I've done some freelance work in the past but mainly got it through a friend. I would consider this "true" contracting. I was given the requirements of the project, made an estimate, billed my hours, and got paid on a 1099. I had a deadline but worked my own hours. Obviously this is on and off and not enough to maintain a good income.

Now most "contract" work I see online (Dice, careers.stackoverflow.com, careerbuilder) or from agencies (KForce, Robert Half, etc) is not true contract work. It is on-site office based work with set hours even though they consider it contract. This is true for sysadmin and programming work.

So where does one find "real" contract work besides networking. I would consider "real" contracting work as taking a job, working your own hours (but meeting a deadline), and delivering a product. (i.e. I need you to write backend API to do X, Y, Z). Is my definition of contract work twisted?

I've looked at Odesk but it seems as you are competing against people and skilled programming work bids at $10/hr. The point of a contractor is to sacrifice job stability for higher pay and more freedom. I'm open to sysadmin or programming (PHP, Perl, Python) contracts.

  • It's a little unclear what you're asking: What is contracting? Where do i find contract work? Why is contract work not paying more? Good questions, but choose one of them.
    – Martin F
    Jan 20, 2014 at 6:12
  • Who is your employer the agency or do you have your own company? Oct 9, 2018 at 20:40

2 Answers 2


What you are talking about is more regularly called freelance work. As Joe says in his answer, you're competing with others who can do it cheaper. It's a race to the bottom if you're competing on nothing more than price.

Contract work, which I've seen more often in IT than anywhere else is where a firm will hire a contractor rather than a permanent member of staff. In the UK, the contractor will typically have their own company as a tax vehicle and will invoice the firm through their company. This is more tax efficient for both the company and the contractor. The downsides are that you are not employed directly by the company (no benefits), can be terminated very easily, won't get any paid time off (as you'll be billing per hour / day), usually have no career path in the firm, and (in theory) might be out of work while looking for your next contract.

I've been an IT contractor for a number of years and I do that instead of becoming a permie solely because I find the market for what I do to be short on supply, so I get more money with little of the downsides.

Whether you should consider that depends on what you do. The more commodity based your work the less advantageous it is I would say.


So where does one find "real" contract work besides networking.

In my experience, networking is by far the most effective way.

Beside networking, you can still hook up with a good agency and get what you want. Just make it very clear up front what kind of "contracting" you want to do, and what kind you don't want to do.

And be prepared to wait. The variety of contracting you desire is far less common (as you've already discovered).

Is my definition of contract work twisted?

It's certainly not the norm these days.

The point of a contractor is to sacrifice job stability for higher pay and more freedom.

That may indeed be the reason you desire your form of contracting. Unfortunately, you are competing with a large number of others who are willing to do that sort of work for far less than you.

When work can be done remotely, and on an individual's own time, the faceless workers become fungible, and the market rate drops significantly.

You physical presence and face-to-face feedback is something you can offer that many of these workers cannot (or will not) provide. You may be squandering a big advantage by your choice.

In my experience, the kind of work you desire is out there, but networking is the only reliable method I have found of finding it. Other methods can make it happen, but are far less reliable.

  • So now a days an IT contractor is basically just a regular worker that is on a trial\temp basis and does not receive benefits Jan 18, 2014 at 23:00
  • Starzzere - Well at least where I live they basically are. Most of the contracts are "contract to perm" but even the ones that aren't are just like regular employees. You go into the office and work a 9-6 just like regular employees. This is the type of stuff I've been finding at agencies. Jan 19, 2014 at 0:44
  • Strazzre. Yeah that's my point. Where do I get the "true" contract work that actually meets the definitions. A true contractor sounds like freelance i.e. setting your own hours, working autonomously, etc. In the trade world there are true independent contractors. A General Contractor will call a plumber he knows and say "Hey could you install a couple of toilets for me. I need them by Friday, I'll pay $1,000." If it takes him a 1/2 a day, a full day, or two he still gets $1,000. The goal is to just get the toilets installed by Friday no matter how he does it. He can even sub it out. Jan 19, 2014 at 1:12
  • Doesn't work like that in IT. As Joe said in his reply, your big advantage over an Indian code factory is that you're on site.
    – sksamuel
    Jan 20, 2014 at 19:52
  • @contractorfreelancer um no its that as a real self employed contractor you bill 3x the rate that a full time employee gets and have other tax advantages. Oct 9, 2018 at 20:39

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