Sunday, February 8, 2009

Contracting and Optimizing your time Part 6

Hi All, 

First of all, I would like to thank everyone for their comments and feedback, it seems that the advice that I am giving is helping some people out. Before I dive into this weeks installment, it is imperative to mention that there have been a lot of these "How to find work in a recessoin?", "How to keep your job?" etc tutorials and blogs going around in the blogging community today. Sites like are generating a lot more guides on working, subcontracting and load balancing side projects. Hence, from what was initially going to be a 6 part series of self-help guides, I decided to keep ongoing as it seems to be helping others out in times when job security is at the forefront of society.

This weeks installment is therefor going to dicuss a part of contracting that relates directly to the topics described above. How to keep your contracting job when times are tough? The definition of a contract usually entails a short stint of work that has two main factors, high pay and professional output. The contractor is being paid above normal rate because they are basically thrown in the deep end and required to digg themselves out. 50% of contracts will always go over schedule and I don't mean "working for yourself" contracts, I mean, contracts where you are required to attend a persons workplace and work within their office. Why 50%? Because contract work is unpredictable, unless you have someone that has done a similar project many times before and is well aware of exactly what needs to be done. There are also other factors such as :

 - Lack of investment in money
 - Lack of investment in staff
 - Lack of documentation
 - Lack of vision

So of these 50% of onsite contracting, there is always a target on any contractors head reading - 

"If at any point, my employeer loses vision, can't afford the project anymore, or doesn't like the progress that is happening.......I will be the first to go...and promptly".

Translation, no person in their right mind would keep a contractor on, when a project is not going to schedule or plan, it is just too expensive.

We have now come to the end of the segway (stalling) in this weeks installment of contracting anf optimizing your time. How do we turn this target into a nice shinning halo? Here are some fundamental factors that can help in the removal of the idea that, "as a contractor, you will be the first to go".

 - Gain key knowledge about the business. Know something about the business that know one else either knows or has time to learn e.g. the API to web services that you are using within the project you are building.
 - Be a player in the design and decisions of the creation of the system you are working on e.g. suggest using technology that you are adept at, and perhaps others are not as much. Obviously, don't do this to the detriment of the project but e.g. if you are hired as the developer for building the business logic, controller and model of a project then opt to do it in Windows Workflow instead of building your own state machines. The idea behind this, is when employers are given the tricky job of having to cut staff because of funding, they will definately ponder questions such as 

 - "We can't get rid of Person A, because they have written all the business logic is something that no-one else here could easily pick up. However, Person B who built the database, we can easily get others to see how it was design. In addition, Person C, who worked on the front end is only using CSS and HTML, and Person A has had experience with that."
 - "If we get rid of Person A, we lose the felxibility to add functionality to the system. If we lose person C, it just means that the site won't look as good".

Now, don't get me wrong, you definately don't want to blackmail any employer, that is totally wrong. However, there is nothing wrong with showing to your employer that you are an integral part of the team and not easily expendable. 

Before I go for this week, let's just mention a couple of other small but important aspects for keeping your contract position.

 - Show up promptly and professionally presented to work.
 - Be the one in the team to always put up your hand for overtime (this pays off really well)
 - Be the one in the team that keeps your management uptodate with project progress i.e. send email reports, send daily tasks completed.

Little things go a long way.

Hope this helps, 

 - Tim

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Like it. Happy that you are deciding to continue the series.