Everyone is talking about the new American Dream–leaving a steady, corporate, nine-to-five job for the freedom of a contract position. While moving from full-time to contract work–and the flexibility that comes with it–certainly has its perks, it’s not all rainbows. If you’ve been thinking of taking the leap, take some time to consider the pros and cons of the contractor life.
Pros of a Contractor Position
Flexibility in Assignments
As a contractor, you now have the opportunity to move from project to project, instead of simply maintaining limited current assignments. If you love the excitement of building, training, and implementing new systems, contracting could be the right fit for you.
Freedom of Scheduling
While many contractors are on-site for similar corporate schedules during the duration of a project, you can expect a little more flexibility. Whether you have downtime between clients, you’ve detailed the hours you will or won’t work, or you want to work from home sometimes, most clients have different expectations for contract versus full time employees.
When you’ve worked as a contractor for a few years, you’ll find you have friends in various organizations. Each place you work provides insight into different environments and team structures, which can help you advise on new assignments. While you might miss working with the same people every day, you have the opportunity to build a larger network throughout your industry.
Increased Chances for a New Full-time Opportunity
Once you’re on a team, you might enjoy the position and the company more than you expected. Working as a contractor is a great way to get “in” at a company you might not have been able to connect with traditionally. Once you’re inside demonstrating your skills and work ethic, you have a better chance of being hired full-time compared to an applicant from a stack of faceless resumes.
Cons of a Contractor Position
This is perhaps the most talked-about struggle for contractors – you won’t have the same benefit opportunities that you might get as a full-time employee at a company. This might be a big drawback to consider.
You’ll want to thoroughly research how much health insurance will cost you and how to save for retirement. Remember, you became a contractor for the freedom – do you really want to avoid a ski trip because you’re worried about your lack of health insurance? Depending on where you are in life, freedom might take on different forms. If financial freedom is your number one priority, contracting might not be the best fit for you at this time.
You’ve heard about the “feast or famine cycle” of contracting, and it can be accurate, especially when you’re on your own. When you’re a contractor, you will need to find new jobs after every project is finished. Working with a staffing agency for your industry is a great way to get back to work quickly after each project.
Transition Tips for Moving from Full-Time to Contract Work
So, you’ve considered all the pros and cons of contracting, and you’re ready to make a change towards more freedom. Now what? We have a few tips for helping you transition to this new pace of work.
Create a Safety Net
Before you set out on your own, you’ll need an emergency fund. Recommended amounts vary greatly depending on your lifestyle and general expenses, but six months of living expenses is a good amount to set aside before you go freelance. While you might feel optimistic about how soon you’ll get a position, this safety net will help you sleep better at night. This transition should be a fun adventure, not a stressful one.
Build Your Brand
Branding isn’t just a logo and color; your personal brand is everything people say about you, and when you’re looking to become a contractor, what people say about you is important. You’ll be experiencing new team dynamics and systems—how quickly you adapt and how well you work with others all goes into your personal branding. Take some time to figure out what makes you marketable and special. Personal development books, courses, and coaches are great resources for honing your skills and becoming a more marketable version of you.
Invest in Education
As a contractor, you get to decide what you want to learn and where you’d prefer to specialize. As you see what positions have more opportunity for growth, you can tailor your skills and knowledge accordingly. This is a great time to get certified in a new technology or get trained in a new skillset so you can continue to elevate the caliber of project on your plate.
Making the Switch from Full-Time to Contract Work
It’s important to consider all angles of your relationship with work before committing one way or another to moving from full-time to contract work. Whether you’re sticking with the traditional full-time model, or switching it up with a contracting role, partnering with a recruiter who can help you find the right fit at your next permanent position or your next great project ensures you’ll be excited to go to work every day, no matter what work looks like for you.