Giving notice to your employer is the moment when you fire the starting gun on your contracting career. So it’s important to consider both your preparation to become a contractor and when the best contract opportunities will come up.
Preparing to give notice
Preparation means exploring the market, assessing your skills and marketability, and polishing your offering until you have the best chance of success on your own. How you go about doing this will depend on your industry and expertise but there are several things that are common for nearly every contractor.
First, talk to other people who have already taken the plunge and started doing contracting work. They will have first-hand knowledge of life as a contractor and what happened to them when they gave notice – so listen to their advice and absorb it. It’s also worth talking to any recruitment consultants in your field to discuss where the gaps in the market are. Which sorts of people working in your field are hard to find?
Second, act on the information you’ve discovered. If you’re an accountant and have discovered that there is a growing demand for people with data analytics skills, then see what training is available to give you an edge in that area, or if your firm has any opportunities to work on projects that will give you those skills.
Last, don’t forget there are legal and technical issues that need to be covered, including deciding whether or not to set up a personal service company, notifying the tax authorities and sorting out insurance. Read our comprehensive guide to Making The Leap here.
Spotting opportunities to become a contractor
Ideally, you’ll have at least one contract in the bag before handing in your notice, and who better to give it to you than your current employers? They will know you and your skills better than most, and you’ll be able to time your transition to be seamless.
Not everyone has this option of course, which is why it’s good to speak to recruiters. Your notice period is a key consideration – if it’s longer than four weeks then you’re unlikely to be put forward for many roles as clients often need to fill roles quickly.
However long you need to give your employer, you should draw up a timetable with all the key actions you need to perform before you’re ready to go live. Review your employment contract thoroughly to examine the notice and termination clauses – even if you think you know your employment terms, you can avoid any unpleasant surprises that might curtail your contracting options after you leave. Remember that you will still be part of the same industry and your reputation is a vital part of your contracting repertoire. Having a clean, professional and amicable departure will help you make a successful move into this exciting part of your career.