It may have started at the suggestion of a friend, or the loss of a permanent job, or the desire to be one’s own boss and capitalize on years of well-honed experience. Whatever the reasons, whether by choice or circumstance, each day hundreds of thousands of technical workers in the US go to work as professional contractors. And due to global economics, the accelerating pace of innovation, and the inconsistencies of supply and demand, the ranks of these workers are growing.
What these enterprising individuals encounter is a dynamic world filled with great rewards but also with many risks and challenges. How one handles and personalizes this often unpredictable and transient world can mean the difference between a successful contracting career and an interesting episode between regular jobs.
So why get into contracting? Or why not?
On the plus side, skilled technical contractors can significantly out-earn their regularly employed colleagues and get paid for every hour worked. On the downside, contract jobs are by definition temporary, and permanency and stability are not part of the bargain. Traditional benefits associated with regular employment, such as paid-time-off and health insurance, are also usually off the table. For the most part, you pay your own way.
On the plus side, work assignments can be fast-paced and stimulating. You are hired for your expertise and capability in a particular technical domain. Deadlines loom and the fortunes of the project, organization, company, or all of these, depend on your delivering the result on time. You are the cavalry come to the rescue. But there are also those times when a job needs doing that nobody wants to do, or has time to do, or it’s considered a career-ender. Contractors get those jobs, too.
On the plus side, you travel to interesting places, make new friends, stretch your horizons; it’s invigorating. On the downside, you travel to remote backwaters, live alone, work endless hours without time to enjoy your new surroundings; you can’t wait to get out of there.
On the plus side, you are hired to solve a problem, accomplish a task, mentor others, provide advice. There’s no politics and no back-stabbing. How refreshing. But maybe not. You may become a pawn in an internal power struggle and your captive co-workers may resent your freedom and hourly compensation and make life difficult for you.
Contracting for a living is not without its trials and tribulations and certainly is not for everyone. But one thing is for sure, demand is escalating for highly proficient technical workers with good people and problem-solving skills, and those who have that, along with fortitude, flexibility and a bit of adventure in their heart, can count on being highly sought-after and richly rewarded as a contractor.
In the months ahead, we will be publishing a series of blog posts on the contracting work and life-style. Our goal is twofold. We hope to inform those new to this way of work or those who are newly considering it and at the same time acknowledge those who have already successfully made the transition to contracting and are truly earning their keep day in and day out solving problems for their clients and keeping the machinery of American industry and innovation humming. Please, read on.
- What it takes to be a top-flight contractor
- Beyond the Call of Duty – Contractor War-Stories
- How to minimize the risks, aggravations and casualties of contracting
- How to select an effective and reputable contract services firm and recruiter-agent
- Life on the Road