If you’re currently in a full-time job and thinking about becoming a contractor instead. It can be daunting to know when the time is right.
I’ve found that being a contractor doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be the next John Papa or Dan Abramov. However, you do need to be able to comfortably do the role requirements. So you can come in and smash it out the park (feels great for both people). Contracting is sometimes very simple but is made to feel more confusing. You’re there to help build a website for a company. On your own, or as a part of a team. Normally that company is short staffed and needs an extra set of hands. Or has a model that takes contractors to build something quickly (1 – 4 weeks) that gives a lot of value.
For me I don’t go in to a contract asking for the top money because I don’t know everything and I’m way happier going for less and feeling comfortable that I can meet the companies coding expectations and personal ones.
There are a lot of things to way up when deciding whether to go contracting, so hopefully we can help by telling you our story about how we became contractors and the pros and cons along the way.
How we became contractors:
For us it was slightly different, we didn’t decide one day to start contracting. We gave up our full-time jobs in London to work on a project in Bath. With a months savings behind us it wasn’t long before we started taking freelance work. A cheeky WordPress website here and there or even designing and making t-shirts. (You’ll pretty much do anything not to go back to go back to full-time work after taking time off to work on something you love). This was very much the theme for the next 9 months before we decided that working for friends was tough. and the aftercare just wasn’t worth it.
So we decided to go contracting.
Please note: Over the past two years of contracting I haven’t met many people that priorities taking time off to work on their own projects as much as us. Therefore a few points might differ from someone that contracts all year found.
The good parts of being a contractor:
- Loads of problems to solve
We typically move around every 3-6 months on a new contract. Sometimes we’ve worked for 1-2 weeks. But every time we do so, we get an awesome opportunity to see problems. If you’re like us and love building things, then finding problems to fix is awesome.
- Getting a day rate
There is something lovely about going to work and knowing how much you made that day. It’s a great thing to think about when you’ve been stuck trying to fix a bug and when you feel you haven’t brought any deliverables.
- Freedom to create
What contracting does is allows you to earn more. For some this means buying more stuff. For us, earning more means we are more financially independent which gives us the freedom to work on personal projects. This freedom brings creativity; something that money can’t really buy.
- Business structure
We love building stuff but aren’t very business minded. Contracting allows us to see how companies operate so we can learn to build ours.
- When you’re bored you move on
This is a bit of a pro and a con, but if you don’t like the company or the work is super boring, a good benefit of being a contract developer is that you can typically leave in 1-2 weeks (check your contract).
- Meeting people
Working in a contract can be an awesome to meet loads of different people and build your network.
The hard parts of contractor life:
- Financial responsibility
Getting your finances in order is sooooo important. Once you do this everything else is a breeze. You can work for whoever and not worry about things like submitting invoices, tracking time and paying salaries and dividends. It took me personally about a year to get my head round everything and most of that was with help from FreeAgent and their awesome docs. This is one of the hardest points about contracting but like any techie thing; it can be learned.
I think I’ve worked for six different companies over the last two years and I’ve felt lonely at everyone of them except two. You’ve gotta be pretty ok with working on your own and normally on a crappy desk in the corner of the office. Also acknowledging that you might go to work and not really talk to anyone for the entire day.
- Learning & making mistakes
It’s much harder to learn in a contract. You’re there for a particular job and that needs delivering. It’s pretty much that clear. If you expect to be paid a shed load, you’ve got to deliver. This also brings me on to making mistakes. It’s harder to make them, you can totally make them but you feel the pressure more being a contractor.
It’s not really of are you ready to go contracting, because we think if you can proficiently do your job, you could totally become a contractor tomorrow. Contracting can be as easy as registering a company and finding a contract. However, there are a lot of important things that come with this. It’s not just technical problems but business and financial ones too.
We hope all of these points make it clearer to determine not that are you ready, but if a contract developer is right for you.