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10+ Years IT Contracting at €300-900/day (Learnings)

Discussion in 'Education, Learning, Books' started by Andy Black, Jan 29, 2016.

  1. Andy Black
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    Andy Black Any colour, as long as it's red. Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    I was an IT contractor for over 10 years, earning €300-600/day (with the occasional €900/day short-term gigs).

    I've had a few AdWords jobs and contracts since 2009 (and am currently still in one long running one).

    In that time, I've learnt how to:
    1. Build relationships with recruitment agents.
    2. Build a network of other contractors.
    3. Get my "name out there".
    4. Craft CVs that get interviews.
    5. Craft cover letters that get the CVs read.
    6. Get recruitment agents to " . just . open . the . damn . email . already . "
    7. Get to the interviews.
    8. Have a great interview.
    9. Negotiate rates and terms.
    10. Get contract extensions (don't just be valuable, show them you're valuable).
    11. Keep up to date with constantly changing technology.
    12. Move from slow-lane models to where I divorce my time from my revenue (still in progress!)
    13. Work out who you’re really working for!
    14. (Lots more...)

    I'm learning to create videos, and have a series in mind that I'll drop in here.

    Hope they help.

    Andy
     
  2. Andy Black
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    Andy Black Any colour, as long as it's red. Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Video 1: Getting Interviews (Your CV's Job)




    Video 2: Breakdown of my CV

     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
  3. Crissco
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    Crissco Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    Good sh*t bro! This is the stuff I like to see.
     
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    ddzc Gold Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    As an IT Consultant myself for several years, I can relate to this. Great video Andy.
     
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  5. ddzc
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    ddzc Gold Contributor FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    I also must add a little something for anyone in our industry. Many business and entrepreneurial principles apply from taking the plunge as a Full Timer and jumping to Contracting. I grew as an individual immensely when I left a cushiony job in order to embark in the contracting route.

    Why?

    Me - When I was a full timer?

    1. Poor pay - Unable to save to pursue anything on the side due to mortgage and bills (Living pay check to pay check)
    2. Zero growth - As a full timer, you typically end up doing robotic tasks on a daily basis. You don't grow mentally, your brain stops chugging, you become slugish and lazy and your technical skills vanish making you a poor asset in the industry.
    3. Comfort - Steady pay check, secure (I was working for a large corporation, very hard to get laid off or fired), benefits - dental, health, massages, eye care, etc), pension plan and rrsp contributions, etc.

    Me - When I became a contractor

    1. Excellent pay - Tax benefits, ability to write off practically everything. I now have savings to pursue side projects, businesses and fast lane potential opportunities and STILL have savings in the events I'm off work in between contracts.
    2. Huge growth - As a contractor, you switch companies and gigs every 3, 6 or 12 mths on average. You need to learn skillsets you never used in the past. You sometimes need to learn new processes. Your brain is moving at all times, your much sharper, energy level increase along with motivation. You also expand on your technical skills allowing you to become a huge asset for future contract gigs.
    3. Zero comfort - This is what entrepreneurship is all about. You need to get out there, you need to hustle, you need to know how to adjust at all times, you need to be on the ball every single day! The same applies with contracting. You need to hustle for new gigs every so often. You need to hustle at each company and learn new skills and technologies in an extremely rapid rate or your booted out the door.

    This is why I chose contracting, the hustle, the ability to learn new things at rapid rates, the ability to adjust to new environments at lightening speeds. Everything I've learnt from contracting, all of the non-technical skills I obtained, has helped me grow in my entrepreneurship life as well. When I was working full time, I was with a company for 6 years. I was lazy, unmotivated and didn't learn a new skill during that entire time. I fell in the slowlane blackhole and it's something I never want to experience in my lifetime ever again.

    I talk to tons of guys in the industry with mountains of debt, earning very little money as a full time employee and they're all looking for an answer, how to get out. I always suggest contracting but they're scared, worried about having no work, worried about not paying the bills, they're afraid and just too comfortable. They're counting down the days for retirement. These are all the same reasons why many people out there are not meant to be entrepreneurs as well. It's just not in them. Getting in to contracting has changed my life immensely, and because of it I'm on to much bigger and better things right now!
     
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  6. DjangoBot
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    DjangoBot New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    Encouraged by @Andy Black and following the “give first if you want to receive” spirit of this forum here are a few thoughts from a recruiter’s perspective. In a nutshell, I am just an everyday normal guy, who happened to go into recruiting 4 years ago and has some experience with IT staffing.

