By Leanne Bateman
In last month’s blog post, I mentioned that in today’s market, a professional project manager has the option to work as a full-time project manager for a company or work as a project management contractor or consultant. This month, we will focus in on the contract project manager.
Prior to 2008, it was not uncommon to see project manager positions as regular full-time roles (particularly in IT departments) in many U.S. companies. When companies could not find an available full-time project manager to meet their needs, or if they didn’t have the funding for a permanent position, they had the option of hiring a contract project manager for a limited amount of time. This worked out great for the company, who could obtain an on-site PM to either augment their staff to manage several projects or hire the project manager to manage a single project without commitment for future work. It also worked out well for project managers who appreciated the typically higher pay while enjoying the flexibility of working across different departments, companies or industries.
The Rise of the Gig Economy
The rise of contract work in the 2000s came to be known as the “gig economy,” borrowing the term used by musicians to describe their paid show in a club or bar. The gig economy really took off after the significant economic downturn of 2008-2009, as companies went through layoffs and unemployed workers started taking temporary work to sustain their incomes. While the trend formed through dire circumstances and financial instability, growth continued long after the economy stabilized. That rate of growth will continue to increase. Why?
“Gigging”—whether through a set contract or ongoing consulting—tends to offer higher pay per hour to compensate for the lack of benefits. The flexibility is attractive to those who want more control over their work schedules or who seek breaks between contracts. There is also increasing opportunity to work in different companies and different industries, or to start as a contractor and convert to a permanent, full-time position once the compatibility between employee and employer is established.
Today, the gig economy is even stronger than could have been predicted for all levels of employees. The opportunities have stayed on par with the demand, including the rapid expansion of services such as Uber and Lyft as gig jobs offering riders a lower-cost transportation option. In the same way, accommodation services like Airbnb and HomeAway offer alternatives to pricier hotels. For both types of services, individuals are using their personal assets (their cars or homes) to make money through a temporary arrangement.
The Gig Economy and Project Management
So back to project management. The gig economy has been an extremely beneficial environment for both new and experienced project managers. Not only are there numerous opportunities across just about every professional segment and experience level, there is a consistently healthy rate of demand with low to moderate competition. And this demand is expected to increase significantly, eventually overtaking traditional employment by 2027:
So, if you are one of the traditionally employed project managers interested in taking advantage of the benefits of working as a contract project manager, please be sure to take note of the typical differences before you take the leap.
|Benefits||Traditional Employment||Contract Employment|
|Paid time off||✓|
|Employer contribution to Retirement Plan||✓||Depends on contract agency|
|Feeling of inclusion||✓|
|Higher hourly pay||✓|
|Flexibility in work schedule||✓|
|Flexibility to work across different areas||✓|
|Less involvement in company issues/politics||✓|
While contracting as a project manager has great benefits, it isn’t for everyone. But the same could be said for traditional employment arrangements. Whichever you choose, there is a robust demand for project managers, and it’s great to have options!
Leanne Bateman, MA, PMP, CSM, Six Sigma Green Belt, CIP is the program chair of the Project and Program Management program at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies, and the Principal Consultant with Beacon Strategy Group, a Boston-based management firm specializing in project management services. Leanne has 20+ years of project management experience across the areas of health care, biotech/pharmaceuticals, information technology, high-tech manufacturing, human resources, construction, housing/real estate, government, and higher education.
Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.