Nixon Williams have gained a first hand look into what life as an IT Contractor is like in the current contracting market. In order to obtain an insight; IT Contractor Gemma Church , an experienced .Net Developer shares with us her views of what life is like for a contractor.
1. Why did you become a contractor?
There is no one answer here – there are a range of factors. First of all, I began to feel I was stagnating within permanent employment. The shackles of working within a company structure meant I was not free to expand my skill set and explore new technologies. As a contractor I can choose my work and develop my skill set as I see fit, whilst being paid to do so. For example, I have just completed a contract where I used Google’s Go compiled programming language. It was great to use a new coding language and work within another different company culture – which is an aspect of contracting that I also enjoy.
I am also far better off financially as a contractor. The rates of pay outstrip anything I could have achieved within permanent employment, and this gives me further flexibility to take longer breaks if I want to.
Which leads me onto my next point, there were so many social aspects to contracting that appealed to me. The flexibility, the lack of office politics, ability to work to my own schedule and option to work from home all give me a much happier working environment and a better work/life balance.
2. How do you feel about the transition from permanent to contracting?
I found the transition quite easy, but thorough research and preparation is a must. Before I handed in my notice at work, I researched the contractor space to ensure I had sort of skills employers were looking for. I updated my CV and spoke to other contractors I knew.
Getting sound advice when transitioning from permanent work to contracting is essential. When I appointed an accountant, they helped me to navigate the world of contracting and manage my finances. They gave me sound advice, helped me to set up a business and now manage all my accounting matters – it’s a huge relief and has made the transition infinitely easier than going it alone.
3. How long have you been contracting for?
I have been contracting for just over three years now. I was originally nervous that I may not be able to find work but the demand for skilled IT contractors has not slowed during this time. I have also been fortunate to find contracts close to home.
4. In your opinion, what is the current IT contracting market like?
I find the IT contracting market to be very buoyant. It is, however, vital to keep abreast of the changing technical landscape and keep your skills up to date. I have gained Microsoft certification and attended courses between contracts to make my CV really stand out and keep me in the loop with new technologies.
This does not mean that you should be a jack of all trades – employers do value specialists in one technical area with an understanding and appreciation of the wider technical landscape.
A highly skilled and relevant IT contractor should have no trouble finding work in the current climate.
5. In your opinion, what is the current landscape for IT contracting?
As a .NET developer, this skill set seems to be continually in demand. Strong growth in the use of Apple’s Mac OS X operating system has not impacted on the landscape as yet. I have also been brushing up my skills in Java for the wide range of open source contracts that are currently available.
Looking through the IT contracting jobs boards, there seems to have been a significant rise in the number of cyber security contracts over the last 12 months, due to the high profile hacking scandals and cyber-attacks hitting the news in recent months.
Mobile development is also popular with traditional languages such as Java, C, and C++ in demand. There seems to be an increasing demand for Apple’s new programming language Swift within mobile development.
Finally, it is important for any IT contractor to think beyond the code and have an understanding of the business requirements, solutions and systems behind every contract. My understanding of business processes has won me several contracts over the years and helped me to stand out from the crowd.
6. How have you thought of future proofing yourself as a contractor?
I have future proofed my career as a contractor by becoming a specialist and investing in myself.
I have honed my skills within one technical bracket and one in-demand industry. I have kept my skills, qualifications and technical knowledge up to date by using periods between contracts to attend training and work towards industry-recognised certifications. It’s a vital requirement in a fast-moving sector like IT.
I also learnt to embrace a freelance mindset – to effectively market myself to potential employers, work autonomously and productively even when I do not have a contract and network within the freelancer community to help me find work. Personal connections and social skills are also a key component to IT contracting – the computers cannot code themselves, or we would all be in trouble!
If you are thinking of making the move to contracting and are seeking out advice, please contact us on 01253 362062 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.