    How to network effectively with recruiters

    Common discussion among IT guys is how unprepared recruiters can be, especially if they don’t have a technical background. How they cannot tell the difference between front-end and back-end developer or don’t know what an automation QA does. Although this might be true in a lot of instances, not all recruiters are the same – we have technically prepared recruiters, sloppy recruiters, bald recruiters, fat recruiters, those who are into it just for the money, recruiters who like to give back to their networks and on and on…

    But recruiters have one advantage that shouldn’t be underestimated: they know the pain points of companies and sometimes can offer you opportunities that are not even advertised on job boards. They know the players on the market and who is on the decline, releasing staff, or experiencing growth, and they know a lot about the remuneration packages across companies.

    Use them to your advantage and best of all, it doesn’t cost you a dime

    Utilize LinkedIn effectively, don’t be complacent. Recruiters receive a lot of connection requests each day. If you have met them before, remind them that straight from your invitation to connect. If you want to build rapport with unknown recruiter, mention something posted by them that you have noticed. Give them a reason to relate to you and why they should care. Although I accept 95% of the connection requests I receive. If it is the common LinkedIn template, I will just check your titles and skills and if they don’t fit in the positions that I am working on, that is where our interaction ends.

    Often developers just send the general invitation and sit and wait without saying anything additional. Please give recruiters some problem to tackle or at least some clue what you want. I guess the reason for this is that people think that we always have open positions for all type of developers, IT business analysts, QA’s etc. But sometimes we simply don’t have an opening which fits in your profile. It will be much easier for both parties, when you have done your homework and let them know that there is specific position you are interested in. In bigger companies with huge in-house recruiting departments, there might be 100 open positions, divided between recruiters who are responsible for only a fraction and know only about the positions that they are personally responsible for.

    Recruiters don’t find jobs for people, but people for open jobs

    Recruiters match people to already open positions, not vice versa. Very rarely a recruiter will do it backwards and will search for a client with an open position, which fits a resume they have received. BUT…if you let them know exactly what you are searching for and you do have the required skill-set to get it, recruiters will usually help you, They can direct you to a resource or friend/colleague in the industry that can help you. Even if nothing happens at the moment, some of us keep records of people interested in specific career path and we usually start with them, once the right job opening comes our way.

    After establishing rapport with the recruiter make sure to maintain that relation. Drop them and e-mail from time to time. Let them know how your job search is going or that you are still available for new opportunities. Help recruiters, help you.
     
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  7. SenGracic
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    SenGracic Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    A friend of mine is an IT guy.. pretty good at what he does but he's not very the sales type of guy. Looking for clients and all that is just not for him but he wants some gigs/contracts.

    I am in sales for over 4 years now ( telecom services ) and I'd be ready to take care of that part so we can partner up to start a business.
    The only problem : I'm not the IT type at all...

    What's the best way to learn enough about IT to be able to sell it
     
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  8. Almantas
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    Almantas Nothing to Lose Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    It depends how much that "enough" is for you. Also, IT is a very broad field, you should be more specific. Anyways, there are plenty of online tools that will help you learn anything you want!

    Good luck!
     
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  9. Andy Black
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    Andy Black Any colour, as long as it's red. Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    @Jon L ?

    I know you're a developer and business owner, and you have outsourced your sales to an external salesperson.

    How much IT knowledge has that salesperson got?

    Do they just focus on getting new business, or do they help you manage the projects/accounts?
     
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  10. Andy Black
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    Yes, I've seen that before too.

    I was sat opposite another Oracle DBA. I asked him why he didn't go contracting and he said he would do in a couple of years - when he "knew more".

    I then asked him "If we swapped seats would you be able to do all the work I'm doing?". He thought about it and then realised he already knew enough.

    Once you get to a certain level, your learning is on the job - you hit the books or Google and work out how to solve the problem in front of you.

    He went contracting within a few months and LOVED it. He described it as "a breath of fresh air!"

    No more BS of staying late to get a project delivered in the hope it will be recognised in your annual appraisal. No more worrying that if he didn't stay late then he's been ear-marked and it'll come up in his annual appraisal. (No more annual appraisals period!) Instead, he invoices them for the extra hours and gets paid for it, or he tells them the costs and they decide they don't need him to stay late.

    If the project is behind schedule for dumb-ass reasons further up the pipeline, then he gets more *paid* hours to ensure it's delivered.

