Re: Breaking into Contract Work

Subject: Re: Breaking into Contract Work
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 05 Sep 2001 12:06:40 -0700

herring_b -at- hotmail -dot- com wrote:

I am most interested in the unique challenges and variety that would hopefully be more prevalent in contract situations, as well as some of the freedoms from corporate politics...

Don't expect the freedom from corporate politics. Often, the decision whether to hire a contractor is part of of the politics. The very fact that you were hired can be an affront to those who argued against a contractor, so you're dragged in whether you want to be or not. Fortunately, this situation doesn't usually happen, but it can.

My question, however, is what is the best way to make this transition?

Apply for a contract position. That's all there is, really.

However, I'm not sure of what type of situation would be best for a newbie just getting started.

That depends on your background and your attitude. For example, if you haven't managed or organized a large project, you might want to stay away from large contracts at first. But, if you like a challenge, you might want to dive right into such a project.

If at all possible, try to make your first contracts ones in which you can easily meet the deadlines and do a good job. A contractor's reputation is important, and you'll need to start building yours immediately.

I am most concerned with the transition to the next contract, once the original is up, so there are no major gaps in employment.

The trick is to start looking before your present contract ends. In a way, as a contractor you're perpetually looking for work.

But don't forget, too, that one of the reasons that you get a higher hourly rate as a contractor than as a salaried employee is to tide you over the lean times. Remember not to live up to your income and put a healthy percentage of in the bank.

I am more interested in hearing others' stories regarding their transition and what made it easier or harder. Also, what about agencies? Is this a recommended way to go in the beginning?

I started as a contractor because when I switched to technical writing, it was easier to get a job as a contractor in my city.

I found agencies especially useful in my early years, and still use them. There are many agencies that are hellish to be associated with, but, when you find ones that are dependable, be sure to cultivate both the company and individual headhunters. Eilther one can not only tell you about job openings, but what specific companies are like to work for. You shouldn't depend on them at the expense of your own job-finding efforts, but they can be extremely valuable contacts.

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

"We feel the breeze from the storm to come,
And up and down this coast
We're waiting for the wheel to turn."
-Capercaillie, "Clearances"


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