The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) recently conducted a survey of over 4,000 people, which found that 36% had worked as a contractor (10%), freelancer (10%) or agency worker (24%) at some time in the past, and that over 40% of respondents were considering doing so at some point in the future.
Although the recent economic downturn forced some people to work on a freelance or contract basis, more and more are choosing to do so as an alternative to permanent employment. As Kevin Green, chief executive of REC commented: “It is a choice for many people, and flexibility is a key reason they opt for this kind of work.”
Having analysed the latest ONS employment data, recruiter Russam GMS believes that 47% of the working population are now ‘self-drive workers’, i.e. those who are working, but not in full-time employment. This number includes many part-time workers, apprentices, and others, as well as contractors and freelancers.
For those considering a move into an independent way of working, here are some general tips which apply to all types of independent worker, based on advice provided by Jason Atkinson, MD of Russam (an interim provider):
Things to consider before becoming a self-drive worker
1. Do your homework – do you have the skills necessary, and is there a market for what you have to offer?
2. Make sure you have a ‘financial cushion’ before taking the plunge.
3. Talk to existing contractors / freelancers / interims to find out what life would be in your new chosen career.
4. Do you have a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and how will you target potential clients?
5. Make sure you take time to prepare a new CV.
6. You will need to be flexible in your choice of assignments, and be prepared to adapt to new environments.
7. As a self-drive worker, think of yourself as a small business. You’ll need to handle all your marketing, accounting, and sales, etc. yourself.
8. Make sure you present yourself as a true professional, and get in touch with several of the most relevant agencies in your field (in the case of interim management, make sure they’re IMA approved, Atkinson suggests).
9. Make sure you spend time networking, create a LinkedIn profile, and join relevant groups.
10. And finally, once you’ve decided to become a self-drive worker, make sure you stick with your decision, and don’t give up!
Read REC’s ‘flex appeal’ report – why so many people have decided to turn their backs on permanent employment.
For IT contractor-specific tips, try our evergreen 10-step guide to becoming an IT contractor.