Success as an IT Contractor
There are lots of ways to be a success as an IT Contractor.
We will leave the obvious ones, i.e. make sure you are in work, have a good CV, be good at interviews etc. We‘ve covered these elsewhere in other articles.
We‘ll concentrate on some of the smaller things that add up to a bigger whole and help to get you renewed.
1. Start the day fresh
It may sound an obvious thing to say but lots of contractors don‘t do this.
They leave home at the last moment. They then have a stressful rush to be there on time and are, quite frankly, already knackered just as they are about to start work.
Start out ten minutes early for work so that you can relax as you come in with no worries most of the time about being late.
Most times you will be in ten to fifteen minutes early. So use that time to ease yourself into the day by having a coffee and a chat with those already there. This will also help you socially within the team.
Maybe go round and say hello with a few words to each person.
Now, you are ready for work. You can see those that don‘t do this coming in looking fit to burst five or ten minutes after they should have been in and then having to start work straight away without much social interaction.
2. Success as an IT Contractor – Take breaks
It‘s impossible to just work constantly through the day and be at your best.
Take breaks every so often.
They reckon that you need to take a ten minute break every hour to be at your best.
You might not get away with that. However, you could take two or three minutes out every half hour or so – or whenever you fell you need to have one.
Even in a strict place you can usually get yourself a cup of coffee or go to the loo or just turn off your mind for a couple of minutes as you sit at your screen.
In a less strict place you could have a chat at the coffee machine for a few minutes or even go outside for a few minutes for a breath of fresh air.
3. Make a List of Tasks
When you feel that you have a lot on your plate and you are feeling the strain, make a list of the things you‘ve got to do.
Most people would do the important ones first and that is the normal priority.
However, when you are feeling that things are getting on top of you, do the easier tasks, which take less time, first.
As you get the tasks done and the number of outstanding tasks that need to be done falls, leaving just two or three or four bigger ones, you can feel the stress coming off you. So, you now have the less things demanding to do. Therefore, you can concentrate better on the larger tasks and do a better job on them.
I use this one all the time and I find it works a treat.
4. Get Fit for IT Projects
I used to work with one Aussie contractor who told me that he always went into training when he was about to start a major project or a major important piece of work.
He reckoned it made a big difference to his concentration and his productivity. He was less likely to feel tired or stressed.
This makes sense.
Sometimes only some of the contractors at a site get renewed. So it is as well to have whatever advantage you can.
It gives you a sense of achievement too if you get yourself fit and do well on the project you are working on.
It helps with your self confidence and to have success as an IT contractor.
5. Pick the best means of communication
Nowadays there are lots of different ways to communicate with fellow workers, management, users, customers etc.
Choose which is the best way to communicate with each individual whether it is phone, direct meetings, email or text.
Some people prefer one rather than another.
You may have your preference but find out how the other people prefer to communicate with you taking that into account but most importantly choose the most effective means of communicating to help you achieve your goals and have success as an IT contractor.
6. Pick the tasks to do according to how you‘re feeling
You may not always have the choice but if you do, then try and do tasks that suit your current frame of mind.
If you are not feeling tip top then do some of the easier tasks.
If you are really feeling not too good pick some boring, repetitive task to do that you have been putting off for ages.
Save your really important tasks, that need a lot of concentration or you could screw up, for days when you really feel on top of your game.
If you do those tasks when you are not feeling tip top you may find yourself spending a lot of time fixing them.
7. Doesn‘t need to be perfect
Don‘t be one of those people who has to dot every ‘i‘ and cross every ‘t‘.
Of course, if you are coding you need to be a perfectionist but not for reports and documentation.
Don‘t waste unnecessary time to get something just perfect when it just needs to be ‘˜good enough‘.
8. Learn to Say No to Permies to Have Success as an IT Contractor
You can get a lot of kudos at companies by helping the permies. This is sometimes true for the other contractors or even management.
However, that shouldn‘t be to the detriment of your own work.
Contractors have found in the past that the spent so much time helping out permies that it has cost them their contract renewals. They are getting judged solely on the work they have done and the time it took them.
If there are a lot of cries for help from permies or other contractors at the company then this relationship has to be put on a formal basis.
Talk to Your Client
Go and talk to your client and explain that this is happening a lot and is costing you time.
Say that you are happy to help. However, say that you need this formalised and a code that you can book time to when you do it.
This is now the manager‘s decision – as it should be. It is his or her project.
The manager can decide that is very useful for there to be someone that the permies can go to, to get their questions answered and to get help.
Or the manager can decide that your work is too important and you mustn‘t be interrupted by permie questions.
My feeling is that he or she will normally go for the first option.
That‘s what you will be hoping too.
You‘ve now got a new code that you can allocate time to which is very useful.
Gained a Lot
You‘ve now gained quite a lot.
Firstly, you‘ve got that new code.
Secondly, you are more likely to get your part of the project done on time.
Thirdly, you‘ve just let the manager know that the permies see you as a fount of knowledge. That will do no harm when negotiating an increase at renewal time.
If the manager says ‘I can‘t allocate a code to it but I‘m happy for you to continue doing it’, you have two options.
Firstly, you can tell the permies that you haven‘t been allocated any code for it and so can‘t spend any time on it.
Or, you can ask the manager if you can log the actual hours doing it and add this as an addendum to your timesheet each week.
If he or she won‘t let you do that then the alarm bells should ring. He or she may be the kind of person to let you spend time with the permies and then blame you if you are late with your own work.
Just don‘t do it or you could find yourself getting the blame and none of the credit.
And then you could be out of work!
I‘ve seen it happen before.
Now you know what it takes to be a success as an IT Contractor.
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