In Part 1 of her guide on how to make contracting work for you, iContract CEO and co-founder Amanda Cai covered financial and logistical matters. In this post, Amanda discusses reputation management, skills development and health issues.
Manage your reputation
Contracting is a people business. You will get much of your work via referrals from former colleagues you have worked with in the past, contacts you have met through your networks, or people who have recommended you.
Completing a job to a high standard is just half the battle – you need to work your charm as well. The best way to do this is to try your hardest not to get on the wrong side of any other staff members and steer clear of company politics.
If you are criticised for your work, resist the urge to retort with everything you think is wrong with their company. Accept both praise and criticism graciously, and remember that your reputation is everything in this business.
It’s also important to take time to nurture your client relationships to ensure you remain their first choice for any future contract work. Do this by checking in regularly via email, catching up over a quick coffee or lunch, attending breakfast seminars and keeping an active online profile, particularly on LinkedIn.
Reach out to clients to let them know when you are available, particularly if you’ve had to turn them down for work due to being booked up in the past. If any of your contact details change it’s a great reason to get back in touch with former or prospective clients.
As a contractor, you’ve branded yourself an industry specialist, so you need to make sure your skills and knowledge live up to the billing. Good contractors factor time into every week to read up on industry news and trends, and they take time between projects to upskill and retrain where necessary.
This is particularly important for IT contractors or anyone whose job is affected by rapid developments in technology. Use periods between assignments to attend training sessions and work towards industry-recognised qualifications.
Many training providers now run fast-track courses over weekends, and discounts are often available, so be sure to shop around and negotiate.
Maintain your sanity
While the great advantage of contracting is having flexibility, you’ll find that setting a robust structure to your working day and working week could be the saviour of your sanity.
Particularly when it comes to managing your own administration and any other work you are completing from home. You’ll need to impose strict personal deadlines to ensure you also get time to rest and rejuvenate.
Be sure to read iContract co-founder Paul de Francisci’s post on how to maintain a healthy work-life balance as a contractor.
Discipline is essential – it’s far too easy to be lured away from your work by cat videos on YouTube when there are deadlines to hit! There’s a strong correlation between job satisfaction and the completion of tasks and in an office environment, there is more collective pressure to tick off your daily to-do list. At home, it’s easier to fall into an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, where if your manager isn’t watching over your shoulder, you feel it’s alright to spend a little extra time on Facebook.
Rather than giving you freedom, this will actually prolong your workday, meaning you miss out on doing things that will boost your endorphins (and productivity) such as heading out for some exercise or meeting friends.
At the end of each day, review your accomplishments against your to-do list and you’ll get a good idea of your productivity levels, what works and what needs to change. Contracting has the potential to bring you more money, more freedom, and greater job satisfaction, and can even help fast track your career, should you return to a full-time position later on.
Those who have a strong plan in place, and who are prepared to tackle the complexities of tax and the pressure of living contract-to-contract find they have never looked back – particularly when they manage to spend half the year working and half kicking back on a tropical island.