Contract vs permanent: Henry's story
Henry recently accepted a permanent Clinical Project Manager role at a medical products company. He’s been contracting for this same company for the past year, and before that, he was a freelance CRA at a pharma giant.
Given the recent change, you’d assume contracting wasn’t right for Henry. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“There are many benefits to contracting - I was certainly able to earn a lot more. I’d recommend it.” says Henry.
So why the change?
“I’ve accepted a permanent job for two reasons really,” Henry explains. “Firstly, because I’d like more financial security for my young daughter. And secondly, because this job suits me down to the ground.”
In fact, the nature of Henry’s role is the reason he started contracting there in the first place. “It’s a very special role – I’m a qualified nurse as well as a clinical research professional, and it’s rare that a job puts both these skillsets to good use.”
But does contracting have anything to do with finding such a rare opportunity?
“I believe it does,” says Henry. “The role was so niche, I would have overlooked it if I wasn’t contracting.”
Henry’s employer was so impressed with him that they decided to make his role permanent, and Henry was pleased to accept. Nevertheless, he’d definitely consider going contract again in the future.
“I think changing between contract and permanent work can be a good career path,” he explains. “You’re more likely to receive personal development and promotions in a permanent role. But once you’re at the next level, contracting can help you broaden your experience and earn more.”
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Advice for new contractors
Going contract can seem like a big leap. We asked Henry for his advice in response to common questions:
#1 What should I know about my first contract role?
“The first role can be difficult to secure if you’re leaving a permanent position and have to give more than a months’ notice. Employers usually expect contractors to start within four weeks. There’s no easy way around this, although the right recruiter can help you negotiate and manage expectations.
Choose your first role carefully. Although you can move around as a contractor, you can also develop professionally (both through training and experience) if you’re strategic about where you go.”
#2 What kind of roles should I look for?
“One of the advantages of contracting is that you can really broaden and enrich your experience if you’re strategic about it. That said, if the job market is slow, you may need to take a temporary step down to keep paying the bills.
It’s important to know that employers still expect a certain amount of consistency and loyalty from contractors. This is because, although contract roles are short-term, they’re often extended. If you jump about every 3-6 months, that won’t look good on your CV.”
#3 Is it worth getting an accountant?
“Since you’re self-employed as a contractor, you’ll need to do your own tax returns. I’d definitely advise getting an accountant, but shop around. Ask some fellow contractors for recommendations.”
#4 Does contracting feel different?
“I really didn’t notice much difference – apart from more money in the bank! The company treated me the same as any new starter. I think a lot of people worry that as a contractor, you’re expected to know absolutely everything and be extremely self-sufficient. But that’s not the case; you’re still supported by a manager, and you usually still receive internal and study-specific training.”
If you’ve got questions about contracting in the life sciences sector, get in touch with one of our specialist interim recruiters. We’d be happy to chat about your individual situation, whether contracting is right for you, and how to break into your first contract role.