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Career Quandary: Should I try contract work?

Chris McCarthy from Adam Recruitment answers a digital marketer's career dilemma on whether to try contract work to broaden their experience

Chris McCarthy heads up the contract division at Adam Recruitment
Chris McCarthy heads up the contract division at Adam Recruitment

Question: I have been working in digital marketing for four years but feel stuck in my role as this is my first job out of uni and I have been here ever since. I want to expand my horizons and progress but I'm not sure which area of marketing I want to pursue. Should I consider contract work to get a wider variety of experiences and help me decide my future direction?

Chris McCarthy says...

Firstly, it’s important to clarify what we mean by ’contract work’. Typically, a contractor will work with one organisation at a time, on a full-time basis and for a set period, to deliver a specific project. However, some organisations may call this freelancing (which is usually less fixed to one company) or temping (which is more commonly used to describe seasonal cover or shorter assignments). By exploring opportunities in contracting, freelancing and temping you are more likely to access a wider range of roles.

There are some great contracting opportunities at the moment, particularly in digital contract roles, but bear in mind that contract work is not for everyone. You’re right in thinking you would get a wider variety of experiences. You would work on the full lifecycle of a project and be exposed to different teams, project methodologies, clients and ways of working. You may gain agency experience on one contract and client side experience on the next. You could be working in London for six months and then land a completely different contract in the north of the country for the next nine months, offering you an insight into what it’s like to work in different areas. This is all invaluable for giving you a broad view of the industry.

Contract work can also be incredibly empowering, as you’re normally brought in as an expert and have the chance to input into the strategy and direction of a project. You can earn good money and work flexibly. You are in charge of how often you work, what length of contracts you’re willing to commit to and where you go. If your specialist skills are in high demand, you may have the option of working remotely from home too.

However, contract work does come with an element of uncertainty. When one contract finishes, you may not always have another one lined up. On the flip side, a 12-month contract means that you’re likely to be guaranteed work for the duration - in this case a year. If you have this mindset you could find more job security through contract work than the four-week notice period that typically comes with permanent roles.

If you live outside London, be prepared to be flexible over your work location as it’s unlikely to be on your doorstep. You may have to work away from home. If you’re restricted to certain areas you’re limiting the opportunities you can go for. You also need to be flexible with rates and understand that different clients’ budgets lead to peaks and troughs - so plan ahead for that. Try to have a long-term mentality - you might not always get the rate or location you want, or even the ideal project every time, but sometimes the roles might exceed your expectations and balance that out. Consider charging more for your specialist area and less for different opportunities that give you new experiences.

In short, contracting is certainly an option worth considering. You might also want to talk to your current employer about opportunities to broaden your experience within your company as the variety you seek could be more accessible than you think.

To discuss in more detail whether contracting could be for you, contact Chris McCarthy who heads up the contract division at Adam Recruitment, on Chris@weareadam.com or call 020 7871 7665 (London) / 0161 359 3789 (Manchester).

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