Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Independent Contracting

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to independent contracting.

Breaking the Stigma of Independent Contracting and the Gig Economy

The “Gig Economy” is a prevalent buzzword and drastically grew in popularity as services like Uber became mainstream, but IT Contractors know it is nothing new.

While industry experts, economists and business experts frequently laud the trend, speaking of the benefits it brings to companies, economies and individuals, there continues to be a stigma to being an independent contractor or gigger. Some professionals are hesitant to accept a temporary or contract job, feeling that it’s a mere sign they’re unable to find full-time work and that this is a last resort. They believe it will lead to a dead-end job. It is also common to hear critics claim that participants in the gig economy are not there by choice and, in fact, are being exploited by greedy employers and staffing agencies.

Research proves that most contract professionals are in their positions by choice and are definitely succeeding in their careers. A 2016 McKinsey & Company study found that 70% of gig workers are participating in the gig economy because they want to. A little more than half of them are casual earners, who also have other full-time jobs, where others are free agents who are using it as their primary income.

Breaking the Stigma of Independent Contracting and the Gig Economy

The study found that those 70% are also experiencing strong job satisfaction. The MBO Partners State of Independence in America 2019 further backed the notion that contractors enjoy their career choice, stating that more than half of independent workers feel more financially secure than in their traditional jobs, and 70% plan to continue their current path.

In a world with so much criticism and stigma, why do IT professionals choose to be independent contractors and what makes those 70% never want to turn back?

  1. There are Plenty of Job Opportunities, Especially in IT. A combination of fast-paced technology projects that require specializations, a growing IT skills gap around the world, plus a desire to cut costs and headaches with fewer full-time employers are all leading organizations to raise the amount of IT contractors they use.
  2. The Flexibility is Insane. The freedom and flexibility that come with contracting is nothing that can be experienced as a full-time employee. There are some restrictions based on client needs, but overall, IT contractors get to choose where they work, when they work, and what kind of projects they take on.
  3. It’s a Break from the “9 to 5”. This goes beyond flexibility. For some people, working in that same environment all day every day is long, stale and depressing. Independent contractors can break things up, deciding to work for another client on certain days. Plus, they can eliminate awkward employer-mandated team-building workshops.
  4. Their Entrepreneur Spirit Can Shine. Some individuals are regular entrepreneurs. They want to oversee their own business, take on their own marketing and grow into something bigger. Independent contracting is the perfect steppingstone to start that journey.

Independent contracting, the gig economy and temp work (whatever you want to call it) is not for everyone. As noted earlier, 30% of people are stuck there and would prefer a full-time job. Being independent comes with stress and uncertainty. A permanent position is also the ideal place to build experience and skills that allow you to be a specialized contractor.

If you’re considering becoming an independent contractor but are hesitating, what’s stopping you? If you’re already there, would you ever go back? If you have gone back, why did you? We’d love to learn where you are in your journey and help you through your hesitations.

The TRUTH About Remote Work (from a Programmer)

In an age where everything can be delivered to your doorstep or done at more, more and more companies are allowing workers to work remotely. The dream, right? Maybe not.

In this video by programmer Andy Sterkowitz, which he recorded while working remotely in Playa Del Carmen, he explains the obvious benefits but as well the challenges that come from working remotely.

Impostor Syndrome is Common among IT Professionals. Here’s How You Can Overcome It.

Impostor Syndrome is Common among IT Professionals. Here's How You Can Overcome It.

Impostor Syndrome has been studied by workplace psychologists for over 40 years, dating back to 1978. It is a feeling of phoniness held by professionals in higher positions who believe they are not intelligent, capable or creative enough, despite the fact they earned their title based on merit. In a 2011 study published by the International Journal of Behavioural Science, it was estimated that 70% of people experience imposture syndrome at some point of their life. And, although originally thought to be something unique to women, more studies prove that it is common for everyone (although still more prevalent among females).

