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Successful IT contractor – 10 Steps to Being One

22 Jun 2015

Successful IT Contractor

Some contractors succeed and make a career of contracting and some fall by the wayside. Here we show ten pointers to a successful IT contractor.

1. IT Contractor Skills

The successful IT contractor doesn’t just take into account rates and location when deciding whether to take a contract or not.

He or she will also take into account the skills to be picked up on the job, and whether those will allow him more chance of staying working and making more money in the future.

2. Continuity of Work

The most crucial thing for the successful IT contractor is continuity. There’s no point in negotiating great rates and then, when some of the contractors are to be cut, losing out because you are one of the more expensive ones.

Sometimes it’s a lot better to be on the average contractor rate, or even slightly below. Working for 45 to 50 weeks a year is more important than having a great rate but only working 6 months of the year.

3. Contract Renewal Time

When it gets anywhere near renewal time, i.e. with a month to go, find out as soon as possible if you are to be renewed or not.

Don’t let it drift. If you are not to be renewed then make sure you are able to use most of that month in looking for a new contract.

The contractors who lose out are those who let things drift till just one or two weeks to go and then find themselves spending weeks (or months) looking for a new contract whilst earning no money and eating into their savings.

4. Permanent Staff

Too many contractors don’t see themselves as small businesses supplying an end client and trying to keep that client happy.

The successful IT contractor makes sure that he or she has a good relationship with the permanent staff and especially with those who will be making the decision as to whether they will be re-hired or not.

5. Having Money for Income Tax

The successful IT contractor makes sure that he has the money to pay his taxes.

Too many contractors get into trouble by spending their company money, thinking that they’ll save money for taxes later in the year.

They might buy a fancy car, or put it to some other ‘good use’, and then find that they might have a spell on the bench later in the year that they hadn’t catered for, and they don’t have the money to pay the tax.

It’s better to work out how much money you will need for tax at the year-end beforehand and putting that by before splashing out on anything else.

6. Contract Job Titles

Sometimes it happens that a contractor, because of his greater experience, is doing work above his actual job title.

For instance, someone brought in as a developer or analyst might actually be doing a little team leading, or training, or mentoring of the less experienced permies.

It does no harm to ask your boss for a new title to go with your work like senior, developer, senior analyst or team leader.

As longs as it doesn’t cost them anything they will be happy to comply normally.

What difference does that make?

It is because you can safely add it your CV giving you a better chance of earning better rates in the future.

If you add it without asking, then even if you effectively did the job, you run the risk of your boss saying that you were a developer or analyst instead of a Team Leader or Consultant and scuppering a contract for you.

7. Problem Solving

I knew one very successful IT contractor who seemed to know a lot about everything.

He was very much looked up to as a technical consultant. I asked him what his secret was.

He replied that he ‘read round the problem’ when one occurred. He said that most people just wanted to find the solution to the problem that they had and then get on with it.

What he did was not only to find the place in the manual where the explanation to the problem was, but he read around the problem, i.e. he might read the whole page, or pages, or even the chapter, so that he knew all about the whole area rather than just the narrow area of the problem.

It didn’t take him much longer.

This is crucial for contractors, who are seldom sent on courses, so they need to pick up as much knowledge on the job as possible.

8. Hirer Contact Details

A contractor, during his contracting life, makes a whole load of contacts. These can be the people who hired him on contract.

It can be people who he worked with on contract. It can also be people who interviewed him for contracts that he didn’t get.

The unsuccessful contractor doesn’t keep any contact details for any of these people.

The successful IT contractor keeps all the contact details and creates a network of people who he can contact about possible contracts or news of possible contracts.

9. Learns New Skills

A successful IT contractor must keep upgrading his skills. One way to do this is to do online training.

As most people know, it is virtually impossible to get a contract after just doing a course, unless the skills are in very short supply.

Sometimes though, contractors are at a company which has a good new skill, but which they only touch on, e.g. a methodology or language.

The successful IT contractor will train himself in those skills so that he can put them on his CV and he will be expert enough in them to be able to pass an interview.

10. Invests Wisely

Usually, contracting by itself won’t make anyone a multi-millionaire. Therefore the successful IT contractor will invest his money wisely.

What the unsuccessful contractor will do is to plunge his money into the Stock Market just because it has been riding high for ages, or buys some kind of business like a wine bar, restaurant or country pub in which he has no expertise.

In terms of investing the best advice is that if it is a boom time for contractors then the Stock Market is probably booming too – and ready for a fall.

This is the time to invest in property and not the Stock Market.

If you happen to be working during a downturn and have some cash to invest, then this is probably the best time to invest in the Stock Market.

The unsuccessful contractor not only loses out from not working during a downturn, but a lot of previously earned money that he had has mostly disappeared along with a falling Stock Market.

Source: IT Contractor