We make a lot of important decisions during our lives and wisely, we spend a lot of time discussing the ramifications of those decisions with loved ones, partners, and professionals. Making the leap from full time employment to working as an independent contractor is no less an important decision and can profoundly impact your career.
Going the independent contractor route is not “just another way to get paid”, it is a change in lifestyle. In fact, becoming independent has tax, income and career ramifications which can’t be taken lightly. Here are a few things to consider:
It can be unpredictable. Contracting can mean giving up a directed, logical career path and moving into a meandering set of assignments. Think of giving up a career ladder and replacing it with a career lattice and be prepared for detours and occasional stalls. Contractors often tell me that they never would have guessed that they would end up in the area of expertise that they find themselves now… and that is what has made things so much fun!
You’re suddenly a business owner. Are you ready to take on the responsibilities of CEO, CFO and chief bottle washer for your own company? Running your own small business means accounting, financial planning, business strategy, legal and tax issues are now your responsibility. Talk to the professionals and make sure you do it right. Trying to do it on the cheap will only cost you down the road. Get referrals from other experienced contractors and ask lots of questions.
Personal branding matters even more. Going independent means using the practices and work ethic you exhibit on assignment as a self-marketing tool. Elite contractors finish their contracts and are willing to lend the client a hand and add value beyond what they may have been contracted to do. They don’t nickel and dime the client for every minute spent at the client site but understand the give and take of the contracting lifestyle and accept that “paying it forward” will mean excellent client referrals or repeated engagements with a client who loves your work and attitude.
You may feel alone (but you’re not). Working as an independent can sometimes feel like you are on an island. The client may not (and in fact, shouldn’t ) treat you like an employee and feedback will not always be forthcoming. So, work and communicate with your agency on a regular basis to ensure that everyone is on the same page. If you are struggling, have questions, or need advice, talk to your recruiter. Remember, they probably have had lots of experience working with the client and they can give you a fair bit of insight
Above all, run your business with principle and a sense of pride and professionalism. You know the businesses you love to work with and you know the ones that drive you crazy and make you wish you had never given them your hard earned dollars. Do the right thing, even when things at the client site aren’t optimal. How you conduct yourself in difficult, challenging circumstances goes a long way to defining the success of your business.
Are you ready for independent contracting? If you are an experienced contractor, what have been some of your major challenges?