IT professionals are not immune to Impostor Syndrome. In an informal study by Blind last year, it was discovered that 58% of people with a technology-focused career suffer from it. Furthermore, in the 2018 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, nearly 40% of new IT professionals said they felt as though they were not as good at programming as most of their peers. As developers earned years of experience, these rates did drop; however, even 10% of developers with 20 years of experience — 20 years coding! — still felt as though they had inferior skills.

How Can IT Contractors Overcome Impostor Syndrome?

There are various reasons you may experience Impostor Syndrome at some point in your career. There are external factors, including high competition for jobs or overly competitive work environments, but it is mostly internal matters that can be solved with some self-awareness. Once you understand and overcome your own shortcomings contributing to your Impostor Syndrome, the rest gets easier with time. Consider some of these steps:

  • Acknowledge It. Like anything, you can’t improve until you acknowledge that you’re suffering from Impostor Syndrome and have taken the time to understand why. We often experience it due to perfectionism, relying on external validation, expecting to learn too quickly, or refusing to ask for help.
  • Accept That You’re Not Perfect at Everything. Especially in the technology industry, there are so many areas to specialize and there is no chance you can be perfect at all of it. If you consider yourself a generalist with a big picture, then you will lack specific knowledge about technologies. Vice-versa, if you have a niche skill, then you will not be proficient in other areas.
  • Know What You Don’t Know. Further to the previous point, knowing what you do not know is the first step to being more comfortable with your situation and improving yourself. Some items you do not need to know… it’s not your job. For the other skills, invest in learning and ask questions to improve.
  • Ask for Help. Find a mentor who has been in your shoes before. You will quickly learn that most people felt they did not belong in their position originally and you will learn how they overcame it. One word of caution, although vulnerability is often praised, opening too much to subordinates about this could be harmful to your position.
  • Remember Why You Are Where You Are. Assuming you did not completely lie on your resume, your client selected you for the gig because of your past experiences and accomplishments. Be proud of those, brag about them a bit, and use what you learned in the past to grow.
  • Stop Comparing Yourself to Others. Regardless of how much Arrogant Annie or Pretentious Pete think they know… they do not know everything either. Even if Suck-Up Sally is more accomplished and smarter than you, please refer to the previous point. You are not in your position by mistake.

If you’re not satisfied or inspired by the information in this post, have a read through this Huffington Post article written by Lily Chen, a female software engineer who overcame Impostor Syndrome. Whatever you do, embrace the challenges and don’t let this common demon stop you from excelling in your technology career.

Quick Poll Results: How do independent contractors handle health insurance?

Last month’s contractor quick poll tackled a topic that many independent contractors don’t like to think about — health insurance. There are a number of considerations when making the decision and plenty of research you could do on the topic, first about the type of insurance you’ll use and then on a specific supplier. While we do not have any recommendations on the best path or supplier for you, we do now have a bit more insight into what others are doing.

The results below show what our respondents do for health insurance and provides some insight if you’re currently evaluating your choices. Interestingly enough, the majority of respondents either get coverage through a spouses program or don’t have any medical coverage at all.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and we’ll find you the answer or a resource that can help you.

How do you get medical coverage as an independent contractor?

You Should Never Just Up and Leave a Client, But Sometimes Life Happens

When you sign a contract, you make a commitment. A commitment to the client that you will perform specific work and a promise that you will be available to do that work for an agreed upon period of time. Both your client and your recruiter are trusting that you will uphold that contract in the same way that you are depending on them to deliver on their end of the deal.

As with everything in life, though, there are sometimes extenuating circumstances. On the client’s side, funding gets cut or for other reasons completely beyond their control, they are no longer able to continue working with you. On your end, perhaps you get sick or there is a family issue, and you are forced to end the contract before the scheduled end date.

In all cases, the party leaving the contract needs to do so properly in order to preserve the relationships. This video has some tips on how an independent contractor can help soften the blow if they need to leave their assignment suddenly.

The Harmful Impacts of IT Downtime

The infographic below from ers IT Solutions confirms something all technology contractors already know — IT downtime can be an expensive disaster for clients. As you scroll down the page, you may be shocked at just what kind of impact companies experience, why these downtimes happen and even how frequently.

