IT contractor

So, what exactly is an IT contractor?

21 Nov 2016

Working as an IT contractor can be rewarding, fruitful and much less restrictive than working for one company. But being a successful IT contractor is not that simple. Daniel Dubbert, the IT contracting operations manager with Hays Recruitment, is here to shed some light on it.

Simply put, IT contracting is where an IT specialist works as their own individual company for a client organisation in a business-to-business agreement. These specialists are contracted on a fixed-term basis, usually to work on individual projects, as opposed to traditional permanent staff who are employed on an ongoing basis.

Although this definition is simple, having a successful IT contracting career is not. Having worked in the IT recruitment sector for close to ten years, I’ve seen many candidates enjoy great success when they’ve made the jump to contracting. On their first contact with Hays, when they’re trying to work out if contracting is for them, a few key questions always come up. These are three of the questions that I’m asked most frequently.

What is IT contracting?

A lot more goes in to being an IT contractor than setting up a company. IT contracting is about delivering services – not specified results or products. The IT contractor offers their skills on demand, helping their client do what’s important for their business.

A colleague of mine recently compared contracting to being like the spine in the economy. Just as the spine allows the body to bend and move to navigate its surroundings, contracting gives the economy the flexibility it needs to adapt to the changing environment.

Companies can get the skills they need, when they need them, and remove themselves from financial burden when they don’t. In a global economy where skills gaps appear to be growing, talented individuals aren’t tied down and can share their expertise with multiple organisations, being rewarded accordingly. Ultimately, all parties can achieve their objectives and prosper.

What’s in it for me?

The company culture of the last century was partly defined by the ‘job for life’, where individuals entering the job market would stay at one company for their whole career, working their way up the corporate ladder.

But the new generation of workers don’t want to work in the same place for a decade or longer, particularly millennials. People are looking to gain more experiences and work in international teams, which will often necessitate an increase in ‘job-hopping’.

A great way to do this is to become a contractor – giving yourself the flexibility to choose when and where you work. You will also make more money than in a permanent role, as clients will be competing for your skills and aren’t confined by the same burdens they have when taking on permanent staff.

But for clients to compete for your skills, you need to have something they want. To be a successful IT contractor, you need to work in an area of expertise that is in high demand, and that a client organisation would struggle to recruit for in a permanent job. Why would they pay you more money to do a job that one of their current employees could do?

Speaking to an experienced recruitment professional is often the first step in working out if your skills are in demand in the market, and if becoming an IT contractor would be beneficial to you.

As an IT contractor, you can expect to make good money in a flexible working environment, all [the] while developing your skills and knowledge.

 What’s the typical profile of an IT contractor?

As I’ve mentioned, you’ve got to have the skills that clients want. If it’s difficult for you to find permanent jobs, then you’ll struggle even more as a contractor.

Even for experienced contractors, learning new skills and keeping up to date with the latest trends is critical to success. Just as a ‘bricks and mortar’ business needs to invest in its infrastructure, people and products, an IT contractor needs to continually invest in their own business (themselves) to survive and prosper. On the plus side, you have more control over how you develop yourself and define your own career path.

IT contractors need to enjoy the ‘risk v reward’ dynamic in their working lives, be able to handle pressure from clients (people expect top quality for top money), and have good social skills to quickly integrate themselves into new teams.

One of the most successful contractors we’ve worked with is Michael Grüne at Hays Germany. He displays all these characteristics and has been able to build an impressive career in IT contracting, culminating in him winning the prestigious IT Contractor of the Year award from IT Job Magazine.

It shouldn’t be overlooked that you’ll need to be an adept salesperson if you’re calling up clients and pitching for business. This is where working with an experienced recruiter is beneficial, as we already have a large network of contacts and can take care of the difficult and time-consuming task of finding companies recruiting for your role/skills at the right time. You just need to turn up for the interview.

To summarise, a top IT contractor has a strong entrepreneurial mindset; they’re willing to travel to where the work is, they’re business minded, they take care of their finances (tax, admin etc) and they create a ‘financial airbag’ for when they’re between projects. Some IT contractors even go on to own their own companies with a few employees, passing down their skills and knowledge.

If this sounds like you, then you could be a prime candidate to move into the world of IT contracting.

Daniel Dubbert is responsible for managing the IT contracting departments across all of Hays EMEA (France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Sweden and Poland).

A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

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