IT Contractor Experience | How much do I Need to Become a Contractor

IT Contractor Experience needed to become a contractor
IT Contractor Experience necessary to become one

Question on IT Contractor Experience Needed

I‘m sure that this is a question, on IT Contractor experience needed, that we have all asked at one stage before we went contracting and it is one that potential IT contractors among the permie community are asking now.

Many may have asked IT contractors at companies where they worked for their advice on it.

The general consensus amongst agencies and contractors, if you ask them, is that you need about 3 years experience before you attempt to become a contractor.

Becoming an IT Contractor

However, there is no hard and fast rule about this. I‘ve seen people go contract with just a year and a half experience.

Indeed, I met one guy who had just three months experience when he went contract.

I think I even remember meeting one guy who said he was never a permie at all. He had gone contract straight away from university. However, my recollections are vague about that so maybe we should leave that one out of the calculation.

It was at an agency bash.

Many Years IT Contractor Experience

I would say that most permies would be likely to have to wait three years before becoming a contractor.

It‘s not so much the first contract but subsequent ones.

You may be able to pick up your first 3 month contract when you have only a year and a half‘s experience. However, remember that when you are looking at your second one you could be competing against contractors with ten years IT contractor experience or more.

Unemployed IT Contractor
Unemployed IT Contractor – the trials and tribulations

Right IT Contractor Skills

The biggest factor in when you decide to go contract is the skills you have.

If you have very common or garden skills where there is no real skills shortage, as I say, you‘ll be competing against contractors with a lot more experience and you‘d better be very good at interviews.

However, if you have newer skills where there is a shortage you should be able to pick up contracts even after 18 months of being a permie.

The skills should remain in shortage for a while. So you should be able to get a few years of contracting behind you before the skill enters the mainstream.

IT Contractors With Niche Skills

If you have a niche skill you should be highly sought after and able to get a good rate.

However, if you have a niche skill make sure that the companies that want that skills are in an area of the country close to where you live or want to live. Otherwise you will be spending most of your time away from home.

For instance, if you have skills that are related to the stock market, hedge funds or the big banks and insurance companies you should be fine if you live in the South East but not if you live in North Wales.

Length of Contract Important Factor

Another important factor if you are looking to become a first time contractor is the length of contract.

I would strongly advise against taking a 3-month contract.

If that doesn‘t get renewed you could find yourself out in the wilderness. You may not be able to get another contract competing against contractors with stronger skills and more experience. So you may find yourself looking for another permie job again.

Make sure that your first contract is a minimum of 6 months.

Even if you only have one and a half years experience as a contractor that would make you have 2 years experience when you went for the next one.

It also provides you with a sufficient buffer in financial terms if it takes you a few weeks or even months to find the next one.

Current IT Contractor Market Conditions

Another tip is to look at the current market.

Ask contractors what it is like or look on some contractor websites to see what is being said there.

If we are in a downturn, or heading for one, even experienced contractors can find themselves ‘˜on the bench‘ for months.

The best time to go contracting is in a boom. However, remember the boom could stop anytime so make sure you put sufficient funds away for a rainy day.

IT Contractors Should Prepare for Contractor Market Downturn

So many new contractors want to get their hands on that new cash to spend it on some big ticket item like a fancy car.

They even spend money that they should be putting away for tax thinking that there‘s loads of money where that came from.

It then comes as a shock when their contract gets terminated for some reason maybe not even to do with them or their contract doesn‘t get renewed.

Then they are on the bench without being able to pay their tax and with their money running out when mortgage payments have to be made.

Preparing for a Downturn in IT Contracting
Preparing for a Downturn in IT Contracting market

IT Contractors A Different Breed

This is just some advice for first time contractors.

I know that contractors are of a breed and will become contractors anyway.

The IT Contractor experience needed is usually three years but varies depending on your skills and market conditions. You can still become a contractro with less IT Contractor experience.

You may be in too much of a hurry to get out of the world of permiedom and want into contracting as soon as you can.

However, these are just a few tips that can help you make it a successful transition to the world of the contractor.


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