Money & Career

Is contract work better than full-time?

Six important questions to ask yourself

Contract and fountain pen


Hi Caroline, I’ve worked for the same company full-time for five years and I’ve been offered an exciting position with another firm. My only concern is that it’s contract — but it does pay more than my current position. Should I take the job?

Thanks, Jasmine, Calgary

More money, more excitement: sounds like a no-brainer, right?  Well, not exactly. Before you decide to take a contract position over full-time work, make sure you weigh the pros and cons. Contract work isn’t for everyone, so make sure you’re comfortable with what comes with it. Here are six questions to ask yourself to help you make the right decision.

1. Is contract work really paying you more?

Your full-time job is probably paying you a lot more than just your salary. Depending on where you work, your employer could also be paying you through benefits, a pension, a bonus, paid sick and vacation days and opportunities for free training and education. Contract jobs don’t come with any benefits — it all comes out of your own pocket. Before you decide to leave your full-time position, make sure you look at the entire compensation picture.

2. Are you comfortable with instability?

Your new contract job may pay more money and give you more challenging and exciting work, but you’ll need to be comfortable with not knowing what will happen at the end of your contract. It could end up being a stressful time when you’re out of work and the bills start piling up.

3. But is your full-time job really all that stable?

Over the past few years, I’ve watched friends and colleagues get laid off from jobs they thought they’d be in for life. Layoffs and salary and benefit cuts are a reality in this economy and your future is tied closely to the fortunes of the company you’re working for. Assess your company’s financial health and find out where you really stand.

4. Will the contract lead to other work?

Will there be networking opportunities through the contract job that could lead to a full-time position? Can it lead to other contract jobs easily? If so, a contract position could open a lot of doors your current full-time job might not.

5. Can you handle the added costs?

From prescriptions to dental care, you’ll be operating without any benefits or advantages that come with working full-time for a company. Covering the costs takes some planning and a healthy safety net – you need to make sure you’re always saving up for a rainy day.

6. Are you good at selling yourself?

When you work for yourself, you can’t fall back on a performance review when it comes time for a promotion or raise. Your career is 100 percent in your hands. You need to sell yourself by networking, meeting new people and being good and talking up your skills and know-how. As a contractor, it’s a definite advantage if you have an outgoing personality and good at meeting new people.

Bottom line:you’re in a very enviable position right now. You have a full-time job at a time when a lot of people don’t. And you have a chance to pursue more interesting and lucrative work on a contract. Whatever choice you make has its advantages — just make sure it works for you. Good luck!

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