SQL Server Contracting - The first 14 months (or so)

Crikey, where did that time go! I have been so busy adjusting to my new work life style I have completely neglected my blog.. Well now that I seem to be adjusted to the world of contracting (or rather adjusted to working more than a mile away from where I live!), I will spend more time again giving my blog some TLC. in fact is was an email from Webucator that gave me the poke again to get back to doing something that I enjoyed a couple of times a month - blogging!

So what have I learnt during the first 14 months of being a contractor. The first thing that I can say is I have no idea why on earth it took me so long to make the jump from going perm to contract basis. Sure it is a little bit scary at first to not have that security blanket that being a permanent employee brings you such as a notice period, redundancy, sick pay and employee benefits (for some!) but for me I don't mind that.. I have much more flexibility in what i choose to do, where to go and what I do with the finances received by my business. I know that if a contract isn't as great as I'd hoped then it won't be long before the contract comes to an end and I can move on. I'm not involved with any company processes such as 1-2-1's, reviews etc, nor get involved with the usual company politics. I can just turn up, do a good days work, enjoy any company social life and go home that little bit wiser, hopefully.

I was quite fortunate to secure a 6 month contract from my previous perm employer before moving into finance for my second and current contract. This definitely made the transition that bit easier and less daunting. I initially worked through an umbrella company before setting up a limited company at the start of this year and looking back, i should have setup the limited company from the off. Apart from the ease of contracting through an umbrella, I really didn't see many other benefits over a limited company. Even with the UK government hitting contractors quite hard in the summer budget, I still believe I have made the right decision and it is a good time to be a contractor. I still feel there are more benefits and flexibility being a contractor rather than being a perm in exactly the same job position.

Would I recommend contracting to others... for sure I would, and I have.. the main thing i say to them (after saying research is critical) is to ensure that you have at least 3 months or more of savings to live off whilst you make the transition to contracting. If the worse happens and you can't get a contract, you'll need to make a decision at some point to get back into a perm role to pay those bills. Even if you get a contract quite quickly, you may have to dip into your savings until things sort themselves out. More than likely you'll have to hand in your notice before even being offered a contract especially if you are on a long notice period like I was. So it gets a bit nerve racking approaching your leaving date with nothing to move onto next. Network as well, as some opportunities will come through from recommendations and as much as we hate them, agencies are going to be calling you, a lot, so you will have to have the same conversation over and over again. You'll soon build a list of good ones and ones to not bother with. When I was actively looking for a contract I was getting dozens of calls a day and had to take the majority of them and call back the ones I missed. That wore me down quite quickly so something to be prepared for. Always remember though that agencies need you as much as you need them. Finally, unless you have a keen desire to use an umbrella, don't bother and go limited. Even more so if you are able to employ your partner to use their tax benefits or have them as a director and/or shareholder as well. The money you spend on accountancy is offset by other benefits and so far the overhead time wise of managing the limited company is minimal I find. I keep on top of things weekly rather than doing things monthly and I never spend more than a an hour each week raising invoices, managing income/expenses etc.

So what's my plan for the next 12 months? Well I'll need to start thinking about renewing my MCSE Data Platform accreditation so now that summer is well and truly over, I shall be heading back to the books again and will probably look to secure the MCSE Business Intelligence for the first time as well after Christmas. Plus I'm rather hoping there will be another SQL bits as well early next year, which is another benefit of your own company. You get to decide your own training and no more having to justify it to the bosses! I'm 99% ready to sign up for my first ever SQLSkills Immersion Event in London 2016 which is something I've long, long wanted to attend but would have always struggled convincing an employer to pay for me.

Oh, and I get to decide where my company Christmas party is to be now!! What's there not to like!

Enjoy!

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