Should You Work as a Contract Employee?
This article discusses the pros and cons of working as a contract employee. You’ll learn about the best way to get contract work and how to negotiate rates and schedules as a contract employee.
Have you thought about working as a contract employee?
The percentage of contract employees, at least in the United States, has gone up significantly over the last 10 years.
When I left my last full time, salaried position in 2011 to start my own interactive design business, I also got work as a contract employee in the first few years to keep the money coming in while I was looking for my own clients.
A contractor is typically someone who has a very specific, usually technical skillset, that companies need for special projects.
There are advantages and disadvantages to working as a contractor. You need to consider these things before you accept a contract position. Let’s consider some of the disadvantages of contractor work first.
Disadvantages of Contract Employment
The main complaint about working as a contractor is that the work and income are unpredictable, that there’s no job security. It is true that there may be weeks or months at a time where you don’t have work, but if you develop a great skillset and develop a reputation of hard work and efficiency, you’ll find that jobs will come in more steadily the longer you work as a contractor.
Another disadvantage of being a contractor is that you usually do not get benefits like health insurance, or paid holidays and vacation. If you can get a contract position through an agency that last for more than a few months, then you may qualify for health insurance or paid time off through them. Be sure to ask your recruiter or agency about this.
Another disadvantage of working as a contractor is that you feel like an outsider or third-class citizen at the companies you are contracting for. In a few instances, I was put into cramped office spaces and issued old, slow computers to complete my work. I didn’t get to attend any company events, and at one company where I worked as a contractor for 9 months, all the regular employees were told not to talk to contractors at all…even though we sat in the desks right next to them!
So, why would anyone ever want to work as a contractor if there are all those disadvantages?
Advantages of Contract Employment
Well, first of all, because of the money! As a regular, salaried instructional designer, which is what I do, my hourly pay had come to about $30 an hour, not counting benefits like health insurance. Here are the hourly rates I got when I worked as a contract instructional designer and e-learning developer:
- Contract Job 1: $45/hour, lasted 9 months
- Contract Job 2: $43/hour, lasted about a month
- Contract Job 3: $58/hour, lasted 3 months
- Contract Job 4: $75/hour, lasted 3.5 months
- Contract Jobs 5: $50 hour, lasted 2 months
- Contract Jobs 6: $45/hour, lasted 2.5 months
These were the contract jobs I took over about a two year period. About half of them were positions where I could work remotely, from home, and the other s were where I had to actually go on site to the clients’ offices here in Denver, Colorado.
So even though the work is not as consistent as a permanent job, it pays a lot more and if you can keep the jobs coming in, you can make much more than a permanent job and have a lot of vacations in between those projects.
I had my own business doing freelance interactive design for my own clients, so I was able to fill in the gaps with other work of my own.
Another one of the advantages of doing contract work is that you learn a lot about different types of businesses and you can grow your network much larger and much faster than if you just stayed in the same position for a few years.
That brings to mind another advantage of doing contract work: you don’t have to put up with much of the office politicking that goes on with the regular employees. You are there to get work done and you’re not trying to lobby for a promotion or pay raise.
So these are just some of the advantages and disadvantages of working as a contract employee. Hopefully something I shared will help you in your decision about working as a contractor or not.