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Contracting versus permanent: Pressure on a project manager

Andrew Wayland
March 7, 2014

Because project management contractors get paid more, it seems expectations are higher in terms of their performance. Does that translate into added pressure to deliver?

Rightly or wrongly, contractors often feel higher pressure to deliver. They are the external expert who gets paid more, therefore they are expected to deliver more. Further, as a contractor you are often coming in to an organisation to fill a specific gap that existing staff don’t have the capability or capacity to fill, so expectations are high.

What this means as a contractor is that you need to be able to hit the ground running and delivery quickly. For a permanent employee in a new role, you might have a little more time to get your bearings.

Your ongoing status as a contractor with that organisation is often reviewed regularly, depending on the length of your contract. So if you’re on a 6-month contract, your employers are probably assessing your role and contributions more regularly than a permanent employee. And where a permanent employee who isn’t delivering will probably be subject to performance management, a contractor who isn’t delivering will likely not have their contract renewed, so the consequences are fairly different.

What this means is that contractors need to have the right skillset, attitude and approach to deliver under heightened pressure. This is what some people love about contracting, as well as the fact that they are paid accordingly.

Winner: If you’re a high level performer who thrives on added pressure, be a contractor; if you’d prefer a little more security, the permanent position is the way to go.


  • Income: We all want to earn more, and it generally pays more to be a contractor.
  • Security: If you value job security over higher income, permanent is the way to go.
  • Managing your employment: Contractors have to be more organised and proactive whereas permanents largely have the finer details of their employment managed for them.
  • Career development: Permanent employees tend to get more internal opportunities and their employers are more likely to invest in their development, however contractors have the benefit of the flexibility to work in different environments and industries.
  • Pressure to deliver: Contractors need to have the skillset, experience and attitude to deal with the increased pressure to deliver. Failure to do so means your contract just won’t get renewed.

The contracting versus permanent series looks at the various factors that may encourage a project manager into a permanent or contract role according to:

  1. Income
  2. Job security
  3. Employment management
  4. Career development
  5. Delivery pressure
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Andrew Wayland
Andrew Wayland runs Online Course Academy an Australian provider of online project management training. He has a decade of experience in projects and has worked in banking, utilities, government and logistics.
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