I began this stage of my contracting life in 2012 in London, before moving to Northern Ireland in 2015 and then to Carlingford in 2016. I had several stints of contracting before this over the last 15 years, but this was the first time I managed my contracting work through my own Limited Company. Even 7 years down the track, it continues to be a learning experience, especially moving across 3 different countries, but contracting has been without doubt been one of the best life choices I have made.
Firstly, I can choose work that has a purpose and work that I love. I work in transformation and change management so clients have generally already made a decision that there is a specific project that needs to be delivered. Sometimes the client brief is not entirely defined or morphs once I’m on site, but it’s an exciting part of the process to work with your client to clarify what could be delivered and how you can support. Often as an employee, you’re expected to work on anything “at the discretion of your manager” while my experience as a contractor has allowed me to work on projects I love plus a wide range of exciting projects that were clearly not within the initial brief, but it also enables me to push back politely on clients’ requests to work on activities that are beyond the scope of our agreement if it is uninteresting or non-value added activities.
Secondly, I have finally learned to budget. As I am highly committed to delivering great solutions, I often find myself working long hours and being totally immersed in work, so it’s important to me to take proper time out between contracts for travel, family, self-care and personal and professional development. While the money on contract is good, enjoying life is more important to me so I have learned to manage costs both during work and in periods between contracts to enable this flexible lifestyle. Life experiences have taught me the hard way that the monthly pay check of permanent work is no safety blanket or guarantee of ongoing (or satisfying) work, and that building a secure financial future for myself and my artist/student husband comes only from managing our income & liabilities (esp tax), living within our means (knowing the difference between need and want), not getting into debt, and always planning for sustaining our lifestyle beyond the end of the current contract.
And finally, freedom to be honest with a client about what’s working and what’s not. I genuinely believe that lack of trust & openness in many workplaces is a key driver of poor organisational performance and transformation. Many employees find themselves in a place where they are constantly concerned about job security, and so accept poor behaviour from leaders, sub-standard change initiatives, and being kept in the dark about what’s happening in their business. Through my work as a contractor and change consultant, I can be an independent 3rd party who can help voice these barriers to employee and organisation success without fear of reprisal. Becoming a trusted adviser is critical in my work, so by supporting the client to solve the problem that I was brought in to help with, or in the rare case when they stop listening to what’s needed to move the solution forward, then I know it’s time to move on at the next available contract break.
As a contractor, I’m not beholden to any one client, nor they to me. I choose to work with clients, organisations and projects that interest me and in return, I have amazing periods of time off to enjoy life, love, travel and health. If I found an organisation that gave me all that I might consider trading in the contractor life, but in 7 years I haven’t found it yet and in the meantime, I’m enjoying all that contracting has to offer.
Bromwyn Hall McLoughlin