Self-Employed And Self-Reliant? The Pitfalls Of Being A Contractor


The great thing about being self-employed is that you’re totally self-reliant. On the other hand, the bad thing about being self-employed is that … yes, you guessed it, you’re totally self-reliant. You decide when you’ll sit down to work, but you need to actually do it or you’ll go hungry. You get 100% of the credit for a job well done, but also 100% of the blame for a failure. 

Absolutely none of this is an attempt to discourage people from making their own way in the business world. It can be exceptionally rewarding, as long as you’re aware of and make preparations for the many ways in which it is different from a conventional job. 

The Buck Stops With You 

If you’ve taken on a contract to do some work for a client, then you personally are the one responsible for seeing it gets done on time and to the client’s satisfaction. If you’re in paid employment and you wake up with a fever of 103, you pick up the phone and explain you can’t come in. If you’re a contractor? It’s not that easy, and many self-employed people work through illness for fear of lost income. 

Solution: It’s worth striking up a working relationship with a friend or acquaintance who can step in for you when you can’t do a job. You may still lose some income, but can make arrangements so it’s not too big a loss. 

There’s No Such Thing As Pay Day 

In an average job, we get to a certain point in the month and see our wages turn up in our bank accounts. We don’t need to go to HR or management and ask for that, it just happens. When you’re self employed, however, you have to become skilled at asking for money and ready for the fact that some clients may be “can’t pay” or “won’t pay” customers. Chasing up lost payment is inconvenient and uses up time that could be used more productively. 

Solution: If you’re doing contract work, you need to either become an expert in dealing with finances or hire someone who is. You also need to have plans such as contractor insurance in place to mitigate lost income. Yes, you’ll have to pay for something you don’t want to have to use, but sometimes you need to speculate to accumulate

You Stop When The Job Is Done 

Anyone working in a full- or part-time job will agree that the best time of day is when the clock ticks past the time they’re contracted to work until. It’s home time, and you can walk away. If you’re self-employed, though, you are solely responsible for seeing a job through to conclusion. This can mean a lot of late finishes if work takes longer than expected. 

Solution: There are no short-cuts here - you need to be realistic and skilled at budgeting your time. Don’t quote a day for a job that may take two; it inevitably leads to work being rushed and can result in lost payment, a damaged reputation and cancelling other jobs. Agree with a client what work you’ll be doing, point by point, and stick to it. If they ask for more while you’re doing the job, that’s going to be extra time and money, and you may need to come back to finish it. Be up front about that, or your time will never be your own again.





I hope you enjoyed this article about the challenges of being a contractor or construction project manager.

Interested in more articles about real estate development & construction management?

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Published by Michael J Schiemer
Owner of Bootstrap Business
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