Finding Your Next Contract

Finding your next contract

Sourcing new work is an important part of life for a contractor, and finding your next contract comes down to solving two separate but related problems.

  • Making yourself as marketable as possible
  • Finding and capitalising on the opportunities available to you

Obviously, the more marketable you and your skills are, the more opportunities will be available to you and the easier finding your next contract will be. So, your first task is to make the product you sell (your time and your skills) as commercially valuable as possible.

How to make yourself marketable:

Make sure your skills are up to date

As a contractor you’re responsible for arranging and funding your own work-related training, and it’s often one of the first things to get cut back during leaner times. Making sure you stay on top of your training and actively seeking opportunities to improve and extend your skills is a good way to stay competitive.

Know your business

This is not just about being good at your job and expert in your field, though these are important. You also need to understand the market for your skills and expertise. What kind of business needs what you’ve got? How do they like to do things? Are they expanding at the moment or cutting back? How does that affect the demand for contractors like you? The answers to these questions will affect your strategy, so it’s important to understand your industry and know what’s going on. 

Cultivate your flexibility

If you do something valuable that very few people can do, maybe specialising in a narrow group of tasks is a sound strategy, but in general the more options you have, the easier it will be to fill your calendar with paying work. Broadening your skillset so you’re able to complete different types of contract gives you more options, and will help you exploit fluctuations in the market.

This ties in with work-related training again, but you might also think about how your existing skills can be transferred. For example, delivering a complex IT project requires technical knowledge and project management skills that could be used in a wide range of contracts. Applying your existing skills in different ways is a good way to broaden your horizons without having to re-train.

Create an effective contractor CV

A contractor CV is different from an employee CV, in that it needs to concentrate on what you can do for the client, rather than your career history. Your CV is often the only information a potential client has about you, so it’s important to get it right.

Think of your CV as a sales tool, where you make a business case for why a client should buy your product rather than someone else’s. Ideally you should adapt it for each application to give you the best possible chance.

Finding your next contract

So, you’re a flexible operator with up to date skills and a killer, easily adapted CV. Your next task is to hunt down those contracting opportunities.

If you’re used to looking for work as an employee, you’ll find the contractor market a little different. There is much less risk involved in hiring a contractor than there is hiring an employee, so applications tend to turn around much more quickly.

This means it’s better to concentrate on more recent adverts, as anything more than a couple of days old is likely to be filled already.

Set your conditions

Thinking about the kind of conditions you’re prepared to accept in advance will help you eliminate unsuitable contracts from your search. For example, how far are you willing to travel? Are you prepared to stay away from home overnight? How much to do you need to be paid? When setting your minimum pay rate remember to factor in the additional costs you pay as a contractor, and the fact that you have to make provision for your own training and time off.

Use Recruitment Agencies

There are a lot of recruiters out there, serving many different industries and working in many different ways. It might take some research to find those who specialise in your industry, but it’s well worth the trouble. Ideally you want to find recruiters with contacts and expertise in your market, and it’s likely that you’ll end up with a select group of specialist agencies who regularly find you work.

Remember to follow up each application with a phone call to the agency shortly after emailing your CV. This moves your application to the top of the pile for review. Remember, agents spend a lot more time chasing new business than they do speaking to applicants, so if they don’t return your call don’t take it personally, just call again.

Use Job boards

Internet job boards like Monster, Jobserve and Technojobs, are often the first port of call for contractors looking for work, and they’re a valuable tool in finding your next contract.  They consist of a search engine that you can use to browse available roles. Once you’ve found one that you’re interested in, you can email your CV via the board to the recruiter. We’d advise you to concentrate on new adverts, as most contract roles are filled very quickly. This means checking the board at least once a day.

Again, remember to follow up each application with a phone call so you don’t get lost in the crowd.

End clients often have a number of preferred recruiters, so you might see the same job advertised by a few different agencies.

Build your network and your brand

Many contracts are filled without ever being advertised, as recruiters and clients use recommendations from their existing contacts. The wider your network of contacts, and the more positive your personal brand, the better your chances of being recommended in this way. Also, the more recruiters and clients list you as their “go to” supplier, the more valuable your skills and your time will be in the marketplace.

“Networking” involves building mutually beneficial relationships and the main thing to remember is that this is a two-way street. Make an effort to meet other people in your industry, to stay in touch with them and to be useful and helpful. If you get that right, your network should naturally expand and start driving work your way.

Use social media channels

You might be using social media as part of your strategy to build your brand and as a networking tool, but it’s also worth specifically updating your network about your availability, so they can help you out with leads and recommendations. One of your connections might have a client or colleague who’s looking for exactly your skills, but they won’t be able to help unless they know you’re looking.

Create a process

Finding your next contract requires that you keep lots of balls in the air all at once. You have new applications to make, existing ones to follow up, interviews to prepare for and social media channels to update and monitor for leads. And remember, you might be doing all this while finishing up your existing contract. It can quickly get chaotic and confusing, which makes it easy to miss out on an opportunity because you didn’t check a board or forgot to follow up an email. One way to manage the work is to create a daily process to organise your activity.

For example, you might take an hour in the morning to follow up yesterday’s applications that you haven’t heard back about, and another in the afternoon to look though the job boards for adverts that went on that day, make any applications and follow those up by phone. You might then set aside time in the evening to update your social media channels and prepare for any upcoming interviews. Find a process that works with your schedule and workload so you can keep on top of your search.  

If you have questions about how to find your next contract or if Orange Genie can help in any way please contact our expert team on 01296 468 483 or email info@orangegenie.com.

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