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5 things to watch out for when starting a new IT contract

Starting a new job can be a stressful time for anyone – permies and contractors alike. However, as a contractor, you are expected to turn up get into the role quickly – you will not typically be given the same ‘easing in’ time as a permie.

So, here is a list of typical scenarios you might encounter when starting a new contract – and how best to deal with them.

Contractor Resentment

All existing contractors will have met ‘permies’ who, for a variety of reasons, reckon they do not like contractors. The main reason for this is usually jealousy – they may be jealous of the money you earn, the skills you may have, and the fact that you have taken things into your own hands and set up on your own rather than ticking along in a permanent role.

Just remember that your life is likely to be better as a result of your decision to go contracting – and you are always likely to find some people who have a problem with contractors.

Employee Perks

Don’t expect to enjoy the same ‘perks’ as your permanent counterparts. These perks may include use of gym facilities, and subsidised rates at the staff canteen.

Whilst this may seem to be a little petty in some ways, it’s worth considering the IR35 legislation. If you want your contract to be outside the IR35 rules, you do not want to be given employee benefits as they may indicate that you are behaving as if you are ‘part and parcel’ of the company.

So, don’t worry about paying £2.55 for an overcooked cottage pie rather than £1.25!

The Saviour

Another thing you may encounter, especially if the client hasn’t hired many (or any) contractors before, is that you may be seen as some kind of ‘saviour’. You may be expected to supply genius solutions to all sort of problems, and somehow single-handedly rescue a project from disaster.

In these situations, time will usually calm things down. You will be hired to perform a specific role – make sure you don’t stray to far beyond this brief, although if you have other skills you’re eager to impress your new colleagues with, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Power Issues

Sometimes, you may find that your project manager/client thinks that they have some kind of special power over you. They may enjoy the fact that they have hired you, and can also fire you – far easier than they can the employees in your team. Often, such people have worked for many years for the same company and may resent the fact that you earn more than they do. This ‘power’ is possibly compensation for this financial resentment.

There’s not much you can do about this, aside from keeping on the right side of your manager.

Slow Starting Contracts

For a variety of reasons, you may turn up to your contract and find that you spend the first week without a security pass, a canteen pass, or even a dedicated email address. You might wait a fortnight for internet access, and possibly more for access to some of the systems integral to the work you have been hired to perform.

You might consider using this downtime to:

a) ingratiate yourself with your project manager and other ‘high level’ staff (see 4)
b) explain to the ‘contractor-hater’ why you get paid more than he does because of the risk you take as a contractor (see 1)
c) learn how to flash your canteen pass quickly in order to save pennies on your lunch (see 2),
d) help a new permie colleague with his database design work, despite the fact that you are a web developer (see 3)

Last updated: 16th June 2019