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What You Need to Know if You’re Thinking About Contracting in Wellington

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If the thought of resigning with no job to go to makes your toes tingle, contracting might not be the right choice for you – unless you live in Wellington.

Traditionally, being a contractor is a high-risk engagement where you’re paid well for your services but can be terminated within a short amount of time (the standard in Wellington has gravitated towards ten business days). Also, normally while your assignments can get extended, it’s good practice not to rely on extensions lasting until your next “pre-booked holiday” and your availability needs to be immediate or within one week. However, the good news is these normal contract issues aren’t the case in Wellington’s IT and Transformation market. We have never been a traditional contracting market when compared to the rest New Zealand or internationally.

The “Wellington village” coupled with “two degrees of separation” and the fact there’s a lack of well-qualified contractors here in New Zealand means that, if you are a contractor who does a great job, you put yourself in a strong position for your contracts to be extended. Most organisations will see if they have any existing contractors who will be available for new projects versus going back out to market. You will also often get those opportunities that normally only permanent employees enjoy (with many of the benefits such as morning teas, interesting projects etc - except of course for annual and sick leave). In fact, in this market, the average tenure of an IT or project-based contractor can actually be longer than permanent staff.

In saying all of this, availability really does matter to organisations who are looking to engage contractors, and the longer your availability is the less marketable you’ll be when compared with other contractors. 

But Should You Get Comfortable in this Market? 

The contract market can change at a frightening pace so, if you decide to back yourself and resign to increase your marketability – you need to consider what the current market is like now as well as tomorrow.

The Global Financial Crisis is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t get too comfortable. The market went from buoyant to contract terminations left, right and centre. There was a flood of amazing contractors hitting the market and any new permanent role had record breaking applications. A lot of organisations were uncomfortable with employing career contractors as they knew that once the market became buoyant again, they would be the first to resign. In fact, post-GFC when the market did pick up, you wouldn’t be considered for a contract if you had a notice period. People who were serious about returning to the contracting market would take that leap of faith and resign. I have had conversations with clients who had given contractors both the benefits of contracting as well as permanent perks too but would take those perks away in one foul swoop whenever times became tough. Those contractors would then become disenfranchised. In a world with recent unrest with Brexit and the unreliability of the US market with Trump, these have the potential to strongly affect our market. 

Summary

To wrap up, the contracting market in Wellington is very strong at the moment – where organisations might wait for the right candidate. But, if you are considering the move to contracting, please remember we are working in an ever-changing market, with a supply and demand that can be greatly affected by external forces from New Zealand and the rest of the world.