Independent contractors have a few advantages over employees when it comes to predicting the longevity of their engagement. In most cases, you will have a contract that is either linked to a specific project or has a time limit, so you can plan ahead with new clients or projects as you near completion.
Of course, the easiest (and best) outcome is to have your current contract extended or renewed and to continue to work with the same client. There is no guarantee that will happen, and it will depend on several factors such as your performance, client budget or business needs. The flexibility of staffing is one reason that companies use contractors, to avoid the commitment of a full-time employee.
Some of the factors affecting renewals are out of your control, so here are four ways to potentially find out if you should expect a contract extension.
1. Note any mention of future plans as the contract end date nears
If a contract is going to continue, usually the client will make some indication of their ongoing needs and/or your value to the company. If they want to re-hire you, they will likely mention their desire to keep you on or ask about your availability.
However, if your supervisor is evasive and co-workers are silent when you inquire about the future, that may be an indicator that your contract will end as planned. Also, if you start to see new recruits showing up in your skill area, that could be a sign that they are looking for new talent.
2. Get in touch with your recruiter or agent
If you cant get clear signals at work, a more direct method is to contact the recruiter who found you in the first place and ask them if they know anything about a possible contract extension. Even if they have not heard from the client, they can inquire more comfortably and will likely get a straight answer.
The added benefit of taking this approach is to re-engage the recruiter, so if your contract ends they can help you look for a new gig. Naturally, this assumes that you did a good job for the client, and the non-renewal has nothing to do with your performance.
3. Notice changes in team organization or role requirements
Another indicator is any change in your work role or how your team is organized. You might notice that you are getting less work, or that your role is reduced in some way as if they are easing you out. You may even be asked to train a new recruit in your role, which would be a fairly clear sign of non-renewal.
On a positive note, you may also be given an increasingly central role with no mention of transitions or other warning signs. That could mean they are already planning a contract extension and want to make sure you are fully engaged with the team and current projects.
4. Speak to your direct manager
If you have a good relationship, the simplest way to know the client’s plans for you is to ask your direct manager. Best done in a private setting, just let them know you are interested in more work if they have a need, and if not then request clear notice so you can plan ahead. Get your head clear first, so you don’t overreact to bad news or ask for explanations.
Most managers will respect the fact that you need to know, and if handled correctly you can get the facts while also leaving the door open for future engagements. They may be reluctant to tell you about a non-renewal to avoid any bad feelings or drop in motivation, but if you assure them you are fine either way then your manager might tell you the truth.
The reality of being an independent contractor is that you are essentially self-employed in your own business, with no reason to expect client renewals unless you earn them through good service. Even if you are top-notch, businesses change their priorities and strategies all the time based on returns or market conditions, so you can’t really change those facts when they no longer need you.
The bottom line is that you can only rely on work and time parameters spelt out in the contract since there is no legal or business obligation beyond those terms. The key is to know ahead of time when a contract is renewing or not, so you can start to reach out to prospective new clients or recruiters and avoid any lag time between jobs.
If you have questions about managing your clients as a contractor or need help with payment methods, taxes or contracts please contact us at Contractor Taxation.