Taking the plunge, going contracting!

Recently I’ve been deliberating with a lot of energy mind you, about where I am in my current career as a software developer, and how that marries with where I’m at in my current position at my company. For reasons I won’t divulge here, suffice it to say I’m not completely happy I’m heading in the right direction, and have chosen to resign and move on.

With moving on there’s, always the choice between finding another permanent position, or to take the plunge and going contracting. I’ve had a few frank discussions with friends and ex-colleagues about the merits of both, and there was a definite positive bias of opinion towards contracting. Not only just the benefits of extra cash in your back pocket – provided you’re good enough – but also contracting is inherently associated with freedom.

Show me the money!

Everyone you speak to when it comes to contracting will at some point, if not the first point, mention that the money is better. You have the luxury of getting more cash in your back pocket – remember always do it above-board when it comes to taxation, it’s really not worth it! – but you take the risk for if ever there are quiet times in the industry. You’ll obviously be responsible for things like your own medical, pension, training, equipment etc. Which is why you can demand a higher rate, and what also works in your favour is that the higher rate is only subject to a finite amount of time – i.e contract duration. Believe it or not, this is quite an attractive thing for companies seeking sections of work to be completed, because they already know what it will cost them up front – I guess provided they know the scope etc. I’ve been in software development long enough to know that it is rare for someone to quote a fixed duration of time to deliver a product/feature, and it being delivered on time! :-p But the point I’m really trying to make here is that the company hiring the contractor, can cease the need for any further expenditure once the contract is up. When you’re permanently employed, the company can’t quite do that as easily.

Travelling

With contracting, you’re committed for a set period of time, to deliver a service. After the contract is finished, you can decide to either extend/find a new one. Or you could choose to do some things which you’ve always wanted to do. I love travelling, and especially travelling with my girlfriend. She’s a teacher and during the summer we’ve dreamed of taking weeks off to go travelling, which she’s more than capable of doing, but I unfortunately historically couldn’t. Most permanent employment have restrictions on the number of consecutive weeks you can take off, and also the number of days off that you can have in the year. This is completely negated when you contract. Travelling or even learning to play an instrument are totally within your control provided you do a little bit of planning, and save the extra cash you’re now getting while contracting. 🙂

Training

When contracting you would be in charge of your own progression. That really appealed to me. I decide what courses I want to attend, and what new technologies I want to experiment with. This is obviously not to say that I didn’t have those choices in a permanent position, but when contracting you’re free from the shackles of pay-back schemes, and lock-in, as well as avoiding situations where in quiet times the company can’t send you on training due to budget cuts. This is another reason why you can demand higher rates, so that you can keep up with the industry. Also, and possibly more valuable in my opinion, is that every new contract you work on, exposes you to new things, new technologies, new implementations of methodologies etc. This is an incredibly important asset to have.

So these are just my reasons and opinions for going contracting. It’s scary to take the plunge, but I’m sure when I finally do land my first contract, I’ll never look back. While doing incessant and relentless research on this topic, I was given a book by a dear friend of mine, and this was something like a bible to me. Its called the Contractors’ Handbook, and is more geared for UK individuals wanting to go contracting. Its written by Dave Chaplin, and he’s got a new version of this book coming out in June, so check it out here, I can’t recommend it enough if you’re becoming serious about contracting.

So, are you thinking about going contracting now? 🙂

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