Can I get an IT contract job in 2024 with no experience?
It’s the sort of job feat which might sound impossible to pull off, yet I do know people who have never had a permanent role as a technologist -- but are now successful IT contractors!
So obviously the answer to the question ‘Can I get an IT contractor job with no experience?’ is a resounding ‘Yes;’ it can be done.
Based on the few cases I know of it was a case -- for them -- of being in the right place, at the right time.
And also, crucially, recognising the opportunity, writes Alan Watts, a service management consultant (retired), with more than 40 years’ experience as an IT contractor.
Doing, offering, and more doing
Landing an IT contract with no experience is, however, not all that straightforward.
Both you and any recruitment agency involved will need to consider what the potential client wants, and what it is you will ‘do,’ and have to ‘offer’ in terms of value-add.
That said, just to reassure you -- a client’s needs for an IT contractor are usually fairly simple.
They don’t want a permanent employee for a variety of reasons, among which are the issue of what their organisation will actually ‘do’ with them, once they have completed the work in question.
Contractors, by contrast, are disposable resources that, in effect, can be picked up and put down as it suits -- employees are not.
Where you might succeed with no experience, even if IR35 might be a concern
Be aware, some clients don’t realise it but they actually need an employee -- they just don’t want to shoulder the overheads that employment carries, and so opt for a contractor instead. If you’ve no experience but a relevant qualification as an IT contractor, then you might be in luck with such an end-user.
However, other than legitimate reasons like their short-term demand for manpower, such end-users who want to save the costs of employment by converting permanent staff in to contractors, often doing the same job, are clients probably best-avoided.
These are the cases that HMRC’s IR35 is interested in, intended to prevent ‘disguised employment.’
Four must-haves to get a tech contract with no tech job experience
Where an IT contractor who has no experience can succeed (and let’s now assume the end-client isn’t looking for a ‘permie-contractor’ as they’re affectionately known before they fall foul of IR35), is due to the hallmarks of a temporary /freelance assignment.
So you might not have the experience in a previous role, but are you:
available at short notice?
won’t need training because you’ve got a qualification?
won’t need hand-holding because you’ve got a can-do attitude and are autonomous
content to be let go / released from the assignment once it is complete?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to the above four, and even better -- can also assure or ideally demonstrate the importance of productivity, then your lack of experience comes very near to possibly being trumped by this quartet.
In short, these four could prompt a hirer to look past your inexperience.
Go easy on your tech candidate credentials being based on just personal projects
Not all clients will be happy with those four over inexperience, however.
Especially if your ‘qualification’ is not much more than your self-taught ‘personal projects’ While valuable, these might not cut it for some fastidious private sector organisations.
So even if you have written apps for your phone or PC, or built a gaming machine from scratch, there is a big gap between such one-off exercises and producing results in a commercial environment where durability, future proofing and user experience design are needed, not to mention enterprise tools such as cloud computing and, these days, AI products.
You only get that kind of knowledge from working in that environment or doing an unconscionable amount of homework!
Work in tech in 2024, without much tech? Ideal if you're inexperienced
More positively, if you’re seeking a freelance contract in 2024 but don’t have ‘the necessary’ behind you, keep in mind that not all tech industry roles are highly technical.
There are as many managers, designers and testers in work as there are programmers, developers and technical support staff.
Project managers, for example, can have a pile of qualifications but they need to be able to deal with people, break down requirements into manageable pieces and monitor the work in progress.
Similarly, websites need designers, who are as much creative artists as anything, and if there’s a developer on-hand, the designer can fairly easily disregard the ‘nuts and bolts’ that make things actually happen.
As I touched on in the intro, it is very much a case of finding the opening and selling yourself as someone who can deliver what is needed and, quite critically, actually delivering it.
Fight the fires before they engulf you
But even on sight of the perfect opportunity, actively consider the problems.
For one thing, any job advert gets a lot of applications, some 90% of which will be totally unsuited for the work for one reason or another. How do you get your application noticed among the noise, if you haven’t got experience?
The 10% who can do the job will largely be people who have already done it before and can demonstrate they have done it. Can you persuade the hirer that you are every bit as capable as they are?
Something else to see coming -- big companies are allowed to be fussy over who they hire. The hirer’s job is dependent on getting that right, so that decision-maker will be risk-averse. More positively for your prospects if you’re inexperienced, smaller companies may well not have that kind of limitation. In that more intimate setting, invariably with less ‘stages’ of interview, you are far more likely to persuade someone that you are worth a punt.
How to unlock a tech job in 2024 with no experience
The key if you’re inexperienced is to do the research to understand what they do; what they want and work out how you are going to persuade them to take the risk.
Penultimately, if your CV’s ‘work-history’ section lists nothing but you’re still chomping at the bit to land a tech role in 2024, the other (unconventional) option is to spot a gap in the market or an inefficiency, likelier to be found in a smaller companies’ operation or offering -- and work out a solution.
Remember, you could be the 2024 edition of the guy who saved a match manufacturer about 30% of their production costs by telling them to put the sandpaper down only one side of the matchbox!
TL;DR? Yes, you can go IT contracting without experience. But…
So; can you land a computer contract without years of computer clients behind you?
The short answer is ‘yes’ – but with competition rife; be prepared to start small and work your way up, or if not, regroup over Christmas and come out swinging in the New Year with a better mousetrap.
Independent Service Management Consultant
Alan Watts has been in IT for most of the last 45 years, apart from a short spell in accountancy, eventually turning to Operations Management before going freelance in 1996. Since then he has worked with clients ranging from FTSE100s to major Government departments, with roles varying between Project Management, Interim Management and pure Consultancy.