IT contracting has become increasingly popular in recent years, as the number of people choosing to strike out on their own and work for themselves grows. And with such a high demand for IT skills, the UK has become a hotbed for IT contractors, who enable businesses to benefit from engaging experts on a flexible basis.
Seeing as you’ve arrived on this page, you might be interested in learning more about this way of working. So from defining IT contracting to spelling out how to become one and exploring ways to win clients, we break down the basics in this pitstop guide to IT contracting.
What is an IT contractor?
First things first, how does IT contracting work? In a sentence, an IT contractor is someone who provides any number of technology or digital services to businesses on a temporary basis.
IT contractors are one-person businesses that typically operate via their own limited company. In many ways, IT contractors work in a similar manner to freelancers - meaning they tend to be self-employed workers and are engaged by clients on a project-by-project basis.
Is an IT contractor an IT consultant?
There are more similarities than there are differences. Like IT contractors, IT consultants also work on temporary projects and usually deliver their services to clients through their own limited company. Whether you define yourself as an IT contractor or a consultant is entirely up to you.
Are IT contractors in demand?
Yes. Over the years, the need for IT contractors has steadily grown hand-in-hand with the digital revolution.
Then Covid struck which, after an uncertain period, actually resulted in soaring demand for IT skills as businesses of all sizes and across all industries continue to invest in their digital capabilities - by this we mean their ability to trade online. For example, data reported by Contractor UK in August 2021 shows that demand for IT contractors was at an ‘extraordinarily high level not seen since early 1998.’
Despite what some might say about recent tax changes (such as IR35 reform) and the future of IT contracting, the signs still point towards a need for highly skilled, flexible workers.
Why do businesses engage IT contractors?
For lots of reasons, including:
- Flexibility - Contractors can be engaged by businesses to help them navigate peaks and troughs in demand
- Specialist skills - Many IT contractors provide niche and expert skills which are hard to come by
- Savings - Businesses can reduce overheads by working with contractors who can be brought in as and when required
- Fresh perspective - Contractors aren’t employees, meaning they bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to the businesses they work with
Why should you think about becoming an IT contractor?
Just like freelance copywriters, marketers, and even self-employed florists, IT contractors are small business owners, meaning they enjoy:
- Freedom - IT contractors have the freedom to choose who they work with, when they work and, usually, where from
- Earning potential - Contractors set their own rates, which they can raise when as and when it suits them
- Demand - As explained earlier on, the need for IT contractors means there are plenty of opportunities out there
How to become an IT contractor
Becoming an IT contractor is more straightforward than you might think, but there are a number of steps to take and decisions to make along the way, such as:
- Registering as self-employed
- Registering for tax
- Protecting your business with insurance
- Meeting your ongoing tax responsibilities
Finding work as an IT contractor
Knowing where to look for and how to win clients holds the key to becoming a successful contractor. At a glance, here’s some useful advice:
Create your contractor CV
You’ll need a stand-out contractor CV (or even portfolio website) to apply for most contract opportunities - one that highlights your skills, experience, motivations and showcases your best work.
Learn more about this in our guide to creating your contractor CV.
Online job boards
Job boards and recruitment websites are a simple and effective way to find available contracts and apply, which these days can be done in a couple of clicks. Specialist IT contractor job boards include:
LinkedIn may come in handy too. While it’s not an outright jobs site, the jobs section is a good place to start your search. There’s no shortage of recruiters on this professional networking platform either. So go ahead, set up an engaging profile, update with your skills and experience and maintain a presence - it might just pay dividends.
The pitfalls to avoid as an IT contractor
In this guide to IT contracting we’ve focused primarily on what you should do when working this way. But what about the pitfalls? The things to avoid? Most of what we’re about to tell you is obvious, but that’s not to say a reminder won’t prove useful:
- Never make promises that you can’t deliver - don’t take on too much or any contracts that you’re not qualified for
- Be careful not to breach any contracts you hold - work to what was agreed and prioritise your compliance
- Don’t shirk any of your tax obligations - make tax compliance and tax efficiency a priority
- Be mindful of the fact that you are a business - you must think and work as one
- Try not to rest on your laurels - look to upskill, market your services and continually improve
Is IT contracting worth it?
Absolutely. Of course, it depends on what it is that you’re looking for in your work. But if you want to experience more freedom, take full control of your career and enjoy a healthy work-life balance, then the chances are that you’ll love working as an IT contractor.
Interested in finding out more? Speak with our expert Sales Team to see how we can work together.
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