Truly understanding this infographic and having empathy for a client during these times might be a game-changer for your reputation and your career. A couple years ago, we shared a post with some tips on leading your client through a technology crisis. It reminds us that even when the cause had nothing to do with your work, clients will remember the IT professional who can react properly and help them through a disastrous time.

The Harmful Impacts of IT Downtime

Ensure You’re Working on a Secure Device… But Don’t Spend Time Securing It

The following guest post was provided by NPC

IT and professional contractors are the definitive mobile professional.  Moving between jobs that can be anywhere from a few days to a few years, mobility, adaptability and professionalism are essential to their success. They’ve been mastering the “gig economy” long before it was topical. Many contractors make exceptional money, better sometimes than their permanent-staff counterparts. The difference between the winners and losers may not be the luck of the draw on the positions they land, but how they organize and present themselves. Running an efficient and secure one-person office is critical to being able to focus on the work opportunity, and to maximize revenue generating hours.

But as solo entrepreneurs, how a contractor spends their time doing just that is important.  Like it is for any professional, time is money. It’s reasonably certain that someone who owns a car dealership no longer changes their own oil. Smart producers look carefully at their operational responsibilities and how they spend their time. They watch for opportunities to offload a task to someone that can do it faster-better-cheaper. Even though it may be a task they know how to do themselves, once the value of their skills overtakes the value of the task, they offload it.

As-a-Service models are related to and fast becoming as ubiquitous as Cloud Computing. They are great opportunities for professionals of all types to offload some of the time-consuming and low value work that is not only a bit of pain to keep up with, but takes away from either their revenue producing work, or, more importantly, precious personal and family time.

An example of this is NPC DataGuard’s secure managed computer offering. For a single monthly fee NPC will provide a professional with a top-of-line laptop, desktop or hybrid tablet, that is already sourced, configured, and secured with industry leading backup and security tools.  Giving the responsibility to someone else to provide a computer that is built, managed and monitored, always in warranty, with single-point-of-contact 24/7 support, can be a big time saver for the Contractor.

For those jobs that require the contractor to “BYOD”, being secure and protecting their business interests, and that of their clients, is essential. The level of security that can be achieved in these types of specialized models is exceptional. Fully encrypted and biometric access devices will impress those clients that require you to work on a secure device. As well, as an example, NPC DataGuard’s Pro product comes with $5M in privacy breach remediation insurance if an NPC ever failed to protect critical personal information you may work on for your client.

The impact on a contractor from a lost, stolen or compromised device while in a contract can be devastating.  What is your plan today for such an event? What’s your personal Business Continuity Plan?  A secure managed computer includes a full back-up completed each day into a secure data centre.  A lost, stolen or damaged device can be replaced with data restored, saving you countless hours doing it yourself and getting you back to work.

“As-a-Service” models offer products and services to ensure the contractor does not waste time on tasks that pay him or her less than what they can make, as well as levels of  technology performance that even an IT professional might find hard to achieve on their own.

Spending a lot of time buying, configuring and securing your own computer can now be a thing of the past. Key to driving top revenue is showing up professionally with military-grade security on a slick new computer and being able to focus on the opportunity at hand.

This guest post was submitted by our friends at NPC. Visit this page to learn more and to get a special offer for all of our readers.

How to Organize Your Business Accounting

Everybody organizes themselves differently based on how their mind works, their own routines and what will ensure their productivity is maximized. For IT contractors, those skills come in handy in a number of places — project work, job applications, past projects and reference information, and the dreadful accounting.

Many people we speak with admit that organizing accounting is not a strength compared to their other skills that make them in high-demand with clients. Very often, that’s only because they are not sure where to start. If that sounds like the situation you find yourself in, and especially if you’re a visual kind of person, then we strongly recommend watching this video by Alicia Butler Pierre. She is a small business owner who has perfected her own organization of accounting records. While you may not be able to copy her exactly, you are sure to get a few great tips from her.

What to Do When Your Contract is Suddenly Terminated

Nearly every IT contractor experiences it at least once in their career. You’re working hard on a contract for your client and suddenly you get the phone call from your recruitment agency — your contract is being terminated. You may have expected it, but other times, it comes out of the blue and knocks you down. Shocked as you are and with all of the emotions flooding, how you react speaks volumes about your character and will impact your future contract opportunities.

Right Away

What to Do When Your Contract is Suddenly Terminated

A sudden contract end can be a slap in the face. When you’re caught off guard, a mix of questions and emotions run through you and it’s okay to be angry. Still, as an independent contractor, you also need to remain professional and keep that solid reputation you’ve been building all of these years.

Fighting the news rarely helps, so instead, work with the client and recruiter to pass off knowledge and complete the necessary steps so you can all move on. During the process, ask questions to understand the situation and circumstances of the early contract end. Are there business factors beyond the control of your immediate manager and recruiter? Was the entire project cancelled? Or were there issues with the client team? These answers will help you learn for future situations and they will also help you explain the abrupt end to future recruiters and clients.

As things settle down, take a bit of time to reflect. This is a great time to evaluate your goals and skills to decide what kind of contract you’d like to work on next. Do you need to brush up on any skills? Is there an industry or project you should go after? Are you still happy with your recruiter? Is contracting still for you or is it time to switch back into a permanent position?

While it’s not necessary to jump right back into the search for a new contract immediately, laying the groundwork recommended. Update your status on LinkedIn and, if it’s not already done, switch your job search preferences on LinkedIn to “Open to new opportunities.” Update your resume as quickly as possible while your project is still fresh in your mind (eliminate any emotions) and upload it to your favourite job boards. These steps will have recruiters looking for you before you even know of the contracts available. Finally, get in touch with a manager or fellow contractor with whom you are still on good terms to ask if they will act as a reference.

Starting the Contract Search

Before starting the in-depth search for your next contract, be prepared to talk about the sudden contract end. If a recruiter or client asks about the shorter contract or how it ended, have a professional, objective response prepared. That means having the humility to own up to any short comings and having the professionalism to refrain from any negativity. A bad attitude can burn bridges and make you appear to be a risky contractor.

Everything else is business as usual! Start networking, applying to opportunities, meeting with recruiters and doing what you do best to find that next gig!

Be Prepared

If you were caught off guard this time, don’t let it happen again. The pure nature of independent contracting means that sometimes mandates end without notice. Always be networking with industry professionals and recruiters to know what’s happening in the market. Take interviews, learn about opportunities and be aware of competitive rates, even if you’re on what you think will be a long-term contract. It’s also prudent to plan financially and ensure there is a reserve of cash available if you suddenly find yourself without income.

From Side Hustle to Full-Time Contractor

From Side Hustle to Full-Time ContractorThe term “side hustle” refers to “… any type of employment undertaken in addition to one’s full time job. A side hustle is generally freelance or piecework in nature, providing a supplemental income.” What the definition doesn’t tell you is how to find, create, and maintain a side hustle. This can be particularly advantageous for a full-time technology employee considering jumping into the Gig Economy as an IT contractor.  The internet and social media has hundreds of suggestions about this type of transition, but here are some general ideas to consider:

Picking the focus of your side hustle:

When it comes to picking a side hustle, a lot of people instantly search or try ones that will earn them the most money off the bat. However, this may not be the smartest move, as our friends at buffer mention in their article. To sum up arguably one of their most important facts, a successful side hustle brings your creativity or passion to life. Picking a side hustle based on these two factors has dual benefits as it increases your productivity at work and allows the other half of your brain to work on a daily/consistent basis. If you’re unsure about what the most creative/passionate fit for your side hustle might be, do not be afraid to try several small projects (consistently) to test them out. When looking at becoming a full-time IT contractor the same theory applies, but the application differs a little bit. If there is one, or two, IT roles that you prefer doing above everything else, get the certifications to ensure that you can apply for as many positions as possible, and begin taking on small side hustles that allow you to gain experience in that particular role.

