Working as a contractor can be extremely rewarding for anyone wishing to pursue it and take a new change of direction in their career. The financial benefits it brings plus the freedom and flexibility it can provide are just some of the reasons why so many are beginning their journeys as contractors and more so, why by 2020 it is predicted 50% of the UK workforce will be self-employed.
Contracting is not an easy path to follow. In fact there is no real path to follow, but rather one you need to create for yourself. To get ahead in contracting, you need to be constantly aiming to move forward and acting pro-actively. It is up to you where your next contract comes from as you’ll be responsible for selling your services and winning new clients.
Those believing success in contracting can be achieved passively are grossly misled. If you’re thinking about becoming a contractor, here’s some useful tips to help you go far and ensure your contractor career enjoys longevity.
Know your niche and practise your pitch
We’ve all heard the phrase jack of all trades and master of none right? In some circles you may be able to get away with this approach and blag your way through life, but this is just not the case with contracting and the industry does not suffer fools.
Starting out as a contractor, it’s important that you’re aware of what your core skill set is and what it is you’re specifically selling as a service. Have a look through your CV and highlight any particular skill set or experience that stands out prominently throughout your career. It’s no use offering companies your services on the proviso that you know some of this and a little bit of that. Be clear and concise in who you are and what you’re offering. This is extremely important when it comes to pitching your services to potential employers. Don’t give them the wrong idea and mis-sell yourself and detract their attention away from what your key skill is. Again, be specific and confident in who you are and what you’re offering as a contractor.
Don’t undersell or oversell – just sell!
When thinking about the image of a contractor, the perception conjured up by many is one of professionalism. They have been hired specially for a specific set of tasks or job and have been hired for their proficiency in a required skill set. A contractor needs to exude this level of professionalism and be confident when selling themselves to potential hiring managers.
It’s important then to never undersell yourself as a contractor to would be employers. Although you may only be hired for a short amount of time, your employer will be investing a lot in you as a contractor and the last person they will want to hire is someone who is not assured of their abilities.
Overselling your services is also not something hiring managers will look kindly on. Of course they want to employ people who are confident in themselves, but hiring someone with skills they may not have and finding this out later once they’re working with the company, will not work out for the best long term for both parties.
Keep it simple and just sell.
We mentioned how contracting is by no means a passive exercise. To keep progressing as a contractor, one must keep striving for better things and aiming to better themselves and to develop their skill set and experience further.
One way to do this is through extra training. With contracting giving you the flexibility and financial freedom to pursue other interests outside of your work, you should use this extra time wisely. Look at short-term top-up training courses that can be done either online or at a place of study, and are sometimes free to participate in. Contract hiring managers will look kindly on contractors who are always looking to expand their CV and further develop their experience.
Important in any line of work, networking is particularly vital in contracting. Working in any contract role, you should approach your work with a long term attitude. Simply clocking in and clocking out each day will not always work in your favour and won’t make you a desirable candidate for future contracts. Try to engage positively with co-workers and important decision makers. Even if it means sharing a beer with them after work, it might plant a seed in their minds to consider you for a contract a few months after you have finished your current contract.
Impressions are everything and networking can be anything. The amount of professional platforms available online that can connect you with like-minded professionals and introduce you to new opportunities is huge. Take advantage of them and network, network, network!
Challenge Yourself. Question Everything. Is it right for me?
Working as a contractor does require you embodying a certain personality or spirit. It’s easily attainable and just requires a certain attitude to everything. As we’ve touched upon, contracting is by no means passive and easy to do, and contractors cannot expect projects to fall into their laps.
To move forward as a contractor, you need to be able to challenge yourself. There’ll be times you might get rejected for a contract and it’ll be up to you to pick yourself up and see how you can better yourself for next time. Do you want to learn a new skill? Then learn it! Want to land your dream contract for your dream company? Make it happen! Want to be the best contractor you can be? Just do it!
As well as challenging yourself, you can challenge others and ask questions. Will this project be a step back in my career? Can I get a better financial package? Am I going to learn anything from this contract? Can I improve the hours I work? These are all reasonable questions you can ask and are free to talk about and discuss more. You need to ensure that any contract that you are going to take on is a right fit for you.
Find the right contract that fits you and open yourself up to a host of new contract opportunities with iContract, the new online platform that connects contractors with recruiter. Launching soon, iContract allows contractors to better manage their working lives as contractors, as well as find contracts tailored to their preferences. Pre-register for free here.