Leaving the security of full time employment and choosing a career in freelance can seem intimidating, but has become increasingly attractive to clinical professionals. At SEC we have constant demand for contractors with experience in the clinical market, particularly within the Biotechs and CROs we work with across Europe and the US. With the many benefits of freelancing it’s no wonder professionals are seeking advice on how to take the first step in their career as a contractor.
I’ve been working in the clinical contract market since the start of 2018, and since then I’ve been building a network of contractors across Europe, mainly made up of Clinical Research Associates and Project Managers. I’ve learnt that a major difference in the mindset of a freelancer is their motivations; there are a number of things that drive a freelancer working in the clinical market that may differ from a professional working in a permanent role.
This is the main reason candidates tell me they’re looking to get into contract work. Contractors on average get a far higher rate than those working in a permanent role, particularly in the clinical market where professionals have skillsets that are in high demand. Contracting is extremely attractive to candidates that believe they can utilise skills they already have and earn more money doing so.
When entering the freelance market, changes occur in the way you are taxed, how your expenses are filed and (dependant on location) your healthcare and other insurances – occasionally a contractor might consult a freelance accountant if they’re concerned about tax laws or IR35 regulations. In moving from a permanent role you could be giving up some lifestyle benefits that were offered by your previous company, but these are usually covered by the substantial increase in net income.
There are a number of ways life as a contractor might offer more flexibility than in a permanent role. Some professionals opt to take long breaks between contracts, allowing them more downtime before seeking out their next position and taking longer holidays that might not be possible in a permanent role. A lot of clients in the life sciences industry also offer remote work, meaning professionals have the opportunity to work from home or be partially office based.
Usually employees in permanent positions have little or no control over the hours they work or the location they work in, whereas freelancers can often negotiate their working modality to best fit their schedule.
When in traditional full-time employment your work and working environment can become repetitive. Contract roles are less restrictive and can allow you to work for many companies in a shorter space of time, and in a clinical role it’s often on a global scale. Contractors are able to gauge what it’s like as an employee of each company, which informs their decision as to where they might pursue work in the future.
The opportunity to work for many companies within the industry also allows you to quickly build your professional network, opening up opportunities for new work in the future.
The Consultative Approach
Successful contractors often have consultative mindsets, and approach situations looking to offer their ideas and input rather than just following instructions - this is a crucial part of what makes a successful contractor. Once an employee has gained a considerable amount of industry experience, clients actively seek candidates that can offer expertise in a particular therapeutic area and actively drive the success of the project for the entire duration.
Working on short term contracts each contractor is able to influence real change on the study, whether that be at associate level or project manager level. Seeing your impact on the outcome of the study can be really rewarding for those with a leadership mindset.
Whatever the reason for moving from permanent to contract work, it’s important to assess your individual circumstance before making a decision. Success breeds success in the field, so it can take many years as a contractor to gauge a full idea of how to navigate the market. You may be out of work between projects for longer than you anticipate, or adverse events may halt the progress of a trial and prematurely end your contract. It’s important to be aware of the risks as well as the benefits, and organisations like IPSE and FCSA are there to provide guidance to freelancers and those looking to become one.
If you’re a clinical professional looking for more information on opportunities in the contract market, feel free to reach out directly on +44 (0) 207 255 6620 or at Roy.Nelson@secpharma.com