How to Transition from Permanent to Contract Work: a Toolkit

By Alarna Chivers on 19 July 2023

Picture of someone writing on sticky notes

​Here at Kinexus we often get questions from permanent employees about exploring the world of contracting. With its inherent flexibility, higher earning potential, and exposure to diverse projects, contracting offers a unique career path.

The pros and cons of contracting in defence industry

Before taking the plunge into contracting, it's crucial to carefully consider the pros and cons and evaluate how they align with your personal preferences, risk tolerance, and long-term goals. Let's dive deeper into both sides of the equation.


  • Flexibility: Contracting can empower you with greater control over your work projects and schedule, offering an improved work-life balance and the ability to pursue personal or professional endeavours.

  • Higher Earning Potential: Contract work often rewards specialised skills with higher hourly rates compared to permanent roles, allowing you to maximise your income.

  • Variety of Work: As a contractor, you'll have the opportunity to engage with diverse clients and projects, broadening your professional experience and expanding your skill set.

  • Professional Development: Working across different projects and collaborating with various teams enhances your skill set, adaptability, and expands your professional network, opening doors for future growth.

  • Autonomy and Independence: Contractors enjoy a higher degree of autonomy, allowing them to steer their career paths, make independent decisions, and shape their professional journeys.​


  • Lack of Job Security: Contract work is characterised by defined durations, leading to periods of uncertainty between projects. However, the demand for skilled contractors in defence industry is strong, providing ample opportunities in the market.

  • Leave Entitlements: Contractors do not receive annual leave or sick leave, as they are paid based on the hours worked. Planning is necessary to manage periods of leave.

  • Irregular Income: The fluctuating nature of contract work necessitates careful financial planning. We recommend seeking advice from an accountant or financial advisor to evaluate your financial situation and manage tax obligations.

How to ensure the transition from permanent to contract is smooth

If you are in the initial process of considering the transition from a permanent role to a contract role, it is essential that you know the market and current projects. Connecting with a recruiter can give you this insight. The Defence Industry Insights and Defence Industry Hiring Intentions are two great documents that also offer insight into current projects, salaries, and predicted hiring intention data. Through doing this research you’ll develop a deeper understanding of what work is out there for potential contract roles.

Avoid these common pitfalls new contractors experience:

  • Having unrealistic expectations around rates: being new to the contract scene it is normal to not be sure where to start with rates. To avoid this, make sure you do your research and talk to recruiters.

  • Over/under-committing: a great part of contracting is having work-life balance. It is important not to overcommit yourself to too many projects. As you don’t get leave, it is a good idea to consider short breaks in between contracts to allow yourself to reset. On the flip side, it is important to make sure you don’t under-commit yourself either. You want to ensure you have a steady flow on income.

  • Overlooking networking opportunities: as stated above, networking opportunities are a great place to meet people in the industry. New contractors often overlook the importance of this and at times these networking events can lead to new opportunities.

  • Neglecting personal development: continuation of personal development is essential as it allows you to stay ahead of the market, negotiate higher rates, and staying 'in the know’ of the industry.

While you’re on the search for a role, it is important to ensure that you read the job ad and position description thoroughly. Most Defence contracts in Australia require the candidate to be an Australian citizen and hold a current security clearance or one that can be reinstated. To read more on security clearances check out our blog, How Do You Get Sponsored For A Security Clearance in Defence Industry?

Once you’ve started to establish yourself in the contractor market, it is important to know your worth! We strongly encourage going to networking events and meeting contractors, recruiters, and company representatives. This will not only give you a scoop of the market, but it will give you an opportunity to put your name out there.

Other considerations:

  • Contract roles are generally specialist positions: you are there to deliver a service and you are working towards an hourly/daily rate, opposed to a guaranteed salary.

  • Your ability to undertake tasks and meet strict deadlines: Contractors are usually used to fill skill shortages and fix short-term problems. There is an expectation that you will be able to deliver.

  • To excel at your contract: it is great to understand the internal dynamics of the organisation you are working for and how you can add to it as a contractor.

  • Upskilling: by continuously upskilling in high-demand skills there will be no shortage of opportunities. Invest in certifications, attend training programs, or participate in industry-specific workshops to enhance your skills and stay updated with industry trends. You will remain at the forefront of your field and industry developments by continuously educating and upskilling yourself.

How to find work as a contractor in defence industry

One of our Business Development Managers specialising in contract work, Tom Butters, gave us three handy tips:

  • Keep your resume up to date - highlight your relevant skills, achievements, and project experiences to showcase your expertise to potential clients.

  • Optimise your LinkedIn profile.

  • Attend Defence networking events.​

You’ll also need to consider whether you want to work as a casual employee or through a Pty Ltd company. Our blog Which to Choose - Pty, PAYG or Management Company? Will take you through all the differences. It’s worth considering which option is right for you, and getting professional advice as it can be complex!

Transitioning from permanent work to contracting can be an exciting and rewarding career move. By carefully weighing the pros and cons, building a strong foundation, and making informed decisions, you can navigate this transition successfully.

If you're a permanent employee interested in contracting, we recommend contacting our dedicated contract team at Kinexus. With their expertise and extensive network, they can assist you in navigating this transition and uncovering the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.


Some more helpful material:

A Definitive Guide to Contracting in Defence

Defence Sector Career Advice for 2022/2023


Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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