In addition to being a potentially lucrative pursuit, professional contracting in interim management roles can provide exposure to a broad variety of projects and work environments. You’ll have the opportunity to specialise in your preferred area of expertise, potentially avoid some of the internal politics associated with permanent positions and also take a more flexible approach to your work/life.
If you’re considering working as a professional contractor this guide is designed to help you understand the risks and benefits, plus the typical types of interim management projects that exist in the accounting sector.
Expectations of Professional Contractors
Professional contractors are often referred to as Project Consultants. This is because projects are nearly always central to the role. As a Project Consultant, the expectation from the employer is that you’ll be suitably experienced to quickly start adding value to the task at hand. There is obviously a time allowance to get familiar with the company’s specific workings, but existing knowledge of core technology, the organisation’s industry and a high level of necessary accounting skills are often key.
Professional contracting is generally best suited to accounting professionals who have been operating at a senior level for a number of years. When organisations seek short-midterm external help, they are nearly always looking for considerable accounting expertise across one or numerous subject matters.
In our experience the most common situations where interim managers are needed are:
- To support mergers or acquisitions
- Period end reporting
- To lead or assist with the evaluation of business projects or opportunities
- To deliver transformation projects
- To lead technology projects
- As cover for secondments or other long term leave
- As subject matter experts to either supplement internal knowledge or to provide training
Risks & Benefits
Accounting is an industry that is often criticised for being too uniform, but the volume and variety of professional contracting roles on offer means that this couldn’t be further from the truth. However, if you do prefer to specialise, this is also a possibility. In an ever more complex and diverse work environment, the need for specialist professionals who are subject matter experts has increased. This is particularly true for expertise around leading technology projects. If you choose to specialise, this will also likely lead to your individual skills constantly developing, which can result in higher rates and access to opportunities around the world.
Working as a Project Consultant can be very lucrative, but aside from project exposure, the biggest appeal for most professionals is the opportunity to fit projects in around other life commitments. This isn’t to say that accounting and finance projects are easy, in fact it’s often the opposite; when a project is underway they can be considerably harder and more time intensive than a permanent role. However, the benefit of interim management is that you can choose when you wish to work. It’s not uncommon to see professional contractors working for nine months of the year and then taking a three-month vacation.
Flexibility obviously comes coupled with risk, as there is the chance that there won’t be a project available for you when you finish your current engagement, especially if this is around the Christmas break. As a specialist Accounting Recruitment Agency we are in regular contact with a broad range of organisations and therefore regularly have interim management requests coming through. The longer you work as a professional contractor, you’ll also find you start to build up a substantial professional business network; far more than is usually possibly in a permanent role. This means that after consulting for a number of years it becomes easier to source new opportunities through your own networks.
Interim management can also be a worthwhile consideration if you’re currently in-between permanent full-time work opportunities. Because there are fewer Senior and Executive accounting positions in the marketplace currently, this option is being considered more frequently. We come across many people who choose professional contracting as a temporary employment solution, and sometimes these professionals end up securing permanent opportunities within the organisation where they have been working as a Project Consultant.
If you do decide to pursue a career as a professional contractor, or even carry out projects in between securing your next permanent career move, contracting can open the door to a wide range of experiences, lucrative earnings, flexibility and even a chance to fulfil any international ambitions you might have.
If you’re interested in picking up Accounting contracting assignments, feel free to get in touch with the team at Richard Lloyd. We have extensive networks to help you connect with the opportunities you’re looking for.