3. Researching your market
If having read 'Is contracting the life for me' you believe you can cope with the disadvantages, the next step is to do some research.
Don't give up your job until you are sure that there is a market for your skills as a contractor. At the very least you will need to talk to IT contractor recruitment agencies in your industry to see what kind of contracts might be available, whether you are suitable for them, and how much you could earn. This is the first step in thinking like a business: research your market, find out if there is a demand for your skillset and where that demand is. You may need to be flexible on location, or you could use it as an opportunity to base yourself elsewhere (within the UK or abroad).
Talk to other contractors – the CUK forum is a good starting point – to gain a better understanding of the current market. All forms of networking (agents / contractors / ex-employers / colleagues) will help you build a clearer picture to enable you to work out which parts of your contractor CV are strongest, in terms of skills and experience, and market your offering.
You need to be clear on what your strengths are yourself before selling that in to an agent. A good agent will take the time to get to know you to ascertain this, the more mediocre may also not understand the market as well as you do – your CV (and the impact it has to make) may need to compensate for that. You may need to retrain to supply those skills you find out are in demand. You may need to take a lower rate in the short term if a contract offers you additional (valuable) experience you can eventually justify charging a higher rate elsewhere for.