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7 smart ways to add value as a contractor
16 August 2016
To be a successful contractor, you must be able to sell yourself to potential employers. Whether you are applying for a position or in one already, smart contractors are always on the lookout for ways to leverage experience to gain further contracts. Here are seven tips to impress both current and potential employers:
1. Make your CV your calling card
A great CV will always be your first calling card. As a contractor, you will be able to constantly update it with new skills, workplaces and experiences, so make it as impressive and slick as possible—employers and recruiters will remember your name.
Don’t limit your CV to only the work experience you have. Think about the skills you pick up in each new job, and on the side if you have time for courses or freelance work. While your work history will be important, far more engaging for employers is a list of your abilities and know-how.
2. Become a master negotiator
If you are a contractor with highly specialised skills, it’s currently a candidate’s market - so you’re in a good position to make sure you can get the most out of your rates. Remember that this might not be your only contract with this employer, so set yourself up for the future by ensuring you don’t accept a lower offer just to get the contract.
It’s also important to be clear with your availabilities and capacity - employers will appreciate the honesty, and you’ll save yourself from drowning in work later on down the line.
Don’t be afraid to push back on rates and job expectations at the start of a new contract. Employers expect you to negotiate, and the best time to do this is in the very early stages of a working relationship. If you’re nervous about negotiating, ask a friend or family member to role play with you, with them playing the part of your new employer. Practice your ability to be both polite and firm and try to run through as many possible scenarios as possible in the lead up to a new contract.
3. Make reliability your top priority
It may seem obvious, but being on time and completing work reliably to a high standard within agreed upon timeframes goes a long way toward building trust. Employers will remember you as a person they can count on to be through the door on time, handing in tasks before deadlines and showing up to meetings prepared. There’s no better way to make a good impression and become a contractor of choice.
Part of being reliable means knowing how to set expectations. Set deadlines for projects with a bit of wiggle room and you’ll impress your employers by delivering ahead of time.
If you’re someone who always seems to be five minutes late, then you’ll need to find ways to improve upon this skill. Fortunately, you already have one of the best tools for this right in your pocket - your smart phone. In addition to your phone’s built in alarm system, programs like Interruptive, which calls your phone you when you need to get moving, can make a big difference.
4. Upskill in your own time
Unlike full-time employees, contract workers have fewer opportunities to upskill on the job. Often, workers pick up skills slowly over years on a job, but you won’t have this luxury, which means you need to take upskilling into your own hands.
Be sure you’re covering the basics: stay up-to-date with industry trends and standards. But beyond that, show employers that you’re committed to your profession by undertaking short courses in your free time. This will be a major boost to your CV, and allow you to negotiate higher rates based on your skill set.
Of course, any time you come across the opportunity to upskill while on the job, raise your hand. This shows initiative to your employer, and it allows you to pick up new skills while you’re being paid.
5. Keep professionalism top of mind
One of the benefits of contracting is the freedom it allows - you have a lot more power to set the terms of your employment than full-time employees do.
However, that doesn’t mean you can treat a contract position as though you were working from home. Be sure you have a full understanding of the expectations of the workplace - ask about dress code and workplace policies and then strive to meet them.
Even if you turn around the best work your employer has seen from a contractor, he or she won’t think highly of you if you can’t meet professional standards and this could negatively impact future opportunities.
6. Take action to fit into the culture
While the benefits of integrating into the team might not be visible in the short term, it could lead to future hires or recommendations. In addition to being professional at all times, go a step further to find out what makes your new office tick.
You can start by asking the employer to give you a rundown of company culture: What are their values? Do they have any regular events or office functions?
To truly get a good idea of the soul of your new company, you should start building relationships with your new colleagues. Engage with people in the office kitchen, invite your desk buddy for coffee breaks and say yes to after work socialising to get a better picture of how the office works.
Whether your contract is for five weeks or five months, it’s important to always be networking - whether that’s by building relationships with your current co-workers and managers, meeting people in other teams or divisions or attending networking events outside the company. As a contractor, your reputation for reliability and professionalism is an essential one - your reputation may precede you in your next contract.
You’ll need to develop some of your own networking tools, since they won’t be provided by your employer. This could mean designing your own business cards or building a digital portfolio that showcases your skills.
When bringing a successful contract to a close, you’ll likely have a meeting with your manager to wrap things up. This is the perfect time to let him or her know that you enjoyed your time at the company and that you’d be keen for future opportunities down the line.
Read the flip-side - find out how contractors are changing the face of modern employment.
To be a successful contractor, you need to be able to demonstrate your value in your everyday work.
You can do this by:
- Optimising your CV
- Building negotiation skills
- Finding time to upskill
- Working hard to fit into company culture