The Seven Deadly Sins of IT Contracting – Beware

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Seven Deadly Sins of IT Contracting
Seven Deadly Sins of IT Contracting

Seven Deadly Sins

Her are the seven deadly sins of IT Contracting that stop you having a successful career.

Put your trust in IT Agencies (1)

When you first start IT Contracting believe them when they tell you that there is no need to contact another agency, believe them when they say they will get you the best rate they can and believe them when they tell you that it is not their company policy to reveal margins.

IT Contractors must be aware
IT Contractors must be aware of agencies spamming contacts

Put your trust in IT Agencies (2)

When they call telling you they have a good contract for you believe them when they tell you that they need to know the contracts that you have been put forward to so that they don’t put you forward there again, believe them when they tell they need to know what interviews you have already been to so that they don’t submit you there again, and believe them when they tell you that they need the names and contact details of your last few clients before even submitting your CV.

Flit from Contract to Contract

Most IT Contractors, when they start contracting, multiply their rate by 50 to see what they will earn a year and then multiply that by 3, 5 and 10 to see how many years they will have to do before they can get out.

However, too many hardly work 50 weeks in any year. The main curse for contractors is not looking for work before their current contract ends and so there is a lag time in getting their next contract.

They tie themselves up in the work they are doing for the client too much and forget to look after themselves. As I have said, in another recent article, you should always be available. You can always get out of a contract if you need to.

Don’t customise and enhance your CV

Some IT Contractors keep the same CV all the time. They don’t customise it for individual clients and contract positions.

Doing Your CV
Doing Your CV to get a contract

Remember that the client has no interest at all in the skills and knowledge that you have that he or she doesn’t need. You need to bring up front and highlight the skills and knowledge that he or she does need.

They really don’t want to be searching for it on your CV.

As far as enhancing your CV is concerned I would think that some of our readers will be thinking that ‘enhance’ means ‘make up’ or ‘lie’.

But it doesn’t need to be. It’s just a difference in emphasis.

Call Yourself a Senior Developer – Seven Deadly Sins

For instance, if your previous contract position was for a Developer you could put Senior Developer.

It’s not exactly untrue is it?

Although your previous client specified Contract Developer on the job spec what he actually got was a Senior Developer.

And, in fact, if you have more than five or so years of experience then you would be a senior developer and would have done the job of a senior developer.

In fact you could argue that all IT Contractors are Senior Developers due to their experience and the premium rate that clients are prepared to pay for them.

You could say the same about Analysts.

Why put Systems Analyst or Business Analyst on your CV when you could put Senior Business Analyst or Senior Systems Analyst.

Project Manager – Seven Deadly Sins

Another example could be putting down Project Manager instead of the title they gave you of Project Leader.

After all, what is the difference between leading a project and managing one?

I’ve always wondered about the two different titles anyway. Project Leader really means junior Project Manager, small Project Manager or sub-Project Manager.

I don’t see how it is possible to lead a Project without managing it. Who was doing the managing while you were leading it?

If you considered that you were managing the Project that you led then there is no reason why you shouldn’t put that on your CV. You don‘t have to be confined by what your client called the job. If you believe that you were managing a project then put Project Manager on your CV.

So, if you are ever questioned about any of these matters, after they found out what your actual title was (extremely unlikely), then all you have to say was that they advertised for a Developer or Project Leader when the job was actually for a Senior Developer or Project Manager.

If you can’t handle questions like that you should really turn permie again anyway.

Get into tax trouble

It‘s an easy enough thing to do.

You start contracting but can‘t wait to get your hands on some big ticket items, like a fancy car, or want to invest your money in the Stock Market or property.

caught by ir35
Caught by IR35

You use all of the money you have coming in to do it, not putting anything aside for tax or VAT.

After all, you reason, there‘s plenty more where that came from and you can use future money to pay your taxes.

Suddenly you find yourself laid off or not renewed and it is taking you a while to find a new contract. You are having to use any money you have left to live on.

Contractors need to show a bit of patience. They need to set aside both some money for tax and to see them through any downtime before they start to spend or invest.

Don‘t upgrade your skills

The IT industry slowly changes. Normally, it gradually migrates away from skills into new skills.

Sometimes it does it suddenly, i.e. during and after a downturn.

Whilst you could get by for years on the same old skills, suddenly you find that few people want them any more and that there is lots of competition for fewer and fewer contracts with your skill.

This is what normally happens when there is a downturn.

You are not too surprised that you can‘t get any work during the downturn but are surprised when you discover that the game has changed and when the upturn comes it is a new breed of contractor wanted, i.e. recent permies with new skills.

Fall out with people – Seven Deadly Sins

One thing that I hear often is that IT Contractors have no social skills. I think that is too much of a generalization but there is a certain point to it.

We all know certain contractors who seem to go out of their way to upset everybody. They think they know it all and they want it done their way or else they will stamp their feet and throw tantrums. I bet we could all name ones like this that we have met.

IR35 investigations on UK IT Contractors
HMRC IR35 investigations on UK IT Contractors

But it‘s not just those over-the-top guys.

IT Contractors are there to do their work and advise.

If their advice is not wanted they should realize that quickly and stop giving it.

If their advice is not taken they should accept that too.

Far, far too many people have lost contracts and valuable income because they didn‘t realize the above.

IT Contractor Conclusion

These are the seven deadly sins of IT Contracting.

IT Contractors can have a long and lucrative career as long as they avoid these traps.

They may even be able to make their pile and get out to do something else that they prefer doing or just to lead a leisurely life.

If they don‘t take this advice they are doomed to have a long and fragmented career with lots of short contracts and lots of time on the bench frittering away their hard earned cash.

Make sure you are in the former category and not one committing the seven deadly sins of contracting.

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