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How to find IT contract work – get the basics right

Once you’ve made the decision to become a contractor, the next step is to find your first contract. As any new small business owner would do, you’ll need to market yourself to potential clients.

Your Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Writing a clear, concise contractor CV is essential. Before applying for contract work, you really should dedicate some time to maximising the impact of this essential document.

Your CV should be 1 to 2 pages long, no more. Don’t bother including stuff like your membership of the cub scouts when you were 12, potential clients are after your technical expertise, not your social excellence!

We’d recommend creating a “core CV” – listing all your past employers, skills and anything else which may help you get the edge on the competition. If you see a contract role advertised which is of interest, you can always ‘amend’ the core CV to make it even more relevant to the particular role you are after.

Once you’re happy with your CV and have asked previous employers permission to provide references (2 references is usually enough), how do you find contract work?

How to source new contract opportunities

These days, pretty much all IT contractor and freelance work is advertised on a variety of job sites. There are a number of generic job boards (such as Jobserve). You will also find a wealth of niche contract sites for journalists, media-types and designers, although we’d recommend going to the major sites first as they tend to offer the widest range of roles per search.

The major sites will often provide a facility for posting your CV online, and contract agency details, in case you would prefer to send your CV direct to agencies.

Many contractors (particularly those who’ve been in the game for a few years) also apply for work directly, or get recommendations from other contractor colleagues. Due to the nature of contracting, many contractors keep in touch over the years, and over time, you may find more and more direct roles coming your way. In the early days however, you’re best scanning for your first role via the web.

Of course, LinkedIn is an absolute must these days. Read our guide to giving your profile a boost here.

The next steps

Once you have found a potential contract assignment, and have submitted your details to the agent (or client), you will hopefully be invited to an interview.

If you are successful at this stage, and have secured your first contract, you will need to negotiate and agree terms with the agent (or client, if contracting direct).

These terms will include the duration of the contract, how many hours you are expected to work per day/week, and the hourly/weekly rate.

Read our tips to negotiating your contract rate successfully for some more pointers, and good luck with your first assignment!

Last updated: 7th November 2014