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Becoming a PMO Contractor

It’s a session that has been repeatedly asked for – how to become a PMO contractor?
In this session, we invited Pragmatic PMO – Ken Burrell – who has been a PMO contractor for over ten years and now runs, a consultancy providing PMO services and solutions – to share his insights on how he became a contractor and more crucially, how he managed to make a long-term career working on a freelance basis.
There are lots of avenues that could be explored like how do you know when is the right time to go contracting? Which option should I choose – contracting, fixed-term, consulting? What do you need to know about the financial implications? How to get started in a new contract position and what to watch out for?
Ken covered a lot in this session with lots of practical advice that you to think about and mull over – Ken said, “If this doesn’t excite and scare you, perhaps contracting might not be right for you”

The Recorded Session

There were some technical issues with this session, so apologises in advance for any sound issues!

The Slide Deck

PMO Contractor Slidedeck
> Download the Deck

Top Eight Takeaways

There was a lot in this session so here’s the top ten takeaways we pulled out from the session:

1. A Good Book is Always a Good Place to Start

You can get the Contractors Handbook here to get you started >> Take a Look


2. Why Are You Doing This

It’s always a good idea to sit down and think anything potentially life changing through – whether that’s just doing a brain dump or a neat pros and cons list. It’s also good to look back on it regardless of whether you decide to go for it or not.


3. Which Option Will Work For You

You have got different options available to you in how you choose to contract. This is what’s currently available in the UK – of course other countries have different options so make sure you check out those local options.
For many contractors today you can’t escape IR35 so you’ll need to read up on it (here’s the government’s official advice)


4. It Helps to Think Like a Small Business

Which includes marketing yourself and what you do, Ken chose a few different ways of doing that:


5. Opportunities Come From Different Places

Due to the different actvities you’ll be doing to market yourself, you will start to find that through the various ways of networking you’ll start to be approached with all sorts of opportunities. Ken talked about resisting the urge to say yes to it all and how to pass on some opportunities to others in your network.


6. There Are a Lot of Myths Around Contracting

Ken runs through a number of different myths, such as this one, and “šTo become a contractor you need to be a senior person who is the best in their field”; “šContractors get to pick and choose their assignments” and “šContractors get paid telephone numbers”. There’s six of them to take a look at.



7. Is There a Good Time to Go Contracting?

This is a great overview to help with planning when you might be thinking of starting contracting – and if you do, it’s also good to know in terms of contract extensions/renewals and when you might be back on the market looking for a new role.


8. What Better Way to Learn.. From Others

There’s lots of great nuggets of advice from other seasoned pros, have a dip into them and make notes! I especially liked this one – Word-of-mouth contracts are easier to get than open market ones, despite what the agent may tell you – because it is absolutely true. It relies on cultivating and taking care of your network, and one of the ways you can expand your PMO network is with House of PMO!


More About Ken

Ken Burrell started his project management career as a project manager in beer dispense equipment manufacturing (he is also a trained beer taster). He moved into insurance, and then across to PMO (where he ran an enterprise PMO), then went independent – and has never looked back!
His company Pragmatic PMO now provides specialist PMO consultancy and services to clients from fashion to financial services. Pragmatic PMO helps organisations to improve the way they change through the strategic application of the right PMO know-how. Sometimes by supporting the controlled delivery of strategic change programmes, and sometimes by ensuring that senior management get the insights they need to make strategic decisions about those change programmes in the context of an organisational change portfolio.
Ken has worked across many types of projects including new product development, software development, fit-out-and-move, risk and capital modelling, and design-and-manufacture.
Ken has helped enterprise PMOs to improve the speed of project pipeline management by improving the quality of submissions and to improve financial control with better financial project reporting.
Ken posts regularly about project management and PMO topics on LinkedIn and his YouTube channel, and somewhat less regularly on his web site He is passionate about improving the way that organisations learn lessons from projects, to the extent that he has written a book about it – Learning Lessons from Projects: How it works, how it goes wrong and how you can do it better, and has delivered talks on the subject to: the APM PMO Specific Interest Group annual conference; PMO Flashmob mini-masterclasses; a PMO Flashmob Stand up for PMO event, an Open University Change Conference, and a full house at Project Challenge.
He launched the Campaign for Real Project Managers (#CAMRPM) with a blog article appealing for more authenticity and humility from project managers. To support the campaign and his book, he recorded a series of interviews (available to listen to and to watch) in which real project managers share their successes and their scars, for the benefit of all.
Ken is happy to discuss potential engagements and coaching / mentoring.

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