10 Ways To Get More Out Of Your Contract
11 October 2019
Take a moment to think about your current contract. Are you maximising not only your earning potential, but also your work/life balance and peace of mind?
It’s never too early to set the wheels in motion and assess your role. As contracts typically run for a three month period, it’s good to always be thinking about how you are going to secure steady work, whether it be through negotiating an extension of your current contract, or exploring a new opportunity.
At Park Avenue we specialise in finding contract work for Town Planning Professionals, but we’ve put together 10 ways in which you can seek to maximise your next contract position that will hopefully transcend any professional specialisms.
1. THE JOB
Always try and find out as much information about the role as you can. It's hard to find a Job Description that will contain enough detail, especially if you’re going for a temporary position.
If you are working through an agency, they should be asking enough questions to have enough information about the role for you to make an informed decision. If they don’t, it’s sometimes better to pass on this opportunity until you know more. It never looks good submitting your CV and name over to a potential employer only to pull out, because you didn’t know all the facts, even through no fault of your own. Always ask exactly what level of projects/work you will be posed with.
2. THE COMMUTE
The majority of contractors that we speak to here at Park Avenue are not afraid of a small hike to work. A key question to consider is how straightforward the journey is during rush hour. Sometimes what seems like a long journey is relatively stress free on a direct train out of London, rather than a bus and 3 tubes to work across town. The same applies to the UK's road networks, some 20-30 mile journeys can feel like 60-70 if you don't have good road links.
Contracting traditionally offered the benefit of claiming work expenses. However, with recent changes that came in last year and due to come in this year, this benefit will no longer be available to as many contractors. So, make sure you aware of what your train fares, petrol and general working away from home expenses are. This particularly applies to taking on a new contract, as you may not know exact figures until you are a few weeks in.
4. FLEXIBLE WORKING
One of the big appeals for contracting is being able to earn from the hours you are putting in. Depending on the organisation you are working with, this doesn't need to be during a standard working day. Examples could be starting and finishing later or earlier, working part time or even a compressed week i.e. Working your hours into 3 or 4 longer days. With high internet speeds available today it is now also very easy to work remotely, so if you are not always needed in the office this is a great perk to get agreed in your contract.
5. NOTICE PERIODS
Traditionally a good-will notice period for a contract role is a week (although most can be terminated with immediate effect). But had you thought about asking to give a longer period of notice? This can not only give you peace of mind in knowing that you will have time to secure your next role, but reassure your employer that you are keen not to leave them in the lurch when you move on.
6. CONTRACT LENGTH
As the market has changed, so have preferences of contract length. While some prefer the flexibility of a short term contract, others prefer a longer term option. Either way, make sure you confirm the minimum length of your contract so you can plan accordingly. Also see if you can agree when you will be told of any extension, so you have plenty of time to find your next opportunity. You don't want to be in a mad panic and feel pressured to take any option, however unsuitable, just to stay working.
7. THE ORGANISATION
Often overlooked but a key consideration. Is this organisation always hiring contractors? If the answer is yes, then you should be digging a little deeper. It could just be that the workload has shot up, but if it’s a trickier issue, perhaps a poor/stressful working environment, is this somewhere you want to work? Why has the requirement come up in the first place? Although contracting can be stressful and you are expected to hit the ground running, if the environment is too strenuous, it may not be an enjoyable experience.
8. WORKING HOURS
Always try to confirm the exact amount of hours you are permitted to submit a week and the flexibility in this. It will help to avoid some tricky conversations when it comes to getting timesheets signed off. Make sure you know where you stand from the beginning. If the hours are set in stone, 40 hours on £30 an hour will bring you in more gross income than 35 hours on £34 an hour. Ask if you can make up your hours if you work a shorter week i.e. Work 38 one week and 42 the next. It can make quite the difference.
9. YOUR RATE
Rather than thinking about the hourly or daily rate you are receiving, consider what your average take home at the end of the week will be. I always advise that you should never move for an increase in your hourly rate alone. There should always be other reasons as a few extra £££s an hour will not outweigh the possible issues that have been listed.
Also consider how you will be paid. The majority of contracts available are now being declared inside IR35. Although there are some exceptions to this which is a bonus, for the foreseeable future, most councils are adopting the inside IR35 route. We have found that rates are slowly starting to increase as a result of this, but not yet enough to compensate for the extra tax being paid.
We recommend at this stage speaking to a good umbrella company (we are happy to refer some if you ask us!) who will be able to still maximise your take home pay. In the meantime its on us agencies to work our magic to get you the best possible rates or a role closer to home to minimise your expenses.
10. MAXIMISE THROUGH COMPROMISE
Figure out which of the above points is most important to you, but be prepared to meet near the middle with others. There is no such thing as the perfect contract, or perhaps even a perfect working arrangement, and whilst you can come close, don't push great opportunities away because they don't match every single criteria. Give and take, and a little compromise, can lead to a challenge that can launch your career and earning potential even further.
and just a last little note...
Pick up the phone and give Park Avenue Recruitment a call.
Negotiating your business is our business, and our reputation is extremely important to us. We want you to be happy with our service, pleased with your hourly rate, and starting your position knowing that the best possible working arrangements have been negotiated for you. Negotiating the right terms at the beginning of your contract can prevent a lot of headaches further down the line. Why wouldn’t you leave this in the hands of an experienced consultant?
We are always happy to hear from Town Planning professionals who are looking for their next move, or who are simply curious about the market.