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Working as a Contractor: What’s the Reality?

By ATA Recruitment

​Working 9 to 5 isn’t the only way to make a living. The number of people turning to self-employment and contracting has increased by 25% since 2001 with no signs of slowing down. Despite the rise of the ‘gig economy’, contractors have been working this way for years and 70% of them do so out of choice instead of necessity.

A recent survey shows that 97% of contractors are happier at work than their permanent counterparts, identifying flexibility as their biggest benefit.

It’s not hard to see the appeal of freelance work. Some of the most obvious perks include choosing your own hours and dictating your rate of pay, which is usually significantly higher than if you were an employee.

On the flip side, there’s a lot of work that goes into being a contractor and you lose the security that comes alongside a permanent role.

We’ve been speaking to our engineering contractor community, and Amit, an engineering contractor of 24 years has given his perspectives on the pros and cons of working as a contractor.

The pros of working as a contractor

Contractor pay – The amount you earn can fluctuate depending on the demand in the market place and economic climate, but contractor pay will always be higher than that of a permanent employee doing the same job.

You are your own boss – Being a contractor means that you can select your own work depending on your preferences (location, hours, pay) and it’s your decision whether to accept or not. This is especially a pro in the current economic climate.

Flexible working – Whether it’s nights, days, long or short shifts, you’re able to negotiate working hours that suit your lifestyle. We know plenty of contractors who really value this element – kids sports days, fitting in with your partner’s shifts… flexibility can be really helpful.

Opportunities – You will be presented with opportunities throughout the marketplace, including plenty of chances for personal development. Many of our contractors can shift between several job roles, each of which can provide them with a new skill. One of our contractors was given the opportunity to be a senior engineer following contracts as a site and section engineer, this is more likely as a contractor than on a permanent basis.

The pros of working as a contractor

Unpopularity – The reality is that as a contractor you probably won’t become best friends with your colleagues or be invited to the Christmas party. This can depend on the working environment, but it’s no secret that contractors can be unpopular amongst permanent staff. But we speak to many contractors who actually really value not being tied to one business, they love being able to adapt to new environments and not necessarily get involved in the “trappings” of a permanent role.

Security – Job security may feel like a thing of the past. When your project ends (sometimes suddenly) or demands change and you’re no longer required, you will be out work until you find your next assignment. Depending on the length of your contracts, this could be the case several times a year.

No (perceived) employment perks – Unlike permanent work, contracting doesn’t come with sick pay, holiday pay, or pension contribution. Your inflated pay rate is essentially compensation to cover these employed perks, but it requires planning and budgeting on your behalf. In fact, many of our contractors see the real perk as being the contractor! (We do too!)

Admin work – Even with the help of an accountant, as a director of a limited company you will have paper work to do to ensure you’re compliant with regulations. This can seem on the surface a little daunting, but we’re working with contractors every day who have managed to minimise the disruption which could be caused by this. Keep an eye on our blog for some ideas to help you.

Contract engineering jobs

ATA Recruitment have placed thousands of contract workers into a number of industries, including engineering, rail and infrastructure. We have a large team of consultants who have developed great relationships with contractors and furthered our expertise in the marketplace.

If you’re an engineer wanting to know how to start contracting or need contracting advice, you can contact one of our specialists below. Otherwise, view our contract engineering jobs to find your next role.

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