Being a Procurement Contractor – The Positives and Negatives (part 1)

We're pleased to introduce a two-part guest article from Samantha Coombs, an experienced procurement professional who has worked as an interim for some years.

I’ve worked as a procurement contractor and interim manager for over 10 years now. I did not think it would necessarily be a long-term career decision when I started, but it has been very interesting and stimulating to date in many ways. Today and tomorrow, I’ll outline what I think are the positives about this choice of career, and then I’ll consider the less positive factors too. As well as being generally interesting, we hope this might help any practitioner who is considering moving into the contractor world.

The positives about being a contractor start with the flexibility it gives you. You can perform a role that you love to do, and take control of your own training and develop your skills at your own pace. You can choose when and where you work (within reason).   You are not tied down to a set amount of holidays as you decide when to work, which offers flexibility around other commitments and working conditions.

You have full control over your business accounts and taxes and have potential to earn a high return (assuming you are delivering real value) as you negotiate the rate of pay. You also have more choice over the payment terms that you can negotiate.

The company you work for is not your employer, and instead is your client, which puts a whole different flavour on the relationship, and does emphasise real delivery and outputs. Contracting with different organisations gives you the ability to advance your career and develop your knowledge, without being limited by a single employer’s processes, procedures, business ethos or politics. Being a contractor gives you the opportunity to test out other industry sectors to see if you can widen your experience and as your work experience and people network grows, opportunities will come along with other contractors contacting you with regards to opportunities with their clients.

Also carrying out project work in different organisations and environments provides you with the opportunity to develop existing skills and to learn new ones – making you an even more valuable commodity in both the contracting and permanent world. I’ve worked in sectors including private, public and charity that has given me a far greater range of skills and knowledge than I think I could have developed if I had worked for one or two organisations only.

There are benefits to the client of course as well. You are available on short notice, can hit the ground running and offer expertise to projects and work that requires cover from staff being on leave. The assignments are typically anything between 2 and 9 months, and some contracts and assignments roll over whilst others are fixed-term depending on the client’s needs.

According to a recent McKinsey Global Institute jobs survey, 58 percent of employers expect to hire more part-time, temporary or contract workers over the next five years. “In a down economy, temporary workers are especially appealing to employers from a financial perspective, given the costs associated with hiring full-time employees,” says Teri Hockett, chief executive of What’s For Work? ( a career site for women).

So, is everything perfect with the contractor life? Of course not – and tomorrow I will cover some of the downsides and negatives about this sort of life and career.

You can contact Samantha via samanthajcoombs@gmail.com, or LinkedIn  or Twitter @Procuri_SJ.

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