You'll need to learn how to market yourself effectively to secure contracts. Here's what the experts at the UK200Group recommend:
One of the biggest challenges for a first-time contractor is securing their first professional contract. Agreeing a contract is very different to securing a full-time job, and so requires a distinctly different approach.
Contractors either contract for a client directly, or via an agency. The former tends to be an option for established contractors who have a large network within their industry, meaning the latter is the more common approach to sourcing work.
Where to find a contract
There are three primary channels that you can use to source potential contracts advertised by clients and recruitment agencies:
Job boards – As well as major job boards, there are many sites speciﬁcally targeting contractors and specialist industries
CV databases – Uploading your CV to a database alerts recruitment agencies to your skills and availability
Social media – Sites such as LinkedIn are increasingly essential for ﬁnding contracts, as well as marketing and networking
How to market yourself
Your CV and LinkedIn are the two key components of your marketing collateral. You could find the ideal contract, but in order to get it, your CV and LinkedIn profile will have to demonstrate that you're perfect for the job.
When writing your CV:
Tailor it to the role in question, with relevant skills and experience featuring more prominently
Demonstrate the value that your skills have added for previous clients or employers
Keep it concise and relevant
Recruitment agents will often search for you on LinkedIn as part of their vetting process. Some tips for marketing yourself via LinkedIn:
Maintain an active proﬁle and ﬁll it with industry relevant content
Optimise your proﬁle for search engine optimisation (SEO) in order to be found by more recruiters
Use the platform to network and join industry forums
Following the guidance above will help gain the attention of recruitment agencies, who for the vast majority of contractors source the first and many subsequent contracts.
Working with agencies
Unless you're already well connected in your industry, your first contract will almost certainly be sourced via a recruitment agency. Agencies provide access to a wide network of potential clients, and are often key to securing further work. Some clients will only hire contractors this way, as the agency's presence eliminates many risks.
How agencies win you work
The primary duties of a recruitment agency are relatively straightforward:
Match contractors with suitable contract opportunities
Negotiate contract rates and fees with the contractor and client
Secure the contractor an interview
Assist in negotiating any possible contract renewals
Agencies take a cut of your earnings, but they do plenty to justify their fees.However, don't forget recruiters are working for the client and not you, the candidate, and you are in business, not looking for employment. So make sure you negotiate a good deal.
Negotiating your rate with agencies
Your agent acts as a broker between you and the client, and may wish to establish your contract rate before arranging an interview. You aren't obliged to confirm your rates, although it is good to get a ballpark figure so you and the recruiter are not wasting each other's time. However, if you choose to do so, there is a general rule of thumb to follow.
Research the going market rate for your skills before proposing a rate towards the top end of that bracket. Agents that are not on a fixed percentage – often the smaller agencies, but not always - will often try to bargain to secure a healthy margin for themselves, so aim high to begin with.
This extract was taken from the practical guide to 'Running a Limited Company'. It was reproduced with permission from UK200Group and written by experts in the UK200 Freelancers & Contractors Group. Find out more about the UK200Group here: https://www.uk200group.co.uk/
It's worth taking advice before you start work to ensure you set up and maintain your accounting records, including expense receipts, in the right way. Set up costs can also be tax deductible under certain circumstances. The experts from the UK200Group explain more:
As a contractor, you'll need to budget for tax, insurance, professional fees, pension and for periods where you aren't earning such as holidays and sickness.
Here's your guide to budgeting for your limited company, from the experts at the UK200Group: