In many ways there’s never been a better time to be a contractor in project management: the 2018 APM Salary and Market Trends Survey showed confidence and satisfaction levels were high, day rates had remained at an average £450 and more people were working on longer-term contracts that offer greater stability.
However, fierce competition, rapid economic and technological changes and a squeeze on project funding mean no contractor can afford to be complacent. Many contractors who responded to the survey were highly optimistic about their own future but had very little confidence in the economy as a whole. This, warns Vince Hines, managing director of Wellingtone PPM Intelligence, highlights that it’s vital to look beyond our own “bubble”if we want to survive in today’s market.
“There’s a real anomaly there and, I think, some false optimism – we can’t all think ourselves and the organisation we work for is going to do brilliantly but the rest of the world is going to crash and burn,” said Vince. “People aren’t taking that wider economic perspective and applying it to their own situation; it’s like they’re in a bubble and they’re going to be fine.”
So, is now a good time to be in contracting? Absolutely, emphasises Vince: “Contracting and project management are hand in glove because projects are by definition finite things, so they lend themselves to contracting and the need will always be there. More and more work is becoming project centric, more and more organisations are waking up to best practice project management, so it’s a growth industry, a good industry to be in. Short-term resources are an important part of the economy and although I don’t think rates are going to go up and up, a good contractor will always do well.”
Here, Vince offers his advice to help contractors stay ahead of their game.
How to get the best contracts:
- Be very conscious of what you’re good at and focus on getting roles that build on your current skillset. Rather than saying, “I can do anything”, it’s better to be an expert in one thing. As a contractor, people hire you because you have experience in their type of project. For example: “Anyone looking for a SAP project manager? That’s what I do.” “Anyone looking for a building refurbishment project manager? That’s what I do.”
- Build your own brand and social media network. Become an expert in your area and use tools like LinkedIn to build your profile. As a contractor, your name will be searched on social media. Use these tools to keep in touch with people and post information and articles in your area of interest to help demonstrate your expertise.
- Qualifications: get the badges. It’s even more important for contractors than employees to keep your skills and knowledge up to date and get those qualifications, because there’s a lot of competition out there. Many contractors are unwilling to even take holiday, but you must take time out to invest in yourself or no one is going to invest in you. When you’re doing your financial planning, build in at least one week a year for some formal professional development.
- Know your market. Don't disregard certain sectors if you have the skills – they could be more lucrative than you thought. For example, construction has often been considered a poor paying sector but in the latest Salary Survey it ranks equal fourth alongside transport and logistics.