Contracting in Manchester, Liverpool and the North West

The cities of Liverpool and Manchester are known throughout world, mainly due to their football and industrial heritage. But there is so much more to these two great cities and to the North Western part of England as a whole. Over six million people live and work in and around Lancashire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester - and outside of London, the region has the largest tourism trade in England.

You may think finding work as a contractor would prove slightly more difficult in this area than in the Southern half of the country. However, this isn't necessarily the case, there are numerous tech, chemical and engineering companies in the area (see below for greater detail). This coupled with its leisure and retail offerings, means that those contractors who find work in this area will find the experience of living and working here a truly fantastic one. It is also worth mentioning that Liverpool was voted European Capital of Culture for 2008 which brought in a huge amount of investment.

Major companies
Over recent years, the Government has invested billions into the regeneration of the North West. With this substantial investment, alongside the area’s almost-forgotten heritage of world trade and industrial manufacture, the North West has diversified and now plays a pivotal role in industries such as international aerospace, chemical engineering and the automotive sector.

The North West is home to BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, which means that it offers world-class manufacturing facilities, and hence employment, for over 40,000 skilled workers. Added to this, an amazing 60% of the world’s top 50 chemical companies also have a presence in the region. Firms such as Shell UK and Unilever work alongside a number of Universities that feed the sector.

The area is also home to major players in the automotive industry, making the North West the UK’s second-largest region for vehicle manufacture. Companies such as Vauxhall, Jaguar, Bentley and Land Rover have major plants and, along with over 200 supply chain companies such as Getrag Ford, employ over 40,000 people in this sector.

The North West is also home to ITV, Granada and a thriving TV industry in general, which creates over 500 productions a year. There is also a successful digital games development scene, with Sony Computer Entertainment Europe having one of the oldest studios in the world - which was where the famous Lemmings game franchise was originally developed.

Slightly further afield, to the North, Whitehaven houses the headquarters of the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and just a few miles away is Sellafield, the largest and most advanced nuclear energy facility in the UK. With plans to locate four of the UK’s ten proposed new nuclear sites in the Northwest, the sector is destined for future growth within the region.

Major industries

  • Manufacturing (Chemical and Aerospace)
  • Automotive
  • Energy
  • Tourism
  • Media

Local newspapers
There are a number of quality, daily local newspapers in the area, the best read ones probably being the Manchester Evening News, Liverpool Echo or for a wider view of the area the Lancashire Evening Post. These publications can also be found online, with direct links to various job boards in the area. To find contractor opportunities, it is important to keep an eye out in the local papers, as they often have features on recent investments, regeneration projects, or new companies opening in the area.

Typical rates of pay
With such a diverse range of industries in the North West, typical rates of pay for contractors will of course vary depending on any individual’s skill-set, but as an example, an IT Contractor could expect to earn between £300 and £400 per day on average before tax in a Manchester-based job, whilst a non-IT or less specialist contractor is probably looking at around the £250 to £350 mark. However, contractors with specialist skills in aerospace or automotive engineering will be able to secure higher rates of remuneration. For typical rates of pay in the North West across a variety of skill sets visit our contractor rates of pay page.

Ones to watch
Manchester’s Salford Quays will soon be home to MediaCityUK - a £3 billion, 20,000 acre development which is being constructed on reclaimed dockland around the Manchester Ship Canal. This will encompass Europe’s first purpose-built hub for the media and creative industries, with the BBC already investing in state-of-the-art facilities here, and moving five national departments to the complex. But beyond this, MediaCityUK is also designed for companies at every level, from start-up businesses to major international corporations, and will house a number of businesses in the digital industry - whether that’s in gaming, TV production, publishing or software development.

Designed to be the Canary Wharf of the booming digital industry, MediaCityUK is due for Phase One completion in 2011 and will include three landmark buildings amongst other business property - all of which will join the existing Salford Quays community, already home to thousands of residents, workers and visitors.

Commenting on the project, Head of BBC Workplace Chris Kane said, “MediaCityUK is envisaged as a substantial creative centre outside London, attracting media players beyond the BBC to work in collaborative partnerships that build the competitiveness of the media industry as a whole - and it will have a major impact on the economy of the North West and the wider North of England.

The project has ambitious goals for those who work there - to be the best place to work in the industry; to change the culture and working practices of the staff who move there; to develop a different tone and style; to have more flexible employment policies and practices, and to have an innovative and flexible relationship between the organisation and the individual.”

Things to consider about contracting in Manchester, Liverpool and the North West:


  • Good transport links with large international airports and motorways
  • High rates of pay for industry-specific contractors
  • Diverse range of industries
  • Excellent social life, with lower cost of living


  • A few areas are still undergoing regeneration
  • Traffic congestion (as with nearly all major cities)
  • Some people think, incorrectly, that workers from outside the region will not be as welcome as ‘local’ workers

For information on other regional contracting guides, see the links below (we will be adding more guides over time):

Contracting in Aberdeen
Contracting in Edinburgh and Glasgow
Contracting in Newcastle
Contracting in London
Contracting in Reading and Guildford
Contracting in Milton Keynes
Contracting in Bristol, Bath, Cardiff
Contracting in Birmingham

If you have any questions about contracting or would like any further advice please call our new business team on 01442 275789 or e-mail: