You’ve decided to make the switch from full time technical employment to a life as an IT Contractor. Congratulations! There are a few things you need to be mindful of as you’re starting out if you want to have a successful career as a technical contractor. Keep these 6 tips in mind as you’re starting out.
1. Build Your Brand: As an IT contractor, you’re basically running your own small business. And, like all successful businesses, you need to build and maintain a consistent brand. Make a name for yourself in the IT community by infusing your brand into all of your social media profiles and be mindful of what you post. Additionally, in the process of building your brand, you may decide you want to start writing an instructional blog, creating YouTube videos, or participating in online forum to get your name out there as an expert in your field. Don’t feel like you have to go above and beyond with your brand the way a normal small business would but make sure your brand accurately represents you and infuse it in your social media, business cards, and resume.
2. Keep the Tax Man In Mind: It’s important to step up your bookkeeping as an IT contractor because your taxes are immediately more complex. You’ll need to keep close track of your billings, earnings, expenses, and the taxes that you owe. Make sure to pay these taxes on a quarterly basis if you want to avoid hefty fines from the IRS.
3. Extend Your Network and Find a Trusted Recruiter: As an IT contractor, your professional network will be more valuable to you than ever before! Finding the right contract opportunity is all about timing and knowing the right people so you need to extend and maintain your professional network. Additionally, finding a trusted recruiter could make all the difference if you want to stay gainfully employed on a regular basis. These recruiters will often know of contract opportunities that aren’t advertised and be able to help you get a foot in the door at a variety of companies.
4. Set Your Limits: Your boundaries and your limits as a full time tech pro are important, but setting these is essential if you want a successful career as an IT contractor. Know how far you’ll drive, know your exact hourly range, know what kind of projects you want to work on and what kind of projects you don’t ever want to be a part of. These limits will reduce the number of contract positions that are available to you but they’ll also keep you sane, focused, and happy. And, if a fantastic opportunity comes along, you’ll know whether or not you’re willing to bend or break one of these limits!
5. Continuously Improve Your Skills: It’s easy to neglect learning and improving your skills on a regular basis but when you’re contracting, falling behind on industry knowledge and valuable skills can quickly translate to a lack of gainful employment. Make sure you carve out time in your weekly schedule to develop your technical and soft skills so you’ll always be improving, evolving, and sharp.
6. Expect the Unexpected: When you finally accept your first contract position, don’t take the expected time frame of the contract too literally. Often times, companies will underestimate the scope of the project or want to extend your contract because they like the work you’re doing and still need extra help. Expecting the unexpected is the key to success as a technical contractor.
If you’re about to embark on a career as an IT contractor, keep these six tips in mind. This will help you create a successful foundation that will launch your technical contracting career!