Five IT contract moves that make you look like a newbie

We’re still only in single figures with how many days I’ve been back in the office since the extended festive holiday.

But I’ve already lost count of how many times I’ve had to steer IT contractors away from making amateur mistakes in their New Year ‘job jump,’ writes Natalie Bowers, co-founder of Bowers Partnership, an expert in contract recruitment.

To save repeating myself, and mindful of my own sanity -- especially as the most depressing day of the year approaches (‘Blue Monday’ on January 15th), here are five things that risk making IT contractors look newbie-ish in the new year:

1. Proclaiming that IT contracting with client ‘x’ is no longer for them, and that quitting all computer-related earnings activity for ‘x’ is the only option.

So do you really want to move to a new contract, or are you just suffering from an old-fashioned dose of the 'January blues' like everyone else?

The grass is rarely greener. Unless there is a very good reason you should really look to be completing your currently perfectly good assignment, contract or project. If you feel like your feet are itching every time you put them under your desk -- just give yourself a few good weeks to re-immerse yourself back into the usual routine before you make (and vocalise) this potentially career-changing decision.

2. Having a ‘don’t ask-don’t get’ attitude about the headline rate, on day one of the project back at the client workplace.

Jealous of those permies talking about that annual salary increase, or nostalgic about the bonuses you once received when you too were on ‘the dark side’?!

Just because we are now in January and you’ve been in your current role for six months, or even a year or more, it doesn’t mean that you are suddenly entitled to a rate increase.

Rather than waste your time and energy bothering your existing client and irritating your agency (plus most likely breaching the terms of your agreement with the agency), just get on with your work, and be thankful that you’ve had such a long, consistent billing opportunity! If you really still hanker for that annual appraisal (and the accompanying tedium), plus that miniscule 1.4% pay rise, then maybe it is time to go permanent.

3. Forgetting that loose lips (and clever software) sink contracting careers quite often.

It’s always tempting at this time of year to ‘test the market.’ If you are feeling the urge to ‘put a few feelers out,’ like checking in with half a dozen market specialists in your sector or putting yourself on a job board -- then beware.

Both of these activities can potentially end in tears. Your existing client not to mention your existing agency no doubt have a very good network of contacts of their own. The news is almost bound to get back to one of them. Or both.

Imagine your agent’s surprise (and face) when they find your fully updated CV for 2018popping into their inbox courtesy of a standard CV alert on their favourite job board.

If you really do want to test the market -- have a confidential chat with your agent. Make sure that they understand that this is just a casual market appraisal -- out of interest -- to see how the market is functioning in general and whether they predict a good strong year of demand for you.

4. Playing hardball when the client/agency/project has a lot on.

Extension time in January can be a bit fraught.

‘Great news -- your client is really happy and even better news; the project has over run so they want to extend you for another 6 months.’ Hearing this from their agent should be enough for contractors to produce little more than an affirmative nod! It’s not an invitation to start hard negotiations.

In short, don’t get tempted to try to renegotiate the terms at this stage. If your client feels like they are being held to ransom, they may well decide to replace you next time instead. Don’t forget that clients (and agencies) value your loyalty and professionalism nearly as highly as your specialist skillset.

5. Being too insular by not considering the future; their reputation; the bigger picture.

And by ‘future’ I mean not just the immediate term. Remember that your current market value is not just based on your CV; expertise and skillset.

It is also a function of your reputation as someone who sees the job through, and your level of professionalism. Your loyalty and commitment (yes, even as a freelance contractor). You want your client, even your agent to say that you ‘are the kind of person who gets things done and stays until they are done, with minimal fuss and maximum levels of service.’

Then, what you really want to be is the ‘go-to’ contractor for your particular niche -- the very first person who the client thinks of for a call back, or a recommendation to a colleague. You are the ‘candidate of choice’ for the key agency players in your market. Contractors, this is the space where the highest billers exist. They hardly ever look at job boards -- they simply don’t need to!

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Written by Natalie Bowers

Natalie is a co-founder of Bowers Partnership, an award-winning recruitment company that finds people for Investment and Wealth Management firms and Asset Owners. She has more than 30 years’ experience in recruitment, corporate IT and multi-functional general management positions.

Her areas of expertise include contract recruitment, permanent search & selection and recruitment-specific regulation. She is a regular commentator for recruitment industry publications and specialist websites.

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