IT remains one of the most in-demand contractor skills in the UK. From cyber security to artificial intelligence, the IT industry presents plenty of opportunities for contractors. In fact, a recent study found that the IT contracting industry has seen a 71% increase in candidate availability since 2008.

As technology continues to develop, what better time to invest in getting to the top of your game and becoming a successful IT contractor? In this post, Umbrella Broker shares 6 steps to acing your IT contractor career in 2020.

Keep your skills competitive

Contractors are hired for their technical skills and expertise, meaning they need to demonstrate their abilities from the get go. What’s more, in an industry such as IT where technology is rapidly evolving, it’s never been so important for IT contractors to keep their skill sets sharp and competitive. If you want to win the best contracts, you need to show that you’ve got the perfect skill set for it.

Research what skills are most in demand in your area and work towards gaining these skills. For example, the 5 top in-demand skills IT contractors in the UK last year were:

  • Cyber Security
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  • Mobile Application Development
  • Big Data
  • Business Analysts

As clients are increasingly taking on the skills of specialist IT contractors to meet the growing technology demand, contractors must stay on top of their games.

Contractors should therefore identify their areas of expertise and focus on up-skilling in this area. Whether contractors enrol on online courses, attend training workshops or gain accredited qualifications, here are some great sources for up-skilling for contractors:

  • The Open University: with thousands of courses, the Open University offer accredited higher education qualifications that can be carried out via part-time, distance learning – perfect for busy contractors.
  • Learning People: offering a wide range of courses for tech career experts to specialise in cyber security coding and IT, Learning People is perfect for IT contractors looking to sharpen their skill sets.
  • Udemy: with over 80,000 courses in a vast range of subjects, Udemy offers online courses that can be learnt at home at a contractor’s own pace

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Make networking second nature

Every contractor knows the importance of networking, and there’s no exception when it comes to the IT sector. The fact of the matter is that many contract roles never even reach jobs boards or recruiters. When a vacancy becomes available, many clients work off word-of-mouth recommendations to find the perfect contractor to fill the role.

That’s why it’s never been so important for IT contractors to network, network and network some more. Thankfully, with the likes of LinkedIn, it’s never been easier for contractors to connect with and stay in touch with past clients and colleagues. It’s no surprise that contractors typically have 2x more connections that the average LinkedIn member.

As well as staying connected online, contractors should also attend events and conferences to forge new connections face-to-face, stay in touch with old contacts and get their names out there.

Be flexible

Showcasing flexibility when it comes to changes in the market and industry will help IT contractors stay at the forefront of their field.

If a high-value contracting opportunity becomes available in a specific town or region then be prepared to go for it. After all, 10% of contractors that changed companies over the past year also moved to a new region. Don’t dismiss a contract based on location or commute time alone, as this can mean missing out on top opportunities and making new connections which can lead to future work. In the ever-changing world of IT, IT contractors should be prepared to make compromises if they want to stay at the top of their game.

Be a self-starter

For IT contractors, being a go-getter is an essential trait. After all, IT contractors need be prepared to continually learn new skills and knowledge, be active in going after new opportunities, be outgoing when it comes to networking and be confident at being their own boss.

To become a successful IT contractor, you must be prepared to adopt a can-do attitude in all elements of your work to stay at the top of your game.

Do your research

When it comes to rates, IT contractors should ensure that they do their research to ensure they’re charging the right amount for their job level and skill-set. After all, rates can vary greatly depending on role, skills and area in the IT sector. Don’t miss out on an opportunity by charging too much, but don’t undervalue your services by under-charging.

For example, the top IT contracting skills in 2019 attracted varying average daily rates, from a daily rate of £600 for Cloud Native skills to £430 daily rate for skills in Sketch. Likewise, Head of Technology contractors attracted a daily rate of £1000, compared to Head of IT Architecture contractors who could charge £780.

Clearly, doing your research when it comes to IT contracting is essential. There are tools out there to help, including this IT contract rate checker which helps contractors find out what their average hourly or daily rates should be.

Contract smarter

Like every contractor, those working in IT can go down the path of setting up their own limited company or contracting through an umbrella company. Those that choose to work through an umbrella company release themselves of paperwork, admin and financial tasks, leaving more time to concentrate on becoming a successful IT contractor in 2020. However, umbrella companies vary from company to company. To choose the best one for your contracting needs, check out Umbrella Broker’s easy to use Umbrella Company Comparison Tool and get ready to ace your IT contracting career this year.

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