like to fill a position. He says that there is a hidden IT Contract market.

Understanding this presents out-of-work IT contractors with an edge over their competitors.

The methods that clients use, in order of preference are:

1. Fill the position from within

This usually involves promoting or transferring an existing employee, or transferring a contract or temp employee who is already working at the company.

The advantages of this method to the client are obvious.

They are getting a known and proven resource who already understands the company and the project.

2. Get someone from outside who the client knows, or at least comes highly recommended by someone the client trusts

This may be someone the client has already met and been impressed with.

The person will usually be a highly-experienced candidate who has a proven track record and portfolio of work.

It may also include a candidate who is referred by a colleague, friend or respected staff member.

The advantages of this method are obvious.

The only disadvantage is that the client has never actually managed the person before.

3. Use a recruitment agency and/or the HR department

Clients use agencies and HR departments as a kind of filter.

They rely on their database of candidates and the agency’s supposed ability to only put forward the best candidates.

This takes some of the work out of finding a decent candidate.

However, agencies can be an expensive option.

There is also the problem that, even if an agency doesn’t have a decent candidate, they’ll almost certainly send through some CVs on spec.

If a client is looking for someone with rare skills, they will most likely have to approach a lot of agencies, which means a lot of CVs and a lot of filtering work.

Using this method also means the client has to rely on unknown or relatively untrusted sources for guarantees of candidate quality.

4. Search through the unsolicited CVs that arrive over time

These CVs usually arrive with little explanation or pre-screening. They are often poor quality.

This option requires a lot of work.

At least the candidate has shown some level of initiative.

There is also the disadvantage that, if the CV arrived more than a week or two ago, the client doesn’t know if the contractor is still available.

5. Post the contract in the newspaper or on the internet

The client can expect to get flooded with CVs.

Many of those applying will have a negligible claim on qualification for the contract.

The client can look forward to boring days of sifting through CVs and interviewing.

No pre-screening is done, so the client is likely to have to deal with many candidates who’ve obviously embellished their CVs.

Experienced clients hate this option.

Other Way Round for Hidden IT Contract Market

You will notice that as you move down the list, the amount of work the client has to do increases with each option.

You will also notice that the likelihood of finding a decent candidate decreases.

So it makes sense that the higher up the list you can move with your method of applying for a contract, the more likely you are to be offered the position.

This is the hidden IT Contract market.

Unless you are currently working for a company with a position you wish to move in to, option 2 is your best bet.

It may be only one option up from the typical method of using a recruitment agency, but the gap in preference for clients is vast.

IT Contracts

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Contractor Glory Days | The glory days of IT contracting

Contractor Glory Days

Do you remember the IT Contractor Glory Days?

I remember when I first called up an agency about IT contracting.

I had been in the business for five and a half years as an employee for three different companies.

I felt it was time. No, in fact I felt I wanted to earn more money.

I was astonished by the sums quoted for IT contractors – which were more than double what I was earning as an employee.

IT Contractor Skills

I thought that this was too good to be true and that the agent would laugh at me when I phoned.

I sneaked out of work to make a call at a phone box rather than do it from work.

To my surprise the agent was quite friendly and didn’t seem surprised at all that someone with my skills should want to go contract.

So why did I want to go contracting in the first place?

Contractor Money

I never made any bones at interviews that I went to as a contractor when they asked why I wanted to be a contractor.

It was the money. I might as well state that up front. “Besides that” they would ask.

I could never think of anything else, and wondered why this was not a good enough reason.

I always felt like saying, that if X person was going to pay me Y to do a job and somebody else was going to pay me 2Y to do pretty much the same thing, then I would always pick the 2Y.

What explanation was needed?

Those were the IT contractor glory days.

IT Department

“Aren’t you ambitious” they would ask. Yes I was – but not to be a senior person in an IT department.

So, I suppose there was a second subconscious reason why I wanted to go contract.

I wasn’t interested in rising up the tree at Barclays Bank or the other two companies that I worked at.

It must be soul-destroying to come in every day working towards a promotion that might and might not come in a year, or even several years, down the line.

IT Contractor Fee

No, as a contractor, you agreed a fee and then you could relax for a few months till you got close to the renewal date.

The job you had to do, and the manager that you had, was the motivator or de-motivator.

You could come in at nine o’clock in the morning, and leave at five o’clock in the evening – and never think about it again until you came in the next morning in the contractor glory days.

For ambitious people in a permanent position, it is much more difficult to leave the job behind.

It’s also difficult to leave by five o’clock.

Life of an IT Contractor

As a contractor, you could meet up with your mates afterwards, have a few beers, have a good time, and not worry how much you were spending, as you were earning money faster than you could spend it.

If you stayed out late in the evening and couldn’t be bothered with getting a bus or the tube home, no problem – you could just jump in a taxi and be home in a quarter of an hour or so.

That was the life in the IT contractor glory days!

Flinging Money at IT Contractors

In the old contractor glory days, we used to think that our ship had come in – that we couldn’t quite understand how people were flinging so much money at us.

We couldn’t spend it all.

In the downturn of 90/92 many contractors thought that Nemesis had come, that we had had it too good for so long.

They were saying that the good times were over.

They were wrong, as so many of you who have turned contractor in the mid to late nineties know.

Also, the doom mongers were wrong about the downturn of the early noughties – although the market is nowhere near where it was in the late nineties.

Old Time IT Contractors

So have the contractor glory days gone of IT workers in their early twenties to early thirties hitting the town with more money than they can spend?

Perhaps!

If so, the old timers in the profession can happily regale the youngsters with tales of when IT was king, when they always had a wad of twenties in their pockets, and when it was difficult to struggle in before ten o’clock after a night on the town.

Ah! Those were the IT contractor glory days!

Will they no’ come back again.

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