Taking up temporary contracts for banks etc through agencies, is it worth the 2x pay increase?

I’m getting pings from recruiters about short term assignments (6–12 months) with Banks, Pharmas, and other large companies for technical roles.

The rates on these are crazy, like 200k+/year. The catch is that the job is not permanent, and while you’re working it you’re an employee of the agency (who gives you second pillar, insurance, etc, basically you’re on their payroll) and when the contract is over they let you go and you go on employment insurance looking for another gig.

How are these jobs in practice? It’s hard to ignore a 100% increase but I’d like to hear about software developers working in that way: are the hours reasonable (40h M-F or lots of overtime)? Are you expected to be on call? How are the work conditions of basically working through the agency for a third party? Do you get offered a permanent job afterwards or does the agency easily find you another gig once the current one is over? Is it worth it?

It’s like asking “I got a offer for a perm position, am I expected to work overtime? Am I expected to be on call?”
As with any other job it depends on the customer/employer. Most consulting companies calculate that you are on projects for about 70%, but of course this also varies by your skills and so on.
Some people do it for their whole career, some quit after a short period because it’s too stressful to constantly find new projects.
I got a offer for a perm position at every project I ever worked on.
For me it was worth it, but your mileage may vary.
Please be aware that it will be very difficult to find a contract while you are employed with a three month notice period, so you might have to quit your current job before you got your first project.

I don’t know if we’re talking about the same arrangement. I’ve worked consulting gigs before where I was an employee of the consultancy and when not on an assignment, I was “on the bench” basically learning, writing blog posts for the company, that kind of stuff, until they put me on a new project. The salary there was the same than being a developer at any other company directly, the company was swallowing the (huge) difference between the billed rate and what they paid me in return for giving me an unlimited work contract.

The ones contacting me here are a lot more mercenary. If the engagement with the customer is 6 months, they’ll basically give me a 6 month contract and let me be unemployed at the end of the 6 months (on employment insurance or fending for myself, depending on my particular situation). If the customer extends for another 6 months, then they’d give me another 6 months contract with the same ending. In any case, they wouldn’t keep me around on the payroll if a customer isn’t paying them for me.

Yes we are talking about the same arrangements, I’m working like this since three years. :slight_smile:
The consulting company was just an example to show you what you might expect, because I see a lot of people calculating with 100% workload, but for a lot of freelancers that’s not the reality. Let’s say they pay you 100 CHF per hour as your salary after they take their commission, the expenses they have as a employer and so on and you can work 220 days as 100% because of your mandatory holidays, sick leavings and so on.
This would mean you earn 187k per year and would be pretty normal if you are working with an agency because they usually take like 20% or 25% if they find the project for you.
But if you only have projects for 70% of the time it’s like a 131k salary. Of course you might get unemployment benefits, but it’s not that easy because often you won’t be able to apply early enough and you don’t get your unemployment benefits for some time then (“Einstelltage”).
Another thing to consider is that the expectations are often higher than they are for a average perm position.
For me it’s great, but I know people who didn’t like it. They were all able to find a new perm position, so it’s not really an issue most of the time. But it really depends on the situation you are in, it’s not a no-brainer.

Yes I see what you mean. However, I feel like at 2x my current salary I could afford to be out of work for 6 months a year without modifying my lifestyle much (if at all) AND get 6 months off every year or find another gig for that amount of time.

I’m tempted because it feels like when you’re hired as an external, you don’t have to deal with as much of the BS. Your time is more expensive so the company makes sure they’re not wasting it vs being a perm employee where you spend hours in useless meetings, get half-assed tickets where most requirements are missing, you don’t even have access to the system you’re meant to work on, the feature can’t even work as described, etc.

What is your experience regarding the above? Is it realistic to expect, or is it the same slog as a perm employee, you’re just being paid much more to go through it?

I’m not trying to talk you out of it. If you think it’s a good concept for you it probably is. :slight_smile:

For long term contracts you’ll likely still experience the same corporate BS to some degree and they will still waste your time. It’s usually not money of the guy setting up a meeting so he doesn’t care.
You avoid some trouble because you’re no competitor for a internal career and what I personally really like is that there are no performance reviews and so on.

Maybe you can also ask @Bojack for his experience.

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Here is my experience:





No explicit ones, implicit ones for sure, you just get kicked out or not renewed if you don‘t perform.

Actually I see this as a positive or negative, depending on the situation. If you’re a junior without a plan and motivation, it’s “nice” to feel like at school, where a coach will evaluate your performance, set some goals and suggest a development plan. I went through that.

