How to make a successful move from permanent to contract

For many people, moving from permanent to contract work is a tempting but frightening prospect. You have the potential to make vastly more money in contract roles than you would working the same hours on a permanent contract. However, it’s undoubtedly riskier than staying in a nice, steady permanent job.

Here are some of the things you need to bear in mind if you’re considering making the jump.

You need a lot of experience

When a company brings in someone for a contract – either to cover someone’s absence, or to help the company deal with a busy period or project – they’re looking for someone who can hit the ground running. They want someone who doesn’t need much managing, and who has all the skills the role requires.

Successful contractors are generally experts in their chosen field before going into contract work. The more experience you have, the higher your rates can be.

You may need to quit your permanent job first

By their very nature, contract jobs tend to start almost immediately. If a potential contractor has a notice period to work out first, the chances are that the client won’t be able to wait for them. Quitting a job without another job lined up is risky, but can sometimes be the only option.

Make sure you have a financial buffer in place

If you do need to quit your permanent job first, make sure that you have enough money to live on for the next three months at least whilst you search for a job.

You can build up a freelance/contractor base while still in a permanent role

A safer, but time-consuming, approach might be to start doing freelance work while still in permanent employment (so long as the work doesn’t break any non-compete clauses in your contract). This work would need to be fitted in around your working hours, but it would be an excellent way of developing contacts and clients ahead of taking the full leap.

You could go contract with your current company

If you work at a company that hires a lot of contractors, then you may be able to leave your permanent position and move into a contract role there. This is a delicate procedure, though, and you would need to be very careful with how you bring the subject up, and who you bring it up with. Your direct manager is probably not the best person to speak to. However, if you have a good, friendly relationship with the person who manages the contractors, then it might be worth putting the feelers out with them.

Contract work won’t live up to all your ideals

There will be quiet periods (December-March is traditionally not a great time for contract or freelance workers), during which you may have to lower your rates in order to get work. There’s also a chance that the contract work won’t be any more exciting than the work you were doing in your permanent job. You need to make sure that the positives (increased salary and freedom) outweigh these negatives before taking the leap.

You need to be flexible

This is especially important in the early stages of your contract career. You’ll need to be flexible with both your rates and location. This could mean being willing to work anywhere within your area, or it could mean going further afield, perhaps even working in another city and living in a hotel Monday-Friday.

Be prepared to sell yourself

The contract and freelance workplace is incredibly competitive, so you need to be ready to sell yourself and your skills to potential clients. It can be onerous, but it is an absolute necessity. Get on social media, get yourself a website or blog and, most importantly, put together an online portfolio of your work.

LinkedIn is a vital tool for recruiters and employers, so make sure that you have a complete LinkedIn profile, including a link to your online portfolio, so that they can find you easily.

There’s a lot of admin involved

Being a PAYE employee is certainly easier than being a contract worker, but if you wanted an easy life you’d stay in your permanent role. Keeping records and sorting out your finances will be a whole new challenge – one that financial advisors or even recruitment consultants will be able to help you with.

Register with recruitment agencies

There are many recruitment agencies – including ourselves – who fill both long and short contract roles, and they’ll sell your services on your behalf. It’s a useful time-saver, and is definitely worth considering. Not only that, but a recruiter will ensure that you get paid on time – even if the money from the client hasn’t come through yet.

If you’re a creative, digital, content or marketing professional thinking about going contract/freelance, then we might be able to help you out, with both advice and potential roles. You can register with us here, or call us on 020 3047 4500.

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