One of the problems of contract work as opposed to consulting is the length of time that a person spends at one assignment. Sure, it’s nice to have a steady, billable gig for a time, but it brings its own unique challenges. One of these challenges is that team members in the organization, even management, seem to forget that you’re just a temporary troubleshooter.
The implications from this are that they start building plans or structure around you and not the role you’re filling. Many folks simply forget that you’re here to fulfill a specific need, run a single project, or fix a unique system that is outside the scope or abilities of the existing staff. It’s bothersome when people start talking as if you’ll be there “next year” or when managers start implying that they need to make sure to “keep you around”.
Like many, I’m flattered by those sentiments and sometimes think it may not be too bad to go back to the corporate gig with a desk & phone and a guaranteed payday every week. However, there are too many aspects of the independent consultant that are appealing to really let that happen.
While the risk of uncertain pay schedules is the biggest issue, the benefits of bringing your workspace with you every day are too many to ignore. You are your own boss. You ultimately control your schedule. You determine your pay rate. You are responsible for your personal evaluation. You decide how the profits are spent.
The net result of being an independent consultant is that you gain control over these things – even in a longer contract, these items are still under your purview. Giving up that control and “working for the man” is the part for many consultants that is simply unacceptable. The feeling that long-term contracts adds is a mix of the consulting/employee feeling, even though you have control, the longer you are sitting somewhere, the longer people think you belong there – or to them in some way.
That’s one of the aspects of contract work that bothers me – the expectation in many areas by the team members you work with that you either should be hired on, or ultimately will be. Only for them to be disappointed when it doesn’t happen. For me, I’m content to simply be a great consultant that helps clients achieve their goals.