    "Stupid user tax" we contractors call it: Client says they're going down path X. As the hired expert you tell them why path X isn't a good idea, and recommend path Y. You're over-ruled, but you don't care. You know they'll end up going down path Y in a few months time after they learn that path X isn't a good idea (they'll never remember you told them - but you don't care).

    The reason you don't care? "Stupid user tax." You've just earned another £24k for those 3 months.

    You want another 1 hour meeting to discuss how to have meetings about all the projects in the pipeline? Sure... that's another €80 in my bank.

    I know one contractor who had a little timer attached to his screen. When he was doing something completely pointless, he'd just look at the timer and know he's earned another €10 in those 10 minutes.



    Consider that you already know enough technically to be a contractor, and the reason you haven't jumped already is fear.

    Remember that there's only one thing we need to be in business, and it's usually not more knowledge. (This post here.)
     
  11. Jon L
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    Jon L Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    yeah this is a hard one. speaking from my own experience only, here are my thoughts, in no special order

    1) You have to have some sort of technical ability in order to be able to talk the language as a sales rep ... if you can set up a computer, you can learn what you need to know on the job.

    2) being able to program/do the actual work isn't needed. (though my sales rep could take over most of my job if he wanted/needed to)

    3) The clients care almost entirely about the relationship. Will you stand by them and support them and are you easy/fun to work with. They assume that you can do the work as long as you use some of the right words.

    4) understanding of how business works is important (p&l, cash flow, how various departments work (or don't work) together)

    5) building relationships is critical ... start with focusing on their needs, and keep focusing on them, and then talk about how you can help them

    6) The clients only care that the work is done according to their needs, not who does it.

    *****6b) If the tech guy in question is the only tech guy in the company, the sales rep won't be able to make enough commission/pay for his salary to make it worth while to keep that sales person employed. The tech guy will need to hire additional people to do the work, and then manage them. This sets up the company as a much more valuable resource for the customer...the skill set is more diverse, and you're able to take care of problems more quickly.*****

    7) my main sales rep is pretty technical, though he's a salesman first, and a tech guy second. I've also brought in an additional salesperson. She is also very adept at talking tech on a high level.

    8) my sales rep is very involved in the deal after the initial sale. We're always looking at ways to upsell, but we don't think of it as that...we look at what additional needs the customer has, and then we pitch how we could help them with those needs.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2016
  12. Andy Black
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    Andy Black Any colour, as long as it's red. Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    What a great response/brain-dump. Thanks @Jon L. Rep+


    It all resonates, in particular these points:


    I get a lot of work through word-of-mouth. I'm recommended and we have a chat. I do the sales at the moment, and there's things I say that give a business confidence.

    Mostly they want to know I'll be delivering what they *really* want, which is more sales and not a pretty website or theoretically well-built AdWords campaign. For IT techies, that means delivering what the customer wants, and on time, and not getting side-tracked with things IT techies think is theoretically good.


    ^^^ THIS!!!

    Focus on what they want, and WHY, before opening your mouth trying to work out HOW you can help them.

    It makes sense, but is so simple to screw up (check out this video where I do a post-mortem of how I screwed up a sales pitch).



    Nice. I'm moving down this path and offering more services by subcontracting in more skills. We're definitely able to take care of problems more quickly.


    ^^^ THIS TOO!!!!!

    R + R = Profit (Repeat Business + Referrals).

    When you've acquired a new client and they now trust you, the easiest sale is to them, not someone who doesn't know you.



    Great insights Jon. Thanks!
     
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  13. Andy Black
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    Andy Black Any colour, as long as it's red. Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    (Originally posted here.)

    When I was an IT Contractor I'd bring along a portfolio of work (code, documentation, reports) and discuss them in interviews.

    I'd walk out having left a few copies with them.

    No other IT Contractor thinks to do it, so I stand out.

    I give them "proof" they can use when speaking to the hiring manager.

    I'm also giving them a get-out-of-jail card for when they hire me. They're worried they will mis-hire and look bad. They can imagine showing my portfolio to whoever's grilling them and saying "he looked good... who wouldn't have hired him?".

    I'm giving them the paper to cover their arse. :)




    What do YOU leave behind after you've spoken to a prospect?
     
  14. Jon L
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    Jon L Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Great points. I'm curious what actual things you say that gives your customers confidence in your ability? Here are some of my thoughts:

    1) this is where it really helps to have a varied business background - makes you able to relate to a lot of different business issues.

