If you are in a full-time search, it’s a full-time job. If you are on a full-time contract, it’s a full-time job.
The general rule for contracting is that the company has an immediate need, so they need you there. This will limit your networking/search to early morning coffees, lunches and after-work. Also, like a normal job, you don’t always control your calendar which makes cancellations more common.
Contracting can be a good way to learn about a company or get a chance to work in a new industry. A contract role is more likely to cross industry lines as it’s more about your project skills (e.g. pricing, programming skills, etc.).
If you work with a contracting firm, you may not have a choice of the firm. So you will need to network to get into the company you want.
Contracting is a good way to ease the financial strain if you are not working – as you get paid for every hour worked.
Sidebar: How much should I charge?
When I contracted, I started by calling friends with similar backgrounds as my own, to see what they charged as an independent contractor.
The general approach that many took was: (salary + bonus + health benefit cost)/2080 hours. This was their base pay.