There are some people who thrive in the contracting environment, preferring to freelance and enjoying the freedom and flexibility that it offers.
There is also the attraction of the possibility to earn much more, if you can consistently land projects and manage your schedule.
But there is a major downside in that there is very little job security in contract work and no employee benefits either. As a contractor, you’re not that different from an entrepreneur, constantly having to create or find new revenue streams and manage your time and expenses. While freedom and flexibility may sound appealing, the reality is that if you aren’t working then you aren’t earning. And if you aren’t available when clients want you, you could end up missing out on lucrative projects.
From a business perspective there are several benefits aside from cost savings. In big corporations people typically resist change, which is not the case with contractors – they adapt quickly to each new work environment they find themselves in.
Workload management also becomes easier as companies can afford to employ more people for short periods of time to help with the workload without it becoming a long-term expense. This is particularly relevant for industries that experience seasonal workflows. An example of this is the contact centre industry in the retail sector over peak shopping periods such as Christmas time. Contact centres can hire short term to help manage peak volumes. Typically there may be more customer queries through December, first with shoppers needing assistance in making purchases, and after the holidays with people who have product queries or complaints.
Opportunity or challenge?
Reports indicate that the trend towards contracting is here to stay, and so far the majority of people that have switched to contracting are finding it to be a positive experience. Is this merely a case of personality and perspective? Are some people better suited to the world of contracting, and if that’s not you, what can you do to have some level of job security in the future?
1 Have a vision for your career
Regardless of whether you’re a full-time employee or contractor, your personal and career development is your responsibility. Without a roadmap of where you want to go, you can spend years floundering in the daily grind of work. While companies may offer training and promotion opportunities, it’s up to you to be proactive about learning everything you can to develop your career. This doesn’t necessarily mean climbing the corporate ladder, it simply means becoming the best you can be at your job and always keeping a lookout for new opportunities.
2 Build relationships
Networking is a word that makes many people cringe, but you don’t need to be the most outgoing personality to get it right. The most effective type of networking is building one-on-one relationships with the people that you work with on a daily basis. Don’t be shy about sharing your expertise with colleagues when asked, help mentor junior staff, or offer to help with new staff orientation. These are simple tasks that help people get to know you and what you’re about and at the same time make people aware of your expertise.
3 Work ahead
From of the biggest mistakes that employees make is thinking that they will always have a salary. Then when restructuring happens and they find themselves facing retrenchment, it comes as a big shock. Know that even in a full-time position, job security is tenuous at best. Working ahead means that you do the best you can at your current job, but always keep your eyes and ears open for new opportunities. Most importantly, when they come along, act on them. This is excellent preparation in the event you do switch to contracting at some point. It helps you to look ahead for other opportunities beyond your existing project.
While job security is nice to have, in reality, traditional business models are changing very rapidly. Resisting change will only cause you stress. It won’t do anything to alter the reality of what is happening around you. If job security is what you want then it is up to you to make it happen. Build your expertise, build your network, look to the future and, most importantly, embrace the change, see it as an opportunity!