“How I took the plunge to become a contractor” by Paul Taylor

June 2010 and Paul Taylor hands in his notice from his well paid, secure job as an Business Intelligence Consultant with no definite job to go to. In the middle of a recession and with a mortgage to pay, a sign of madness surely?

Not at all. Paul had made the decision to quit his full time job in order to start taking contract roles. As with many highly skilled professionals before him, Paul felt undervalued in that he was being charged out to major blue-chip clients by consultancy companies at up to £1,000 per day and was taking only a fraction of that home as pay. As he comments now, “why should someone else get rich off the back of my talent? I wanted to see more of that reward for myself.”

So, what had stopped him up until then? “It was the risk that I’d end up without a contract. There are no guarantees with contracting and that risk felt too great. I was also worried about the extra legal and financial responsibilities involved with running my own limited company,” says Paul.

The potential to increase your take home pay

Enter Mark Dexter from KDR Recruitment who was involved in Paul’s decision to finally take the plunge. Paul had approached KDR about a permanent role but looking at his CV, Mark saw the potential for Paul to increase his take home pay and gain back some of the ownership of his work that was missing in his career.

After an initial conversation and a sleepless night for Mark, worrying whether he was giving Paul the best advice, the two met face to face and their trust in each other’s capabilities grew. Paul felt reassured that Mark and his team at KDR understood what he was capable of and that they could present his skills in the best light to clients.

His trust was rewarded when he resigned, secured an interview during his four week notice period and started his first contract role on the Monday after leaving his old job.

Did the benefits outweigh the risks?

And have his concerns about the risks of contracting come true? The demand for Paul’s skills has meant that he has been in continuous contract employment since June 2010 apart from a few weeks when contracts have ended during slow periods like Christmas and the summer holidays. Exclusively via KDR, he’s worked for clients including BP, Friends Life and Skandia as well as doing some consultancy for SAP themselves.

The responsibilities of being a company director also proved less onerous than Paul expected. Whilst he admits that getting his company registered for VAT was “a nightmare”, the ongoing admin of book-keeping and VAT returns is pretty simple. His accountant prepares his annual accounts and corporation tax calculations but Paul retains control of the rest of his finances, which now look much healthier than when he was employed permanently.

An honest appraisal

When asked whether he would recommend contracting to other people in his situation, Paul gives a balanced view. “I like working for myself and being my own boss. I hear permanent employees who I’m working alongside moaning about office politics and having to prepare for their appraisals. If I get told I’m doing a great job and my contract is extended, that’s my appraisal. That suits me.”
He continues, “some people prefer the security of a full time job but how many jobs count as secure these days?”

The downside of contracting is the onus on you to keep your skills up to date. Training is something you can take for granted in permanent employment but as a contractor, you not only have to pay for your own training but lose money by taking time out to attend the course – a real double whammy. Paul believes it just has to be done however. He recommends maintaining a variety of skills in the Information Management arena. For instance, contracts using specialist Data Warehousing software are niche and rare, meaning lucrative, but when those roles aren’t around, a more general skill like BusinessObjects can keep you in work due to the higher demand.

The threat of not keeping your skills up to date is that you may not get offered interviews although again, this is where a strong relationship with your recruitment consultant can help. Paul found Mark at KDR to be “incredibly supportive.”

The obvious draw of contracting is the noticeable increase in money in your pocket at the end of each month, as well as the control you can exercise on who you work for, at what rate and when. If you’re not daunted by a bit of paperwork and have in-demand skills that will lessen the risk of finding yourself out of contract, the rewards can be significant.

Have you made the leap from a permanent job to contracting? How did it work out? Leave a comment to share your experience.

Interview by Susie Lee-Kilgariff of Northern Light Marketing

KDR Recruitment is the home of the best data, technology and analytics jobs. For more career advice follow KDR on LinkedIn.

You might also like: