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Is it time to go permanent?

The question of the moment seems to be “should I move from freelance to a permanent role?”

A number of design freelancers I work with have voiced this concern recently, and as a design recruiter I feel like I’m well placed to answer it.

I have my ear to the ground as far as activity within my market is concerned. Every day I speak to clients and candidates so I am aware of the issues and the ever-changing market demands.

Over the past few weeks I have noticed freelance roles becoming fewer and further between, with a whole host of contractors telling me they have never known the market to be so quiet.

It’s not dead – I have worked on several freelance briefs over the past few weeks – but the quality of contractors currently on the market shows me there has been a significant downturn. As a result, applying for gigs is far more competitive.

The question on everyone’s lips seems to be why is this the case?

Political opinions aside, we simply cannot ignore the events of the past few months both within the UK and internationally. The result of the Brexit vote (beyond the significant drop in the pound) is really yet to be seen, leaving many companies fearing potentially turbulent economic times ahead in 2017 and tightening belts early as a precautionary measure.

As part of this ‘belt tightening’ we are seeing many client-side companies scaling back on external design agency use and spending. They are seeking to build their own digital teams in-house.

There are fewer projects heading to agencies needing freelancers, plus clients are focusing on hiring permanent staff over freelancers. Over the longer term not only is this a cost saver but it allows companies greater stability, consistency and continuity for their digital offering.

I’ve worked on a number of hires for ‘transformation teams’ so I can see that clients are keen to secure staff with a long-term commitment to the business. Transformation projects are often lengthy and will be ongoing for years to come.

What are the benefits of moving to the permanent side?

In our recent salary survey LINK we gathered both quantitative & qualitative data for the first time. We discovered that 38% of contractors would consider moving into a permanent position with the main reasons cited being:

* Income security – a regular monthly salary offers peace of mind, avoiding potential problems awaiting payments from freelance clients and the instability of contract assignments. As an added bonus, a permanent salary often makes it a lot easier to find a mortgage.

Our survey data demonstrates salaries are rising across all sectors as companies seek to hire the best talent on a permanent basis. They are realising they need to offer competitive salaries and benefits packages with extensive training budgets in addition to pension & healthcare provisions.

* Clear Career Progression – working in a permanent role gives more career growth opportunities. Typically there is more opportunity to work on end-to-end projects and get involved in longer-term digital transformation projects where design can add huge value.

* Company investment in developing and training – many companies are offering extensive training packages. Self-improvement is great, especially when someone else is paying for it! One of the most exceptional I have seen is one of my clients offering 9% of your time at work allocated to fully funded training.

* For Senior / Lead level candidates perm roles typically provide the best opportunity to step up to a ‘Head of’ position and manage a team. As a freelancer designers are typically brought in for shorter timescales and do not get the opportunity to grow and manage their own team, honing their own management & leadership skills on the way!

I feel I must point out there are freelance opportunities out there, but in a more competitive market. Given the changing nature of the contract market, it is potentially a great time to venture into new territory and join a team on a permanent basis.

I am currently working on a number of roles across the permanent market, so feel free to get in touch for a chat or just to review your portfolio with me. I’m always happy to speak with designers curious about the market or determined to seek that next role!

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