Remaining in contract and ensuring a steady work rate for the future can be a constant mission for independent professionals. Whether you are currently in contract with plenty of work lined up, watching your contract end creep steadily closer, or currently find yourself ‘on the bench’ – all contractors can benefit from ensuring they are the most employable they can be.
Here we take a look at 7 top tips to help you attract new business and win more contracts.
1. Create an action plan
As a contractor, one of the best ways to stay in contract and meet your goals is to build and work towards an effective action plan for your business. The action plan should consider your typical market area, your standard project types and your customers targets as well as including your profit, growth and development goals. You can start an action plan incredibly simply by making a list of your goals, i.e. would you like to gain more regular clients, win higher paying contracts, work with a specific company, work within a specific market area or specifically save towards a set goal? Make a list of everything you would like to gain over the next year for your business.
Once you’ve listed your short and long term goals, you can start to analyse how you will work to achieve them. Keeping this action plan in mind as you market yourself, build relations, complete contracts and accept new offers will ensure that you continue to work towards your overall goals and improve your business.
2. Build relationships
As an independent professional you’ll almost certainly have heard this titbit of advice many times: start networking. We’ve all heard it over and over but it’s so often advised because it’s true. Regularly networking will allow you to build new contacts in your market, learn from other professionals, keep abreast of any new developments in your working sector and introduce you to the new movers and shakers in your area. Meeting new contacts at networking events or even online can be an integral first step to reaching out to new clients.
While we all know networking with new contacts is important, it’s just as essential to nurture the relationships you already have. Making new connections at the expense of your old, tried and tested, contacts is unlikely to be a strategic business move. You can strengthen relationships by regularly checking in with others in your field as well as previous clients. Listen out for new developments and be sure to let everyone you can know your availability. As a contractor you need to ensure that you are remembered for your good work and remain at the front of clients minds for when the next contract appears.
As we’ve explored previously in our ‘Thriving in Brexit’ series, having a good relationship with your agent can be a productive way of sourcing future contracts. You can read more about the benefits of using an agency here.
3. Market yourself
Regardless of the market you specialise in, as an independent professional you will regularly need to don your ‘sales man’ persona and get selling your main product: you. Marketing yourself shouldn’t merely be when your contract’s coming to an end but an ongoing process included in your weekly plans. Be sure to constantly let people know your availability, ask for those crucial recommendations from your contacts, advertise yourself in local media and grasp the power of online marketing by increasing your web presence.
Websites such as LinkedIn can allow you to connect and communicate with others in your field as well as providing a profile that advertises you to potential clients. Through the use of free content management systems (such as WordPress) you can easily have a professional website to showcase your work.
Remember, in this digital age potential clients are likely to do a quick internet search on you. Are you happy with them seeing everything that’s currently connected to your name? We thoroughly recommend keeping on top of your posts and internet presence.
4. Tailor your CV
When it comes to constantly applying or cold emailing for new contracting leads, it can be easy to fall into the trap of sending the same CV time and time again. As a contractor your CV should be more than a list of the roles you’ve had before; it needs to clearly show that you are exactly what the client is looking for and can deliver every time. While it may seem time consuming, tailoring your CV to clearly meet each clients needs is far more likely to secure you future contracts.
While looking for new contracts be sure to keep an eye on job sites and updates from your agencies. Many job sites will allow you to enter keyword searches and receive an email every week detailing the new work available related to those searches. Specialist sites for contractors and consultants also provide a handy place to both seek work and keep you informed of the current trending needs and requests of clients in your sector.
5. Bring added value
The contracting market is naturally highly competitive, in order to make yourself as employable as possible, you need to stand out from the crowd. Large successful companies are known for keeping abreast of any updates in their field and staying ahead of technology; they embrace change and prove themselves to be the best in what they do. As a contractor, you should also be looking to constantly improve and establish yourself as a specialist in your field. Every week you can try to learn something new about your field, you can let your current and potential customers know your specialities and showcase your skills and solutions.
Should you find yourself in-between contracts, this can be the perfect time to undertake further training and glean current and future trends in your market. Whilst scanning job boards take a look at the desirable skills employers ask for. Have you in the past had clients ask if you can also do an additional job (such as front end development or using a specific program)? Why not use your time to learn these skills and increase your employability.
6. Be flexible
Many business areas are highly changeable and as markets change so too will the requirements of clients. As well as continuing to improve your skills, ensuring that you have flexibility in the market will help you to secure contracts in times of change. Examine your skills and carefully consider what other positions and areas you could use these skills to contract within. While you may be used to specifically working within a certain business sector, expanding beyond this sector may open doors to other great opportunities. You could also look to expand beyond your location, more and more contractors are working with clients outside of the UK where their skills may be more in demand.
7. Give back
Time between contracts may be the perfect opportunity to give something back to your local community. Many local businesses and charities would benefit from a contractors or consultants expertise. Regardless of the market you work in, as an entrepreneur your skills and advice could prove invaluable. You can always offer your time, teach a class, communicate with those just starting out or even start your own volunteer project. As well as keeping you active during any time out, these projects can be hugely rewarding and a great way to bolster your CV and build new relationships.