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Are you considering taking the leap from employment to contractor? Getting started with a contractor business is a great career move if you’re looking for a more flexible and balanced work/life approach, being able to choose the hours you work and the places where you work.
As well as that, the demand for contractors is high, with larger organisations opting to hire contractors rather than employees to cover specific and speciality tasks. This is where you could have the chance to define your niche and slot into a career that excels more than you could imagine.
However, before you get started, there are some top tips to consider in order to be on top of your game as a contractor.
Build relationships with your clientsBuilding trust and respect from your client is essential in building and retaining a good working relationship. You don’t want to be the contractor that no one can remember their name a few months down the line. Make a name for yourself, become part of the work environment, take opportunities to get to know your clients and most of all care about what you do. What they think of you will be highly valuable when you set out for other contracts and require references
Always be availableWhen you’re looking for new clients, it’s important to be available for the clients that want to meet you. Playing hard to get is not the game at that point in time. You may have a busy schedule, but a client relationship is important and that begins from when they first meet you. When they respond to your application and want to arrange an interview, do everything possible to be available for that appointment, even if that means shuffling plans around. Often a client will arrange more than one interview for a given day, and that’s the time they’ve planned for meet applicants. If you’re not available at those times, you may miss out on the opportunity.
Keep open lines of communicationNot everyone is good at communication, and that’s ok! But makes sure that you’re good at one line of communication, whether that be email, telephone or via social channels - and let your clients know that this is the best way to get hold of you. This way you’ve made it clear to all your prospect clients that you’ve kept open that particular line of communication for them, should they wish to get in touch. Don’t forget that if you’ve chosen emails as your preferred method, check your inbox!
Price yourself in the marketNo doubt you’ll have done some research into how much to charge for your time but are you comparable to other similar contractors? You don’t want to charge too little as this could a) mean that you’re not earning enough to see you through to the end of the project. If you receive a better offer from a new client, you may be tempted to move on before the end. And b) you may lose the respect of your client and end up performing tasks that are too junior for you. Both are not good options for longevity. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to research the going rate for particular contracts and ensure that you quote accordingly. Don’t forget that you need to cover basic living expenses as well as build your business, make sure you include all that you need to within your quotes.
Join a professional network or associationBecoming part of a professional network or organisation can give new life to your business. If you are just starting out as a contractor, it will open up doors of opportunity and provide you with people you can go to for advice or practical knowledge. Professional networks are where you can discover new clients, establish working guidelines and learn the professional etiquette for your industry. It’s good to make as many contacts as you can in these networks as you never know how useful they will be further down the line, a lifeline or resource when you need it. LinkedIn is a great place to start. Ensure that your personal profile is up to date and all contact information is correct and start joining and engaging in some professional groups - they will be invaluable.
Don’t burn yourself outContractors need to learn to pace themselves. You may be working long hours or be asked to do more than you would have usually taken on within normal employment. This comes with consequences. Although the temptation of extra income seems attractive, ensure that you give yourself time to be with family and friends or to do the hobbies that you love to do. You may take on a project that is only short term but long hours - but will you be going straight into a new project when the first one finishes? Evaluate every decision you make and new commitments you take on and bear in mind that health and well-being play a part in your business. If you’re not fit to work, you can’t earn a wage which then has an impact on other parts of your life.
Save for a rainy dayWhilst tempting enough to go and spend your first big pay cheque on that flash new toy that you’ve been after for ages, saving for a rainy day is important when it comes to contracting. Contracts may come in batches or lots fall in place at the beginning, but there may also be times of the year where things are quiet and there is no work. Manage your finances wisely and always leave enough for those rainy days, you never know when they could come in handy.
Keen skills up to dateWhen employed, you will usually be given the opportunity to keep your skills up to date and to attend training courses to do so. But when it comes to running your own business, this opportunity isn’t always readily available. It’s important to stay on top of trends and to keep you to date with latest industry knowledge and news. It can be easy to fall out the loop and slip behind in knowledge terms which can make it harder to secure new contracts. The need to keep up to date is even more important in your business as contractors are hired to fulfil a specific task, therefore your skills need to represent what you say you can do. Contracting can be fierce competition, and you’ll need to stand out from the crowd.
Stepping out of employment in to your own contracting business can be a daunting thing to do but it is also a time for excitement and opportunity. This is your chance to achieve all that you want to achieve, to work on projects that you have dreamed of and to shine through the competition and be the best in your industry.By contracting, you can utilise your skills and provide a service that is tailored to your skills whilst doing what you love to do which leads to greater career satisfaction.
If you’re in this position or you’re contemplating the next step, seek advice where possible from industry professionals and financial experts, so that your business has the best start it possibly can.
If you’d like financial advice from a company who has years of experience of working with contractors, sole-traders and limited company contractors, who understands the very nature of how contracting works and can help benefit your business, we’d love the opportunity to talk with you. Get in touch for an initial chat for more information.