The problem with IT contracting

A TechRepublic member is deeply dissatisfied with life as an IT contractor. Read about his experience, and see if you can offer any advice.

A TechRepublic member is deeply dissatisfied with life as an IT contractor. Read about his experience, and see if you can offer any advice. 


I heard from a TechRepublic member who is becoming very disillusioned with his IT contracting career and would like to hear from others about their experiences. Here's the e-mail:

"I want to express my dissatisfaction with the idea of IT contracting. I am working on a contract for a local company. I find myself being taken advantage of. The contract company has me working on a W2. I get no holidays, nor sick days, nor vacations. I am basically working in a very hostile situation. I had to go to the dentist for some work on my teeth and basically had to take 30 min lunches for two weeks to cover the time I had off.

The client companies are inflexible and at are times unwilling to help since they feel like they can save a buck or two. So much for the human element.

With the economy going the way it is, I need to make a secure income, and therefore I am stuck in my area. I can't seem to break out. I have tried to land a full time job, but my track record shows contract companies, which many full time companies do not want to see. Now, with the holidays coming, I am forced to work almost everyday and have no vacation. I don't think I am asking too much, but I wish someone would give me a break.

Here is an example of inhuman behavior: My client manager says we are going home early for the Thanksgiving holiday. I inform my family that I will be home earlier, and I can stop and pick up some items at the grocery store. The hour which the manager said we would leave comes and goes, no further word. I wait and go to his office, and he is on the phone with his family informing them of who knows what. He says he will come see me later. I go back and start working. My shift ends and I pack up to leave and he informs me that I need to stay an extra hour because he was working on a last-minute assignment.

Many of the client companies often take advantage of the contractors. They let the full-time employees leave and make the contractors work their shift. I know of a guy who needed to take some time off for the holiday and is basically losing money because he is not working. It not like all contractors make a lot of money; in fact, most don't. Many are lured into thinking they're going to make big dollars and become trapped.

Many staffing companies don't offer benefits that help their contractors. They don't look to develop their core contractors. They simply find jobs and recruit other companies for those positions. It seems like a big game. I am tired of playing. I would never have wanted to get involved in this circus if I would have known it would be like this."

The benefit of working for a contract company is that you don't have to worry about finding work for yourself and figuring out how to bill. With that consideration, you have to take the good with the bad. My first impression at reading this e-mail was that this person is not having a problem with IT contracting as much as he is having a problem with the contracting company he works for. When you're choosing a contracting company, you should do a great deal of homework about what kinds are out there and how they treat their contractors. The IT contracting business is so lucrative that companies can have nothing on their minds but profits.

As far as the problems with the client manager go, you should be able to inform your contracting company about the behavior and let them handle it. Their willingness to do something is another sign of a good contracting company.

Now, having said that, I don't know how common this kind of behavior is in the contracting world. For input on that, I will turn things over to the TechRepublic membership...


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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