Most people start their quality assurance career in a permanent position. Traditional attitudes toward work suggests permanent employment offers a higher level of job security, a greater chance at career progression, and more job opportunities – but that’s not necessarily the case anymore.
A rise in remote work and decentralised project teams has decreased the candidate market so much so that employers are flat-out battling for perm staff. Major staffing struggles brought on by a shift in attitudes towards work mean companies are now looking to freelancers to keep their projects on track.
The viability of a contract vs a perm career is levelling out, so now is a great time to make the jump to becoming freelance. Here are a few reasons why.
Freedom of choice
Freelancing offers a choose-your-own-adventure career path. You get to work on the projects that excite you most, with the companies you align with, and you’re not dictated by the avenues your employer wants to go down.
We work with many of the same contractors year-after-year, ones that have a diversified client portfolio and several projects under their belt. Within a few years as a contractor you start to understand the types of projects and companies you enjoy working, and once you’ve built a bit of a reputation you have the freedom to pursue only those.
Usually, senior contractors are brought in for a specific project or because something is happening within the company.
In many cases there will be an upcoming FDA inspection, or maternity cover, or someone has left and they need to find a replacement quickly. The role a contractor takes on is never the same and this can be a really enticing opportunity for some.
Variation also comes into play when a contract comes to an end. At this point, a contractor can try a new company and have different responsibilities, something permanent employees do not have and would need to move jobs four or five times to experience.
Without an external employment structure, you’re able to accept work where you like, take holidays between contracts, and allow yourself more freedom than perm employment typically allows.
Factoring in what you can afford is key, as you do lose statutory benefits like annual leave when you’re freelancing. But we’ve seen senior-level contractors take breaks lasting up to six months between projects – a level of flexibility you just don’t get in perm employment.
Contractors are convenient, don’t cost companies money in benefits, tax, or pension contributions, and are seen as a solution to progressing projects quickly. So, firms expect to pay a premium for that.
On the whole, contractors receive a higher rate of pay than permanent employees in comparable roles, especially when it comes to quality assurance. We’ve seen QA contractors receive up to €250 per hour, while a perm employee could be making close to half with a similar level of experience.
Moving into a contract-based role does have its benefits, but the decision should be approached carefully. Most QA contractors have a decent amount of permanent-based experience behind them before jumping into the QA contract world.
So how do you know when to make the jump?
You need to have been in the “perm game” for a while. It’s the only way to have obtained the variety of skills necessary to perform well and succeed in your new contract role.
Your CV needs to show that you have demonstrated company loyalty at some point during your career.
This might sound contradictory; why should loyalty matter when you’re moving into a contract position? But, having this on your CV will show that you’ve previously built up a good understanding of a company’s best practice and protocols, which shows to a prospective client that you’ll be able to do the same in your freelance work.
Demonstrating a variety of technical knowledge that is relevant to QA will be key when it comes to making the shift to contract work. Being specialised is good when you are staying in one position, but when moving into contract work a broad technical knowledge is essential for increasing your chances of being hired for projects and consistently being awarded work.
To work in contract QA you need to be comfortable with the potential of moving location frequently. Often in QA contract roles the contractor will need to be on-site, and when you’re working short term contracts this could see you moving around regularly.
Some of the contractors we work with jump from country-to-country with their work, staying in a new area for just a few months at a time on a project. If you’re planning on rooting-down somewhere you should consider the amount of freelance work available locally to you before deciding on a contract career.
Deciding when to make the jump into contract work can be a tough decision. If you’re looking to make the switch from permanent to contract, please contact me here and let’s discuss the process together.
George Kyriacou is an expert in the contract, QA, and life science staffing sector. For support in strengthening these divisions within your organisation, connect with him here.