How to Survive in the Era of Contract Employment.
If you’re a person who loves stability and order like me, you’re going to be having a bad time this year and for many years to come.
Contract employment has been on the rise globally since 1995 and has gotten a huge boost this year with the entrance of Covid-19. Contract employment may be good for companies but even the ILO noticed it’s bad for the economy. Though productivity rates and employment rates steadily increase, economic activity doesn’t. That’s because of the lack of stability. Its hard to make large purchases or long-term decisions when you don’t know what’s going to happen in the next month or year.
Another reason for the rise in contract or alternative employment is the freelancer or work from home movement. A lot of people are now offering their skills from home by creating their own businesses instead of heading off to work. Not to mention, those who have lost permanent jobs and now must survive as contractual labour.
Now I’m aware there are high paying, highly skilled, and in-demand contractual positions that pay fees that can sometimes feed a small country for a year and those persons own property, assets and live well, but I’m here speaking to those who never had to live this way before or are just starting their freelance business or who’s contracts aren’t in the six-figure bracket. And I am also aware that there are the six figure contract employees who don’t own anything and retire without a medical or savings plan, you should read on too.
Contacts can be based on task, per hour, month to month, 6 months, yearly, 2 or 3 years etc. whatever it is, it’s not permanent employment! Now here I can provide lengthy studies that show the harm of contract employment on workers rights, real wage growth, working poverty, and the economy but that would lead to another long winded post and I like to keep things short and sweet like myself, so I’ll get to the point. Basically, contract employment mainly benefits the person who is offering the contract. As the recipient it is in your best interest to ensure the contract provides benefits, protects, and compensates you according to your skills and experience. That being said, here are a few things you ought to know and do when offered a contractual position.
– Read the damn contract! Stop reading the compensation page and signing your soul away! Ask them to explain or find a legal aid lawyer. Depending on where you live in the world, you should be able to get a contract lawyer to go over it for free or a low fee or stop bashing lawyers and make friends with one.
– Get up to date on labour laws. This is very important and something even the permanently employed need to do. DO NOT DEPEND ON YOUR UNION REP! I say this because sometimes individual contract cases are not usually their forte unless it benefits them and two; sometimes there isn’t Union involvement when the position is being offered for contract. That’s why knowing the labour laws protects you from losing benefits from unscrupulous employers.
– Know your rights. Sometimes employers don’t just stop at exploiting the labour laws. Sometimes they can even use you for tax evasion or make demands that step on your human rights. Make sure the company is reputable and properly registered. Look for signs of rapid employee turnover, customer complaints, and supplier issues. If they don’t treat these people well, just imagine what they will do to the “temp”.
– Get a budget and saving plan. And a medical and insurance while you’re it. Some people think being on contract means they can’t make monthly payments but with the right company (I’m not putting their name here unless they pay for the ad) you can have medical, savings and insurance paid via lump sums whenever you can. All you have to do is pay in advance and keep paying that way to stay covered.
– Be mentally prepared to be financially unstable. Not knowing where the money is gonna come from is a scary way to live because despite your best efforts, you have a lull of a month or two between jobs. This is why you need that budget to prepare for that emergency. Try to have a safety net of six months of livable income set aside in case the contracts aren’t coming as regularly as you’d like.
– Be prepared to be always on the job hunt. Even if you land a 5-year contract just know you should start updating your resume from day one. Start by learning all you can from this position, then take courses if need be and of course step out of your comfort zone occasionally. Show you are adept at change and learning new things. Learn all that you can about the company and the people you work with. (Not for espionage purposes.)
– Don’t just wait for the phone to ring. So, you may have more free time now, either between projects or because of contractual demands. Either way, now is a good time to do some volunteer work, learn a new skill, exercise, or just finish all those books you’ve been meaning to read. The point is to just get a hobby or a life, anything to keep your mind and body positively active.
– Just do the job! This may seem a little simple because productivity usually increases due to the fear of job loss. But shockingly, some contractual employees do the opposite, they work less because they aren’t getting the benefits of a permanent employee so do the bare minimum or worse, leave tasks undone or “sabotage” the project so they could be called back to “fix” it. It’s best if you work as if working for yourself and do the job as it is meant to be done and get an honest recommendation for your next contract position.
– Love networking. Through all your volunteering and working be sure to get those contacts and keep in contact. That’s why you should take the time to remember the names and positions of the people you worked with. Be attentive, helpful, and most importantly be yourself. Being genuine is not a lost art and people are more receptive and more likely to want to stay in contact.
– Learn to invest or seek alternative methods of income. (Robbery or fraud doesn’t count btw.) Neither is gambling or Power-ball thought the former is now an acceptable pastime and income earner, it’s not for the faint of heart. Then again neither is stock market investment but if you are one of those who has the cash to spare, getting a financial portfolio is definitely a great way to go. Getting involved in real estate, cryptocurrency, stocks, Forex trading or even gold can help earn passive residual income or multiply your money and make that lull between jobs less stressful.
The key to success as a contractual employee or freelancer or service provider or consultant or whatever it is you call yourself, is just delivery. Timely delivery, quality delivery, and attitude delivery. Be someone you would like to work with again and treat whoever you are working for and whatever you’re working on as if it were for your own business. Yes, there will be the ticking clock in the back of your mind reminding you that this is temporary, but once you stay focused on the task at hand and subscribe to MB HAVEN you should be alright.