IT Best Practices

Life as an IT Contractor

Let’s discuss an alternative universe. IT contracting: what it is, what it isn’t, and what it can do for you, the IT professional. Granted, this universe without healthcare benefits, paid vacation, or any job security to speak of is not for the faint of heart. Ann Bednarz writing for Network World compiles the data to give you a tour through this dangerous, but otherwise delightful, career world.

A Floating Work World

Say what you will about the lifestyle of IT contractors, businesses are more likely than ever to hire them. What’s the attraction? Bednarz cites flexibility as the most appealing aspect of contracting, not just to lone professionals, but to organizations as well. The contingent- and context-based nature of this relationship gives employers what they need, when they want it. It also gives contractors a diverse range of experience on their own terms.

Owning IT

This ‘ownership’ factor has its share of caveats for freelancers, as consultant Mike Drabicky will tell you:

The hardest part about being a contractor is finding work. When you work for yourself, you must fill the roles of executive, business administration, AR/AP, sales, engineering, delivery, and probably a few others,”… “I like doing the work. All the rest of that stuff is overhead that, while necessary, doesn't produce anything useful.”

The ability to find work and keep it is a major concern for independent workers, who must often wear the hat of IT technician and marketing professional just to stay busy. There are services for IT contractors, such as OnForce, that take on the responsibility of marketing for the IT professional for a nominal fee. That’s a matter of conscience, with some preferring to guard their hard-earned income, and others more than happy to shed the dreaded sales aspect.

Gateways between Temp and Perm

One thing is certain in the universe of IT contracting–once you’re on the inside, it’s hard to go back. Most experts agree that trying freelance work on the side while part of the permanent workforce is a good way to test the waters. As for going the other way, a temporary gig could be a gateway back to the world of permanent work.

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Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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