Contract work – how to secure your next assignment

Independence, freedom and a better work/life balance are some of the major benefits of becoming a limited company contractor. With thousands of contractors pursuing this lucrative career path each year, specialist contractor accountant ClearSky Accounting, has put together its top tips on how to secure your next assignment.

Sourcing contracts

As a contractor, you are ultimately responsible for sourcing your next contract – something that requires a proactive approach. Remember to think like a business and thoroughly research the market to see where the demand for your skillset lies.

Most contractors use both face-to-face and online networking opportunities to source assignments.

Finding a suitable contract online can prove a tricky task, particularly when there are hundreds of websites advertising a huge amount of roles. It can often seem like you’re trying to find a needle in a haystack, yet sourcing a contract online just requires a little more groundwork.

Some clients may also have a preferred recruitment agency, so be sure to build strong relationships with various firms.

A small number of contractors deal directly with the end-client. This requires building up your own database of contacts, which should include past clients and colleagues along with any individuals that have interviewed you in the past.

PR and marketing

Even on a shoestring budget, PR and marketing activities can help increase your visibility to potential clients and recruiters.

In today’s digital age it’s easy to neglect face-to-face networking. Seminars and events can open many doors, so ensure that you make the most of every opportunity. Ask the organisers for a list of attendees, which will enable you to focus your attention on the relevant individuals, such as potential clients.

It is difficult to overstate the power of social media. When used properly, business-focused platforms such as LinkedIn enable you to connect with a targeted audience. Social media should be used to engage with other individuals, get involved in conversations and subtly showcase your expertise.

Sharpen your CV

The impact your CV makes on a prospective client or agency will determine whether you proceed to the interview stage. During the filtering process, your CV has around 20 seconds to make an impact, so it is crucial that you produce a document that’s both targeted and engaging.

Managing the length of your CV can often prove difficult, particularly following half a dozen assignments. Rather than trying to showcase your entire career history, try using a portfolio-based approach by describing each assignment as a short case study. By using the STAR framework (situation, task, action and result) you’ll provide the reader with a detailed, yet engaging description of each assignment.

The role that you are applying for should also determine what takes the most prominent position on your CV. Rather than listing your employment history in chronological order, try restructuring your CV so that the most relevant assignment comes first.

Interview tips

The most successful interviews are those that transform a traditional question and answer session into a business meeting. Every interview should follow a five-step process:

  1. Rapport building
  2. Client analysis
  3. Presentation
  4. Objection handling
  5. Close

When it comes to step two – client analysis – always ensure that you prepare for an interview by finding out what challenges the client is currently facing. This enables you to describe how you’ll overcome these during the assignment.

Negotiate the best rate

As a contractor, it’s down to you to negotiate your rate of pay, which as any seasoned contractor will tell you, is no easy task.

Quoting too little could mean that a client perceives your skills as less valuable, whilst quoting too much could make you appear overqualified against other more affordable contractors. Always remember to treat yourself as a business. You would never sell products at a loss, so don’t make the mistake of undervaluing your skills.

Always decide upon the lowest figure that you’re willing to accept and never be afraid to ask the client for more money. One of the golden rules during negotiations is to aim high and expect compromise in order to achieve your desired rate.

Don’t forget to consider the levels of contractor demand within your area. The more sought after your skills are then the more you can request. Also remember to factor in regional variations, with the highest contractor rates usually found around the M25 corridor.

Further Information

This article was written by Daniel Mepham, accounting director for ClearSky Accounting.

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Last updated: 8th September 2020