Taking the leap from full-time work to contracting for a living can be an exciting prospect. No longer do you have to stay in one place for years on end, you can be your own boss and only take on those projects that excite you! However, before you take the leap officially perhaps you should think about how you will be securing your dream contract. Not taking a step back to think about this can mean a long period of unemployment while you work it out - something which you should avoid at all costs!
So, if you’re just starting out in the IT contracting world here are a few tips to help you harness your full potential and secure those lucrative contracts!
There is a difference between a regular CV and a contractor's CV. As a contractor, you are selling yourself on being highly skilled, as a short-term solution to a problem that the employer has and has to fill up right away.
Much of the corporate jargon and ‘manager speak’ is useless on a contractor’s CV as you do not want to set yourself up promotable. The description is fine, but at the heart of it, you need to put across your skills and exactly why they fix your potential employer's problems. As such, your CV doesn’t even have to be that long. Some people make the mistake of writing a short novel for their CV - contractor or permanent workers - which no hiring manager wants to read. Keep it short, sweet and to the point!
The worst thing you can do as a contractor is to be quiet. Have chats on Twitter, rave about your skills on LinkedIn and get your expertise out there in a few guest interviews or posts. The more you spread your name, the more of a good hire you will be and the more lucrative your contracts. Social media is a powerful tool, so use it to your advantage.
Also, creating your own website is a great idea; as a result, you will have an online resource for employers to look at when considering hiring you. Whether you use it as a portfolio site or an online CV, it can be that final touch that lands you a contract worth bragging about!
Part of being a contractor is the fact that you are not privy to some of the employee benefits - including being covered by their business insurance. This can put you in a precarious position as a contractor.
In fact, some employers will not even consider you for the job unless you have comprehensive IT contractor insurance. If you are uninsured then you are a liability to them, as if you make a mistake then they can be caught up in the ensuing legal issues that may occur. Securing this insurance can be the only way for you to guarantee yourself a fighting chance when it comes to those lucrative contracts!
A lucrative contracting career is built upon being an effective interviewee. If you fail to make a fantastic impression during interviews or get excessively nervous, then you may find yourself between contracts for longer than acceptable periods of time.
All of the typical interview advice still holds true; dress smartly, be on time and have your thoughts/questions well thought out and articulated ahead of time. But, for contractors, you can also benefit from a few other key techniques.
Primarily, you need to be able to sell yourself. Research the problem that the employer is hiring you to fix and come up with real-life examples of how you can do this. Even if it’s not spelled out prior to the interview, spend the interview process fact finding and come up with a solution there and then. The more proactive you appear, the more likely you will be to get the job.
Finally, close each and every interview by asking for the contract. Not directly, of course, but express your interest in working on the project and use this probing question, “Are you satisfied I meet your requirements?” If the employer has any doubts about you, then this is a great point for you to address and abate them before leaving the interview.
Sometimes finding success following a contractor job interview can come with a simple follow up email or call. In fact, many job hunters could benefit from the follow-up. A traditional technique that many young applicants avoid, it can be a great way to set yourself up as a confident candidate and make you stand out in the hiring manager’s mind.
Of course, don’t be pushy and send several emails. Such behaviour will not endear you to a hiring manager and can have a negative impact on your chances of getting the job! Be proactive, but polite.
One of the least talked about ways of getting a job as an IT contractor is the personal recommendation method. It varies from person to person, but typically if you grow yourself a large network of contractors then someone will eventually put your name forward for a job. Perhaps because they like you personally, think you have contributed something important to the network or have seen you demonstrate a particular skill which is essential for the role. Whatever the case, you will never know how successful networking can be until you try it!
So, there you have it! The best techniques to employ when you are looking to start out your contracting career with lucrative opportunities knocking at your door.
Software Architect, Programmer and Technologist Jon Jones is founder and CEO of London-based tech firm Digital Prompt. He has been working in the field for nearly a decade, specializing in new technologies and technical solution research in the web business. A passionate blogger by heart , speaker & consultant from England.. always on the hunt for the next challenge