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Contract & Interim market trends

02/05/2018

What key trends have you witnessed in 2017?

2017 saw a stable year in contract and interim recruitment, which was perhaps a little surprising with the backdrop of Brexit as we expected to see a larger increase in vacancies than was evident. We feel this was a result of people genuinely getting bored of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and taking a more robust view of future planning.

Contracting remains a popular choice for businesses trying to backfill permanent hires, or looking to add superior or specialist marketing knowledge across project work. We have seen marketing contractors brought in at senior levels whilst company restructures take place. This often allows the contractor to avoid the politics associated with these, often, sensitive matters. Digital marketing continues to show the most growth, particularly around areas of UX and design where the most talented contractors are able to pick and choose their work and earn the best rates. Within core marketing, employers seek contractors who fit well into a team and demonstrate they can deliver ROI.

What key trends to do you expect to see over the next 12 months?

Should the impact of Brexit not have the knock-on effect that is predicted across the marketing, digital and communications community, the outlook of the interim market would appear to be stable. As permanent candidates move onto new challenges we anticipate there may be some hesitation to back-fill permanent roles immediately, and interim professionals will be used to fill the void.

Contracting will remain a popular choice in 2018 for projects with defined time frames such as re-branding, CRM implementation and change communications.

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Have you seen any changes to day rates and do you anticipate any changes over the next 12 months?

In some areas of the interim market, for example communications, we saw clients presenting competitive rates and attracting a wide candidate pool to select from. With such a wide variety of candidates, sometimes there is a tendency for companies to reduce rates paid. However, often their preferred candidates were in other processes which meant positive market forces kept day rates comparable to previous years. As in previous years, digital contractors and communications contractors can command significantly more than their permanent counterparts; however marketing contractors often end up working at more comparable rates to permanent salaries.

Looking to go interim?

The career of an interim or contract consultant can be greatly varied and allow individuals to work on a wide range of projects that can be catalysts of change in creating long lasting value within an organisation.

Interestingly 24% of CMOs we surveyed were in interim positions. So what might be driving such a high percentage of candidates to consider this more transient way of working and how might one go about starting an interim career? For anyone looking to take the step from permanent employment to contracting, the first thing you need to do is commit to this new way of working.

You need to be immediately available, as clients who are hiring on this basis don’t have time to wait for someone to work through their notice period. Four weeks is ok, but anything longer becomes prohibitive and clients will opt for an interim specialist who is more readily available.

In addition to this, our advice is that you need to have an element of financial security to bridge any gap between your resignation from a permanent post and securing your first interim position. The interim market moves quickly and can be sporadic. Roles available now are not necessarily an indication of what the market will be like in a month’s time. Likewise, be prepared to have downtime in between projects.

Thirdly, we suggest you consider your personal brand and what it is you stand for. When a client is looking to hire you on an interim basis you want to be sure of your own proposition. Consider where you can add immediate value and how a client will benefit from engaging with your business. This can be something that is overlooked as many assume they are simply undertaking a shorter permanent role. However, the best interim contractors live for the results they can achieve in as shorter time as possible, adding to their growing list of projects successfully completed and continually enhancing their offering.

Following on from your proposition is your day rate. Interim consultants are paid well, they add significant value to organisations but it is often for short periods of time. This value and risk needs to be compensated for appropriately and like any agency you will have choices to make. Is the piece of work one you can fulfil? Depending on your confidence you might alter your rate and projected timeframes accordingly. Will it add to your own USP’s? Could it be worth compromising your rate now in return for a potential future gain? How do you stack up against the competition? We all know the saying, “you get what you pay for” and in the interim market there are consultants who charge well and are often in work. You need to be careful of underselling yourself and balancing this against the need to be in work. If you set your rate too low it may be more challenging to justify the top rate for the next role.

Finally, where should you look to get your first interim assignment? Recruitment agencies are an obvious option. Next is your own network; this can be advantageous as you cut out the middle man but there is an art to selling yourself and some will be better at this than others. Another area to consider is partnering with charitable organisations such as Pimp My Cause who connect marketers with causes they identify with (see page 15). While not a guaranteed path to an interim career it allows you to add experience of an interim project to your CV and expand your network while using marketing for a positive cause.

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