Contract Jobs - Finding Your First Contract Job

So you've decided you're ready to give contract work a try? Maybe you're just starting out in your career or embarking on a new job search. Or you're looking to switch from permanent work to become one of the many successful contractors out there.

To land your first contract job, you'll need to have a clear understanding about what contractors can expect to be paid based upon their industry, skill set and role. It also helps to know how pay rates for contract jobs vary by location.

Lastly, you should consider some practical tips on beginning your job search, networking, creating a CV, etc.

What are these?

Show Me the Money

Since contractors typically are not entitled to the same benefits as staff workers, pay is usually a key factor when evaluating a job opportunity. Contractors often find, when searching for contract jobs, considerable variation in pay rates across sectors.

According to the most recent iProfile survey (as of Q3.07), the best paying sectors for IT contractors were Finance and Energy/Utility contract jobs, with median rates of £50 per hour. This is in contrast to £40 per hour for all sectors combined.

Engineering IT contractors had a 33% increase in average pay in the twelve months ending in Q3.07, according to the survey.

On the other hand, contractors in these three sectors - Professional Services, IT, and Transportation & Equipment - saw a downturn in average pay. Armed with up-to-date information on sector performance and pay rates, contractors can better focus their job search for contract jobs.

Contract Jobs - What's Hot, What's Not

IT contractors experience variations in pay rates based on skill set. During Q3.07, the specific skills that commanded the highest pay rates for contractors were: BEA WebLogic Server, Enterprise JavaBeans, J2EE, Oracle and SAP. Rates for these skills ranged from £50 to £58 per hour, compared to the average £40 per hour, according to the iProfile survey.

Contractors with more basic skills such as Microsoft Office Suite, Windows NT, Windows 2000 Professional and Lotus Notes were paid considerably less on average, in some cases less than the £40 per hour average.

So knowing what skills are most in demand (and going out and learning them) can help contractors land their first contract job while maximising earning potential.

Similarly, contractors are compensated at different levels depending on the role they play in an organisation. IT trainers and project coordinators might earn in the range of £30 to £32 per hour, while contractors working as ERP consultants or programme managers are frequently paid in excess of £65 per hour.

Why Location Matters

Pay for contractors can be influenced by the employer's location. In the UK, contractors in London and the East Midlands recorded the highest hourly rates during Q3.07 (£45 per hour), while IT contractors in Wales earned just £22 per hour on average.

In the twelve months ending in Q3.07, four nations/regions showed an annual rise in contractors' rates according to the iProfile survey - London, Scotland, the East Midlands, and the South West

Where Do I Start?

Here are some suggestions that will help contractors beginning a job search to land their first assignment:

  • Network, network, network. Make sure your friends, family, associates and former employers know you're actively seeking contract work. The best contract jobs are often not advertised, so the more people you inform about your job search and availability as a contractor, the more likely that you'll get referred to companies or assignments that will interest you.
  • Know your skills and keep them up to date. The best contractors are those who always know what's going on in their field. They continuously update their skills and knowledge to keep pace with evolving industries. Think of your experience as a "work in progress" that requires constant tweaking to fuel your success as a contractor.
  • Develop a strong CV at iProfile. Your CV on iProfile will often be the first thing a potential employer sees about you. It should be easy-to-read and clearly state your experience, background and strengths. An iProfile is an online CV that uses a standard template adopted by many of the largest UK recruitment companies. Completing a free iProfile is easy; there are no complicated CV templates to deal with and no formatting to worry about. And unlike the free, non-standard CV templates available online, your iProfile uses a format that's preferred by leading UK recruiters.

With these tips in mind, you're on your way to landing your first contract job and starting an exciting new life as a self-employed contractor.

To boost the pace of your job search, create your free iProfile today.