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Contract Work Might Be Your Next Great Career Move

What does the term “contract work” make you think of? For many professionals, the phrase evokes images of underpaid and overworked internships, unreliable freelance gigs that could disappear at any moment, or soul-sucking temp jobs in dim, dull offices. It’s understandable that marketers would have a similar perspective; but if you are completely writing off contract work, you’re probably missing out on a lot of big career opportunities.

It’s easy to understand why there are negative connotations attached to staffing and contracting. In the past, contract work hasn’t always been particularly glamorous. Depictions in popular media of downtrodden and unappreciated temp workers hasn’t helped. But for today’s top talent in digital, creative, advertising and marketing disciplines, modern contract staffing offers lucrative and plentiful opportunities to learn new skills and grow their career.

A New Way Forward

Most marketers imagine themselves following a traditional career path; simply taking full-time employment and climbing the ladder at agencies and marketing departments, eventually working their way up to more senior and management roles.

There’s nothing wrong with that route; but too many professionals believe that to be the only way to move their career forward. That not only limits your options, but could be holding you back from quickly reaching your full potential. In marketing in particular, part-time and contracted jobs present an alternative to the classic career path that could bring you more quickly to your career goals.

Why and When to Consider Contract Work

Making a move into the world of marketing staffing and contracting isn’t always the best choice for everyone. But there are many reasons you should at least consider it:

  • Opening new doors: Many of the most desired and fought-for marketing jobs are within the massive marketing departments of large brands and prestigious agencies. But for most marketing professionals, it’s nearly impossible to stand out among the hundreds or thousands of applicants these organizations get on a weekly basis and get your foot in the door. However, most of these businesses contract out a large portion of their marketing needs to marketing staffing. Getting one of those contracted positions is an excellent way to get in the door, make a name for yourself and develop key connections internally that can lead to a full-time hire.
  • An opportunity to experiment: Contract marketing staffing offers you the opportunity to encounter a variety of challenges and sample different kinds of work within your field. If you’re unsure you want to commit to a particular career path or invest yourself in a certain company, contracting lets you test-drive jobs until you find something you’re truly passionate about.
  • Better compensation potential: When you’re on a traditional career path on the agency or department ladder, you’re typically limited by those organizations’ structure and management policies when it comes to opportunities for raises and promotions. On the other hand, contract staffing professionals are only limited by their ability to drive demonstrable results, market their personal brand and find the right opportunities. Instead of waiting in line for a higher salary or promotion, you’re empowered to seek work at the level you deem worth your time and can be selective about which jobs you take on. Good marketers can expect to make considerably more money on a per-hour basis than a comparable full-time counterpart. And if they work through a reputable marketing staffing firm, they’ll even have access to benefits like health insurance and retirement plans.
  • Variety: Ever get bored doing the same thing day in and day out? Many marketers perform better and find more satisfaction when they constantly get to take on new challenges and projects. When you work in contract staffing, you have greater control of how long you’re committed to doing one job—and if it’s work you don’t enjoy, then you at least know you’ll get to stop as soon as your contract expires.

Managing the Risks and Costs of a Career in Contracting

There are some challenges associated with contracting work that need to be addressed and managed.

If you choose to work as an independent contractor, you’ll take on full responsibility for your own insurance, from health insurance to liability insurance. If you want to invest in a retirement plan, you’ll have to manage it on your own. Other things that are typically taken care of by an employer, like income tax, also fall on your shoulders. Working with an established marketing staffing firm can mitigate some of those challenges and provide much of the support you’d typically get from a full-time employer.

There’s one other major concern with making a move to contracted jobs: the uncertainty of finding consistent work. Highly capable and experienced marketers are in demand, and if you have the right skills and the ability to prove your value, you’ll rarely struggle to keep yourself busy. But if you move to marketing staffing, you’ll have to be on top of your networking game and constantly hunting for your next gig when your current contract ends.

Cindy Underwood is vice president of MarketPro, a marketing staffing and marketing executive search firm. She is also the membership chair of the AMA Atlanta board of directors. Connect with Cindy on LinkedIn and Twitter or contact her at