Contracting is often seen as the holy grail for those with in-demand technology skills; with the earning potential for contract jobs often being double that of permanent ones, and with the increased freedom and flexibility that it affords, it can seem very tempting to mix it up and make the switch.
But there are two sides to every story, and just because contracting is right for one person doesn’t make it right for you. As with anything, there are pros and cons of contracting, as well as pros and cons of taking on a permanent role. But unless you’ve got both sides laid out in front of you, it can be quite difficult to weigh up both sides and make a decision.
So, to help you out we’ve laid out both sides, plain and simple so you can decide: contract or perm – which is right for you?
Permanent work is pretty self-explanatory and is the way of working that most individuals will tend to be familiar with. In case anyone needs a refresher,
taking on a permanent role means you work full time for another person, or company, under an agreed annual salary, with no predetermined end date.
A recent survey by REC revealed that just under half of UK employers looking to recruit for permanent roles expect to find a shortage of candidates; which means that those working in the perm market are more than likely to have their pick of the bunch. However, it’s not just the potential opportunities that make permanent work appealing…
- Job Security: There is something to be said for knowing you are going to have a job in the long-term. With permanent work, unless you choose to move on, or unless there are extenuating circumstances that lead to your business choosing to let you go, you’re pretty much in a job for as long as you need. Part and parcel of this is the consistent income and ability to manage your expenses in a more predictable manner; with permanent job you know when you’re getting paid, and you know how much is going into the bank – which undoubtedly makes it easier to make some plans.
- Benefits: A senior permanent employee can actually earn nearly as much as an equivalent contractor and, alongside the consistent pay check, will also have access to a range of benefits that aren’t offered to contractors. It’s quite nice to know that your healthcare is being covered, or your pension is being topped up in the background.
- Opportunities to Progress: When you’re with a business for a relatively long period of time, you’re much more likely to be put on a path for progression and advancement. It’s simple logic; companies want to invest in those who are with them for the long haul and will do more to ensure that those individuals stick around by promoting them along the way.
When you lay it all out like that, choosing to take on a permanent role sounds easy; it clearly has its perks. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential disadvantages that you should consider…
- Less Flexibility: In comes hand in hand with the stability, but if you have a permanent job then you can’t just up and leave one day. If you decide to move on, or even to take some time out, you generally have to put a lot more time and effort into the decision than if you could – say – just give a few days’ notice. That being said, choosing to work with the right agency can make a potential move a lot easier. Someone else looks for other jobs, and deals with the loose ends, whilst you focus on keeping your end down in your current role until you can get out. So, less flexibility doesn’t necessarily mean it’s different to move, you might just need a bit of help when you do so.
- Repetition in Your Role: When you’re in a job for the long haul there is always the possibility that you could get a little…bored. But just because you work for the same company for an extended period of time doesn’t necessarily mean it will become monotonous. Indeed, if you find the right opportunity; something that is a challenge and that has clear progression from the out, then it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll find yourself uninterested too soon. Again, working with the right recruiter can be key in scoring the right role; someone who understands what you want from a role in the long-term, and who can find you an opportunity that will be right not only now, but also a year or too down the line.
But, if taking on a permanent role doesn’t take your fancy, there’s always contract work to consider. Providing your services to an external organisation, contractors are hired for a predetermined amount of time, and at an established hourly or daily rate. Whilst you’ll typically be hired for a short-term project, there are longer term contracts around if you want to hunt them down.
An attractive option for many people, contracting is typically seen as a lucrative career move by most individuals because contractors rend to receive a higher wage than permanent employees. It comes by nature of the fact that contract roles tend to be a lot more urgent and are brought on to fill a specific, business critical need, because organisations are generally willing to pay more to get something done quicker. But if it’s not all about the money, here’s a few other reasons you might want to think about going into the world of contracting:
- Flexibility: It’s probably not a great shock that increased flexibility is a huge benefit of taking on contract roles, but it needs to be highlighted. By nature of the fact they run for a predetermined amount of time, working in the contract market means you can move from one job to another relatively easily; you just wait for your current contract to end and you pick up another that takes your fancy.
- Quicker Progression: Although there is one argument to say that working in a company for an extended period of time is better for progression because you’ll have a progression path, working as a contractor doesn’t mean you’ve shut that door. The only difference is that contractors tend to progress between jobs, rather than during their time at a company. When looking for your next gig, you can make the decision to go for ever more senior roles and use the benefit of your skills being in demand to quickly boost both your position in a company and your standing in your market.
- A Wider Range of Experience: Again, it sounds pretty logical, but we have to highlight it: working as a contractor dramatically increases your chance of widening your experience and working in more diverse companies doing a wider range of things. When you change your role every three to six months, you can ensure you’re looking for something different every time or – if that’s your thing – you can carve yourself a niche just working in one industry doing one particular speciality. Either way, if you did want to increase your breadth and depth of your experience, contracting certainly gives you the option to do so.
So, contracting sounds like a pretty good way to go; with increased salary and flexibility to define your career as you wish. But, not to beat around the bush – we wouldn’t be doing this article justice if we didn’t highlight some of the potential downsides of contracting:
- Inconsistency of Work and Income: A major thing to consider when it comes to contracting is whether you can actually afford to have a job that is flexible. It’s all well and good choosing to take on a three-month contract with a killer salary, but if you don’t find another gig after that, then you might be in a bit of trouble. To mitigate this risk, we recommend finding a specialist contract recruiter that you can really trust to consistently line you up your next role, so that you move from one contract to another seamlessly. Putting your trust in someone else to ensure this stability means you can go about your daily job, with your delightfully high day rate, without worrying that your bank balance could be hitting zero the following month.
- A Lack of Benefits: Unfortunately, when you’re not permanently employed by a business, you aren’t entitled to any of the benefits that their other employees will be receiving. So, you do have to consider whether you can forgo the likes of health insurance or paid time off. Whilst a specialist contractor might be about to negotiate you a pretty nice package that could mitigate the financial burden of not having benefits, it is something you should take into account before you take the plunge.
There’s evidently a lot to weigh up when you think about taking on a permanent or a contracting role, as there’s definite advantages and disadvantages to both ways of working. That being said, not every con is actually a negative – and there are ways to get around the potential downfalls of both options.
When it comes down to it, the choice between contracting and going permanent is all down to personal preference and your individual circumstances, but it can always help to have an unbiased view to help you weigh up your choices.
If you’re looking for some of that advice, or to find out more about the latest permanent and contract roles, get in touch with our specialist advisors for a chat about which path might make sense for you!