Realise About IT Agents
Contractors must realise what IT agents are and what they are up to.
This was posted in response to our article ‘10 things you really need to know about agents‘.
Bucket of Salt
After reading Gerry’s article I feel the need to warn all people who are considering IT contracting to take some of the advice offered with a medium to large sized bucket of salt.
I have been a very successful IT agent for nearly 20 years. I have never felt the need to lie to anyone, or to hassle information from contractor. 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.
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, lie about their rates, etc.
Out of Work
If they did that then the contracting world wouldn’t spin and 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 and 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.
Agents Help You
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 would realise who a good agent is from a useless blagging nugget, like the ones Gerry McLaughlin unfortunately keeps meeting.
Ten Points About Agencies
If there are ten things about an agent that a contractor must realise, 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 (that cha.. oh, you know the drill)
8) Agencies protect your Ltd Company from being considered invisible by the Inland Revenue – 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..)
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).
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)
Freedom of Speech
Gerry, I hope you realise that this is not a bash at you for your comments, everyone should have freedom of speech, but 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).
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