For those considering making the leap, there are a couple of different paths to finding contract work. And if you’re weighing which path might be right for you, I’d like to (a little selfishly) tip the scales in favor of contracting for an agency.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR THE CONTRACTORS?
The lore of freelance and contract work is almost mythical. But for every story about someone setting their own hours while working on a beach somewhere, I wish there was a story about what it takes to get started and find the right role. While there are plenty of websites, blog articles and resources out there touting their ability to help you become a lucrative freelancer, there’s a lot of bad information and low-paying clients that just aren’t worth your time.
And when you’re a freelancer, any time you waste—whether networking, searching for work or building your name in your industry—is time you probably won’t be paid for. As a contractor, you’re usually billing hourly, so losing time on gathering leads or landing a job means losing income.
By teaming up with a recruiting agency to find your new contractor role, though, you’ll tap into a recruiting teams’ network, weeding out almost all of the noisy, false promises of job posting boards and cutting to the chase a lot quicker. Rather than being on the hook for your marketing and networking, an agency can help you by bringing you opportunities.
And teaming up with a recruiting agency doesn’t just give you access to their contacts. In many cases, being placed by a recruiting agency means you’ll be joining their team—and their benefits. Health insurance, paid vacation and other attractive perks not typically known to be accessible to freelancers or independent contractors are usually on the table when you contract through a recruiting agency.
SOUNDS DREAMY. WHAT ELSE SHOULD I EXPECT?
When you contract through an agency, you’re still signing up for gig- or project-based work, but you’re getting amenities most freelancers would be thrilled to have. Health benefits and vacation time, for example, are two things independent contractors and freelancers have to finance for themselves.
Another benefit to having an agency in your corner? They can act as an HR rep to step in on your behalf if the company your contracting with asks you to do work that falls outside of the scope you’ve signed up for. This also means that if you decided to part way with the company you’re contracting for, the agency can help smooth the matter of your departure over and backfill your seat. (Remember: When you work for an agency, they’re technically your employer of record, so you should definitely route experience issues or job change decisions through the agency you are working with).
I’M SOLD. NOW WHAT?
If all of this sounds like your cup of tea, go ahead and reach out to an agency. Heck, you can work with more than one if you’re eager to get your name out there. But remember to partner with agencies that will be a good fit for you and your field. And don’t expect the work to come rolling in immediately. You’re not flying solo—phew—but there’s still work to be done while you wait to be placed. Follow up with the team(s) you’re working with and make sure that you and whoever you work with are on the same page about what you’re looking for.
In fact, keep in mind that once you’re placed with a potential opportunity, no job is one-size-fits-all. Be clear about what works for you, and understand the expectations surrounding things like in-person vs. remote work time, total hours per week and flexible scheduling just like you would a permanent job.
And when it comes to talking compensation, remember that your hourly rate as a solo freelancer will likely be different than the rate you negotiate with an agency. Where freelancers and independent contractors have to apply an up-charge to their services to finance their health insurance and vacation, the agency you work with takes care of those things for you upfront. Remember to manage your expectations on hourly rates and consider the hidden costs your independent colleagues are likely taking on.
Finally—and maybe most importantly—always advocate for yourself. People have to choose the careers and work arrangements that are best for them, so if you’ve chosen to be a contractor, be clear about why and what you need. Don’t be afraid to ask questions throughout the process. Not all agencies or companies are created equal, but if you’re honest about what you need upfront, you’re likely to find a better fit. And a good fit for you means a good fit for your work colleagues.
If this quick run-through has sparked your interest in contracting with an agency, let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!