The First Step
If you have read through our contracting guide and you are still keen, the first step is to do some research.
We would recommend not giving up your current job until you are sure that there is demand for your skillset as a contractor. To ascertain this you need to research your market.
Then, and only then, should you start looking to set things up.
It is vitally important for any wannabe contactor to assess the situation of the market for their skills – if indeed there is one at all.
By putting in the research before you quit your job and start setting up a company, you can save yourself a lot of time and hassle if it really isn’t right for you.
On the other hand, if it is the right move for you, all the market research and preparation you have done will make life a lot easier, especially when you first start out.
The first step is to look at what sort of contract jobs are available that are appropriate for you. You won’t receive holiday and sick pay so bare this in mind when looking at contract rates and lengths. You will likely have to pay for your own travel and (if needed) accommodation so location is very important.
Over time we would recommend you try to source your own clients and contracts (see what makes a successful contractor), however to begin with you should improve your CV and look to register with as many recruitment agencies as possible. You should also learn to use LinkedIn.
Talking to other contractors is a great way to get a better understanding of the market. Contact ex-colleagues to find out if any of them are now contracting. If you haven’t saved their contact details then use Linked In as a lot of professionals are now on there.
You may not know it, but there is a big difference between a good “permanent CV” and a good “contractor CV”.
Any potential client is looking to hire you on a short-term basis. Within that time they are looking for your industry knowledge and skills. They will expect you to build something, fix something, or rescue/manage a project, and they will expect you to do this right away.
Remember, you are not going there to progress within the company – your CV must show you have the skills needed to be a successful contractor.
Here are a few rules to follow when writing your CV:
- Always tailor it to the job description and/or industry that you are looking to work in. One way to do this is to take an advert for a role that interests you and take the key points mentioned in the advert. If you have all of the key skills and experience they require, make sure this is detailed on your CV, preferably on the first page.
- Anything more than 2 pages is overkill. Will they really read all of it? Focus on the key points needed to get their attention – and an interview.
- Page 1 is by far the most important. Some recruiters will decide within seconds of looking at your CV whether you are suitable for the role.
- Don’t send or upload your CV as a word document, save it as a PDF before doing this. This helps with the formatting.
- The devil is in the detail – pay attention to spelling, grammar, fonts and layout. Your experience and key skills may be great, however mistakes in your CV could well see it disregarded.
We would recommend the following sections on any contractor CV:
This is the most important section. Highlight them in bullet point format and detail the experience.
Start with the most recent role/job. Also, there is no need to include any irrelevant jobs from years ago – serving behind the bar in a pub for 6 months to make some money while studying is not going to make a difference!
This section should be used for anything else you feel will help you stand out from other contractors applying for the role.
Most permanent workers list their educational qualifications at the beginning of their CV. Contractors do the opposite as current skills/experience is more important.
Use this section to list your Masters, Degree, A-levels and any other qualifications or achievements you feel are relevant.
Hobbies are irrelevant. While clients like a contractor to fit in, they are also aware that you are not going to be with them forever and what you like to do on a weekend isn’t important.
As of April 2016 there were 433m users on LinkedIn.
Contractors can use this platform to secure contracts and many recruiters use it to promote roles.
You should think of LinkedIn as an online CV. As you can see from our guide to improve your CV it is important to ensure you are seen as a contractor rather than a permanent employee.
Below are a few pointers to make your profile visible:
- Complete it. LinkedIn will continuously update you with the percentage completion rate of your profile so make sure you continue to follow their guide until you reach 100%
- Increase Connections. You need to add as many connections as possible as it will make you appear higher on search results, this will help recruiters and contacts find you.
- Don’t be a pest. Attempting to connect with people that don’t know you could result in you having to verify the email account of anybody you wish to connect with moving forward. This will make it harder to add past contacts and more time-consuming.
- Update your status. This will see you high on your contacts newsfeed. If you make it something interesting then ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ will lead to others seeing it/you.
- Be professional. While these days it can resemble a “Facebook-type” site rather than a professional networking site, that doesn’t mean you have to become involved in this.
- Join Contractor groups. There are many on LinkedIn so have a browse and join any you feel are relevant to you.
Finding a Contract
The first step is to register your CV on a number of job sites (such as www.onlycontractjobs.com) so that recruitment agents will see them and you will be able to see roles that an agent has posted. Don’t sit back and wait for a phone call – be proactive.
After you have found a role that you deem right for you, email your CV to the Agent advertising the role and follow up with a phone call to ensure your CV has been received and to show that you are keen on the role. The agent is likely to receive a lot of CV’s for each role so making that phone call can help you to stand out above the other candidates.
Be aware that some clients engage more than one agency per role, this means you may see the same role advertised more than once.
Most job sites these days offer the option to sign up for daily job alerts so make sure you sign up for these as it will help you to see any new jobs without having to trawl through the job site every day.
As well as using job sites, make contact with any ex-colleagues and/or contacts that you feel may be able to help in your search for a contract. It may be that an old boss is now hiring contractors or it may be that a friend knows somebody that is a contractor and can give you a few pointers, either way it is worth making use of all of the contacts you have.
Keep a record of any potential contacts moving forward. If you do miss out on a role, ask the client/agent why – learn from your mistakes – also this kind of eagerness may well stand you in good stead if you do ever apply for work with them again.