Interview with Penny Rolington:

Where are you contracting?

I am currently contracting for Acxiom who are an integrated marketing agency providing their clients with the data and technology to successfully manage audiences, personalise experiences and create profitable customer relationships.

What position do you currently hold?

Senior Strategic Planning Consultant.

Key deliverables of your role/project?

There are two facets to my role; the first being focused on operational deliverables – setting up a whole new series of trigger emails to deliver customer relationship management. The second is as a direct result of the first In that I needed to create the client a strategy and plan for CRM to meet their commercial objectives.

How long you have been with Acxiom?

Since November 2013

Where you were previously?

Data Know How where I was a Marketing Consultant.

Why does contracting work for you, what are the benefits?

Money is the obvious one here as I’m earning 20-30% more than I would do if I was to do this on a permanent basis. It also suits what I need by giving me flexibility and freedom in terms of my working patterns as I don’t want to work the l conventional 9-5.

I also like being project focused, contracting tends to give you that focus which means I get greater job satisfaction as I get to see my work come fruition which is really satisfying. As a person I need the stimulation of new projects, new environments and new challenges – which contracting brings.

Contracting can also be a great way of getting into a company and experiencing a culture and ultimately securing a permanent job with them, this is great as it works both ways.

How has it impacted on your work life balance?

Yes I now have a much better work life balance then I would otherwise have had because I can take periods of time off between contracts. Depending on the contract and the clients need but I sometimes take on part time contracts, or if I’m doing 5 days a week I know it’s only for a concentrated time then you can take a month off after you’ve finished.

What experiences have you gained from being a contractor?

The first would be the exposure to a huge number of cultures and environments that I wouldn’t have had without being a contractor.

You also learn a huge amount; I am constantly learning and developing which is something that I love. The role I’m in at the moment is a great example; I’ve learnt a huge amount here that I can take to my next role. From contracting I’ve gained a very broad skillset that has enabled me to manage all sorts of situations. The experience you gain as a contractor give you confidence to deal with whatever comes up in new roles.

Confidence and problem solving ability are definitely something I’ve gained. I able to make decisions that a permanent member of team might not be able to as I’ve done them before and have the confidence that my decisions will deliver the results you need. Internal people might be worried to make decisions when they have no experience in the subject before.

What does it take to make a successful contractor?

Being able to quickly build relationships and rapport. As a successful contractor you need to give your client confidence that you can deliver the project. Planning and project management are typically very important as well.

You definitely need to be flexible. The other personal skills that are important are confidence and adaptability. In a way you need to act like a consultant no matter what your job description is, you’ve been brought in to give your client something they don’t have internally. In essence you are up-skilling them and it could be a skill set or industry experience that they need.

You need to deal with anything that is thrown at you, this does mean that you need to be able to manage your time efficiently and budget management if you have that responsibility too.

The more experienced the easier it gets.

What are the challenges of being a contractor?

One of the main challenges is building relationships quickly; instilling confidence that you know what you’re doing. Permanent employers sometimes don’t know why you’re there and might even feel threatened so you need to be a diplomat and make sure people are on board. Managing expectations is also key as sometimes expectations are unrealistic, as you are the expert you need manage your client’s expectations, sometimes what they think they want they don’t actually want.

Is there any advice you would have for someone thinking of becoming a contractor?

Go for it! Be open minded and adaptable and as being a contractor can offer a much more rewarding and varied career.