16 tips for thriving as an IT contractor

Companies continue to supplement their full-time technical ranks with temporary contractors. Here’s how to make it work.

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When demand exceeds the supply of available IT talent, many companies are using contractors to help fill the gaps. IT contractors provide manpower when workloads spike and can bring key expertise and skills to a team. (See related story, Life as an IT contractor)

Across all fields (not just IT), independent workers are on the rise, according to MBO Partners, which provides back-office services to self-employed professionals. The number of independent workers is forecast to reach 40 million in 2019, up from 30 million today. Over the last four years, the independent workforce has grown 12.5% -- greatly outpacing the 1.1% growth in the overall U.S. labor force, MBO asserts.

If a shift towards contracting work is in your future, consider these 16 tips and warnings from experienced IT contractors and staffing experts. 

1. Pursue what you like. “You should have a core competency. It should be an area of technology that you do really well (and hopefully is in demand),” says Fred Granville, who has been working as an independent networking consultant in the Kansas City, Mo., area since 2000. “You should enjoy working in your field -- your customers will notice.”

2. Be professional. “You are always under a microscope as a contractor, and you have to keep in mind that you are viewed as extremely expendable by your employer,” says Jodi Minshall, an IT analyst in the San Francisco Bay area. “Make sure your demeanor and work ethic are above reproach, or face a quick exit from your contract.”

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