IT Employment

What do you really like about being an IT contractor?

Steve Ranger's Notebook: The rise of the freelance nation...

In turbulent times, more IT workers are choosing to become contractors - so what's the good and the bad of going freelance, asks silicon.com's Steve Ranger.

I've always preferred the term 'freelance' to 'contractor'. Maybe that's because freelance, coined by Sir Walter Scott in his chivalric epic Ivanhoe to describe medieval mercenaries, sounds freewheeling and heroic, like someone quixotically making their fortune by their wits.

The term 'contractor', on the other hand, I've always thought sounds rather reductionist, rendering someone down into a piece of paper.

But whatever you call them, the number of freelancers and contractors is on the rise.

Figures released by Kingston University and Professional Contractors Group (PCG) for National Freelancers Day - that's today - show that the number of freelancers in the UK now totals 1.56 million, or roughly one in 20 in the UK workforce - a figure that's up from 1.4 million back in 2008.

Freelancer working from home

Being your own boss: The number of freelancers and contractors is on the rise in the UKPhoto: Shutterstock

From CIOs on short-term contracts to developers with in-demand skills, going freelance is an attractive way for many tech workers to work outside of the normal employer-employee arrangement - as shown by the significant portion of freelancers that describe themselves as managers (161,000) or IT and telecoms workers (93,000).

According to the PCG's managing director John Brazier, the number of freelancers in the UK has shown steady growth during the recent turbulent times, and confirms "a widely held belief that more and more skilled and talented individuals are opting for freelancing as a work/lifestyle choice, or because of economic circumstances".

To me, one of the biggest changes in IT over the last decade has been the rising power - and often salary - of the contractor. Such a rise is inevitable. A worker with in-demand skills will always be tempted to maximise their income, while companies can benefit by paying for expensive skills only when they need them.

So tell me: what are the good - and the bad - aspects of being a freelancer working in IT? Do you enjoy dipping into a variety of different organisations while still being beholden to none? Or do you miss the stability and the community of working for one company?

And those of you who are full-time employees, what's it like to work with contractors? How does it affect the team dynamic? Let me know what you think by posting a comment below.

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

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