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Working as a contractor in 2018

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Working as a Contractor in 2018

As reported in our Summer Architectural and Interior Design Recruitment Market Update, the architectural and interior design employment market is becoming increasingly candidate short, and more and more employers are willing to fill their vacancy on either a permanent or contract basis.

These are signs that for some, now is a good time to consider the move from employee to contractor.

We have put together our most frequently asked questions about working in an architectural or interior design contract role and will give you our unbiased feedback from our rich experience in architectural contract recruitment.

Is there a difference between a temporary job and a contract job?

Yes there is.

A temporary role will be hired to fill a hole quickly, cover sickness or to fire fight through an urgent project. A contractor will be hired on a longer term basis for their specific skill set and are often retained from project to project.

Will I be paid for every hour I work?

Most contract jobs are paid by the hour, and the feedback from our contractors is that they see this as one of the greatest advantages of working in this way.  

Our 2018 Architecture Salary & Employment Review highlighted that employers are becoming more aware of the negativity associated with employees working unpaid overtime in permanent roles and are trying to address it. However, it is the contractors who are the real winners when it comes to overtime – all their hours will be paid whilst a permanent staff member may see different benefits offered such as discretionary time off in lieu, taxis home or expenses for evening meals after working late.

Some contract jobs do have a daily rate though, so you must make sure you know the detail of the contract.

Will I have to manage my own paperwork and tax obligations?

There are several options and a lot of flexibility and it is really down to your own individual needs. You can pick from a simple or sophisticated system to manage this.

For maximum control, you can choose to set up your own company and handle all of your own tax, National Insurance, VAT, benefits, pension etc.

You can use a third party company to manage the above for you, at a cost.

Or, you can use a recruitment company like FRAME who offer the added value service of handling all of the above for you, pay you weekly with minimal fuss and no additional cost.

It really is your choice, and in the long run, what works best for you and your situation may change as you adapt to this way of working.

How will I find regular contract jobs?

Be prepared.

Ensuring you have an up to date portfolio, CV and knowing your next availability date is crucial. Creating a good LinkedIn profile will be advantageous too.

Use recruiters.

Good recruiters will want to act as your agent to find you work and keep you in work through them. It is their full time job to talk to companies every day. Find a good recruiter and they will do the leg work for you.

Be flexible.

You may need to travel slightly further than you might accept for a permanent position, employers tend to more flexible with contractor’s start and finish times to accommodate this. 

What are the risks?

As a contractor you should see yourself as a flexible resource because you may be utilised as such.

Our contractors tell us that this was the greatest adjustment from being a permanent employee.

Successful career contractors minimise this risk by keeping in touch with a network of people who will help them to keep one eye on their next contract, and arrange their finances so that they can deal with any down-time between jobs.

Working directly for a practice is somewhat more risky than working via a recruiter; recruiters are regulated meaning that the risk of not getting paid is hugely reduced.

Why do people choose to work as a contractor?

Variety is the spice of life.

Most career contractors thrive on the change and variety they enjoy by working in different practices, with different people, on different projects.

In today’s market, contractors are beginning to be able to target particular organisations or project types to develop and expand their project portfolio, whether project value or sector.


Those that set up their own companies have a greater amount of control of how they are paid. Many contractors prefer cash now, rather than x% of their compensation going into a pension that they will not need for 25 years.

Paid for all of their time.

Repeating our earlier point, this is the number one benefit identified by our contractors. There is a common misconception that contractors are paid significantly more per hour. Whilst this can be the case, many contractors will see a significant increase because they have been paid for all of the work they have done.    

Career development.

The candidate shortage is biting hard and we’re seeing some practices hire contractors into roles normally reserved for permanent staff, even offering REVIT cross training to contractors.

Do employers ever employ contractors into permanent positions?

Employer’s views on this differ greatly; however, it is not uncommon for an employer to get to like a contractor and request they move in to a permanent position.  

If the time is right (as well as the offer!), it can work our really well from the contractor’s and employer’s perspective, as you have both already got a real sense of whether the fit is right.

Should I make the switch?

Switching your career from permanent to contract is an important decision to consider, and before you make the leap, we would advise that you talk it through with your family and friends. It is also a good idea to speak with anyone you currently know who is a contractor themselves.

It is not a question of whether a particular contract job is the right one, but is more of a question of lifestyle, risk aversion, your personality and if the time is right.

It’s a bit like a diet version of setting up your own business.

The contract recruitment consultants at FRAME are always on hand to offer advice and guidance on how to start a career as a contractor as well as act as your agent to find your first contracting role.

The life of a contractor will certainly not be right for all, but for some people, it is the best move they have ever made and most would not return to a permanent position. 

FRAME Recruitment has been working with architectural contractors and vacancies since 1999. We are committed to customer service excellence and operate to the highest standards in the recruitment industry.