Gurmeet Singh lives in Manchester with his wife and two children. He works In Crawley on a pensions contract during the week and returns home most weekends.
"A few years ago I started contracting, working on PPI cases. It really suited me; I enjoyed the lifestyle and the money’s great. You’re in control of your own workflow, responsible for your own actions, required to think on your feet – that’s one of the really good things about contracting.
I had started looking for areas of work other than PPI and I saw this contract come up, based down in Crawley, doing pensions work. It’s not always easy to find exactly what you want on your doorstep. When I realised that my profile fitted what was demanded, I decided to go for it.
So I moved onto this assignment to gain experience on a pensions project. Sometimes you have to make that break, and if that means moving away then so be it. I think there will always be a market for contractors who have pensions experience, so I view the sacrifice as an investment for the future.
In a few years’ time the bulk of the work won’t be PPI, in my view, so I had to take the chance and make a bold move. As a contractor you have to do that; you can’t just stay in your comfort zone, because the comfort zone won’t be there forever."
Planning for the future
"I have 2 young children aged 1 and 4, and being away from them in the week is a difficult thing, but I’m not thinking about the next 6 months, I’m thinking about the next 6 years. And doing this now raises my chances of doing different projects in future. There is some inconvenience now, in the short term, but in five years it will have paid off.
The work is great. It’s really enjoyable, but I haven’t got my comforts, or my friends and family around me. When I get home I really focus on my family: I miss my kids and my wife when I’m away, of course. It’s the day to day, simple things about home life that I miss most: being in my own bed, having my own bathroom... and of course, watching Manchester United play!
The contractor lifestyle is great, but it may not be sustainable for everyone; it is do-able and my advice is to be bold with it as it has benefits.
I have made a plan to get my finance qualifications. Being away from home provides me the opportunity to use the time in the evenings to study so that’s a plus and makes the sacrifice of not being at home worthwhile. If I come out of this contract with the experience and the qualification, then I will be set up to have even greater choice of contracts in future.
For me, it’s been a really worthwhile exercise. I anticipate being able to do this contract for the next 2 years and I believe it will pay off in the end.”
“Some people do Airbnb or a hotel. I went for a spare room, which I found through spareoom.com. I saw a few places and the one I am in seemed quite nice; it’s a quiet house, sharing with a doctor, and it’s good to have my own space away from work.
There is an element of risk and it can be a bit of pot luck as to who you end up sharing with. Here it’s quite stable and if need be I can stay for a long time.”
Top accommodation tips
- Sharing a short-term tenancy with people you already know on a project may be a cost-effective option.
- Don’t always look at accommodation within a stone’s throw from the office. Being willing to have a short commute may help to reduce your costs considerably. For example, a Premier Inn within 10 mins of one of Momenta’s key client offices in Glasgow averages £61 per night. But staying in a Premier Inn 20 mins from the office averages £51 per night.
- There is lots of choice so look beyond the obvious: hotels, B&Bs, staying with friends/family, short/medium-term tenancies, house shares and serviced apartments are all worth considering.
- Use the internet to get the best deal and find the most appropriate solution. Sites like Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Trivago are good for finding the best prices for short-term stays. If you are staying away for longer period, you will probably want more a permanent arrangement in an actual home. Sites like Spareroom, Easyroommate, Roombuddies, Roomhunters & Airbnb could help you find this.
“I try to get home as often as I can. I have some colleagues who are also from Manchester so we car share and split the cost of the travel. That helps as it can really rack up,” says Gurmeet.
Top travel tips
- Work out commuting times and costs carefully, looking at all the different options. Weigh up the cost against your day rate to make absolutely sure the role is viable.
- If you will be staying away from home and just travelling at the start and end of the week, check if the trains get you in early enough on a Monday. If not, you may need to consider travelling on Sundays and staying an extra night.
- Look at alternatives in case the normal route has issues (Sunday travel can be regularly disrupted, for example)
- Look at how close the office is to the station. Factor in any additional costs of taxis/buses from the station.
- Could you drive? If there is parking on site or nearby, then driving each day may be an option – and you get to sleep in your own bed at night!
- Carpool – investigate who else is working on the project and see if you could share the costs by arranging to carpool. Greener too!
- Core hours – some projects allow a later start time to accommodate people travelling longer distances. Being able to travel outside of peak hours may help keep costs down.