AWS freelance: why become an AWS contractor?

Considering a freelance career in AWS? 

Whether you’re employed or in-between jobs, becoming an AWS contractor can open up a wave of new perks and opportunities for cloud talent currently working as permanent professionals.    

Working as an AWS freelancer is not for everyone. So, knowing if you should make the switch from permanent professional to contractor all depends on what’s best for you and your situation.  

This is why we’ve created this blog post to help you understand the difference between the two career types, and assess which best complements your goals and commitments both professionally and outside of work.  

After all, the AWS community strives to empower all professionals to reach their utmost potential, and for many this means choosing their own projects, setting their own work hours, and determining their own earnings.  

And with the current economic instability and likely pending recession, many organizations look set to turn to contractors as a more cost-effective solution to executing cloud plans this year, meaning there may never have been a better time for AWS talent to make the switch.  

Contractors vs permanent professionals 

First, let’s establish the difference between the two options.  

A permanent professional is exactly as it sounds — a professional employed full-time by one organization. They receive an annual fixed salary to work a determined set of hours per week, and will often receive workplace benefits including paid time off (PTO), bonuses and more.  

Contractors, on the other hand, are self-employed and work on a freelance basis. Their work is often project-based and carried out for a fixed amount of time – our Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: AWS Edition found that the average contract length for an AWS contractor is 6 months. They determine their own pay rates and often have greater flexibility around when are where they work, but aren’t entitled to workplace benefits and are responsible for sourcing their own work.   

A contractor can be drafted in when organizations need extra resource, to complete a particular project, or to help train up in-house employees. It’s a shorter-term solution that allows an employer to access to high-level skills and rich experience without lengthy recruitment processes, greater expenses, or the risk of a bad hire.  

What skills does an AWS contractor need? 

In our Careers and Hiring Guide, we asked contractors to name the most important qualities to succeed as a freelance AWS professional, and the top five responses were: 


  1. Soft skills (64%) 
  2. Technical expertise (51%) 
  3. Adaptability (48%) 
  4. Drive and enthusiasm (34%) 
  5. General tech experience (31%) 


With contractors we surveyed reporting factors like a lack of communication from clients (36%), unrealistic client expectations (20%), and clients changing project scopes (25%) as some of the biggest challenges they face, it’s little wonder AWS freelancers value soft skills like communication, problem solving, and conflict management so highly.  

Much like with permanent professionals, organizations will always value expertise and experience, meaning a strong technical portfolio will often take you far as an AWS contractor.  

But just remember: as an AWS freelancer, you are your brand, making drive and enthusiasm integral to your ability to find work, build professional relationships, and adapt when the situation demands it.  

Pros of being an AWS freelancer   

There are plenty of reasons AWS talent pursue careers as contractors, with the top perks including: 

Greater earning potential  

Many cloud contractors find that their earning potential is higher working freelance.   

This is partly because they can dictate their own pay rates, but it isn’t as black and white as that. Much like in permanent roles, employers expect a high level of skill and experience when dishing out the big bucks, meaning your contract rate must reflect what you bring to the table.  

But because contractors are moving project to project, company to company, they’re able to upskill and increase exposure at a far quicker rate than permanent employees. And without the need for pay reviews or negotiations, contractors can scale their pay far quicker as a result.  

More flexibility  

As a contractor you’re your own boss, giving you far greater flexibility when it comes to the projects you work on, the hours you work, and where you work from.  

In fact, the ability to work remotely influences two-thirds (61%) of contractors to accept a contract offer, and 7 in 10 contractors never or rarely travel for work as a result. It’s easy to see how this could appeal to the 36% of permanent AWS professionals in our survey that prefer full-time remote working.  

Furthermore, our Careers and Hiring Guide reports that freelancers who took part in our survey work an average of 33 hours a week—six hours less than the average work week for permanent professionals.  

This flexibility can further bolster your earning potential too, giving you the option to pick up more work as and when you need it.  

Better work-life balance  

Of course, the added flexibility also allows contractors to lighten the workload when they need to take a step back.  

This means that freelance cloud pros are less likely to be stressed, overworked, and ultimately burnout. In fact, our Careers and Hiring Guide found that almost half (45%) of permanent AWS professionals have experienced burnout in their current role, compared to only 36% of freelancers. 

This all amounts in a greater work-life balance—an area that only 64% of permanent professionals are satisfied with, according to our guide. Typically, contractors are blessed with the freedom to work around non-professional commitments and interests, meaning more time for family, friends, and recreation.  

