With more and more people making the switch to self-employment and the market saturated with battling recruitment agencies and umbrellas, putting yourself out there and securing new work can feel daunting.
Whether you’re embarking on the contract hunt for the very first time, or you’re a seasoned contractor looking to secure your next gig, there are plenty of opportunities available to not only help you find and secure your next contract but also to reduce any unpaid gaps and gain higher rates.
Take a look at our 6 top tips to help you successfully find and win well-suited contracts time and time again.
1. Create an action plan
As a contractor, one of the best ways to stay in work and meet your career goals is to build and work towards an effective action plan for your company. Your action plan should consider your typical market area and your standard project types as well as your profit, growth and development goals.
You can start an action plan by merely listing your aims, i.e. would you like to gain more regular clients, win higher paying contracts, work with a specific company or save towards a set goal?
Make a list of everything you’d like to achieve over the coming year. Once you’ve listed these goals, you can start to analyse how you’re going 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’re always heading in the right direction.
2. Build relationships
Start networking. We’ve all heard it over and over, but meeting new contacts at networking events, or even online, can be an integral first step to reaching out to new clients. 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 field.
While we all know networking with new contacts is important, it’s just as essential to nurture the relationships you already have. You can strengthen your professional relationships by checking in with your peers and previous clients. Listen out for new development and be sure to let everyone you can know your availability. Ensure you’re memorable and always leave an excellent impression so you’ll be at the forefront of client’s mind when the next opportunity appears. Having a good relationship with an agent will never go amiss either.
3. Market yourself
Regardless of the market you specialise in, you will regularly need to don your ‘salesman’ persona and get selling your main product: you. Marketing yourself shouldn’t just be when your contract’s coming to an end, but rather 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.
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? 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.
4. Tailor your CV
When it comes to constantly applying or cold emailing for new leads, it can be easy to fall into the trap of sending the same CV repeatedly. 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 client’s needs is far more likely to secure 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. 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 highly competitive, so you need to stand out from the crowd. One way to do this is to ensure you’re constantly improving; embracing and staying ahead of the latest updates and tech to remain a specialist in your field. Try every month to learn something new about your area. This way you’ll always have fresh skills and solutions to showcase.
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. While 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 make yourself even more attractive to clients.
6. Be flexible
Many business areas are highly changeable and as markets change so too will the requirements of clients. While you may be used to specifically working within a certain business sector, expanding into new markets can open doors to great opportunities. Examine your skills and carefully consider what other positions and areas you could contract within. You could also look to expand beyond your location, more and more contractors are working with clients outside of the UK where their expertise can be more in demand.
Securing your next contract
Ensuring a steady flow of work can feel like a constant mission; especially when you’re just starting out. By ensuring you’re making new contacts, improving your skills, marketing yourself and working towards your personal goals (even when you’re in a contract), you continually make yourself more appealing to both past and future clients. This not only helps you to find work and succeed in your bids but to potentially negotiate higher rates and expand into new fields as you grow your specialities.
Take a look at our host of free and expertly authored eBooks for more helpful tips on getting the most out of your limited company and succeeding as a contractor.