Millennial contractors value flexibility: Summarising the YoCo Awards 2016

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A quick look at the first #YoCoAwards, a short Q&A with winner Lauren Farmer, and testimonials from the UK’s top millennial contractors

As we wrap up the first ever Parasol Young Contractor Awards, we felt it was important to remember that the competition originated from the growing attractiveness of the WorkStyle (our phrase for work-life balance) that many Millennial contractors experience.

Starting with the YoCoAwards Winner, we take a moment to share some of those stories and also share more news about future YoCoAwards competitions.

Lauren Farmer, our 2016 #YoCoAwards winner

The public vote determined that the best WorkStyle belonged to Lauren Farmer, a 27-year-old IT Support Analyst who had only started contracting last November. In that short time, Lauren’s YoCoAwards entry symbolises – especially in the eyes of our voters – the flexibility contracting offers, particularly to a young parent who had been on maternity leave from their career.

I started contracting in November 2015, as I returned to work after extended maternity leave. I was worried that I would be spending all my time at work away from my children with no reward at the end of it. Thanks to contracting, I couldn’t have been further from the truth! I have even managed to take my daughters to Disneyworld, all thanks to becoming a contractor! Thanks Parasol!

We conducted a short Q&A with Lauren after presenting the £500 prize and the first-ever Parasol #YoCoAwards Trophy:

Parasol: Do you think having more millennial contractors is a good thing for business as a whole? Why?

Lauren: I think having contractors within the workforce works well for both the company and the individual who is contracting, it gives both sides a greater degree of flexibility than if they were employed directly by the company.

Parasol: Why did you choose this career?

Lauren: I came into contracting by accident. I applied for a permanent position based on a friend’s referral and was then told they wanted to hire me, but on a contract basis. I didn’t know much about contracting before that, but I decided to give it a try, as it seemed like a win/win and I’d get to spend more time with my young children.

Parasol: How satisfied are you with your contracting career so far?

Lauren: I’m very satisfied – I get all the flexibility I need to be around my family.

Parasol: What do you feel are the main benefits of contracting?

Lauren: Again, it is all about the flexibility, and having the option to work when you want and take time out when you want.

Congratulations to Lauren for the award, and many thanks to everyone who voted in the competition.

Millennial contractors praise benefits of their career path

Lauren Farmer, our 2016 YoCo Awards winner, feels that Millennial contractors and the clients that take them can benefit from the working arrangementThe #YoCoAwards is a by-product of a jobs market soon to be heavily populated with millennials looking to redefine work. Studies have found millennials value a career with flexibility and balance, a trait that is common within contracting. More and more grads want to pursue a contracting/freelance career path.1

That’s why Parasol created the Young Contractor Awards. It generates a platform to praise the virtues of individuals who have taken a professional leap of faith. It also honours the rewards they are now reaping from a more flexible – in many cases, more lucrative – WorkStyle.

"It's no secret that the traditional nine-to-five work model is being eroded by a new generation of workers who want the freedom to work when and where they want," James Lawton-Hill, marketing director for Parasol, said in our blog post announcing the awards in July.

So many entries in the #YoCoAwards, including Lauren’s, are strong testimonials for the appeal of contracting for today’s young professionals.

Family-based WorkStyle leads to engagement

Like Lauren, another family-oriented post led to a #YoCoAwards nomination for Stacey Swift, a Psychological wellbeing practitioner/safeguarding champion. Stacey, 31, has been contracting since 2014, reaping the benefits of an agile work approach that enriches the people she holds close to her:

Since contracting I've used the flexibility to travel to Florida, Venice, Budapest, Cuba, Mexico, and Poland. We have been able to afford to get engaged and are saving for our wedding. I have managed to save enough to send my mum to Oz for her 60th birthday to be reunited with my brother who lives there. My life is completely enriched by the contracting WorkStyle – I would never go back to 9-5 now!

It goes to show: you'll only know the benefits of a contractor's life if you have a go.

Travel, freedom, new hobbies – why work any other way?

Pedro Ribiero began contracting in December 2012 as a specialist in IT and Information Security. Pedro, 32, took his time settling into the contracting life, but has now created an enviable WorkStyle he wouldn’t trade for all the permanent roles you could throw his way:

Despite numerous offers for permanent employment, I’m not going back. Initially I took less holidays than a permie, but lately I’ve been relaxing more. Last year I was on holiday for 6 months and went travelling to Thailand. I had the experience of a lifetime living as a local and training (in) Thai boxing. The only problem? All my friends are incredibly jealous of my lifestyle!

As one colleague told us upon seeing Pedro's entry, "I'm envious."

WorkStyle leads to an even healthier form of flexibility

Anthea Goodrick has been contracting as an art director since March 2015, arriving in the field with a particular interest in a better form of work-life balance. What the 34-year-old has gotten from the experience is the flexibility (figuratively and literally, it turns out) to develop a second career along the way.

I wanted more balance in my life. After coming back from travelling the thought of a 9-5 job was a little scary. I decided to take the plunge and head into the uncharted territory of freelance. I've never looked back – over a year later I've never been without work and I'm also now a qualified yoga teacher so split my time between the corporate world and yoga. I found my balance! Freelance gives be the ability to do both. I would recommend it to anyone who wants some freedom in their lives.

Namaste, Anthea.

Millennial contractors are moving forward

Parasol have been pleased by the response to the Young Contractor Awards, as the testimony of the above nominees and many more helped verify our thoughts about the industry and about Millennial contractors' motivations in general.

We hope to see these trends continue in the future, and would certainly welcome the chance to hand out the 2017 YoCo Award trophy. For now, please visit our YoCo Winners page to learn more about this year’s winner, Lauren. Thanks to all participants for their contributions to the initial edition.

1: Another interesting statistic from the Elance study: Two out of 3 Millennials polled (69%) said contracting or ‘gigging’ offered better work-life balance.