Contract Work for Dummies

Contracting Basics


A lot of you out there see many of the contract jobs we post and start dreaming of stacking cash like Scrooge McDuck.  Some of you out there can’t even imagine that your skills might even be worth $100k a year (or more) because you’re so used to eating the shit sandwiches you’re being fed by small departments and private ambulance companies. Others out there have hero syndrome so bad that you think you deserve 6 figures for your job, but you don’t understand the simple supply and demand equations that leave you sucking dick for 7/11 hot dogs while other people with similar skills are making moves to leverage those skills in other high paying arenas. 


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Take that entire meat tube, you dirty boi.

For those that would like to make the leap to working in higher paying, contract based jobs, this article is meant to give you a bit of insight to what you need to do to get in, and what you can expect when you get there, regardless of the industry.


There are a multitude of industries that need temporary labor from licensed medical workers such as wildland fire, private security, industrial, oil and gas, disaster relief, and austere/remote locations.  Hell, look what COVID screening contracts were (and still are) paying people. Do you notice a trend with these industries?  Most of them are not in your hometown, which means to get into them, you need to kiss your high school sweetie goodbye for a bit, pack your bags, and pop the proverbial smoke.  Immediate mobility is one of the single most important qualities people are looking for when selecting contract based medical employees.  Why? Because when shit hits the fan, it needs to be fixed right fucking now. Nobody cares that you’ll need 2 weeks to tell your boss you’re leaving. Nobody cares that you have plans for the weekend or you have a vacation you’ve already scheduled. Nobody cares that you’re waiting on the certifications required for you to be eligible to take the job. I have legit been called on a Monday night to fly out of the country on Thursday for a 90-day minimum deployment.  The people that said they could make the 2nd wave, 2 weeks later, never actually got deployed. 

(Editors note: I was the other guy that didn't have his cert ready in time. I was slotted for the 2nd wave that never came. I got to hear all about how awesome the armed EMT contract in the Caribbean was from the author, who HAD his certs ready and was immediately deployable. Did I mention all of his expenses were covered at a 5 star hotel? No, I'm not bitter at all all these years later.)


So if being ready to go immediately is the most important factor, what do you need to be ready to go?  GET YOUR FUCKING CERTS NOW!  You see us preach this all the time.  It doesn’t matter what industry, what matters is that you’re cleared hot for that industry. If you want to do off shore oil or work as an EMT/Paramedic on a ship, well, you need to get your TWIC, probably some other certs provided by merchant marines or similar, and I’m sure a “rig card” will be required at some point.  While I’ve had some of the above, you need to use google in order to figure out if you need any of these and where to get them. If you’re in wildland fire, then get your red card (even if that means doing a season with a federal or contract module).  If you’re interested in domestic security/EMT deployments, then get your armed guard card and a concealed carry weapons permit (It doesn't matter the state you currently live in. Make the trek to a state that issues non-resident permits. There have been foreign contracts that recognized a CCW as "good enough" to allow contractors to be armed in those countries)


For any of these types of jobs that are abroad, you need to get your passport BEFORE you start applying. I used to keep a folder on my computer that had copies of all of my certs so I could send them out at a moment’s notice as soon as I got word of a deployment job coming down. This has been completely instrumental to making the initial rosters for more than just a few jobs.


So you’ve seen above that we’re talking about certifications that don’t even involve medicine, and you may be saying, “But WorstResponders, I’m just an [EMT/AEMT/Paramedic], I don’t have any experience in any of those above industries….”  Well, you need to FIND AND OBTAIN A CRITICAL SKILL!!! 

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This isn't worth anything? But my mom told me I'm special and I volunteer this same skill for free...


What do I mean by that? Well, for instance, I didn’t start out in medicine.  I came up a dirty nasty trigger puller and made a switch to private security and training.  Later I developed an academic and hands on background in emergency medicine that sling shot me to the top of job lists in the security realm because I had a critical skill that set me apart from other knuckle draggers.  Now I’ve been in the medical game long enough that I can work stand alone as a professional in emergency medical service, but my previous background allows me to go back and forth between different industries.  Most of the industries that we mentioned above don’t require you to be a badass in both industries, but you have to be proficient in at least one.  A weak EMT with a strong wildland background is just as likely to get a contract medical job as a strong EMT with a weak wildland background as long as the candidates have at least a little bit of experience in both.


Which brings me to my next point: There is no shortcut for experience!  Contract based workers are to be considered professionals in their field.  Many departments want people that are trainable to their system of doing things, and as such, are more willing to take newer and younger people.  This isn’t typically the case with contract work.  Contract type work you’re expected to know your shit, do the right thing without being told, and to be able to get along with other like-minded professionals in order to accomplish whatever the task at hand is.  Many government contracts have requirements for the employees that are set by the client and are non-negotiable.  When a job has experience requirements, these typically need to be met in order to get on the job, without wiggle room.


Last but not least, Your network is key! It is often said that your first contract is the most difficult to land.  The reason is because many companies that specialize in contract work typically maintain a short list of people that have worked for them before.  The other reason is because project managers and team leaders like to work with people they’ve previously worked with before.  When a new contract comes down, its not uncommon for there to be a few different groups of people that have already worked together on previous jobs.  For those reasons above, its imperative that you maintain regular communication with people you’ve worked with on previous jobs, and don’t be an asshole when you get your first contract.  Your first contract can and will be your interview for subsequent jobs to come.


Or it can be your last job to come, if you are a clown


If spending a few months working every day to make what you’ll typically make in a year to then be able to take a couple months off to enjoy yourself while looking for your next job sounds appealing, then maybe the pirate life is for you.  Getting paid to travel and see more than the cornfields in Nebraska can be super fulfilling, if even for just a short while. 


Subscribe to our job board and see how diverse the opportunities are, and get to work stacking certifications, training, and experience that will set you in the right direction.   We will have more articles coming out as we interview people in different fields to help give you more insight as to what life is like in more specific types of contract gigs. 


Until next time, Stay Moist. #MoistGang

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