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6 Tips for Finding and Securing Contract Work

Date: 28 June 2017

It is becoming more and more popular to choose to work as a contractor. According to the Freelancing in America: 2016 survey, freelancers make up 35% of the US workforce.1 Similarly in the UK, the latest Reports on Jobs from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation reveals that contractor vacancies rose sharply in the first half of this year.2

Whether they are in search of a better work/life balance, want more control of their careers, or are unable to secure a permanent position, contractors now comprise an increasingly significant part of the workforce.

Contract work comes with many benefits, but it also can have some downsides. A recent survey conducted by Nixon Williams revealed that 59% of the contractors questioned worked on contracts typically lasting between four and 12 months, while 14% reported their average contract to be three months or less.3 This can lead contractors to feel as though they are in an almost continuous state of looking for a new contract.

Luckily, there are ways all contractors can minimise downtime and maximise earnings. Here are our six top tips on how to avoid gaps in between contracts and keep your career moving towards your next exciting contract opportunity. 

1. Write a ‘Killer’ Contractor CV

The starting point for any job search is a CV, and a contractor CV should contain certain key elements. These include a tailored profile, key skills, achievements and career history.

The information you present in your CV needs to be concise, focused and targeted. This means tailoring your CV for every contract job to ensure you emphasise the skills and experience that match a specific contract’s requirements.

2. Market Yourself in the Right Places

According to the Paystream Contractors Insights Survey, 75% of respondents chose to use recruitment agencies when seeking a new contract.4 Not only does this highlight the increase in agency use among contractors, it also demonstrates the importance of marketing yourself. Job boards, CV libraries and professional networks are a good place to start, but working with a recruiter can be a great asset in helping you to represent yourself to potential employers.

Additionally, for many contractors, especially those just starting out, an agency offers a safety net. Dealing with the client directly can leave a contractor feeling vulnerable when negotiating rates and payment conditions. A specialist recruitment agency removes that pressure, and can negotiate on your behalf.

Finally, do not forget the power of leveraging your own network. Staying in contact with people from previous projects may open the door to future opportunities. 

3. Be Specific in Your Search, Targeted in Your Application and Persistent in Your Follow-Up

It is important to identify the potential contract roles that best match your skills and experience. Searching online allows you to access a range of contract jobs according to your criteria. It can be useful to do some research about the market, such as the current demand for skills, the number of roles available, and the average daily rate paid by clients.

Every job has its own specific set of requirements, and it is important to demonstrate your ability to fulfil the responsibilities of the role. Keep a record of your applications (applying by email is the simplest way to do this) and make a note of the dates you need to start following-up.

Competition may be high for each role so every application should be followed with a phone call to the agency or client if possible. The more tenacious you are, the more likely it is that your CV will move to the top of the pile.

4. Securing an Interview and Preparing for It

Many contractors find that once they reach interview stage they have the job in the bag. This makes it even more important for you to secure an interview in the first place. Avoid the temptation to focus initial discussions on rates negotiation, instead make securing an interview your top priority.

Once you have an interview date you can start preparing. The more work you put into the preparation for the interview, the more confident you will feel on the day. Find out everything you need to know, from logistics (time, place, transport) to details about the client you are meeting (what it does, its core values, and its current needs).

5. During the Interview: Be Proactive and Confident

An interview for a contractor role is not like an interview for a permanent job. You must convince the interviewer that you are the most capable contractor for the job. Contractor interviews are more focused on the skills and qualifications needed rather than personality or cultural fit, so highlight the specific skills you have that will add value to the role and company.

Because there is generally only one interview for a contract role, you need to be absolutely certain that you recognise exactly what the job entails and any issues surrounding it. Be clear that you understand the complexities of the role, and highlight the skills that will allow you be successful in the position.

Remember, your goal is to close the deal so don’t be afraid to ask directly for the contract.

6. Follow-up on the Interview

Whether you have applied for one or 100 roles, you should follow-up each one in precisely the same way. In the time between the interview and start date you should contact the recruiter or client to agree next steps and timescales.

Once you have secured a role, depending on the length of the contract, you should almost immediately start the process again. If, for example, you land a six-month contract, you need to start the process again at least three months before your end date.

Finding contract work can feel relentless, but if you take a consistent, targeted approach and enlist the help of a micro-specialist recruiter, you will see the best results. Get in touch with our Contracts Recruitment team to learn more about securing your next contract opportunity.  

References

1 https://www.upwork.com/i/freelancing-in-america/2016/ 

2 http://news.crystalumbrella.com/contractor-vacancies-soar-as-candidate-availability-falls/ 

3 http://www.nixonwilliams.com/free-resources/contractor-survey/contractor-survey-jul-dec-2016 

4 http://www.paystream.co.uk/how-highly-do-contractors-regard-recruitment-agencies 

 

Other sources

http://www.contractingwise.co.uk/how-to-find-contract-work/

http://www.parityprofessionals.co.uk/new-to-contract-work-5-tips-on-how-to-avoid-gaps-in-between-contracts

https://hbr.org/2012/09/the-rise-of-the-new-contract-worker

http://news.crystalumbrella.com/tempcontractor-placements-rise-sharply/

 

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