There’s often a point in many marketing careers when someone seriously considers the idea of becoming a contractor. But to contract, or not to contract: that is the question…
This decision might come because you have a brilliant track record of successes behind you and want a new challenge, or you feel that you can’t progress any further in your permanent role. It could just be that you’re bored; some people need constant stimulation, and sometimes staying in the same job for years cannot necessarily provide that. Alternatively, you may be struggling to find a marketing job that is the right level, enough of a challenge to keep you interested, and at a company that you believe in (not that we ask for much!); and so, contracting offers a convenient stop-gap whilst waiting for this role to materialise.
The differences between marketing as a contractor and marketing as a permanent employee
Firstly, you don’t have three to six months to go in and get to know every aspect of the brand inside out. You need to get this knowledge in three to six days - no pressure!
You need to apply your previous experience and knowledge, not just sooner than you might in a permanent role, but also more effectively and efficiently. For a business, the whole point of bringing in a contractor is to get results within a certain amount of time. This might be completing a rebranding project, rolling out a new campaign, implementing a new CRM system, evaluating market opportunities, and so on.
One of the best things about interim work is that you have clear goals to achieve, and a timeframe to work towards. Whilst one of the worst things is that sometimes as a contractor you’re seen as the answer to a company’s issues, and the expectations of what you can achieve in a short period of time can be unreasonable.
Another thing to consider is that the community aspect of working as part of a team is often lost as a contractor. You can feel like an outsider and, if there are projects where you are working remotely, some can find this to be quite a lonely existence. On the flip side, in a permanent role we can often find ourselves getting lost in the daily minutiae – there’s always time to consider reasons to put off a certain campaign, or to cover off every single logical ‘what if?’, and a thousand illogical ones too. This is called ‘professional procrastination’, and it is certainly something many of us succumb to!
Okay, so as a contractor you might not know where you’ll be working in twelve months’ time, or if you will have a job at all; but don’t we all have a little part inside of us that likes the risk, as well as the variety it offers?
What you will need to know as a contractor
If you’re considering contracting, you need to be confident in not just your ability to carry out marketing projects, but also your ability to effectively network. The networking side of contracting is an area that many will underestimate; fortunately, there are some excellent events for marketers out there today, including informal learning and networking events, such as The Marketing Meetup.
You will also need to get your head around the financial side of being self-employed. Which, whilst it isn’t rocket science, does take some getting to terms with. There are tax aspects you’ll need to consider, as there are some tax efficient ways of working rather than being paid as an employee by the company. Before you start, you may need to get advice on this as you could have to set up a limited company to be legally compliant.
You are now your own business, so you will have to send out invoices, make sure invoices get paid and do business development for yourself. Yet widening your skill set can be an exciting challenge too. In fact, many marketing agencies come about by someone deciding to contract for a while! As they become more successful, they start to hire like-minded people to work with them and, before you know it, a successful agency has been born.
Today, with more employers appreciating and understanding the importance of marketing, it seems that marketers are now more confident in stepping out of the comfort zone offered by permanent roles to engage with and experience a wider range of marketing environments and challenges. Likewise, it appears companies are now recognising the value a contractor who comes with experience across a variety of disciplines and businesses can bring. Having said this, there are some companies which are still resistant to hire contractors, and who – probably quite mistakenly – view contractors as ‘jumpy’, and therefore not the most reliable prospects. Nevertheless, there are businesses out there who yearn for a breath of fresh air and different viewpoints from someone who has experienced three or four different environments within the past couple of years!
Going back to permanent work
If for whatever reason, you decide to return to the permanent market after a period of contracting, make sure you meet with a recruitment agency, like Brand Recruitment, who are experts in their field and specialise in marketing roles, or utilise a specialist job site like CIM Jobs. Expertise in these areas will be able to dispel any uncertainties a prospective employer may have for you and sell the positives of a background in interim work.