Diary of a first time IT contractor - The first day

The Dry Run

It's the Saturday before the start of my first contract. Although I now work for myself, I intend to adopt the same work ethics I had when I was someone else's employee; as far as the first day, that means arriving on time and appropriately smart.

I've decided that since I rarely venture into London, I'm going to do a dry run today; the knock on effect is that I can purchase my travel ticket for the week. I was surprised to see how expensive the tickets are to London on a day-to-day basis, and even more surprised to see how much the price comes down for the weekly card. Although tempted by the saving, I've decided not to buy a month ticket till the contract is well under way.

It turns out a lot of the tubes shut down for maintenance at the weekend, so my practice trip didn't work out as it should, but at least I am confident I can be there on time.

First Day

It's Monday morning, and I've been asked to arrive at reception for 0930 to meet with the Project Manager (PM). Since my interviews a month ago, the PM has changed and it's a new face.

I'm a little bit unsure about this change, I got the contract through Peter the original PM and now it's Tanya who will be running things. Since I have yet to meet her, I am a little apprehensive. Pat, the contractor who got me here in the first place assures me she is fine.

I've met with Tanya, she's very pleasant and I can't see there being any problems. She seems happy to accept me based on Peter's approval. It seems Pete is still around, albeit on a different project.

The journey in was uneventful, although I'm planning to use this week to find the best combination of times and tubes.

The commute isn't as bad as I expected; the train is fast and talking to other commuters it seems to be reasonably reliable. As for the tube, I just need to learn to get used to the London rush.

Previously when I've started a permanent role, interest is piqued both in me and the people at my new employers. It seems when you're a contractor there is a lot less interest when you arrive. For me this is something of a positive, but that is just my nature.

I suspect few people care about the arrival of another contractor as there is little point establishing the kind of relationship you might with a perm, since they can go at any time.

As a perm, I generally arrived at the very least to a workstation and an email account, although admittedly on several occasions the computer has still been in its box. I have neither; some additional paperwork is required before I can get set up so I'm using my own laptop but am not allowed to connect it to the network.

I've learned from conversations with colleagues and friends that although I expected to supply my own IT, some organisations will insist you use their equipment to comply with their own policies.

The PM has given me a selection of documents about the project I have been brought in for, I'm coming in at the early stages so I the learning curve to get up to speed isn't too steep.

My Contract

It's taking a bit of time to come to terms with the differences between working for someone else and running my own company. I've read and re-read the terms of my contract and the details in my letter of assignment. These two documents combine to make up the agreement about the service my company is going to provide.

The contract specifies the number of hours a week that my company must provide services to the client. I have just spoken to the PM and she tells me that within reason, they don't mind when I start and finish as long as all the contracted hours are fulfilled.

One Day Down

I've come to the end of my first day. It was rather uneventful, although I already expected that to be the case from speaking to Pat at the weekend. There is currently no immediate work for me so I've been reading the project plan and reports, several times.

The things I've been worrying most about starting out as a contractor have been addressed in this first day. The project I'm here for is high level and the business very much wants it to happen, so I needn't worry too much about it being cancelled from under me.

I also worried whether I was technically skilled enough to justify contractor rates; I now see that my company is providing a service that the client wants. I am skilled enough; but if I have gaps in my knowledge further down the line, I need to fill them quicker than I might as a perm.

If I don't deliver the goods, they can and will quite quickly replace me. Although there has been no indication that this is the case, it seems a fair assumption that non delivery would result in immediate termination. Such is the life of a contractor.

After all the preparation over the last month, while I worked my notice and formed the company, my gut feeling is that I've very much made the right decision. Yes, with the economy in its current state it may not have been the correct time, but that same feeling tells me that I've chosen the right contract to set out on.

The Morning after.....

I've woken up this morning raring to go. The train journey was unexpectedly relaxing and I feel comfortable now things are underway. Hopefully at the end of week one, I'll still feel the same.

Owen Rumney

Wednesday 4th Feb 2009