But when considering whether contract work is right for you, it's important to understand the basic reasons professionals thrive in this career path.
To best explain these reasons, let's tap the experience of some of the most prolific contractors Hollywood has ever dreamt up: the "Ghostbusters."
Let's get going.
1. You're comfortable in a metropolis. Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, Egon Spengler and Winston Zeddmore are the four Ghostbusters who contract out their ghost removal services in New York City, an area in which there was a high volume of potential clients to yield consistent work.
Similarly, if contracting sounds appealing to you, then settling in a metropolis with many opportunities can help you avoid the stress associated with securing new work semi-regularly.
For example, the information technology world is a hotbed for contract opportunities and according to Jennifer Bewley, the vice president of investor relations and corporate communications at Dice Holdings, Inc., a third of the approximately 4,600 tech jobs posted in New York City each day on the tech news and jobs listing site Dice.com call for contract employees.
Consequently, the contractor lifestyle is arguably best suited to living in a place like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago or Boston rather than small-town America.
2. You fancy yourself a subject-matter expert secure with hourly (not annual) wages. Contractors often get the nod from hiring firms when those firms need to supplement their existing resources with expertise not available in-house. This was the cornerstone of the Ghostbusters' business model.
Ghosts were the hot topic of the day and no one had the tools to address paranormal activity themselves. Consequently, the Ghostbusters were in a position to command an impressive hourly or project-based wage from any employer that needed to engage their highly-specialized services.
If you have similar subject-matter expertise in an in-demand field, you stand to not only have a lot of employment options, but make even more than your counterparts with full-time employment.
This is definitely true in IT. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, database administrators, software developers, business analysts, systems administrators and network administrators make on average 11.78 percent more via contracting than they would full-time. At the same time, less-technical professionals like graphic designers, administrative assistants, office clerks and heavy machinery operators, also enjoy generous compensation through the contract route.
The downside is that while you can earn a lot of money, you don't have the structure (regular paychecks) and benefits (paid time off, 401(k), health care) that accompany full-time employment.
If you're savvy though, you can receive tax cuts for your professional expenses such as technology, stationery and business travel (just as the Ghostbusters likely did with their proton packs) to reduce the hit Uncle Sam has on your gross income when you pay taxes.
Contractors should consult with an accountant for more specifics on this front.
3. You like to take projects based on individual preferences and expertise. The Ghostbusters knew the pitfalls of full-time employment first hand; when the film begins, Venkman, Stantz and Spengler are parapsychologists who have lost their jobs at Columbia University. However, that plot point catalyzes the group's decision to re-brand themselves within an independent enterprise, enabling them to choose their own clients and execute in their own quirky way, instead of having to tailor their work to the will of a dedicated employer.
Those who pursue the contractor route may enjoy many of the same freedoms. For example, if you're a contract videographer, you can decide to only take projects in the entertainment industry as long as the volume is right to sustain your lifestyle. By contrast, working at a full-time agency might necessitate you take projects in industries that bore you to tears.
But, while you get to choose the projects you love rather than working on whatever happens to trickle down from management, this freedom can position you as less of a "team player," meaning you may not enjoy the same inter-office camaraderie as a full-timer. On the flip side, you're the expert problem-solver more immune to office politics. Working in this fashion also means contractors have one foot in the door with hiring managers if there was an interest in extending a contract role into something permanent, although experts find many contract workers opt for the lifestyle by choice rather than necessity, and don't feel too excited to change.
4. You like to have a flexible schedule. In the sequel, "Ghostbusters II," the protagonists re-engage their business after taking time off and pursuing other passions. This highlights another major benefit of contracting with regard to time management. While full-time employees need to submit to corporate scheduling, contractors can select projects that seem interesting and upon completion, take time off to relax, learn new skills or engage in other activities with the freedom to return to the grind whenever is convenient (bearing they've kept their skills sharp and relevant). And while some full-time employees may be able to take a sabbatical and return to work with their name still on the door, there are far fewer instances in which such behavior is acceptable.
Ben Weiss is the digital marketing strategist for Infusive Solutions—an NYC-based IT staffing firm in the Microsoft Partner Network that specializes in the placement of .NET, SharePoint and SQL Server developers as well as Windows Systems Engineers, DBAs and help desk support professionals in verticals such as legal, finance, fashion and media. Connect with him on Twitter: @InfusiveInc.