In the five years I have been contracting I have fulfilled a number of contract roles. Some of these have been great and I would have stayed for years, had it not been for take-overs, redundancies, changes in personnel. Conversely, I have started contracts I could not wait to finish; waiting for that 3 month finish-line like I was waiting for a prison sentence to end!

In between these forced and chosen breaks in contracts, I have had periods of unemployment.

Which begs the question – is it better to do a lower paid contract for a longer time or a higher paid contract for a shorter time?

I can answer that question from experience and with facts.

I was happy for a year in a role and working in a team that I liked earning £300 a day. In the year I worked there I had earned the following:

£300 day / £1500 week / £6000 month – £66,000 year nett (minus 20 days holiday)

When a take-over happened I looked for a new role, which I secured before I left the old role. The new job paid £400 a day and I started the new role with no gap between jobs: so far so good! However, there is no accounting for what the role will be like and I hated it! As it was a three month rolling contract (the norm in London) I started looking for a new role and secured one (paying £500 a day) with a 2 week gap between starting.

The problem was the new role was a disaster! The person who employed me moved to a new project and I was left floating. After three awkward months of scratching around for work I was cut! What followed was an economic crisis and contracts were hard to come by! For the rest of that year I was out of contract (for a total of 9 months actually). So that year; I earned the following:

Job 1 – £400 day / £2000 week / £8000 month – Total – £24,000 nett (3 month contract)
Job 2 – £500 day / £2500 week / £10,000 month – Total – £30,000 nett (3 month contract)
Total – £54,000 year net (Minus – 140 day {28 week holiday})

This example is extreme, but changing roles 3 times in a year can account for more spending (settling into new travel arrangements, food etc) and also adds to the stress of that year (cost of time spent job hunting, interviewing) plus the cost of forced gaps adding to the non-paid holiday days taken that year.

There is another cost – the cost of your CV/resume having more roles, this not only is an annoying price to pay for valuable real-estate on your CV (trying to keep to as few pages as possible) but also the more changes you have on the CV (even as a contractor) the more likely recruiters and hiring managers are to question whether you are flighty and are likely to leave this role in a short time (if it is a long-term contract or project.

Speaking philosophically – I am at a point in my career when I am looking back and wishing things had gone differently. As a contractor in a nice meaty contract for years, you are earning more than your permanent counterparts with a similar, if not better lifestyle.

Now, I am not exactly risk-adverse and I have been chasing more interesting and better money contracts rather than to find that nice slow-growing role and I think, in hindsight with the upheaval and cost of gaps and change, this is a less-effective way to make money and save as a contractor.

When looking for your next contract, remember – it is not always more lucrative to search for the highest paid one (in the long-run). Ensure that you will like the role and that it will have longevity. Taking a role just for the money will only work if you can stand it for a long time. Pitch yourself and the role and the amount you are looking for at something you can see will work out for a while, to give yourself time to bed in, understand the organisation, be effective in your work and save for your private life.

I wanted to share my experience and opinion on that one.

GOOD LUCK

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