Becoming a contractor for energy companies could be the best move you ever make. The variety of work, the hours, the pay and being your own boss are reasons enough to consider contracting. There are certainly plenty of advantages but it has to be right for you, so whether you opt to go down the contracting route in renewable energy or any other discipline requires careful thought. We look at the key benefits and some of the more practical details so that you can make an informed decision and a smoother transition to contracting.
By definition, contracting means working for yourself, typically operating as a limited or personal services company (PSC). Companies engage with you on a contract basis – the duration could be anything from a couple of months to longer. No longer a permanent employee and typically paid by the day or hour, you’ll be responsible for all your admin and taxes. It is unlikely that you’ll access the usual employee benefits such as holiday and sick pay on a contract (unless specified) but there are numerous benefits that make this worthwhile.
FIVE benefits of energy contracting
- You’re your own boss – you dictate when you work so if you want to take some time off, you can do so once your contract comes to an end. You can pick and choose the projects you like and fit your work around your other commitments. Work life balance is a huge plus!
- Specialist skill set – the reason contractors are so highly sought after is that they have a niche specialist expertise that’s in demand. Your reputation and experience will grow and one project will lead on to the next – you’ll have energy companies queuing up for your services!
- Variety of work – you’ll get to meet and collaborate with different people, teams and cultures. You’ll learn so much about yourself and accumulate a great amount of experience working in diverse environments and projects. This will make you an even greater asset for future opportunities.
- Financial gains – contracting can be very lucrative with the most experienced professionals able to command top day rates. You will typically earn more than your permanent counterparts and can therefore afford to take more time off in the year as a result.
- Office politics – there is far less likelihood of getting stuck in a career rut due to lack of opportunities or promotions. Presenteeism too can often take a toll on a person’s mental health. And if money is an issue, you can choose to take on a better paid contract.
While there are many benefits to taking the plunge as a contractor in renewable energy, it’s a decision that requires careful consideration. The main downside is that you are now responsible for running your own business and the time that goes into that. You’ll also need to understand all the latest legislation that affects those contracting in the public and private sectors, such as off-payroll working (IR35) so that you don’t get into trouble with HMRC.
Becoming an energy contractor – FIVE areas to consider
- Financial security – in a permanent job, you’ve got regular income coming in, plus a company pension, medical insurance etc. As a contractor, your earnings can fluctuate so you have to be prepared for peaks and troughs in income. Make sure that you have enough money put aside to cover any potential gaps.
- Managing a business – you have to be organised with the administration aspect of contracting, including logging expenses, incorporating your business and filing your company accounts/taxes (if a limited company). You may want to hire an accountant or use an umbrella company to sort this for you.
- Build your networks – in contracting, you need to always plan ahead. As you know the date when your contract ends, you must tap into your professional networks and job boards to secure your next assignment. A specialist recruiter who knows you well can also be valuable.
- Flexible attitude – often contracts come up at short notice and this may require you to relocate for periods of time, so you need to be flexible when work opportunities present themselves. The same applies to pay – you don’t want to price yourself out of the market.
- Self-learning and upskilling – it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to benefit from training or development courses offered by an employer (though some do extend this to contractors). If you’re in a tech discipline for example, you’ll be expected to keep up to date with the latest software and programmes, so you have to factor this in to the equation.
The decision to take up contracting opportunities with energy companies is a difficult and personal one. It’s not for everyone and making the move can be daunting, as you need to step out of your comfort zone, especially where finances are concerned. However, many contractors go on to enjoy very rewarding careers, both financially and in terms of personal growth.
Best of luck deciding!