Is it time to go off on your own? Aligning your career path with your goals; not your employers

Contract vs. permanent work

Everybody has moments when they’re unhappy with their job. But do you have the nagging feeling that something’s seriously wrong with the way that you work? Perhaps it’s time to loosen the bonds of your permanent job and enter the world of professional contracting.

Controlling your own destiny

The thought of giving up a permanent contract can be overwhelming but if you feel that you’ve outgrown your current position, then taking on contracting work can enable you to forge your own path. As a contractor, you can dictate your working hours and the jobs you take on, all the while bringing home much more than you earned under a permanent contract.

An established contractor will often earn double the income of their employed equivalent, enabling you to structure your working life in a more flexible, non-traditional manner.

Even if you’re not bothered about making a lot more money, imagine the luxury of being able to take nearly half the year off and still earn the equivalent of your current annual salary!

You could travel, hang out with your family or even pursue a passion project.  Many contractors see this as the ultimate perk of the job: when you make your own rules, suddenly the world is open to you.

Should I become a contractor?

Maybe you’re feeling trapped by the nine-to-five grind, crave some variety in your days or even just need a break from endless staff meetings.

But what’s worse than having to sit through another one of your boss’s Powerpoints, is the feeling that the specialised work you do is being undervalued. Knowing that you’re not fulfilling your potential can be an incredibly demoralising experience.

On the other hand, you might love your job but you’ve reached the point where if you took a promotion, you’d be forced into a more managerial role that takes you away from the practical elements of your work.

This is an especially common problem with IT professionals, many of whom consider becoming a contractor once they realise that there’s a way to progress their career without being taken away from the skilled work they enjoy.

Once you realise what your personal USP (unique selling point) is, you can really begin to pursue contracting work. The more specialised your skills, the more likely it is that clients will be interested in hiring you.

Sharpening your skill set

One of the perks of a contracting career is that you can drill down into the sort of work you enjoy. In fact, keeping track of the skills that are in high demand in your industry is one of the key requirements of a successful contracting career. It also means that you can make your personal development into a real priority.

If you want to take the time to polish a skill or even learn something entirely new, you can allocate yourself a development window to get to grips with a new challenge.

A permanent job rarely allows you the opportunity to learn new things if there isn’t an immediate and obvious business application. Fortunately, you can be much more forward-thinking and flexible about the way you run your business.

If any of this resonates with you, it could be that  working as a contractor is the best decision you’ll ever make.

How to become a contractor

If you’re seriously considering becoming a contractor, take a moment to look at your current professional life and see which parts of it you value the most. This should give you a clue as to what aspects of your permanent role you need to maintain as you move away from traditional employment.

Switching from fulltime to contractor work is quite an undertaking so it’s important that you are sure (or sure enough) that this is a life that will actively increase your well-being.

If you know you’re a risk-averse person then the idea of working without the safety net of sick and holiday pay, paid parental leave and a regular pay cheque might be uncomfortable for you. If you want your contracting career to be successful,  it will be important for you to replicate that sense of security as much as possible.

It’s a myth that contractors are all boisterous nomads, moving from client to client without worrying where their next assignment will come from. Certainly, if you have a family to support, it may seem inconceivable you could work this way. However, there are plenty of ways to cushion yourself against economic uncertainty. There’s no one rule that dictates how to be a contractor.

If you observe the standard rule of thumb and make sure that you always have around six months’ worth of household expenses tucked away in a savings account, you may find that your worries fade away. Having a savings cushion means that if you do experience lean times, you can sustain yourself until you find the next opportunity. You could also take out income protection insurance, if you know you’re the type of person who needs the extra reassurance.

Remember: when you’re a contractor, you make the rules. Although there are some risks to this way of working, you have the ability and agency to make the situation work for you.

It’s never been more exciting to be contracting in the UK, so if your instincts are telling you it’s time to make the leap, do it! You won’t be sorry you did.