Posted August 10, 2017 | Contracting, Technology Industry | No Comments »

[Interview] From the Perspective of a Contractor – Q&A

Contractors play a very important role within the technology industry, especially within specialist sectors. The demand for contractors within the technology sector can be a good indicator of the health of the industry; as investment in innovation continues to increase and strengthen the economy, there becomes a greater need for specialist skills, which results in a higher demand for contractors.

Contractors are often vital to successful project delivery they bring with them a unique set of skills and experience, sometimes so niche that they might be one of only a few in the UK who holds that particular skill set. Arguably a contractors’ key skill is to be able to slot into any project with ease and complete the tasks in hand without too much hassle for either themselves or the company they have the contract with. Something which we have had extensive experience dealing with as part of our contract recruitment service. 

There is a balancing act for a contractor between work – life ratio, ensuring they find suitable work and that they cover themselves when they’re not working; it’s clear to see that contracting is a different ball game from a permanent role. The biggest challenge for a contractor, and one that is frequently overlooked, is the fact that they have to constantly self-market in order to win contracts. Highlighting skills, experience, previous projects and personality to potential new contract opportunities whilst undertaking a running contract are just a few considerations a contractor must make on a daily basis.

As the dust settles after the General Election, Brexit and the changes to the IR35 tax regulations, we chat to a few of the contractors we have successfully placed to find out what their experiences of contracting have been like, what they think about the recent political changes and how it might affect them:

Michael

Hi Michael, thanks for chatting with us! Can you tell us a bit about you please?

I work within the Operations and Manufacturing Department in the Machine Health division of SKF. We are based at the Research and Development site at Livingston. My responsibility, as Manufacturing Engineer, is to ensure all products developed at the site are capable of being translated from development into volume production.

Can you give us an insight into what it’s like to be a contractor starting a new role/contract?

I had worked for 7 years in permanent roles experiencing and learning in environments from SME’s to large multinational companies. Starting at SKF, there were a number of other contractors from a similar background who were able to offer advice, along with my Manager who also had experience with contracting.

How do you compensate for the loss of employee rights and benefits? 

I save 25% off my net to offset the lack of rights/benefits. The additional flexibility of being a contractor is worth it. My main concern is the lack of any pension / no pension contribution or top-up from an employer.

How easy do you feel it is to interchange between contracting and permanent?

I receive a couple of job offers every month, either contracting or permanent roles. The majority are still located within central belt, however, there are some very good contracting roles in the South East of England. It would not be difficult to transition to another contract or fill a permanent role.

What do you think the market is for contractors at the moment?

It’s extremely good, although it’s rare to have contracts beyond 12-18 months.”

What impact do you feel Brexit and the upcoming general election will have on your engagement opportunities over the next 12 months?

Significant, especially as the decisions by markets/large companies at the top of the food-chain filter down to affect smaller companies that rely on their products/services.

Lester

Hi, Lester! Thanks for chatting with us! Can you tell us a bit about you please?

Hello! I’m a Java developer at the moment and I have been doing this role for 3 months so far. Although this is my first role contracting role in a while as I’ve been permanent. Prior to my permanent role, I had been contracting for a few years.

Why do you like being a contractor?

The main reason I like contracting is the flexibility and the constant changing of projects and new roles.

How easy do you feel it is to interchange between contracting and permanent roles?

I think it’s usually quite easy to change between contracting and permanent although it does depend on your personal circumstances. If you have a small family then it can be more difficult.

 Is there anything about being a contractor that frustrates you? What would you say could be improved?

I would say the one thing that could be altered is the availability of information about contracting. I have found that especially after you have started a new contracting role, that there are a number of things which you have to go and find out about. You need to know what the rules are and what you have to do.

 What do you think the market is like for contractors at the moment?

There are a lot of roles within contracting at the moment although I have noticed, and this is with roles I have applied for too, that businesses are looking for you to have used a lot of different and new technologies and have a long list of different technologies as your experience. I haven’t come across anyone who does have all of the desired technology experience though.

Adam

Hi Adam, thanks for chatting with us! Can you tell us a bit about you please?

