Developing your career as a contractor, quicker than you could do as a perm?

24th July 2016

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Contractors have historically been seen as stop-gap cover, non-permanent consultative or leadership types able to complete a programme of work and move onto the next, a means to an end.


This is no longer the case, as iContract’s commercial director Eduardo Rastelli explains.


A contractor’s requirements are typically focused around the ability to achieve quickly, to have little lag time before they are “up to speed” and crucially able to affect and achieve change as required independently and quickly with only minimal guidance required.


This skillset can be one that is hard to achieve, and typically linked to individuals whose careers have been long and successful affording them both the experience and seniority to make a role their own, fast. 

A career most likely linked to grafting through various permanent roles for years before “taking the plunge” into a focused contracting remit. 

Not anymore. 

Career Contractors 

Typical amount of time spent in a permanent role before either moving internally or externally, and nevertheless, more than likely aligned to your current areas of expertise: 2.5 years.    

Typical amount of time spent in a contracting role before most likely moving to a new client and potentially a much different area allowing for a quicker than normal level of experience to be achieved: one year.


Contracting can allow individuals the opportunity to quickly experience and learn new environments, new skills and new networks. They are not held back by the need to “spend two years in a role” before moving internally to another position. On a permanent careers CV, moving too often, even internally can detract from its worth, but for a contractor, it is expected. 

I’m not saying to get in and get out again after three months, chasing an extra £25 on the day rate, but spending shorter periods and then moving on for development reasons is a perfectly normal (and expected) way of developing a contracting career. 

In fact, taking too many short term assignments can mean one of the two things to a hiring manager: 

(1) this person is not very good, if they cannot win themselves an extension

(2) this person is unreliable and will take that extra £25 win on their day rate – let’s go with someone we could get the full contract length from. 

A perfect contracting CV reads something like; one year (one extension), 18 months (two extensions) in a slightly wider or larger role, 12/18 months in a wider and larger role again… And repeat. 

Contracting allows you to develop skills in the way your market is moving more quickly than if you were permanent. You do need to spend time in a position to display the traits a hiring manager wants to see (longevity, well rated – which is what an extension tells them, and valued), but can move with the freedom afforded to you but your non-permanent status. 

You have to start perm before you go contracting, don’t you?


Sure, in specific regulatory or legislative change positions, understanding the subject matter will probably require some time spent working with the product / business / corporation to be able to apply skills quickly and effectively. But, if there is one piece of advice we at iContract have taken on board – good, bright people are always needed.


It is more about finding a good initial role, making yourself as a contractor indispensable and well rated by management. You will likely earn yourself a contract extension, rate raise, both, or a helping hand in finding another contract in an area more aligned to your interests and career aspirations.


What I find with contracting is that you are judged day-on-day, permanents are judged every six months in most large corporates – this need to impress and keep on impressing motivates contract staff, in my experience, to outperform permanent colleagues whilst benefiting from the lesser rules around holidays and potential earning potential of being a non-permanent employee. 

Check out our contractor guidebooks, which explain more.


Our advice is to never be shut off to exploring other potential avenues, but at the same time always take a considered approach to moving and gaining new contracts. Be quick to react and try to foresee which way your market is moving, and go there. Much faster than a permanent employee will be able to.


Don’t forget to pre-register with iContract to take full advantage of new opportunities when they arise. We launch soon!