Contractors' Questions: Should I accept client's incoming offer to go perm?

Contractor’s Question: On Friday I was just over a week away from the end of my 3-month contract. I thought the client was keen for me to stay as there is work for another 9 months, probably, on this IT project. 

But the client has taken ages coming up with an extension and now I have finally received it, the extension on offer is only for 1 month. They clearly want me to become permanent and hope that I’ll agree during this one added month. I will listen to whatever offer they wish to make me but expect I’ll decline it, as contracting has given me so much.

As their response was very slow, I applied for other opportunities and am now at the interview stage for two other contracts, each with more favourable terms and rates.  With just over a week left on my current contract and with a renewal on the table, I'm not sure how long I can delay giving my client some definitive answers. I do feel though that me stalling is only fair because of how long they took coming back to me. 

But if I leave after just 3 months (despite that being my contract term), I fear I will be completely leaving the client in the lurch, so how are future hirers likely to view this? 

Expert’s Answer: This is a tricky question with no easy answer. However, I was in the same situation just over a year ago, going from being an IT contractor for over 20 years to considering the idea of 'traditional' employment. In the end, I decided to go permanent because becoming the CEO of IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed), was something I really wanted to do. But it was a tough decision.

First and foremost, you need to carefully consider whether you wish to return to permanent work. You became your own boss for a reason (whatever reason that may be) and you need to weigh up the positives and negatives.

Permanent work will mean you'll enjoy a regular income but the cost of this will be less flexibility and potentially a lower income. You also need to consider what you'll gain from carrying on your current work - is there anymore you can gain from the project, for example? Is it a challenge; is it helping you develop new skills? You then should consider other factors, such as whether you would work well with the end-user’s employees and whether you can see yourself within the company on a long-term basis.

You also need to compare what your current client is offering you and what the potential new clients can give you. These roles must have been interesting or you wouldn't have applied for them in the first place. They would probably give you more variety in your work, which you wouldn't necessarily get if you went into permanent employment with your current client.  

It's understandable that you don't want to leave a project unfinished, both for yourself and how it will look for future clients. As you know, when engaging a contractor not only do companies need someone with the expertise to deliver a project, but they also want someone who is reliable, conscientious and passionate about what they do, so this may have an effect on winning future contracts. That said, potential clients will see that you completed the contract term that was originally asked of you, and will understand that carrying on with this project would mean a life-changing decision that may not be right for you and your situation.

This is a big decision to make but you've got time to make an informed decision. Don't rush into it. If they really want to hire you, they'll wait for you. But it seems you are only considering going permanent because of this one project. Make sure that when you're considering your situation, you think long-term, not short.

The expert was Chris Bryce, chief executive of IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed.

Editor's Note: Related Reading -

Contractors' Questions: Is a vow to renew binding?

Turning to the dark side

Half of IT contractors eye permanent jobs

Monday 2nd February 2015