Hi, so the role I’m in at the moment is an electronic hardware technician. So what I do is mostly concerned with the testing, calibrating, failure analysis and assembly of the products. I have previously worked in permanent roles but I feel like contracting suits me best at the moment.

How do you feel about the government’s recent changes to IR35?

I haven’t had a chance yet to properly look into it so I’m not too sure.

If this was to affect your earning power as a contractor would you revert to looking for permanent employment?

All of this depends on what effects it would have for my personal circumstances. I don’t think there would be a high likelihood that I would go back to a permanent role anytime soon though.

Is there anything about being a contractor that frustrates you? What would you say could be improved?

Maybe it’s because of my personal circumstances with this role but I can’t say there’s anything that really frustrates me. I think I’ve been lucky to find this role, so I’m settled into my work. Maybe if I was having to go from role to role a lot it would be different but I have a steady workload so I enjoy it.”

What would you say are the benefits of being a contractor?

Well, firstly it’s obvious that the money is better than permanent role but, to be honest for me, it’s more about the ability to have freedom within your working day. I can choose my own hours whereas with a permanent role you have many constrictions in place such as your working hours, lunch times etc. I am free to come and go as it suits me. I especially find it very useful as I have young children, it allows me to take the time I need for them without having to stick to certain working hours. Plus, with a contracting role, you don’t get the politics that go with permanent.

Can you give us an insight into what it’s like to be a contractor starting a new role/contract?

To be honest, it’s little different to starting any perm role. When you first arrive in your new role, you will be introduced to the people you will be working with and receive all the standard health and safety talks and company policy type things. Once you have been shown the ropes, you’re left to get on with the job.

Khalid

Hi Khalid, thanks for chatting with us! Can you tell us a bit about you please?

Hi! Okay, so I do a lot of things. I’m a Software Developer and I’ve also worked with software testing and design. I’ve been contracting now for seven years, I changed to contracting in 2010 and before that, I had been in a permanent role.”

How do you think the market is for contractors at the moment?

I think the market has been becoming increasingly difficult over the last two to three years. I’d say this is down to the increase in off-shore workers which are being taken on by big companies such as Sky and Barclays. For example, they work on contingency and one contractor here will be equal to maybe ten people working off shore/ in other countries. I’d say it is much more difficult now to find contracting roles.

What impact do you feel Brexit will have on your engagement opportunities over the next 12 months?

I don’t think it will change much at all. These companies I was talking about previously are based outwith the European Union anyway so I don’t see anything changing, from my point of view.

How easy do you feel it is to interchange between contracting and permanent roles?

I would say it isn’t that easy. There is a big difference between permanent and contracting roles, especially in the mindset that you have to get yourself into. With a permanent role, you’re in the routine of working monthly and receiving your pay every month – the business takes control of everything for you in terms of financials. However, when you choose to contract, you have to think about yourself as the worker. You receive a lump sum as your payment which you then have to divide up and pay tax etc with. You are in charge of paying your own taxes or hiring an accountant to do this for you. It’s very different to permanent, you have to get yourself into this mindset.

Is there anything about being a contractor that frustrates you? What would you say could be improved?

One thing I would say that is frustrating, because I’m quite a people person, is that with contracting you never really know how long you will be on the project and so when you start to get to know the people you work with and make friends, it’s usually about the time your contract will be up. With contracting, you might get your contract extended for another couple of months but once it’s up, you usually never see the people you work with again.

Another thing would be the big breaks in income you can experience sometimes, this can come when you finish one contract without having the next role in place, or if your contract has finished early. That’s the good thing about permanent roles, you know you’re guaranteed to be paid every month.

How do you tackle the big breaks in income you can experience?

When I’m working a contract, I will usually try to keep my wage down at a low level so that I can save some money for the period in between the end of the contract and the start of the next one.

 

Are you a contractor looking for your next role?  Maybe you’re looking to find a contractor for your business? Get in touch with us at hello@enigmapeople.com or call us directly on 0141 332 4422 to find out how we can help you.


Enigma People is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland. You can get in touch with us hello@enigmapeople.com or call us on 0141 332 4422.

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