20 Jun Working as an IT Contractor: Tips for a Successful Career
The market for tech contractors in Australia has shown significant growth in recent years, with demand increasing year-on-year. Typically, you’ll find the contracts longer in duration (sometimes even 12+ months) and usually pay 20-40% more than the average permanent role. Solid operators who have that all-important government security clearance will always be in demand. This isn’t to say that contracting in the IT industry works for everyone and there are definitely advantages to both contract and permanent IT jobs – however, if you’re looking at becoming a contractor, there are some important things to consider to ensure continuity and success in your career.
As a contractor, you’re essentially running your own businesses – and like with any business, marketing is essential to its long-term viability. It’s important to go out of your way to develop strong networks and relationships, keep in touch with past colleagues and look out for fellow contractors by providing referrals, leads etc. Simply relying on Seek to stay employed is often not enough.
It’s also very important to build up trusted relationships with a recruiter; this guarantees a broad market coverage. Contact one that specialises in the same area so they can effectively market you – and, so they can provide relevant advice on the nuances of your domain. Always welcome conversations about the opportunities out there, while starting to seriously consider the options around two months from the end of your current contract.
Reputation, reputation, reputation – it deserves to be repeated. One of the benefits of being a contractor is the freedom, but be mindful of the way you conduct yourself – particularly in smaller markets like Canberra and Brisbane.
The reality is that whenever your CV arrives on a hiring manager’s desk, it’s only a quick phone call to someone who can provide an informal reference – so keep that front of mind. Although all contracts will have a notice period, be cautious about leaving one prior to an end date. Those that leave contracts early and have a history of jumping every 6-9 months for an extra buck may find their reputation harmed in the long term.
Be careful when calculating contract rates; it’s certainly worth comparing what you receive to a permanent equivalent. For a general idea, we’d suggest multiplying your weekly contract pay by 46 to get an annual amount. This is a little conservative but allows for annual leave and public holidays.
It’s also very important to talk to an accountant about how the benefits of public sector superannuation should be considered when assessing and comparing contracts. Ask them about the options around reducing your taxable income via salary packaging, etc. If it’s your first contract, it’s a good idea to bank any extra income as a slush fund in case you’re out of work for a period in between.
If you’re looking to find out how much you can earn when contracting versus that of a permanent employee, visit our Contractor Calculator, here.
Training and Development
Just because contractors don’t have an HR Department pushing training courses, doesn’t mean you should be ignoring development opportunities. That doesn’t just have to mean training courses; contracting provides a unique opportunity to strengthen your insights, experience and skill set – as long as you are open to growth.
One of the great benefits of contracting is the chance to involve yourself in innovative projects, move into a new industry or even transition to a different role entirely. With many jobs having a focus on collaboration and partnerships, it’s also common to get a foot in the door to other exciting opportunities.
We’d recommend allocating a certain amount of time each year for training and development, whether that’s certifications, training courses, memberships or career coaching.
Understand Your Market
It can be very easy to just settle into your contract and put your blinkers on – but it’s always important to keep abreast of the broader market and its conditions. Know what technologies and methodologies are trending, what big projects are impacting the area and look ahead to any big market influences such as end of financial year or federal elections.
There is no doubt that contracting can be a very fruitful career option, but it requires a different mindset and expectation to that of a permanent career. For further contracting tips or information on contract IT jobs in the Canberra and Brisbane markets, get in touch with the team at Emanate Technology.