There are many ways to find contract work – both directly with end-clients, or via recruitment agencies. At times when the market is flat, it is more important than ever to make the most of all available channels to maximise you chances of securing that next role.
How many contractors work via agencies?
Although estimates vary across surveys, some key trends in contractor ‘recruitment’ appear to stay constant – even over the space of a decade.
According to an old Contractor UK survey conducted in May 2004, 19% of the 500+ respondents said that they sourced their latest contract directly with their client, and 79% used agencies.
In a recent SJD ‘Contractor Attitudes’ survey (June 2016 – PDF), 18% of respondents were still working directly for end-clients, with the remainder finding their latest roles via a number of different routes (LinkedIn, recommendation, etc.), but ultimately working via recruitment agencies.
Speaking very generally, here are the main channels contractors use to find new work:
As these survey results demonstrate, almost 80% of IT contract roles are eventually handled by recruitment agencies. It is always worthwhile registering with several leading agencies (or ones who specialise in your skills) simply because you will be in the frame if a new position comes up, before the role is posted on the major job boards. It is a well known fact that the majority of contract roles are never advertised widely, as they are filled via candidates who are pre-registered on agency databases, or by personal recommendations.
The leading job boards remain a useful source of potential contract openings, even if they no longer dominate the recruitment market as they did in the early 2000s. Clearly, fake contract postings still feature as they always have done (used to harvest contractor CVs), as do roles requiring applicants to hold existing security clearance (despite Cabinet Office guidelines forbidding this practice).
It is worth registering with boards such as Jobserve, and setting up the right location / skill filters, so that you receive job alerts as soon as suitable contract vacancies are posted. This will expand your exposure to a wide number of recruitment agencies, beyond those you have pre-registered with.
Social Media / Online Networking
Given the nature of IT contractors’ skills, it is unsurprising that LinkedIn is very widely used within the industry. In fact, it is hard to think of another professional group of people more naturally suited to using this particular networking site.
Social networking sites are perfect for techies, as you can network with very little real effort (and minimal social interaction)!
Keep your online profile updated, and join any relevant industry groups. More and more recruiters are using LinkedIn to advertise contract roles, and even if they don’t, many will conduct an online search of potential candidates before interviewing – so keep your social media footprint ‘clean’!
We have some excellent expert LinkedIn articles on our site – try this one to get started.
Nothing is more powerful in any industry than a word of mouth recommendation. A large percentage of contractors find new contracts via existing contacts, in fact some manage to go though an entire career without having to contact an agency directly for work.
Again, LinkedIn is such a useful site to help stay in touch with old colleagues, and currently has no credible competitors when it comes to serious contract hunting.
There are no firm rules for the one in five contractors who source work directly with end-clients. Some contractors directly canvas prospective clients, whereas others are contacted directly by future clients. You may have been a permanent IT worker who has subsequently been re-hired on a contract basis by your former employer (but without a recruitment agency as the ‘middle man’).
One thing to bear in mind when working directly for a client is that you will be personally responsible for overseeing the successful management of the contract itself, including; agreeing the terms of the contract, ensuring that you get paid on time, managing renewals, and negotiating your contract rate.