Career Advice: Three Steps To Decide If Contract Work Is For You

12 September 2019 By Ben Swift

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​The payments industry is full of opportunities, with the breadth and variety of roles available growing almost daily. But lots of professionals looking for their next move debate the best route for their career, in particular whether that is to go for inhouse roles, or take the leap into contracting.

Where financial services companies have invested heavily in contractors in the past, many payments businesses are now increasingly seeking permanent employees in an effort to reduce costs and build a stronger long-term business model.

There are still plenty of opportunities for those wishing to work as a contractor, but having a successful interim career in payments is all down to understanding market opportunities, building a strong network and having the right skillset.

Here are the key considerations for anyone thinking of moving into contract work…..

01 Know your strengths - and your value

The payments and fintech sectors are changing fast – and so are skills requirements. It’s important to understand which skills are most in demand and whether, in general, payments businesses are looking to fill those resource gaps with permanent employees or contract staff.

Expertise in technology, sales and business leadership are all in strong demand at the moment and candidates who are highly experienced in key skillsets within these areas have their choice of placement. However, many of these roles are permanent, as payments businesses look to invest in employees that will help them shape and grow their businesses.

If your skills are in demand in a contract capacity, it’s also important to know what kind of day rate you can typically command, and how that fares against your existing (or desired salary). You must take into account that as a contractor you may have gaps in work and you will not have some of the same benefits (sick pay, holiday, health insurance etc) as an employee. Once you’ve done all the sums, you’ll have a good idea whether contracting will work for you financially.

02 Understand market movements

While certain skills are in demand, others are in decline and it’s just as important to know about these movements. Many are driven by changes in legislation, competitive pressures and advances in technology. For example, the introduction of PSD2, GDPR and other legislation drove huge demand for legal and compliance professionals who understand the details and implications of the regulations for payments companies. However, as the compliance deadlines for these key changes pass, the demand for the corresponding skills will also reduce and make way for resources that cater more for the ‘new business as usual’.

Budget and market cycles are also useful to understand since they can affect how and when businesses choose to recruit, as well as what might cause lulls in contract work.

03 It takes a network to build a contract career

Working as a contractor means building connections. Recommendations and referrals are a great source of new assignments and the more you build your network, the wider your reach will be. Having that strong network in place before you launch into a contract career can be very valuable, which might mean you need to spend some time in relevant inhouse roles before you take the leap.

Building connections with other professionals (both contract and inhouse) can also help you to gauge how your skillset fits into the market, what the going rates are and where opportunities might be coming up.

Of course, the people with the most valuable insight are specialist recruiters who know the payments industry and already have a strong network that you can leverage.

The team at Headcount are focused on the payments and fintech space and understand the industry trends, skills demands, opportunities and how they are changing.

If you are a payments professional and you’re considering going in to contract work, or you’re already an interim looking for your next assignment, one of our team of experts can help advise you on suitability and help match you with the right employer. Just get in touch!

You can also find more insight on the current skills demands and drivers for change in the payments industry in our latest guide.