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Should You Work as an IT Contractor?

Feb 16 , 2016

Contracted jobs, which are hourly, temporary and don't pay benefits, are becoming more plentiful in the IT field. Companies may prefer to hire contractors or freelancers for several reasons, but are such jobs beneficial for those in the IT field looking for work?

Advantages of Contract or Freelance IT Positions

One advantage of contract positions is that the hourly rate is usually higher than it would be for a permanent employee. Contract employees are hired for a specific assignment or project, which may last anywhere from a few days to months or even years. Many IT contractors have specialized expertise that would not be expected from a permanent employee with a more generalized job. Special skills and the fact that the job could end at any time garner higher pay for these positions.

Many IT jobs require far more than 40 hours per week. Salaried IT employees understand that they are likely to work overtime, and they are not typically paid extra for doing so. Contractors get paid by the hour, so if they work 60 hours one week, they get paid their (higher) hourly rate for all of those hours. For some contracted jobs, there is greater flexibility and the ability to work from home at least some of the time.

Another advantage to freelancing is that contractors can work for more than one company at the same time. Although some contract positions may take up all of an IT professional's time, some may be more flexible and allow for having multiple clients. Although contract positions may seem insecure because they are temporary, working for multiple clients can in some cases be more secure because your eggs are not all in one basket, which could disappear (with your eggs) at any given time.

Finally, freelance contracting can be a way to build up a great deal of expertise as well as contacts in a specialized area. You may find your skills to be in great demand in that area after working a few contracted jobs in a specific area of specialization, which you can then use for an ever-growing list of companies.

Many contractors can work from home, saving time and money.

Disadvantages of IT Contracting

It can be nerve-wracking not to know from week to week or month to month where that paycheck is coming from. Contracting probably works best for those who are comfortable marketing their skills and networking on a regular basis. IT contract positions also don't offer any benefits (but you may be able to purchase benefits like health insurance on your own, since the hourly pay is higher).

Another disadvantage of contracting is that it can be tough sometimes to get paid properly and in a timely manner. Payroll is a given for full-time employees, but contractors may need to wait 30 days or even longer from the time they submit their invoices or timecards in order for their payment to be processed and to get to them.

Additionally, the nature of contracting work is temporary, which means that you can't ever collect unemployment when you don't have work coming in. You also aren't protected by worker's compensation or other labor law protections like paid breaks or lunches.

It's not an easy decision, but with the growing popularity of contract positions, it's one many IT professionals may face at some point. Join the GDH Consulting talent network today and see what opportunities you may have.