Cons of being an AWS freelancer   

If there were no downsides to working as an AWS freelancer, everyone in the community would be a contractor! But there are some cons to AWS freelance work, and considering them is vital for any professional considering moving across the ecosystem:  

Reduced financial and job security  

Permanent professionals enjoy a certain level of job and financial security – they don’t have to find their own work, and they know how much money is coming in each month of the year.  

Contractors rarely enjoy this peace of mind, with 41% telling us that finding new customers is the biggest challenge they face. Knowing where are when that next project is coming is a constant consideration that contractors must keep in mind.  

This can understandably be off-putting to some AWS professionals, especially those with family and financial commitments who depend on a steady stream of income.  

Fewer perks and benefits  

The skills gap and subsequent talent shortage has meant that candidates hold the aces in the AWS hiring market. 

And one major outcome of this is a heavy emphasis on work perks and benefits, with employers striving to offer professionals more in their bid to win the race for talent. As a result, 92% of permanent employees now tell us that, salary aside, workplace benefits are important when deciding whether or not they will accept a job offer. 

But while permanent professionals are reaping the rewards from this shift in hiring trends, contractors aren’t entitled to the same, meaning they’re missing out on perks ranging from PTO and bonuses to pension contributions/401(k)s and even medical cover.  

Less support  

One major advantage of working for an employer is the support you (should) receive in your learning, development, and career progression.  

This isn’t to say you can’t achieve your professional goals as a contractor; far from it. However, progression routes are far less defined, meaning its potentially harder to track your career development—especially without the financial support and guidance of an employer.  

For example, our Careers and Hiring Guide found that 71% of organizations have fully-funded or partly-funded their employees certifications—a cost contractors have to front themselves. That’s in addition to any resource, (paid) time, and other support permanent professionals receive from their employer to aid their learning and development.  

Tips for AWS contractors  

Think life as an AWS contractor is for you? If you’re a cloud professional looking for freelance AWS work, here are some tips on how to maximise your market appeal and increase your contractor rate.  

Amplify your experience 

Experience is the golden ticket to maximising your earning potential.  

Practical, hands-on experience is a strong trust-indicator for prospective clients, as it demonstrates the real-life application of your technical skills and expertise. So, evaluate how you’re building your experience level regularly–once a quarter should do–and make sure you highlight it throughout your professional collateral. 

Diversify your portfolio 

The more jobs you work on, the greater your curb appeal. Gaining exposure to a variety of different project types and technologies will not only allow you to have wider client reach, but also offer greater input and impact on customers’ projects. 

Get certified 

Certifications go hand-in-hand with higher earning potential, and for contractors it’s no different. Earning industry-recognised certifications proves your expertise and reassures clients that you can walk the walk, not just talk the talk. 

 Better yet, clients are happy to pay a higher rate for this additional safety net. Certifications can also make it easier for prospective clients to match your skills to their needs, meaning they’re more likely to recognise you as a suitable contractor for their projects. 

Beware of scope-creep 

Scope-creep is an enemy of contractors across the community and has been for some time. No matter if it’s a new client, or a contract you’ve been working on for a prolonged period, it’s common for the project requirements to exceed the original plan.  

Try to avoid taking on additional work not mapped out in your agreement, in order to avoid driving down your contractor rate. In instances where scope-creep is unavoidable, don’t be afraid to reflect it in your rate. 

Know the tax rules  

It’s important you understand the tax implications of your self-employed status. 

This of course varies country to country—British professionals should familiarize themselves with IR35, for example, while Americans should know if they’re a W-2 or 1099 employee. 

Make sure you understand where you fall within your region’s tax rules and regulations to ensure you know your true take-home pay and avoid any nasty, expensive surprises.  

Know where to find work  

With 4 in 10 contractors in our Careers and Hiring Guide reporting they found it hard to find new customers, it’s important you utilize the right networks to keep the contracts flowing.  

This becomes easier over time as your professional network grows, but this can take significant time—38% of freelancers we surveyed were only working for one client. 

Job boards and specialized recruitment agencies can be another network to explore in order to reap quicker rewards, providing you find the right one. It’s understandable that you don’t want to relinquish control over your projects—that’s likely why you work freelance in the first place—and any good recruiter will understand and support this.  

The right recruiter will help you to find the AWS freelance jobs that tick all your boxes, ensuring you still enjoy the freedom and flexibility you want over your professional endeavors.  

The latest career insights from the AWS ecosystem

The Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: AWS Edition provides market-leading career insight and advice from across the AWS community