    2) I'll mention a few semi-technical things about business, just off the cuff. One time, a client was talking about capitalizing computer hardware expenses. I'll ask, 'just curious what dollar amount you use to decide if something is a capital expense or not.' (doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the conversation, but is designed to let them know I know business). Or, in a different context, I'll ask if they capitalize the cost of development of a product. Or whatever...the fact that I have a decent understanding of accounting really helps here ... it makes me sound like the advice I will give will be well thought through.

    3) I always make it a point to ask why they're not using off-the-shelf software (we write custom business software). I'll also suggest ways they can avoid paying us huge sums of money to write complex software for them. I do this for a few reasons: 1) I don't want to feel scummy. 2) I genuinely want to help them. 3) I want them to know that when I recommend something, it will be what I think their best solution is. Usually, if they're a qualified prospect, that solution has to do with custom software. 4) I hate complex stuff that serves no purpose. Even if I'm getting paid for it, I'd rather not do it. I feel like I'm wasting my time.

    4) I'll mention a previous job or customer or whatever that is similar to their business, or their current business problem.

    5) I'll ask a lot of questions about their process and say that the better I get to know their business, the better I will be able to model it in the software we're going to write. I make it a point to ask questions that sound like I know about business, and their business type in particular

    6) any time they ask about the technical part of writing software, I'll answer in broad, business-related terminology. If they as about specific technologies and want me to commit to pricing, technology, or whatever, especially in the first conversation, I'll say, 'it sounds like you probably need xyz technology because of abc, but I need to spend some time thinking about this before I give you an answer.' (and then I go talk about it with my lead developer) (I usually have a pretty good idea of how I want to structure a particular program, but getting feedback from someone else is invaluable).
     
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  15. Andy Black
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    Andy Black Any colour, as long as it's red. Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    I'll answer this in more detail my progress thread on the inside, since it's AdWords/PPC related rather than IT Contracting. Haha... don't want to derail my own thread!

    Suffice to say, I'm typically speaking to business owners, and I am also a business owner. I make sure they understand that it's about generating more leads, sales, revenue and profit - not about generating more impressions, clicks, brand awareness, engagement, or other cr@p other agencies might talk about.



    For budding IT contractors out there, when I had interviews for a new IT contract I'd obviously answer their technical questions, but I'd also talk a lot about documentation, change management, problem and incident management, repeatability, automation, etc. These things are music to an IT Managers ears.

    If you're coming in as a Production Oracle DBA looking after mission critical systems, they want to hear that you're a "safe pair of hands".
     
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    This is great content here. Thanks Andy and others.

    I'm good at what I do and can become a Contractor. I'd prefer another 12 months experience before making the jump because of the work I know I have ahead of me on a current project will serve me well. However, I don't want to be saying the same things further down the line and still haven't made the jump. Being a contractor also gives me more freedom to work on side hustles.

    Did it take much capital to fund your move into the contracting World? I've very little debt but also very little savings.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  17. Andy Black
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    Andy Black Any colour, as long as it's red. Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    You might want to read this story:

    When I went contracting I was single with no dependents, and had run up debt on credit cards doing stupid things like going on holidays and partying hard.

    Within two months of contracting I'd paid the credit cards off and was saving for a deposit on my first investment property.

    Are you sure you really *need* to wait another 12 months, or is that just a story you're telling yourself?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2018
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  18. brianF16
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    Thanks for the link. I had already read it and it did cross my mind more than a few times that maybe I should just disregard what I can learn over the next 12 months and leap into contracting because I'll gain lots of valuable knowledge in that route too. That and yeah, being honest, part of this is an excuse.

    Did you start contracting a bit on the side before making a full break or make the clean break and force yourself go make it happen - e.g. Earn enough to survive each month for x no of consecutive months and therefore reduce the risk of failing or just say f*** it and push yourself?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  19. Andy Black
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    Andy Black Any colour, as long as it's red. Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    It was a particular type of IT Contracting where you're on a daily rate onsite for 5 days a week.

    It might start being a 3 month contract with a view to extensions.

    So when I got offered one I handed in my notice and jumped straight in.

    It was like walking from one job to another, but paid 3x as much, and with only a promise of 3 months work. No sick pay, training, pension, or annual appraisals. I figured I could manage without those.

    I did it for 10+ years without ever being "between contracts".
     
