Contractors’ Questions: Can I return to contracting part time?

Contractor’s Question: I am looking to return to contracting, but I only want to work up to 3 days a week rather than the full five days. Looking at the market, it looks as though part-time IT project management jobs are very rare. What is the current climate like, and do you have any tips for finding work and marketing myself in this area, given my part-time requirement?

Expert’s Answer: It’s fair to say that part-time IT contracts are unusual, but that’s not to say it is impossible to make this arrangement work for you.

A recruitment consultant may be a good starting point in knowing companies that are open to this kind of arrangement. Even where roles are not advertised as part time, simply asking the question can work in your favour, particularly if you or the recruiter already has a strong relationship with the client. In our experience, companies are willing to consider alternative working arrangements to keep hold of a contractor who has a track record of delivering good work. This may be the result of previous projects or by starting full time and later asking to reduce your hours. A good CV and professional reputation can create jobs that may not have ordinarily existed.

Networking – on and offline – can therefore be invaluable in securing this kind of flexible working. Keep in touch with old contacts, update your LinkedIn profile and even consider a personal website to demonstrate your previous professional activities and how you went about client satisfaction.

As clients look for a more flexible workforce in the current economic climate, the potential for part time contracts will increase. There are also a couple of other options you could consider. Taking fixed price work – in which you are paid for completing the work required rather than for your time – offers total flexibility on when and how you choose to work, just as long as you meet the deadline. This type of contract is typically rare, but you can search online for opportunities, particularly for relatively small-scale projects.

Another possibility is to work full time on short term projects and then take an extended break between projects. Although it would mean a full working week, you would only be working part time over the year. Of course, you would need to bear in mind that should a project overrun, you may be asked to extend your contract until the activity is complete.

The expert was Sid Barnes, executive director at IT jobs agency Computer People

Tuesday 2nd August 2011