I wrote on a forum some advice to a permanent member of staff considering the option of contracting. The question was "How much experience do you need before you go contracting?".
My answer was fairly short, but I thought it was interesting enough to make into an article to share with you, especially in a time when contractors are getting a bad press.
I left university and after 18 months in two jobs, I went contracting. Not consulting, contracting. I was simply a developer assigned to a project to work on the Y2K project (remember that folks?). I knew I was a good developer and had the confidence to leave the full-time security and branch out on my own.
Rule Number One as a contractor is to have the confidence in yourself to be able to step out and say "I can do this". Confidence. Simple.
The knowledge comes second. This may surprise some people, but the reality is there is always an answer on the internet. I remember my parents not being too happy about leaving the security of a full-time role and not knowing where I would be working, but I knew that I would be OK, I had the confidence.
I feel that knowledge must be backed up by qualifications. People often undervalue qualifications, but the reality is that you are able to get a rounded education, the more you look into specific qualifications. An example was while working within the Lotus Notes Arena, I was able to understand more of the theory and have a deeper understanding of the intricacies, over colleagues without the additional education and research. My Father was a great believer in education and I am committed to this day to make sure I continue in his three-word mantra... "Education education education".
Along with knowledge, a contractor is expected to make an impact to the team / project very soon after starting. Often a day or two to show the processes / governance is all you are allowed before you actually start making progress on the task you have been taken on for.
Contractors get quite a bit of negative press and many full time employees often begrudge a contractor working along side them. Usually the main reason is down to money. This simple little thing makes many people jealous in all walks of life, but the issue between contractors vs permanent staff can often be very visible and difficult.
My reply for this is often the fact that we are actually paid more money that the usual member of staff, but we are only paid for the time we are working. The eight standard bank holidays, sick pay and our annual holiday is not paid, neither are the extras such as Training and Qualifications (remember my paragraph above). We do have other "perks" such as our subsistence and travel are paid before tax, we can pay ourselves in a way to minimise our tax, but we still have all the additional paperwork, research, accountants fees etc to make this happen.
Anyone can be a contractor. You need to have the confidence, the knowledge, the qualifications and the self motivation to go out there and sell yourself.