I am considering to switch to contracting (UK). What are your thoughts?

I am an SDET with tons of experience in both typical and more-specialised automated testing.
And a general QA fanatic :slight_smile:

However, I am actually faking the whole “corpo” experience.

So far, I’ve only worked as a full time hired employee (AKA Permanent Role) but I keep changing jobs every 2 years because of… Reasons… Like getting tired of seeing the same people, sitting in the same place, slowly chipping away at the same product.

Also, the whole corpo BS “Rah Rah” like I am supposed to NEVER see myself anywhere else in the next 5 years just doesn’t agree with me.
Sometimes the products I work on are just bad.
And the people I work with are lazy/arrogant/incompetent and I can live with them for a while but the thought of “this is it” just eats me.

So, I am thinking about contracting. Maybe pick up a job for 6 months, then 2 months rest, study, etc and then pick up another job.

Is there anyone with knowledge of the UK QA Contracting market who is willing to share their thoughts?
Is it easy to find contracting jobs these days?
Does the money add up to a lot more or a lot less you can get as a “Permanent Role”?

Two of my friends are DevOps and they say I am crazy for NOT going contract but when I ask them if they can hook me up with a QA job, they always say they don’t have one :slight_smile:
They say contracting (again, their experience is with devops) gets much easier jobs and the pay adds up to a lot more.
Plus, people know you are a contractor and don’t play ego games to establish who is the bigger dog, etc… And even if they do, well, you just work for a few months until the job is done and move on.

Any thoughts appreciated.
For reference, I make the equivalent of GBP 75k, as a python SDET (although my java is as strong if not stronger). I think it’s top tier pay, especially it’s not in London but also the company is full of young dudes with lots of ego and they are getting on my nerves already and it’s only 4 months into my employment with them.


I’m not familiar with the UK consulting market, but I have some general advice to help you with the decision.

Think through the negatives. Clearly you’re hesitant, why? Can you reduce the risk and make them more palatable?

You switch jobs every two years which leads me to believe that you are both good at interviewing and have a marketable skill set, you can fall back on that should it not work out!

You’ll need to have your financial house in order + the ability to keep it in order if you either end up temporarily without a role OR don’t get payment for a gig (depending on how your payments are structured).

Good luck!


Thanks :slight_smile:
The main reason before my current job is that I had some financial liabilities and not a lot of cash.

Currently, I recently have redone the whole kitchen and spent a lot of money and I am basically with minimal cash reserves. If I move to contracting, that will be at least 6 months from now, when I have some reserves to not go under, if job situation doesn’t turn out greatly for me.

I think my current job pays about as much as I could ask, as a PAYE (Permanent Employee), non-managing QA. I don’t believe I can do better even in London, which I definitely don’t want to go to.

If doing contracting doesn’t come close to that AND has the added risk of not getting contracts… Then, I probably need to pick up a different career. So, I can get juicy, gbp 800/day, do nothing all day, contracts like my devops friends


IR35 has made contracting in the UK more difficult.

Try places like Toptal maybe? The contracting hourly rates there are quite good for top-notch experts, it’s a bit tricky to get in, but I know some people who work there and they usually work on a project for a few months and earn enough money to take the next few months off.

plenty to be learned with the IR35 thing, but these days being open to remote contracts that can be outside of IR35 might be a thing. I stopped contracting a while back, and only heard about the tightening when agents started emailing me with subject lines like “outside of IR35”. I enjoyed contracting, it removes a lot the mental workload or workplace politics and paperwork from you, but also removes your options for taking holiday whenever you please, don’t do this if you have schoolkids. It can also be more stressful if you let it. Would go back to doing it again in a flash if I was not already getting a bit old. Although that’s probably the best time in life to go contracting.
The biggest thing about contracting is to make sure your rates mean that you technically only need to work 9 months of the year or fewer, because it can take a few months to find the next contract sometimes, you will also be paying an accountant, “umbrella/shell” companies are a pain and only work well if you intend to work 12 months a year and not take holidays. Do your own research on IR35, it was not around 3 years ago, although it was hinted at, the taxman moves slowly, but does move very decisively.


I did test contracting in the UK for a couple of years between 2012 and -14. It might have been due to my slightly unusual skillset, but I found I was unable to walk from one contract straight into another. Being located in the Midlands probably didn’t help, either.

I got back into a salaried position in 2014; if I hadn’t, I would probably have been homeless within six months. That job lasted two years; I did one contracting role after the job finished (it wasn’t supposed to finish, but the company decided to scrap its in-house IT dev/testing team and buy those services in), but then had no other offers in six months whilst I was looking for work (and I would have taken anything).

Of course, I was also in my late fifties at the time and with a way different skillset and salary level to your own, which may also have had something to do with it. But my experience of contracting was definitely second best.

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