Why Contract Workers Feel Really Good About Their Jobs

Permanent employees often argue that contract work would be too stressful, given the lack of long-term career stability. However, a survey of contract workers suggests that being on a contract doesn't mean not enjoying your job.

Picture by sean-b

Contractor services company Entity Solutions has just completed its third annual IPro Index, which quantifies how independent professional contractors (such as IT workers) feel about their jobs. (Independent contractors in this context typically sign up for a fixed period and work for a single employer, but are paid via an agency, such as Entity in this case, rather than directly by the company.)

We covered the 2009 survey in terms of contract workers seeing a pay decline and the 2010 one along the lines of why freelance workers are so happy, and we've already looked at one interesting aspect of the 2011 study: which song best represents your job.

Of the 2011 data, based on a survey of 375 workers and conducted by Monash University researcher Dr Tui McKeown, the page that jumped out at me discussed wellbeing. Here are the key statements that were offered and the main responses, all of which suggest that independent contractors are getting a lot of pleasure out of their careers:

  • At my work, I am bursting with energy. 29% said this happened "often" and 38% said "very often".
  • At my job, I feel strong and vigorous. Similar numbers: 28% went for often and 37% for very often.
  • I am enthusiastic about my job. Again, the same pattern: 23% said often and 39% very often (and 22% went for "always").
  • My job inspires me. 14% plumped for always, 29% for very often and 26% for often.
  • When I get up in the morning, I feel like going to work. The most common choice was very often, picked by 33%.
  • I feel happy when I am working intensively. 38% went for very often, and 27% for always.
  • I am proud of the work that I do. Similar numbers again: 34% said always and 38% said very often.

While being happier because you're controlling your own career may seem an obvious outcome, similar studies overseas haven't found the same levels of satisfaction. "Australia is ahead of the curve both in terms of the quality of [independent]workers, and in terms of practice," McKeown noted.

Would you respond positively to those questions, whether you're permanent, contract or freelance? Tell us in the comments.

Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.

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Comments

    I went from a very underpaid permanent role, to an honestly probably overpaid contractor on a day rate. Permanent gig was high stress and constant arguments about if I was under paid, and any attempt at getting overtime/etc for the insane demands of the role made my life suck. I was always angry.

    As a contractor? It's high demand, but the money is amazingly better, I'm on a day rate - so as long as I deliver, nobody cares about my actual hours. If I do work outside of business hours for a change or something - it's no hassle, just take some time in lieu the next day. If i work a weekend, even for a few hours, I get a full day rate - so the company is motivated to leave my weekends alone. I know I went from an extremely awful job to a pretty awesome one - but contracting feels like a huge step up to me.

    agreed with Scootah on all points.

    Agree. Plus it makes you move on every few years so you don't get rusty.

    +1 for both comments.

    Contracting although a little concerning due to lack of stability has been the best career choice in 12 years.

    Totally agree. Though I wonder about cause and affect - perhaps those factors drive people to contracting, not simply resultant from.

    I went from 9 years in a permanent role (IT) to a 3 month contract. It may of been the workplace i was at, but short term contracts aren't for me. I'm looking to get back to permanent for the stability mainly. I think a 2 year contract would probably be about the minimum length of time i'd take now.

    I'm in the mining/engineering industry, and I've made the reverse move to Scootah, going from an (I must admit) overpaid contractor on an hourly rate to an annual salaried staff position at one of the sites I used to frequent.

    The contracting role was definitely rewarding and enjoyable (plenty of workplaces, varied roles etc) and great in terms of experience and networking, but I'm finding as a longer-term staff member you tend to have more input and do more decision-making than short term contractors, which I find rewarding. It's harder to "grow" your role as a contractor.

    The pay difference is obviously there, but once you factor in a shorter working week (I would regularly work 60+ hours as a contractor, vs around 40-45 now) along with sick leave/annual leave/bonuses it doesn't really seem too bad.

    I guess I had/have pretty high job satisfaction in both roles, but from different factors :

    Contracting = great pay, varied work sites, people, plenty of work-from-home ability, less resposibility

    Staff = stability, position autonomy, less hours, more senior position (opportunities for promotion etc)

    Contract work for me is great.

    These are my reasons.

    Excellent rates
    Varied work sites
    I know that the position will end
    Great experience

    Alot of the points other people in this blog have made I most definitely agree with 110%.

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