Posted: Thu 28th Jun 2018
If you like variety in the workplace, need the flexibility to pursue other projects or want to gain experience in as many industries as possible, the contracting life could be for you.
Direct Line for Business caught up with contractor and business owner Seetal Fatania to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of contracting.
Why did you decide to become a contractor?
Initially, it wasn't a conscious decision to become a contractor. After graduating, I worked at a company for three years in a permanent role but was made redundant. When I left, I was offered a contract role and found that it really suited me.
I love the flexibility of being a contractor and being able to work across different industries and projects. As a senior brand and marketing professional, I've had the opportunity to work across a variety of sectors - from telecoms to finance, insurance to fashion tech. Contracting keeps your career interesting.
What are the main advantages of being a contractor?
1. Flexibility: One of the advantages of being a contractor is that you're able to command the time and length of your contract. Contracts can typically last from three months to over a year, so you can pick what works for you.
Contracting allows for a great work/life balance - I've been able to travel for six months in between contracts and also run my own jewellery earphone business, J'adore Adorn . If I held a permanent position in a company, I wouldn't be able to devote as much time to running and growing my own enterprise.
2. Control over jobs and clients: One of the other advantages to contracting is the variety of clients you can work with, not only from different industries but also different products within the same industry. The variety not only allows you to learn best practice but also equips you with new knowledge and expertis, which you can bring to your next role.
3. You don't get bored: I love being able to work on diverse projects, share new ideas and work with people who have different viewpoints and do things differently. It keeps things fresh and means I never feel like I'm stuck in a rut.
Contracting at different companies means I've come across people from all walks of life, so working with new teams doesn't faze me. You learn to read people really well and get a good understanding of how different people communicate.
4. No politics! The beauty of being a contractor is that you're usually brought in to deliver a particular project or piece of work within a defined scope and then you move on. This allows you to be impartial and objective and avoid internal politics.
5. Pay: Not getting all the added benefits of being a permanent employee (e.g. health insurance, holiday pay) usually means you get a higher rate.
What are the disadvantages of being a contractor?
1. Lack of steady income or work: A disadvantage of being a contractor is that your income and workloads can vary. You won't have the stability of a permanent job, and you'll have to get used to the anxiety of not knowing where your next pay cheque will come from. You have to be more proactive when it comes to managing your career and seeking new opportunities.
2. Short notice periods: The notice of termination for a contract role can be as little as a week unless you have negotiated otherwise. If there are any changes in team structures, the contractors are usually the first to go.
Luckily, for most new contracts, employers need you to start immediately, so if you are let go early, there may be opportunities for you to start somewhere else with only a short break in between. However, how quickly you find your next role is often down to you and your agencies.
3. No employee benefits: Holidays, sick leave, health benefits and pensions are non-existent for contractors and it is something you have you organise yourself. Every day you don't work is a day you won't get paid, so managing your finances and making careful plans for your future is vital.
4. Career progression: It's easier for permanent members of staff to move up in a company. When selecting people for their board of directors, companies will be looking for loyalty and stability. Also, generally, the higher up you progress in your career, the fewer roles there are available and the fiercer the competition. That's not to say there aren't opportunities, but your route to the top may not be as straightforward.
What tips can you give to other contractors?
1. Save up for a rainy day: I always keep three - four month's salary saved for when I'm in between roles. You may find you move from one job to the next with ease. However, it's important to plan in case the unexpected happens.
2. Be ready to get stuck in quickly: As a contractor, you don't have the luxury of spending your first few months at a company getting the lay of the land. You're often pulled in mid-project and tasked with picking up where someone else left off. You'll be expected to quickly get to grips with the purpose of the project, meet all the relevant stakeholders and start completing actions immediately.
3. Always deliver: Put your heart and soul into every project. If you work hard and are invested in the project, the right people will notice, and they will be more likely to call on you in the future if opportunities crop up.
4. Networking is key: Make yourself known to key stakeholders in the company, and always leave a good impression. Many of the roles I have been offered have been through people I have worked with in some capacity before, or have been via recommendations.
Seetal Fatania is a senior brand and marketing professional and founder of J'adore Adorn, a luxury jewellery earphones company. She has 15 years' experience in delivering multi-million pound through-the-line campaigns across telecoms, finance, insurance and more recently, fashion tech and wearables.
Visit Direct Line for Business for more tips and advice for business owners and consultants.