Contractor doctor: should I quit my permanent role before leaping the chasm to contracting?

Dear Contractor Doctor,

I'm currently in a permanent job that is neither fully satisfying nor monetarily appropriate to my skills and experience level. I am thinking of going contracting but, with a lack of savings and no experience in the contracting market, I'm worried about how I can afford to hand my notice in without the promise of a job in the near future.

Any thoughts on this?


[Name Supplied]

Contractor Doctor says:

This is the common Catch-22 situation for most permanent employees thinking of going contracting. You are certainly not alone.

As I explained in my previous article ‘Should I Quit My Job Before Applying for Contracts?’ you will need to hand in your notice before searching for a contract.

You could however test the market whilst you are still permanent and see if you get any interest. Agents will phone you to ask your availability and then subsequently rule you out due to you still being permanently employed. However, if you get some phone calls it will give you the confidence that you won’t necessarily be left on the shelf if you make the plunge. Prolonged testing in this manner is not advisable though – agents will remember you. If you do finally hand in your notice make sure you contact each agent you have previously spoken to and let them know your circumstances have changed.

With regard to the financial situation, the switch from permanent to contracting can actually work in your favour. Some contracts are paid weekly. This means you may not have to survive a whole month on your last pay cheque before getting paid. So you could find yourself with up to 3 weeks extra money in your pocket! Even if you are paid monthly, payment is typically within a week of getting your timesheet signed. Some agencies will give you an advance.

If your skill set is high in demand and you market yourself well and chase down the opportunities well then you should be able to get yourself sorted out with a contract within 4 weeks.

You might also find the following article useful should you decide to take the plunge: Starting Contracting - Steps to Becoming a Contractor.

Good luck.

Contractor Doctor

Published: Monday, February 27, 2006

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