Golden Rules of IT Contracting
From my experience, here are the golden rules of IT Contracting.
Don’t become an IT contractor if you are not a risk taker
The big danger in boom times is that IT Contracting looks relatively safe and many people who wouldn’t normally take the risks of becoming an IT Contractor actually become freelancers.
Remember that a downturn WILL come
sometime in the next few years and you may spend long periods out of work. Even if you do find work the rates will be declining.
Have a great CV
this is your sales document and it is the main differentiator between IT Contractors at the early stage. So how do you do this? Take advice from other contractors, from other agents, and from sites like ours. We have a sub-section in the Advice section specifically for this
Become good at Interviews
You get better with experience. There are lots of
techniques for this and we have quite a few articles on this in our Interviews sub-section under Advice.
Spend less than you earn
and don’t go crazy when you first become an IT Contractor. Especially don’t spend money that you have put aside for tax expecting to be able to make it up from future earnings. Put aside the full amount of tax at the full rates of tax so that anything that your IT Accountant can save you is a bonus. Don’t buy Porsches etc. out of future earnings
Don’t charge more than you are worth
If you do you will find that you are one of the first to go when they are cutting the number of contractors at a site. I was always good at negotiating and managed to get good rate rises at renewal time. However, when it came to cutting back on contractors I was often one of the first to go as I was one of the most expensive.
My brother, on the other hand, usually charged slightly less than the market rate and was constantly in work whereas I often had periods between contracts. It is more important to be constantly in work than earning a good rate. Only charge a high rate if you are really worth it
Keep your skills marketable
and up to date. Here you must do some investigating to see what the best skills to have are. We have some articles on this in the Jobs news section under Rates and Skills.
When chasing IT Contracts take into account the fresh skills that you may pick up on the contract. It is even worth taking a lower rate to attain these, more modern, skills. It will also stand you in good stead during a downturn when these skills are more likely to be needed than the mass market skills
Get on well with the permanent staff
If you are friendly and helpful to them you are more likely to get renewed. You can bet the permanent employees have conversations about the contractors – often with the project manager present. Help them if they request it. However, don’t force your views on them if they don’t want it, and especially don’t throw a tantrum if they don’t take your advice
Keep a wary eye on IT agencies
Agencies can be your best friends. They will, after all, probably get you most of your work. However, beware those seeking to pry information from you which may well be used to tour detriment, e.g. those asking which companies your CV has been put forward to or asking which interviews you have been to, or those who ask for references before they’ve even sent your CV off.
Be careful about investing in the Stock Market
during an IT Contracting boom. The reason that contracting is booming is because the economy is booming and as a result share prices are rising.
You reckon that you are investing for a rainy day. What normally happens is that just when you are being thrown out of work, the economy and the Stock Market is collapsing and you watch your high risk investments plummeting in value just when you need them most.
If anyone has any other golden rules of IT Contracting please put them in the Comments section.
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