We have done an assessment of the advantages of being an IT contractor in 2003, and of the disadvantages. See our article ‘Ten Reasons to Pack in Contracting’. You can make a judgement on which outweighs the other.
1. In normal market conditions, the pay is twice as much as you would get from being a permanent employee. You get the opportunity as a relatively young man or women to be able to set yourself up for the future much more quickly than if you were a permanent employee – who would have to wait years to do the same
2. Unless you are caught by IR35, you’ll pay less tax than a permanent employee as you can claim for such things as travel expenses, phone etc. IR35 seems to be in retreat with victories by contractors over the Inland Revenue, and a smaller and smaller percentage of contractors are being caught by it
3. You don’t have to bother yourself with office politics. You can just get on and do your job
4. You get the chance to move around and meet new people instead of being stuck in the same office with the same old people for years on end. Do you want to spend the best years of your life in just two or three different offices before retiring, with just a few weeks of respite every year? Would you have felt that you have lived? I doubt if you, who have a contractor’s mindset, could take it
5. You get the opportunity to pick up new skills and techniques as you move around from company to company
6. You tend to get the development work as you are more expensive and are likely to have more years of experience both in total and in the tools and languages that you are using. The poor old permanent employees tend to get more maintenance work, and get the ‘opportunity’ to look after your work after you’ve gone. Of course, they’ll never complain about it, and will never take the opportunity to run you down after you’ve left, if there is a ‘glitch’ in one of the programs that you’ve written
7. The business users tend to listen more to what you say as you’re from ‘the outside’ and have worked at other places where things are done properly. Users everywhere are convinced that the IT people in their own IT departments are the biggest cretins under the sun
8. If you are so minded, you can spend December going to agency bashes for the agency that you work for, for previous agents, and for agencies that your friends are working for. Even if it is your first contract and you have no friends, turning up at the door with a CV might get you in (call beforehand to avoid embarrassment). In the past there have been some really good bashes at top nightspots. The downturn has put a bit of a kibosh on it, but once the economy picks up then the agency bashes will be back again
9. The threat of jobs going offshore is greatly exaggerated. According to Ovum Holway only 5% of UK IT jobs will disappear overseas in the next four years. If the bounce backs from previous downturns are anything to go by, we can easily afford this. Already this year, according to agents that I know, the number of contractors that they have out since the start of the year is up by figures of between 5% and 8%. That puts the 5% of jobs going offshore in four year into perspective. Almost 10% of contractors have got out of contracting during the downturn and many of those 30,000 non-EU Fast Track Visa IT workers will be going home over the next few years, cutting the ‘pool of labour’ even further just as the market is recovering
10. Although there is a massive downturn at the moment, this is not going to last forever. Soon many of you will be back on the gravy train. You should learn your lesson though when you are back in clover. Take the opportunity to turn yourself into a real small business, and put something aside, or make some investments, for a rainy day. You will get another chance to make money far more quickly than you could as a permie. Use the chance wisely. It’s better than beavering away for years whilst sucking up to the boss, and putting potential rivals down, just on the off-chance of some future promotion. All the time that it doesn’t come makes you more miserable with your lot and the world. You’ve met these disenchanted permies before. You don’t want this for yourself
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