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  20. townhaus
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    townhaus Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    I'm just curious, how often do you send out CV's and apply to new jobs?

    Is this something that you do, each month, say, for new contracts? What would you say is the genral success rate of applications?

    I decided "screw this" during uni, after a few rejections and have never applied for a job ever since (only partnership type arrangements which i've gotten through informal cold emails).

    I've never spoken to a recruiter, and don't think i want to.

    The whole CV/resume, interviews & assessment centres process annoyed me. Plus, there arn't a lot of companies/roles that are relevant to my ambitions.

    Sometimes i've considered if i'd have been better off having a job (i would have been likely to built up saving, some career history or perhaps have a network which could have led to potential investors).

    Maybe i'm being lazy, or have a bad attitude towards applying for jobs.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
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  21. brianF16
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    Yeah, I trust you're right - you managed without those.

    Contracting is similar in my area.

    Thanks for all the useful advice. I'm putting it to work.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  22. Andy Black
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    Andy Black Any colour, as long as it's red. Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    I haven't had a CV for years. I get asked for my business card now-a-days (and I haven't got one of those either!).

    When I was an IT Contractor (2000 to 2009 ish) I only bothered sending my CV out when a contract was coming to an end. You have to get your CV to the top of the pile for the next round of contract positions that open up, because you'll have missed the current round (see video in second post).
     
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  23. townhaus
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    townhaus Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane Speedway Pass

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    What is the difference between consulting and contracting?
     
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  24. Andy Black
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    Andy Black Any colour, as long as it's red. Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    OK, here's my own definitions:


    An Employee is on the payroll. You've typically got sick pay, a pension, annual appraisals, and are on an annual salary paid monthly or weekly. You also go on training courses that are paid for, and you're still paid when you go on them.



    A Contractor does pretty much the same work as an Employee. (I'm talking IT contractors rather than tradesmen contractors.) You're part of the team and part of the head count. Except you're paid when you send in an invoice, and you're paid into your limited company.

    You're responsible for paying your VAT and PAYE taxes (tax for drawing a salary), and have to do your accounts and get them submitted every year.

    If you're sick or go on holiday then you can't invoice for those days - so you're not paid.

    If you go on a training course then you pay for the course yourself, and you don't get paid for the days you take off to do the course. I paid €2k to go on a one week Project Management course, and lost 5 days earnings at the same time. So the course effectively cost me €5k.

    As a contractor you're not quite a business owner - since you typically have just one client, and (more importantly) you're paid per hour or per day worked.

    It's WAAAAY better than being an employee though, as your mindset is much more like that of a business owner. There's no safety net now, and you're going to live and die by your CV and ability to land contracts.



    A Consultant is a specialist brought in to deliver particular results. They may be an employee in a company, or they may be a contractor.




    While we're on the topic, here's a sliding scale that I have mentally burned into my head:
    • Student > Intern > Employee > Contractor > Freelancer > Agency > Productised Service > Platform
    (Listen to www.tropicalmba.com/services or www.tropicalmba.com/consulting for where I got this from.)


    I moved from Employee to (IT) Contractor back in 2000. There's a whole industry for IT Contractors in the UK and Ireland, and probably in many other countries too.

    I took a couple of jobs around 2009-2011 ish, to reskill into AdWords.

    I then went back contracting as an AdWords guy - which meant sitting on client sites from 9-5 or 9-3, but getting paid into my business. AdWords contracts don't exist the same way IT contracts do, but I got businesses to take me on as a contractor when I refused to be hired by them as an employee.

    In 2014 I managed to have 3 of these contracts on the go at once. I thought it would shield me from the sudden loss of one contract. It didn't - all three "popped" in the same week back in Sep-2014.

    Cue me moving to be a Freelancer in Sep-2014 - I have clients, but I don't go onsite, and I can work on multiple ones in any given day. They don't know or care.

    Now I'm an Agency because I've a small and growing team, and I'm starting to focus on specific industries (aka providing a "productised service" - a term I hate btw), with an eye to creating a platform.


    You may want to listen to the recent chat between myself and @SinisterLex here:
     
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  25. 623baller
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    623baller New Contributor

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    i've been thinking about going the contracting route but kinda killed that idea since it's still trading time for money.

    interested in your thought of how you plan on turning divorcing time from your revenue, specifically the below, thanks!

    "Student > Intern > Employee > Contractor > Freelancer > Agency > Productised Service > Platform"
     
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