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Project management contractor market

There’s never been a better time to be a contractor in project management: The 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.

Key findings

  • People much more commonly work as contractors by choice than because they were made unemployed
  • The average day rate peaks at the age of 45-54 who reported average earnings of £522
  • 40 per cent of respondents chose to be a contractor so they were better off financially
  • Nearly half of contractors are on contracts of over 12 months
  • 43 per cent of contractors have been in their current role for 12 months

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Average day rate

Contractors continued to earn an average day rate of £450 a day – in line with 2017. This rose to £500 for those working in London and outside the UK and £550 for those aged 45 to 54. While figures show they are more likely than permanent employees to expect a decrease in pay or no change, half still predicted an increase.

Length of Contract 

Half of all contractors were working on contracts of more than 12 months, up six per cent on 2015. There was a growing trend towards longer contracts and responses suggested that longer contracts were putting pressure on day rates compared to four years ago.

How long have you been in your current role as a contractor?

2016 saw a surge of new contractors embarking on new contracts. This was reflected in the figures for 2018, with a four per cent increase in the number of people who had been in their current contracts for six to 12 months. There had also been a five per cent rise in those four to six months into their contract.

Insight from Vince Heinz, Wellingtone Project Management

"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 highlights that it’s vital to look beyond our own “bubble”if we want to survive in today’s market."

Key skills a contractor must have to survive:

  • Strong stakeholder management and communication. That’s not a trend thing, it’s the first thing anyone needs if they’re going to work in project management. After all, it’s people and great teamwork that deliver projects.

  • A formal qualification in Agile. In the industry at the moment there’s a strengthening interest in Agile ways of working. It’s important to be aware of these latest techniques and get on board with them. There’s a lot more to Agile than just saying, “I want to work in an agile way”. Anyone working in project management needs to truly understand what it means, the methodology behind it and how you can use Agile for parts of projects rather than the whole project. 

  • Familiarity with the latest project management software. The ground is moving very quickly and contractors need to understand how to plan and use these tools properly. Appetite is growing very rapidly for tools like Microsoft Project Online.

Rationale for Contracting

While people are much more likely to work as contractors by choice rather than due to redundancy, respondents to the 2018 survey flagged that many attractive roles on offer were only available on a contractual basis. The benefits they saw included career progression opportunities and not having to get involved in corporate bureaucracy. Career choice and financial incentives remained key drivers.

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