5. How to find IT contract work - online searching

The majority of IT contractors use Internet sites (such as Jobserve and Technojobs) to find IT contract vacancies posted by recruitment agencies. Some contractors may choose to work direct for clients, rather than via agencies. To help you find IT contract work, our contract search facility enables you to search all the major contract sites simultaneously. Click here to begin your search

The Internet is the perfect medium to use for job hunting - the first stop for many will be online jobboards, with a wide number of search engines providing you with access to the majority of IT contract vacancies on offer at any given time. Type in the type of work you are looking for and the location, then scan the results for roles you are interested in.

Once you have found a contract which appeals to you, simply email your CV via the search engine to the agency advertising the role and follow up with a phone call to emphasise your interest in the job. It is worth expressing an interest in a number of similar roles to improve your chances of securing the right job.

Agencies are often bombarded with CVs for popular contracts, so telephone contact will improve your chances of getting an interview. Persistence will do you no harm.

There are a couple of things to be aware of when searching for jobs online. Many clients will have a number of 'preferred suppliers' (agencies acting on their behalf), so you are more than likely to see the same job posted several times on the major job boards with different reference numbers. The recruitment industry has also come in for some criticism for posting 'phantom vacancies' - false jobs with widespread appeal, the sole aim being to capture a large number of fresh CVs with minimal financial outlay.

You can widen the hunt by searching the job listings of end client's websites and by keeping your ear to ground on forums, newsgroups etc. CUK itself also carries job and market news on the Jobs news and guides page which includes analysts' comments on how the majory industry players are faring in the market, and therefore where job cuts or hires are taking place.

You can also use the internet to gain a better understanding of the likely demand for your skills. Anthony Sherick of Technojobs explains: "If you are considering IT contracting there is a wealth of information available to research in advance on the top IT job sites, such as Technojobs. By undertaking searches for your skills and location, you can see the number of roles available and the broad salary range - which is usually displayed as a daily rate.

"Additionally by signing up to daily job alerts you can get notified of all the new relevant contract roles and therefore monitor new roles and rates over a period of time - or wait for the exact job to suit you goes live. You should use this to judge whether you have any skills that are in short supply that could boost your daily rate. Other ways a jobsite may help you is by submitting your CV; agencies may see appropriate skills/experience and contact you direct about relevant contract roles."

There are also 'contract direct' sites which aim to place contractors in touch with clients directly, often charging less commission than traditional agencies, so you should check these sites out as well. 

You may not have as much choice over the location of your first IT contract, so you must be flexible as far as possible. If you are based in South London, you may need to travel to Brighton, or North London, for example. Again, the role may not be an exact match to your skillset, but this is the nature of contracting - the more experience you have as a contractor, the fussier you can be.

Don't be afraid to push for the rate you want. Although there are market-driven guidelines to average rates per skill area, clients will pay up for the right person. For a guide to market rates, try our Market Rates section.

If you find work through an agency, find out what commission they charge (typically 20% or thereabouts). If the client won't pay any more for your services, maybe the agency should give up some of their commission!

Most contracts are 6 months or so in duration. Of course, there are some shorter term roles available, but few will be for longer than 12 months. Most IT contractors will also have had a series of renewals during their careers, so you may find yourself at the same location for several years if this suits.

To be read in conjunction with: How to find IT contract work - networking and offline searching

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