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Insights for Microsoft contractors

Whatever the Microsoft Cloud role, use our guide to benchmark your salary or contact rate, or to uncover what you should be paying employees in your team.

Contractor workload

The freelancers that took part in our survey work an average of 39 hours a week, although this varies between 8 and 70 hours per week.
Average total contract length: 6 months and 3 weeks

Longest contract length: 6 years and 10 months

Percentage of freelancers that have worked on projects that have lasted 12 months or more: 19%

Average number of current clients: 3

Percentage of freelancers only working for one client: 43%

The freelancers that took part in our survey work an average of 39 hours a week, although this varies between 8 and 70 hours per week.
Average total contract length: 6 months and 3 weeks

Longest contract length: 6 years and 10 months

Percentage of freelancers that have worked on projects that have lasted 12 months or more: 19%

Average number of current clients: 3

Percentage of freelancers only working for one client: 43%

Are contractors traveling for work?

26%
40%
23%
10%
1%

How to increase your contract rate

When it comes to contract rates, striking the balance between charging what you’re worth and being accessible to customers can be tricky—especially in a fast-moving, talent-strapped ecosystem like cloud tech.

If you’ve crunched the numbers on your overheads, or found that average market rates have risen beyond what you’re charging, it might be time to have a conversation with your clients.

Increasing your rates is never easy, but doing a bit of research and outlining your reasoning in advance will set you up for success. Here are a few tips to help you prepare.

Back up your case with evidence

When you want to prove that you’re worth what you’re asking, remember to bring the receipts. It’s all too easy to finish a job and quickly move on to the next, but outlining your achievements and quantifying what you’ve delivered for the client is a lot easier if you’ve been keeping track. Make a log of your wins, including any KPIs you’ve helped boost and processes you’ve improved, so you can sum up your value and remind the client of the return they’re getting by investing in your services.

Show off your differentiators

You can add oomph to your professional profile (and in turn, command higher rates) by developing your skills around new or burgeoning products and building in-demand knowledge. Maybe you’ve already built valuable experience with a product but need to put a bow on it: try earning a certification to help make your enhanced skillset more tangible to the client.

Be creative with service offerings

With contractors and businesses alike feeling the economic pinch, not every client will be willing or able to pay your new rate. Being flexible and creating alternative options for clients can help you keep your diary full without selling yourself short. Create service options or packages that give you long-term security and allow clients to spread costs, for example.

Attraction and retention

What makes a contractor accept a contract offer?

Earning potential
0 %
Ability to work remotely
0 %
Duration of project
0 %
Technologies used in the project 58%
Flexible hours 47%
Number of hours or days per week 41%
Management philosophy 38%
Complexity of project 31%
The industry the project/organization is in 31%
Quality standards 29%
Size of project 28%
Other 3%
Technologies used in the project 58%
Flexible hours 47%
Number of hours or days per week 41%
Management philosophy 38%
Complexity of project 31%
The industry the project/organization is in 31%
Quality standards 29%
Size of project 28%
Other 3%

What are the key attributes you need to be a contractor?

We asked contractors which qualities are most important if a professional is to succeed as a self-employed Microsoft professional, and the top five responses were:
Adaptability

54%
Soft skills (e.g., communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and conflict management)

50%
Technical expertise

45%
Microsoft-specific experience

39%
Openness to new challenges

34%

What challenges do you face working as a contractor?

Finding new customers 47%
Work-life balance 32%
Clients changing the scope of a project 28%
Unrealistic expectations from clients 27%
Networking 23%
Keeping up to date with admin 21%
Late customer payments/invoicing 21%
What to do in periods of no work 20%
Competition 17%
Lack of communication from clients 16%
Knowing when to refuse a project because it's unsuitable 13%
Time management 12%
Procrastination/motivation 7%
Knowing when to refuse a project because I already have enough work 7%
None 10%
Other 2%

What advice would contractors give to those considering going freelance?

We asked the contractors that took part in our survey what advice they’d give to those considering starting their freelance journey—responses include:

Conclusion

Offering levels of flexibility, autonomy, and variety rarely found in permanent roles, contracting can be a rewarding and lucrative option for many Microsoft professionals. If you’re considering a move into the world of freelancing, it’s a good idea to get your ducks in a row before you start. According to our respondents, finding new customers and maintaining a healthy work-life balance are among the biggest challenges today’s cloud contractors face, but dedicating time to networking and being realistic about how much you can, and will, work over the course of the year can help make the journey a little smoother.

Want the highlights from this year's Careers and Hiring Guide at a glance? Our key findings report contains our top level insight and salary tables, so you can compare your own salary or benchmark your teams' across the Microsoft ecosystem.