Contract or permanent: 5 reasons not to believe the hype

Don’t believe the hype!

The real public enemies are those recruitment agencies who suggest to web developers that the benefits of short-term, project-based work far outweigh what permanent roles can ever offer.

So, before you flip that weighted coin let’s show you what sits on the other side of it.

Coin Flip

Let’s consider exactly what a permanent role offers you that contract work never can.

Is contracting for web developers a Holy Grail or a white elephant?

Contracting is often seen as the holy grail of web development work – a veritable goldmine of choice, excitement, varied roles, attractive remuneration and glory.

Over on the other side of the coin permanent roles are depicted as placing you in a rut rather than helping you to drive your career forward.

Yet, all that glitters is not gold. Many of the aspects of contract work that are praised and bowed down before simply do not stack up.

Contracting is not the Holy Grail.

In fact, in many respects, it is more like the golden calf, a false idol we prostrate ourselves before.

And, if this seems a little harsh, let’s just say that it can be a white elephant that costs those who accept it more than it actually offers back.


Here are five reasons not to believe contracting’s hype

1. It pays to go direct

In a recent blog we revealed just how hidden many permanent roles are. They are not advertised and they never cross the desk of a recruitment consultant.

It is estimated, by the government not by us, that such roles constitute about 60% of the market. These positions are filled by networking opportunities, word of mouth, social media posting and speculative applications.

(For what it’s worth we feel this woefully underestimates he situation in ‘creative’ industries.)

Recruitment for contracts, however, is often on a tight leash, and may be handed over to an agency. But, don’t believe that what you see on their books is the whole story: it’s just a short introduction.

But here’s the real reason it pays to go direct:

For any position using the services of recruiters there is a significant hiring cost, that is often ongoing. For the right talent approaching them directly every employer I can think of would gladly pass this cost over in the form of take home salary.

And that’s why it can pay to go direct.

2. Don’t be fooled by headline salary figures

How many times have you heard this:

“The earning potential of contract work can be double the wage of permanent staff – take a look at these weekly rates!”

Let’s stop looking at the headline rates and read the full story that lies beneath.

Which permanent roles are we talking about?

There are many permanent roles, particularly as you progress your career, that are equivalent to a contractor’s rates.

A salary is half the story

Pension schemes, private health care, car allowances, relocation funds, leisure benefits (such as gyms) and professional training and development investment are all bonuses that are often freely available to permanent staff only.

(If you have a head for figures there is an excellent analysis of what a contractor’s salary really equates to here).

Famine and feast

These are the cycles that a contractor must face regularly. The main reason that headline figure is a myth is simply because no contractor is always in a role.

It takes guts to achieve the glory of a contractor – and this is usually in the form of a long, hard slog to maintain a steady workflow.

And should the economy crash… many stable doors will close and the workhorse will have already bolted.

3. The myth of a varied workload

This is another one that is regularly wheeled out.

Contractors are their own ‘boss’ (but we’ve seen they are often at the mercy of the job climate)…

… And they can gain new skills (but they receive no training)…

By working on an exciting range of varied projects.

Firstly, this is a false opposition

Our web development agency continually offers a range of projects that stretch, challenge and create opportunities to learn new skills for our team.

Not every now and again: all the time.

And as we gain new skills we gain new clients in these areas to help us hone and perfect them.

Secondly, it just doesn’t bear real scrutiny

So you apply for a role in an area you have little knowledge or skills of. It’s a contract role – they want you to hit the ground running. They, of course, hire you immediately.

And then you wake up!

4. Planning a break

As a contractor you will essentially have to plan your holidays around times when you are not working – and you won’t be paid for them either.

Even unplanned breaks have their downside – sick pay becomes a thing of the past.

(Make sure you factor these into your headline salary considerations.)

5. The benefit of being there

In my experience there is more scope for quickly moving up the career ladder when you are committed to a business as a permanent employee.

Yet, so often you will hear talk of how contractors gain new skills that help them boost their career and land them a dream permanent role.

Contractors, actually, tend to stay as contractors. It’s a lifestyle choice.

What’s more it is a choice that involves forsaking the pleasures of working with an established team who you can bounce ideas off and work together towards shared goals. Whilst contractors do become part of a team it is for a short time and working on a specific project only.

For me, it can feel a bit like wearing blinkers: you only ever get a bit of the fun, a slither of training and a small part of the bigger picture.

The security of being part of a team in an organisation is far from static. Our agency constantly changes as our clients and their needs shift.

What a permanent role as part of a team does do, however, is shelter you from that insecurity of not knowing.

We find the work to challenge our staff. They do not have to challenge themselves to find work.

And, it is in these environments that talent can flourish and grow.

Looking to join a team?

If you are looking to join a team of talented developers you will not find our positions in your specialist recruitment agency’s window.

We reward initiative when we recruit – and we encourage it when we have hired.

That’s why we always get (and keep) the best talent.

Drop me a line if you’re interested.

Get in touch!