When you become independent enough that you’re an expert in your field, you don’t need this stuff anymore. However, after some years without free trainings and evaluation one might ask if you’re still on the right track, or are you just cutting off the coupons from the work previously done.


Sure, but you’ve been asking for corporate BS :wink:
And you can also get kicked out of a perm position.

If you’re good at what you are doing, are OK socially, know how to manage your money (you’re here so I guess it’s a yes :slight_smile: ) and have no hard obligations like kids, go for it. You will gain experience and money, with a lot of flexibility.

You might look for some more stability when you’re older, with a familly, or with a senior level where you are way too expensive for this set up. But for know, enjoy. Just stay connected with the people you work with, grow your network, and never ever except everything for the agencies are they clearly see you as a piece of meat. But that’s fair, that’s the game. They find the job, find you, take their cut.

You can become independant after a while if your network become big enough.

I plan on doing this within the next few years, I already know people in a few companies (two with mainly personal connections) , that take a very small cut and pass on most of the money without you needing to worry about all the work involved if you have your own GmBH

Great timing for this topic. I have been thinking about this after speaking with a recruiter who told me what the ”all inclusive” rate would be. I’m not sure if the agency’s cut would be taken from the daily rate or if they get a fixed reward for filling the role.

Considering bonuses but not benefits, I could earn between 20-30% more if employed full time. If the agency takes a cut or it’s not full time, it doesn’t seem like worth the change. My current job is cushy and meaningful at the same time.

@Bojack and @Alvo : what’s your experience of the ”all in” rate? What deductions would one expect from a daily rate of say 1 kCHF?

The agency usually doesn’t tell you how much they charge the client.
They take 20% or 25% commission and of course all mandatory expenses every employer has to pay.
If you find a project yourself it’s just 3% or 5% commission.
The all in rate is usually comparable to a salary, bit I’d just ask the agency how they calculate it.

I would have thought it’s the other way around and you can’t get these gigs unless you’re senior. Why would a company pay over 200k a year for a junior? The numbers I keep seeing for senior (10 years relevant experience and up) kinda maxes out at 130–145k (higher part of the range being in Zurich only)

As I get more experienced I find I have even less patience for all the BS, meaningless “one year goal plans” and all the other useless crap because the company doesn’t really care or wants to pay for training anyway.

Long time ago I was at Experis and tried to get them to explain to me how does their daily rate convert to my salary. I didn’t understand it in the end. I work at a small company where everything is transparent, so I know what we charge the client, then where the money goes. From a daily rate charged to the client you need to pay the employer’s and employee’s 1st & 2nd pillar contribution for your salary (legally, you’re just an employee), and admin costs of the company, so your annual turnover is much higher than what actually lands in your account.


My bad, we just have different scale of “senior”. Of course this not for a junior. What I call “senior” is :

  • Expert in his domain with 20+ years and big reference
  • Senior Management position (which usually requieres 10 years as a Senior Manager before…)

Sorry for the confusion. I’m just an old fart :wink: For what seem’s your position in your carrier, my original statement is what I mean.

I can give a quick example as this is what I deal with (procuring externals) on a daily basis (one of the job responsibilities).
The “all in rate” is what is paid to the pass-through company by “Global MNC IT group”.
The “effective rate” is what actually lands up in the external consultant’s bank account, after commissions, etc.
For e.g., we go in with an “all in rate” of CHF 143.75 per hour or CHF 1150 per day.
The effective rate which we usually see being given to the consultant is CHF 121.83 or CHF 974.6 per day.

“Global MNC IT group” controls the “all in rate”, has no bearing on what eventually passes to the consultant. It completely depends on the consultant’s negotiation skills as well as the specific set of skills that the consultant possesses and the urgency of the situation.

Certain bigger pass-through companies (think IT services companies from offshore) have a prohibitive commission of at least 40%, which makes it completely untenable to source from (at least I havent encountered any situation where an external consultant was willing to engage with these big IT services companies for getting just 60% of the “all in rate”).

Hope this helps.


Thanks for the explanation. :slight_smile:
I’m sure this is correct from a clients perspective, but when a recruiter reaches out to a you and asks for your all in rate they want to know what you want to earn per hour including travel expenses and so on.
I totally get what @Bojack means, if they want to hire you for a project it’s usually not very transparent. Different BVG plans, different insurances and they often don’t even tell you what they charge to the client.

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