As you look through job postings on LinkedIn or other job boards, you begin seeing two types of roles. Many job listings are for full time positions and others are short term contracts. You see contract durations ranging from 3 months to several years. Some others may say contract to hire. You aren’t sure what this means exactly, but you’re beginning to wonder if you should give these jobs a shot or stick to full time positions.
I’m going to be honest, I was where you are after completing the IDOL courses Academy’s 6th cohort in spring 2021. I made the decision (without any research) to dismiss contracts because I wanted stability, health insurance, and a W2 position. I only applied and networked for full time positions and I was able to secure my first ID role in June 2021.
Was this the right decision? Honestly, I don’t know because I never researched or had an open mind to a contract position.
While working full time, recruiters continued to contact me. Many of these were for contract positions. I decided to listen and take notice of the benefits of a contract position when five recruiters reached out to me for the same contract.
Here’s what I learned:
Wait, really? I had no idea! I should have researched and listened sooner. Now let’s dig a little deeper and compare my four takeaways to a full time position.
Contracts Can Be a Guaranteed 40 Hours a Week
This was the first question I asked the recruiter. I wanted a guaranteed 40 hours a week. I was afraid the company I would be contracting with had the authority to say “we don’t need you this week” and I wouldn’t get paid. A salary felt safer to me. This was not the case. I would be signing a contract for a guaranteed 40 hours a week.
Another perk was that my 40 hours would be flexible. If I needed to take a half day off, I could make up those hours in the morning, evening, or weekend. As long as I worked 40 hours in the week, I would be paid for the 40 hours.
One downside to the contract is if I don’t work I don’t get paid. In other words there isn’t any PTO or paid holidays. Those hours can be made up, or I can choose to not get paid. Some contracts do offer PTO, so make sure to ask this when talking with the recruiter.
Contracts Can Be W2
I don’t know about you, but I thought all contract positions were 1099 and I would have to save money to pay my taxes at the end of the year. This scared me and I didn’t want this burden. Once I talked to the recruiter, I quickly found out that most contracts are actually W2 through the recruiting agency that hires you for the contract. Make sure to discuss this with the recruiter if it’s something you are also concerned about.
Contracts Can Offer Health Insurance
Health insurance is a mandatory benefit for me. I was hesitant about a contract because I thought health insurance wasn’t provided. This is partially correct. The company you are contracting with doesn’t offer you health benefits, but the agency you are working for does. Are these benefits as good as what you would receive from a full time position? In my experience no. However, this gives you leverage to negotiate a higher hourly rate, which in my case worked. So if health insurance is a requirement for you, make sure to discuss this with the recruiter during the initial phone screen.
Contracts Can Pay More Than Full Time
In my mind, a salary had to pay more than an hourly rate. As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Have you ever taken your salary and determined your hourly rate? I hadn’t, but when I did I was shocked. It was actually much less than I would have expected. Then take the hourly rate you’re being offered and turn it into a salary. My eyes almost popped out of my head! 🙄I would be making A LOT more than my current salary. I could also negotiate an even higher hourly rate to counteract the increase for health insurance. Oh and you know how I mentioned above I wouldn't have any PTO or paid Holidays? The higher pay would counteract these days off as well.
Are contracts the right decision for everyone? And are all contracts created equally? These are two questions you need to consider before jumping into one. However, I suggest doing your research instead of dismissing the possibility like I did at first. Many contracts are short term, allowing you to gain experience in an instructional design role as well as in a variety of industries. Many times contracts get extended or they are contract to hire. If you like the company, it’s possible you could join them in a full time role.
Are you wondering how my story plays out? I left my first full time position after 7 months to take a 2 year contract making close to double the salary I left. My health insurance though more expensive is doing its job and I typically make up hours to submit 40 every week. I will be taking a vacation soon that will be unpaid, but I have made plenty of money up to this point to cover the pay I will be losing.
Good luck in your job search and promise me you’ll keep an open mind when it comes to contract positions. You never know, one may end up being the perfect role for you!
Written by: Amanda Kulik
Amanda is an educator turned corporate instructional designer with more than 16 years under her belt of creating engaging learning experiences for a diverse group of learners. She’s finishing her first year as an instructional designer since leaving the classroom and she’s so happy with her new career.
Amanda loves spending time with her family and friends, especially her niece Olivia. When she’s not designing learning experiences, she can be found at the gym teaching Zumba and water fitness classes, as well as on adventures traveling all over the globe.