Okay, Shakespeare definitely didn’t write about the pros and cons of taking a contracting role and we’d never try to claim to be able to write like Shakespeare but, we thought that it would be useful to pull together a list of the positive and negatives of becoming a contractor or interim professional compared to the benefits and drawbacks of a permanent role.
In the UK media recently, there has been a lot of negative publicity about temporary or contract working especially at the lower skilled end of the job market. However, in certain industry sectors such as engineering, technology, energy and life sciences, contracting or temporary working is commonplace and not seen as unusual or risky. So if you are working in any of those sectors now and have been considering a move into contracting, then it is really important to weigh up the benefits and negatives of such a move.
The Pros of:
Typically, contractors often get higher pay compared to permanent employees doing similar work and there can be additional benefits with regards to the tax that you pay.
Being an interim professional means that you will have the ability to negotiate flexible working arrangement such as working remotely or working outside of core business hours. This can have a tremendous benefit on your work/life balance. There’s no guarantee that the client will offer you these options but being a contractor means that you’re in a stronger position to look for this flexibility.
It is said to be the ‘spice of life’ and it can be motivational to work on a number of projects or tasks for different clients over a relatively short period of time. A typical contract role lasts about 6 months and therefore you could work for a number of clients in the same time span as the average tenure of a permanent member of staff.
As you will typically be working for a number of different clients and likely on multiple projects or tasks, there will be opportunity for you to develop new skills and experiences. This can really stretch you as an individual.
The traditional 9 to 5 role may no longer exist for the majority of people, but having a permanent role does offer a greater degree of job security compared to a temporary position. Employment laws in most countries will grant you rights and protect you to a certain degree.
Most permanent role are just that, permanent! This means that you can work on longer term projects safe in the knowledge that you will still be in employment.
Closely linked to the benefit of stability offered by a permanent position is the opportunity to progress within an organisation. If you find a business that you like working for, then as a permanent employee you’ll have the opportunity to progress within the organisation and develop your career.
There is definitely a greater sense of ownership from permanent staff when a project or a task is completed in the business. As the permanent staff are also likely to working in the business after the project or task has gone live there is usually an increased sense of ownership as well.
One of the main positives of a permanent role is the additional benefits that these employees typically receive like sick pay and holiday pay. A permanent employee is also much more likely to have benefits like employer pension plans. Typically, there are training benefits that comes with a permanent role that wouldn't usually be offered to an interim professional.
The Cons of:
Lack of benefits
The increased level of upfront rewards with pay can be offset by the lack of other benefits that a permanent employee might enjoy. A careful calculation of the value of the total benefits package offered by a permanent role compared to a temporary contract would need to be made.
Typically a contract offered to an interim professional is for a fixed period of time and whilst there is a chance of an extension to this contract or a new contract on a new project, there is no guarantee that this would happen. Therefore if you have concerns about cash flows or the frequency of work being on offer then this would be an issue.
Lack of variety
As permanent employee tend to stay with one organisation or one team within an organisation for longer than an interim professional, there is a good chance that the permanent employee will be working on the same or similar tasks on an ongoing basis. Some people like the stability of routine but if that doesn’t work for you then a permanent role might not suit you long term.
Lack of flexibility
Certain flexible working practices which are typical or routine for interim professionals are not usually offered to permanent employees. There is a trend of this changing slowly with some employers offering unlimited holidays as well as remote working but these are far from the norm.
To conclude, it seems that the positives and negatives of contracting are very much like beauty; as it is in the eye of the beholder and it entirely depends on your own circumstances as to which type of work approach fits best with you.