Contract Nation

You may be hearing a lot of grim speculation about the job market right now: that hiring will not pick up until late 2012; that you need to be employed to get a new job; that salaries are not going back to pre-recession levels; or that permanent jobs are permanently gone. While there is no absolute certainty that any of this is true, I was told by recruiters back in 2006 that contracting would be the new work style. This seems to be true. I’ve had more luck getting contract work than a full-time, in-house position as a writer.

Contracting is not necessarily a bad idea if your skill sets are in demand and you are willing to set up your own business and work space. The benefits for me have been that I do not need a car or money for car expenses; I can work from home; I can set my own hours; and I can choose which projects to take on. Marketing your skills can be the biggest downside of contracting; however, if you possess good writing skills, for example, your work does the marketing for you. Many contract recruiting agencies or online freelancing companies will also give you the option to buy health insurance. You just have to ensure that you work the minimum number of hours to keep eligibility for health insurance.

Getting paid on time can be another concern. However, if you work through a recruiter, the recruiting agency, rather than the employer, pays you. This may promote on-time, correct payments. As is true for any type of contract, do not sign an employment contract until you understand everything required of you. You may find that you have signed away your rights to arbitration or that you have signed a non-compete clause without realizing it. A non-compete clause may specify that you cannot work for the company’s competitor or within a certain industry for a specified period of time after leaving contract employment. A non-compete clause is illegal in CA and may be illegal in your state. Find out before you sign one.

Should you try contracting? How flexible are you willing to be? Contracting is not that difficult to set up. I started a contract writing business with a laptop. That’s it. You can test the waters by signing up for one contract while you look for something more permanent. It keeps you employed and helps you create a body of work that you can show to potential employers. You may just decide after that first contract that you like the freedom of contracting and want to continue with it.