So You Want To Be A Contractor?

Generally there are two reasons that you are considering a contract project management job; inspiration or desperation. Let’s start on the happy side; inspiration. Being a contractor gives you a chance to work on different projects, engage with different companies, meet lots of solid project management professionals, gets lots of experience, learn lots of tools and get paid for overtime (most of the time:-)

I wish I had this amount of foresight to pursue this route. I didn’t. I followed the second path; desperation.

nestSo desperation means that you have been kicked out of the corporate nest. You were laid off. It was a comfortable nest and so this season is incredibly stressful on you. It is a culture change for companies too. Corporations are enveloped in global panic and fear. When hiring managers finally get an ok to proceed with bringing back staff, they may only be hiring contractors to reduce their cash burn-rate risk. Since you are addicted to eating, you want to consider a contract job.

Now I think being a contractor is a great path to success. I wish I would have done it earlier. Don’t get my giddiness wrong. I loved working as a Silicon Valley project manager. But as a contractor, I have had professional opportunities and personal satisfaction that I would never have had in a corporate environment.

Some of you may not be as excited as I am. I understand. I made it across the chasm. I’m feeling very confident about my ability to compete in this economy due to the lessons I’ve learned over the years.

Let’s see if you want to take this same path as a longer term career choice. Take a test.

Rate yourself on a 1-10 on these areas.
Grab a pencil!
1 indicates strong disagreement and 10 indicates strong agreement

  1. Finances: My bank account can handle gaps in my employment.
  2. Personal Relationships: My significant other can handle gaps in my employment.
  3. Emotional Intelligence: I can adapt too many situations and people.
  4. Skill Inventory: I ask for work where I both gain critical skills yet deliver success
  5. Influence: I demonstrate tangible value to the project management community.

0-10: Hum; you need to turn in your project management credentials
11-20: Seek an environment where soft skill and PM training is available
21-30: You consistently deliver high-quality project work.
31-40: You are professionally recognized and in comfortable control of your life
41-50: You need to publish a book; immediately!

In this economy you need to find the fastest path to cash. That may mean taking a contract job while waiting for your next job. But many of you, this is time to rebrand yourself as a contractor and turn up the dial closer to a score of 50 on our Project Management Contractor test. Tomorrow we talk about some key skills for project management contracting and consulting success.

Take this survey now for answers later this week on Project Management Contractor/Consultant Best Practices:
Click Here!

Rosemary Hossenlopp, MBA PMP © 2009 All Rights Reserved


3 thoughts on “So You Want To Be A Contractor?”

  1. I agree with the third reason for contracting and I would like to add that it also allows you to take a three month break now and again. You could travel around South America ah…..

  2. Pawel,

    The premium you used to get as a contract project manager is all but gone now, at least in the US markets that I can see (IT, Financial Services, Business Process Optimization, Audit). I have seen many contractor rates that were so low that you might make more as an employee, after paying for your benefits.

    My main reason for becoming a contractor or starting your own business — FREEDOM. You still have to satisfy your client, so you need to be accountable, but you can decide to fire your clients, too. You have choices as a contractor that you might not have as an employee.

    If anyone is thinking of going on the contractor/independent consultant path, I welcome the chance to talk and share my experiences. It can be wonderful and it can be horrible, but it is more than just a stepping stone to a full-time job. Contact me through my web site.


  3. I’d say there’s a third reason to turn into contract terms. Money. Most of the time being a contractor and doing the same job you’re able to get better remuneration at the end of the day. For a couple of my friends this was the only reason to choose that path. I’m not sure if that looks the same in Silicon Valley, but in Europe for employer it’s much cheaper to pay the same net salary to a contractor than to an employee.

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