Brief Guide to Contracting for Graduates

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The Graduate's Guide to Contracting

Last updated on Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Written by Alex Cadman

In the age of technology and instant gratification, many millennials are rejecting traditional office hours and are opting for flexible working schedules. What’s more, competition for jobs in the UK, especially in London, makes it difficult for university graduates to find full time employment straight away.


If you are already a university graduate or will be graduating soon and want to start a career in your field of study immediately, there is a solution for you. Not only will it help repay your student loan, but it also means you won’t still be searching for a job six months after graduation.

The solution is contracting. Our blog sets out the reasons why so many graduates are choosing to operate as a contractor and undertake project work on a temporary basis to increase their skills, pay the bills and develop connections in their preferred industries.

Permanent employment seems more secure. Why should I become a contractor?

Deciding to become a contractor straight out of university is not necessarily the norm and involves taking risks, but doing so can come with substantial rewards. For example, imagine you are a graduate software developer looking for employment. You come across a job advert from a Fortune 500 company looking for a graduate to assist on a software project; however, the job is only a six-month contract. Are you going to let the opportunity pass you by?

Contracting may not offer the same level of security as permanent employment, but the long-term benefits of such an opportunity would far outweigh the risks. Working on a high-profile contract would look great on your CV and could open up many doors for you in the future. Even if your first contract role is at a more inconspicuous level, the various clients and colleagues you work with will provide you with an invaluable variety of experience.  

What is the difference between a contractor and an employee?

As a contractor, you will essentially sell your skills and services to clients on a contractual basis. Contracts are valid for an agreed fixed period and you are usually paid on either an hourly rate or a daily rate.

Whilst going into permanent employment after graduating helps develop soft skills such as working with others and learning about organisational structure, contracting offers this plus it has the following additional benefits:

  • Higher income – potential to earn more compared to similar jobs in permanent positions
  • Flexibility – you are not restricted to the traditional ‘9 to 5’ working day and you can choose when you take holidays and for how long
  • More networking opportunities – contracting allows you to market yourself to get noticed for your skills
  • Utilising specialised skills – if you have a highly specialised education, for example software development, civil engineering or financial planning, contracting will allow you to exercise practical use of your skills at a higher level, whereas permanent employment may only offer entry level positions initially


How do I start contracting straight out of university?

The first steps to starting contracting after graduating university include conducting research into your industry, building your professional network and perfecting your CV. Mastering these three things will ensure that you have a solid foundation and will give you the best chance possible for winning your first contract role.

Whilst getting your first contract is not necessarily an easy feat, here are a few tips to get started:

  • Publish your CV
    Upload your CV to job board sites such as CV Library, Reed and Indeed. When you create your online profile, you can specify that you are looking for contract work, which will help match up your CV with potential clients
  • Be proactive
    Apply for jobs directly. The ideal contract may not necessarily land in your lap, so search jobsites and apply for the contracts that are of interest to you. There are jobsites out there that cater specifically to contractors, so make sure you make your presence known on these platforms
  • Sign up with several recruitment agencies
    This is the most common method of finding contract work. Recruitment agents are good at what they do and recruiters that specialise in contract placements can assist in finding the types of contracts you want
  • Look to your network
    Did you participate in a placement year at university or a summer internship? Do you have hundreds of connections on LinkedIn or a family friend who runs a business? Reaching out to professionals that you know or have worked with closely can potentially lead to a contract. Be subtle in your approach and let your network know that you are looking to gain professional experience.
  • Set up your contractor business
    Most contractors operate via their own limited company. This shows professionalism, organisation and presents you as a serious contender for contract work. A limited company also sets up your contractor payroll solution, as you would not be paid in the same way a traditional employee would. It is the most popular option for our clients as it also allows you to maximise your pay through various tax saving benefits.


What should I do next if I want to start contracting?

If you have recently graduated university, you can start sending out your CV to potential recruiters and companies you may want to work with. If you are still studying, you are in an even better position: you can use your final year of university to gain some freelancer experience. Depending on your sector this could involve being IT support or a consultant to your university library, contributing articles as a freelance writer or setting up your own blog. If you are an engineer, you could even use the long summer breaks to find a two or three-month work placement.

All these opportunities will allow you to start networking with industry experts and build professional experience for your CV.

Setting up a limited company

If you have decided that contracting is the best option for you after you graduate from university, we can help you set up your contractor business so you can be paid efficiently and on time.

The best option for a university graduate is a limited company payroll service. This will allow you to set up a contractor business that provides a stable and secure payment method for you and your clients. It also opens up a range of tax saving benefits; you can read more about these on our limited company page.

While this might sound complex compared to a traditional job, it is actually very simple. Here at Churchill Knight & Associates Ltd, we help thousands of contractors each year to set up and run their own limited companies and can do the same for you.

We help you from the first step of setting up your limited company to ongoing completion of your accounts to ensure that contracting gives you the financial rewards in addition to job satisfaction.

We make the set up process simple and hassle-free by providing advice on your company name and registering your company for you. We will also set up your business bank account and complete applications for you to register for various tax saving options so you can maximise your take home pay.

Our service also includes administration support, and we also take care of all the invoicing and payroll aspects of your company, so all you need to worry about is providing a high standard service to your clients. We are dedicated to working with contractors and we understand the contractor market very well.

If you would like a free consultation or would like to discuss contracting further to gain a better understanding, give us a call at 01707 871622, send us an email, or click below to find out more about our services.

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