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Should you contract?

Andy Haywood our consultant managing the role
Andy Haywood our consultant managing the role
Posted: 29/10/2019

You probably know or work with contractors – in fact, it’s likely you’ve considered going contract yourself. But it can seem like a big leap, especially since your first contract role is usually the hardest to secure (the immediacy of interim vacancies is often incompatible with the 1-3 months’ notice you have to give for your permanent role).

There are plenty of good reasons to contract, with more money and flexibility being the most common. Yet most of the pros of contracting seem to have a flip side:

  Pros Cons
  • Contractors in the life sciences sector typically earn 30-40% more than their permanent counterparts
  • Financial insecurity
  • Responsible for you own tax returns
  • Ability to move around and take time out
  • More part-time opportunities
  • Uncertainty
  • Risk of unemployment with shorter notice period
  • Chance to broaden your experience
  • Chance to work abroad without relocating permanently
  • Opportunity depends on the market, and you may need to take less attractive roles when the market is slow


So, do the pros outweigh the cons? For many, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. In fact, most of our contractors wish they’d made the change sooner! However, contracting isn’t right for everyone – its suitability largely depends on your goals, values, career situation and personal life. To help you weigh up the options, we’ve outlined three key questions for you to consider:

#1 Are there enough opportunities in your area?

You can estimate the risk of unemployment (or having to take less attractive roles) by assessing the job market in your geographical and functional area: search contract jobs online or ask a specialist recruiter about the quality and quantity of current vacancies. A good recruiter can also help you predict market changes, since they gain insight into skills demand via their network of employers.

We recently surveyed 1,500 life science professionals about skills demand – you can download the report here.

#2 How much can you earn?

Do the math – work out what you’d earn in realistic best and worst case scenarios. Could you get by in the worst case scenario? Is the best case scenario worth the risk? Again, you may want to speak to an experienced contract recruiter about your individual circumstances. As most contractors will tell you, getting an accountant to do your tax returns is almost always worth it. Again, do research and get recommendations from contractors and recruiters.

#3 Is the timing right?

This applies to both your professional and personal life. What you want from your career? If it’s a promotion, you’re probably better off staying put or finding a new permanent role. However, if you want to broaden your experience or try a new area, contracting could be ideal.

Whether contracting is compatible with your personal life is highly subjective. For example, when children come into the mix, some people take a permanent role for the security, whereas others contract for the extra income and increased flexibility. So it’s important you discuss the pros and cons with your family.

Making a decision

Note down important points during discussion with family, recruiters and contractors. Order these into a comprehensive list of pros and cons, weight them by importance, and see where you can minimise risk and maximise benefits.

Even when well thought out, going contract can be a nerve-wracking change - but remember, you can always return to permanent jobs if you want. In fact, some people prefer to dip in and out of contracting throughout their career - read Henry’s story for more on this.

If you’d like to discuss contract roles and your individual situation, our specialist consultants would be happy to help: get in touch here.

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