End-Goals:

When picking the end goal of your side hustle it is important to remember that this is a 100% FLUID step. You could begin a side hustle and realize you want it to stay that way, or you could embark on this journey with the intent of turning it into a full-time occupation. Regardless of what you choose, you must start small. Pick one or two small contracts/projects that you can fit into your schedule easily and work your way up from there. As time goes on and you do more projects, you could very well feel that becoming a full-time IT contractor is what you want to do. If that is the case, start to slowly take on more projects with your side hustle, to create a stable income, and then bite the bullet and quit your 9-5 position; because sooner or later, you won’t be able to juggle both. There are hundreds of websites and articles that contradict each other on this point but remember, this side hustle is all about what YOU want to develop/encourage in your life.

Scheduling:

Perhaps one of the most daunting facets of beginning a side hustle is re-organizing your life to accommodate all the new items on your to-do list. When you’re at this phase, there are several things you must remember to succeed: the first is that there will be days where your iron-clad schedule will have to bend to meet life’s demands (i.e. appointments, unscheduled work days/extra shifts, your side hustle may need more time one week, etc.); second, pick one or two times a week that are just for your side hustle…start with an hour or two, and then increase it when your schedule allows or when you have to; and third, remember that a side hustle, like anything else, is a commitment. Therefore, you may have to forego some things to make it happen (i.e. that extra show on Netflix, time in the gym, your longer lunch breaks, etc.). This ties nicely into the first point of picking something that you’re passionate about, or love doing. If your side hustle is pleasurable to you (i.e. not a daily grind), then spending these extra hours or foregoing that extra gym night will not be a big deal. Remember that as you slowly transition into becoming an IT contractor, the strain of maintaining your full-time position and your side projects, will wear off once you’re at the stage where you’re comfortable to become a full-time contractor.

Priorities:

When thinking and beginning to plan your side hustle, remember that this should begin by working ON THE SIDE meaning that it should not be done at your work. This is stressed for several reasons. The first is that you still have an employer who hired you to be present AT your work for a certain time period, certain days of the week, until a certain date. Essentially, remember that while your project is exciting, and may have deadlines, your regular job comes first. If you don’t put it first, it could come back to haunt you through potential law suits, non-compete clauses, or even tax problems. The second reason, as previously hinted, is money and hours. Double billing clients for the same time-period is never a smart option, and it can get confusing around tax season. So, to keep life simple, try to do one thing at a time, no matter how tight your deadlines become.

As you transition from a full-time employee to a full-time contractor, your priorities should reflect that. But it’s important to also be respectful and mindful of your boss/workplace. If you’ve gotten to a point in time where your side contracts are bringing in enough income; do not hesitate (or wait), to cut the cord with your permanent employer. If you overload your schedule with side contracts, they will notice eventually. In these instances, it is best to leave with as much grace, dignity, and goodwill as possible.

Money:

Money is often the main reason people get side hustles. That extra income can add up after a while, and if it’s put straight into savings it’s amazing how you’re suddenly able to make that payment, afford that down-payment, afford that trip, etc. BUT there are two hitches: the first is budgeting and setting goals to see how many projects you need to take on to meet that goal; the second is figuring out how much you’re going to charge for your time. Let’s face it, you WILL be giving up parts of your life for this – none of us can do it all. So how much is it worth it to you? There is no harm in making sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth (but remember to be reasonable – experience will dictate how much you are worth to many people’s eyes). Additionally, paying attention to how many hours you take to earn a certain amount becomes paramount for transitioning into a full-time contractor position. In order to break down your daily/hourly rate and know what type of projects you want/need to sustain the lifestyle you want, you’ll have to look over your past records and do some serious time/math crunching. It is more than possible, but your due diligence along the way will make that initial decision/breakdown easier to create.

All in all, turning a side hustle into a full-time career is a daunting task, but entirely doable if you’re up to the challenge. These five basic steps are the beginning of that journey but remember, transitioning from a side hustle to becoming a full-time contractor takes time, patience, and due-diligence. Neglecting it or your current 9-5 job is not the answer.