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Acceptable number of previous contracts over a set period

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    Acceptable number of previous contracts over a set period

    Following on from a discussion I've recently had with a recruiter, what's the general consensus of opinion on what could be considered an acceptable number of contracts over say a 1, 2 or 5 year period?

    I understand that this will vary by discipline (such as project management, business analyst, developer, etc) and sector (financial services, media, etc).

    For background I am a software developer working primarily in the financial services sector and have had 4 contracts (with 4 distinct clients) over the last 2 years but prior to that had a number of different contracts back and forth between 2 core clients over the previous 6 years.

    When applying for a financial services based role today I was quite surprised to be told that it was an issue to have so many different clients/contracts over the last 2 years.

    While I can somewhat understand the point of view of the client, from time to time as contractors are we not expected to have a number of different clients as that's what we do?

    #2
    If i have a couple of fairly brief projects (3-4 months) on the spin i like to then have a longer one after that (9-12 months). Some clients assume that short contracts mean no extensions were offered, which must mean you were no good. It can mean that (particularly if there are big gaps in between) but as you say it can be the nature of your skillset or just what was going on in the market at the time.

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      #3
      There is no acceptable number.

      Some projects are short and sweet. Others are a year long. Others are many years with you there to deliver a specific piece of work.
      "You’re just a bad memory who doesn’t know when to go away" JR

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        #4
        Generally I try to stay between 12 and 24 months, given the option. I'm a technical architect/consultant though not a dev. I guess you spin it as, I was brought in to implement feature x. I successfully delivered and moved on....
        And the lord said unto John; "come forth and receive eternal life." But John came fifth and won a toaster.

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          #5
          Originally posted by SueEllen View Post
          There is no acceptable number.

          Some projects are short and sweet. Others are a year long. Others are many years with you there to deliver a specific piece of work.
          This ^

          I wouldn't start pulling my career apart because some idiot makes an ill-informed comment.
          'CUK forum personality of 2011 - Winner - Yes really!!!!

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            #6
            Thanks for the replies everyone. Generally matches what I thought.

            Not about to start pulling my career apart as I can't undo what I've already done but just trying to get a handle on the strategy I should employ for my next contract. If short term contracts are seen as an issue, I guess I need to consider what Ketto said and think about taking a contract with a longer term potential.

            At risk of being flamed it does seem that in some parts of software development in the financial services sector all they're really looking for is a bum on a seat permie-tractor...

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              #7
              If someone has had more than 2-3 contracts per year for a period of time it will raise concerns which we'll talk about in the interview. For me it could be short and sharp contracts which is fine or situations where you've not extended which could be a problem depending on the project or you've not been offered extensions which would concern me.

              For the sake of the OP I wouldn't have an issue with his career history.

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                #8
                Originally posted by VillageContractor View Post
                If someone has had more than 2-3 contracts per year for a period of time it will raise concerns which we'll talk about in the interview. For me it could be short and sharp contracts which is fine or situations where you've not extended which could be a problem depending on the project or you've not been offered extensions which would concern me.

                For the sake of the OP I wouldn't have an issue with his career history.
                Thanks VC.

                That's the thing - speak to me and ask don't just dismiss out of hand.

                One aspect I find curious is the point you make about not being offered extensions. With my last contract I was informed at the interview that it would be a short 5 month contract which had a particular deliverable with little chance of renewal due to tight budgets which I was happy to take. The project was delivered and live successfully within the timeframe. I made a point to the client that if we had to extend and for them to seek extra funding due to delays in the development I'd actually view the project as being somewhat a failure.

                As an observation there does seem to be an assumption with many financial services contracts that renewals/extensions will happen in perpetuity until an arbitrary time limit is hit rather than there being distinct/defined deliverables.

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                  #9
                  How would someone know your contract was 5 months though?

                  Lots of agents would presume you had a 3 month contract and an extension. Others would presume you had a 6 month contract and was let go early.

                  It depends on the agents experience.
                  "You’re just a bad memory who doesn’t know when to go away" JR

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                    #10
                    Originally posted by SueEllen View Post
                    How would someone know your contract was 5 months though?

                    Lots of agents would presume you had a 3 month contract and an extension. Others would presume you had a 6 month contract and was let go early.

                    It depends on the agents experience.
                    Not sure I follow re the point in bold above. I tend to put date ranges on the CV hence it was a 5 month contract?

                    Good points re agent presumption.

                    In this instance to be fair the agent thought my CV was fine hence submitting me for the role. It was more the development manager who gave the feedback. I'm pleased the agent at least gave me that feedback as many just wouldn't bother. I won't lose any sleep over it for now although if I'm on the bench for any length of time I may have to consider whether it's a big factor.

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