In Part I of this post, we focused on the things about working as a contractor that people like. Here, we’ll talk about how to decide if it’s right for you.
While there are some great advantages to contract assignments, there are some important differences to think about too:
- Finite assignments
- No paid holidays or sick time
- Must provide your own benefits
There is no guarantee with any job - full time/permanent positions can be eliminated and end as well, but there aren’t the same kinds of benefits such as unemployment insurance or severance when a contract position ends. You need to be proactive in securing your next assignment and prepared for potential breaks in service, if they occur. Paid holidays and sick time are generally not included, although that is not always the case, changing more and more, and employment trends and laws are always progressing. Finally, common benefits like subsidized health insurance, 401(k) matching, and others are not generally provided. For some, the feeling of security and the benefits that come with a more permanent position is important and the relative uncertainty of contracting doesn’t work for their personality or personal circumstances.
So how do you decide?
Well, you need to think about these things as they apply to you, specifically.
For example, in our experience, things like paid vacation and sick time work themselves out for most people and end up not being a big factor but health insurance is different. It’s arguably the biggest one to think about.
Depending on your needs, there is affordable healthcare available, especially if you are young, single, and childless. Or can you obtain health insurance through your spouse or partner? For people like this, the fact that these things aren’t automatically included might not be much of a drawback. On the other hand, if you’ve got a family of five that you are the primary or sole provider for, you may find the cost, convenience, and support of company provided health insurance, retirement benefits, and other programs to be a big draw.
The point is that companies consider benefits a part of the total compensation package and adjust salaries and raises accordingly. If you are currently in an FTE position and aren’t really taking advantage of the benefits offered, then you are likely being underpaid. For someone else, the value of extras that come with most FTE positions may outweigh the higher rate of contract work. You need to determine if you can earn more money as a contractor and still have access to similar benefits.
There are some intangibles to consider too. If you are someone who likes to have a strong social component to their work environment, contracting may not be a good choice for you. It depends on the assignment but in general, your short tenure and contract standing means that you are not as strongly connected to the company.
To be sure people will be friendly and the best companies make you feel a part of the team, you may make some good friends even, but generally it’s not the same kind of connection, especially for shorter term assignments. But, there are benefits to this as well - you can avoid most of the extraneous meetings that take up time and you won’t have to deal with office politics as much. That’s a benefit to consider!
When a Recruiter Calls
Take the call! Answer the email! There is no harm in exploring.
How long has it been since you’ve really seen what else is out there? If the specific opportunity they are calling with isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, talking to the recruiter can still be beneficial. Tell them what you are looking for or what type of work or role or rate per hour would entice you to think about making a change. Tell them about your perfect job (remember that dream company?) and then let them do the work of finding it for you. Go on an interview if you are offered that opportunity. What have you got to lose?
At the end of it all, you may find yourself staying put, but doing so secure in the knowledge that this is truly the right place for you at this point in your career. Or maybe you’ll end up in a great new job making more money and happier than before. You may find that the life of a contractor suits you, short or long term.
It doesn’t matter so much what choice you make, just that it is an informed choice based on facts and smart thinking instead of knee jerk reactions based on incomplete information about what being a contractor really entails. Let us know what other questions you have about working as an IT contractor or send us your resume. We’re here to help you!