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The Portable Business Analyst   

By Jennifer Laws, Associate Technical Writer, IIBA   
On May 14, 2013, Laurie Ryan joined Maureen McVey, Head of Learning and Development for International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®) to present a webinar titled “The Portable BA: Considering Short and Long Term Contract Opportunities”. Ms Ryan provided an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of working as a contractor, as well as some advice for anyone who may be interested in contract work.
There are basically two ways to go about getting contract work. The self-employed contractor is responsible for managing his or her own tax responsibilities and deductions. While a self-employed contractor receives no benefits, they usually work for a higher rate of pay. Otherwise, they can be employed by an agency. Usually agencies will provide some sort of benefits (such as 401K), health insurance, and time off. Either way, they’ll be dealing with recruiters. They’re made aware of the jobs, and contractors find the jobs through them.
There are some distinct advantages to being a contractor. Typically there’s a short ramp up time; instead of waiting months to start work, you can start right away. A lot of the time you’ll “earn while you learn”, and have the chance to work on a variety of projects and gain a wealth of experience. You’re more likely to be hired based on what you can do rather than your years of experience, and can do your work without worrying about company politics. One of the biggest highlights is the flexibility; shorter-term contracts allow for a work-life balance that you won’t get as a permanent employee. And best of all, you won’t have to answer that dreaded question, “Why did you leave your last job?” The answer is that the contract ended, and it’s that simple.
With the good comes the not so good, and for every advantage there is usually a disadvantage. Contractors are always part of the team, but usually not part of the organization. You have to be able to “hit the ground running”, get in there and start getting things done right away. You may not know your team members, and communication can be affected by a lack of face-to-face contact. Hardest of all—your schedule must adapt to the project schedule, and this can have a profound impact not only on you but also on those around you.
If you are a contractor now, or are thinking of becoming one, Ms. Ryan has offered up some very handy pieces of advice to keep in mind:
  1. Ask your hiring managers as many questions as you want! The hiring manager should be able to give you any information you want or need. If you forget to ask something in the interview, you can always go back later with follow-up questions.
  2. Make sure you understand the Job Description. Know what is being asked of you, and make sure you can deliver. It never hurts to ask for clarification if you’re unsure.
  3. Treat yourself kindly. You have just as much right to sick days, time off, and vacation as anyone else does.
  4. Be honest about your skills and experience. You won’t have time to learn about something you know little about and be effective.
  5. Find recruiters you can work with! Some recruiters may not understand what a BA is or does, and some recruiters may not be able to get you what you want. A good recruiter can do a lot of your negotiating for you, so keep on good terms with yours.
These are just a few highlights from this webinar. For further information on this topic and answers to more specific questions, watch the archived version.