Contracting vs full-time: what would work best for you?

by Heat Recruitment

For an active job-seeker, there’s nothing more satisfying than accepting a role that is suited to their skill-level, presents a new challenge and matches their salary expectations. However, as workplace trends shift to reflect modern society, the number of people leaving the security of full-time employment to explore the world of contracting is on the rise.

If you’re in the market for a new job, there’s a good chance you’ve contemplated the world of contracting – flexibility, variety and greater control of income will naturally be factors that entice any talented professional to consider making the leap into self-employment. Of course, it takes more than specialist skills in your specific discipline to succeed as a contractor. What’s more, the decision to move away from full-time employment to freelance work is not without its own unique risks and challenges.

Considering the differences between both options, it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. Like all decisions, there are pros and cons to each avenue:

Earning potential

Contracting is generally considered the most lucrative option of the two; the increased earning potential along with favourable tax rules enabling self-employed workers to take home more net-pay than a full-time employee. On the surface, it’s a no-brainer for skilled professionals looking to boost their salary – however, a closer look into the work of a contractor reveals it isn’t as straightforward as going freelance to make more money.

While the goal is to move from contract to contract with minimal gaps in between, the reality is that most contractors must budget for the time off that will come from the peaks-and-troughs nature of market demand for their skills. Permanent employees, on the other hand, will have to wait for their employer to provide incremental pay-rises. Fortunately for these workers, the ability to forecast finances and rely on a monthly pay-check makes for a fair trade-off.  What’s more, in order to recruit, incentivise and retain top talent, employers will usually offer competitive benefits packages that encourage employees to stay with the company.

Professional development

For ambitious employees, climbing the career ladder within one firm or moving around offers the opportunity to build on their skills and, in turn, enhance their employability and earning potential. Depending on the company they are employed by, training and development resources will enable them to set sail on an on-going learning journey, while opportunities to move laterally, play a role in new projects and collaborate with different departments will open them up to new ways of thinking. Unfortunately, personal growth can be stifled when a company does not invest adequately in its employees.

Contractors by nature have the opportunity to work on a range of different projects: their professional development, just like their salary, depends largely on their own drive and ambition. Should they feel a new challenge is needed, they are not bound to one company and have no formal notice to give: the world is their oyster if they are eager to upskill. Of course, when you’re fully immersed in a project, it’s hard to build in time for training. Often, contractors will spend more time sharpening their existing skills than developing new ones, making it harder to diversify their offering in the long-term.

Work-life balance

As a contractor, your schedule depends solely on your own determination: should you wish to pack your days with projects, it’s up to you to make the efforts necessary in securing contracts. Should you wish to take an hour, day or even a month off, the ball is in your court. For this reason, the life of a contractor typically appeals to people seeking more freedom and flexibility: with the ability to adjust workload according to your schedule, transitioning to self-employment can be perfect for professionals seeking to reclaim control over their work-life balance.

However, becoming fully independent isn’t easy; contractors will find that the more eager they are to grow their income, the more time they will lose either to projects themselves or searching for work. Unless their employer is big on flexibility, full-time employees can also struggle to switch off – however, while you may not have the ability to dictate the volume of work you take on as a permanent member of staff, you usually do have the benefit of leaving your job at the door each day. With a set amount of fixed holiday days, full-time employees will rarely find the lines between work and home blur like that of a contractor.

When it comes to career satisfaction, it’s clear that there are benefits to either option. While it’s easy to assume that contractors trade their security for flexibility and that employees enjoy team spirit but less financial reward, it ultimately depends on the values of the employer and the objectives of the individual. Determining which path is right for you demands careful consideration and can benefit from the professional opinion of a specialist recruiter. Should you find yourself stuck in the decision-making process, the team at Heat are here to help.

by James Gallen