Whether you’re new to contracting or well established, there will always be a time in your career when work slows down, or even dries up completely. We’ve compiled some information and top tips to help you out on your quest for contractor work.
Searching for contract work is a whole different game to looking for a full-time position. Knowing the game is paramount to ensure you don’t end up suffering long periods without paid work or hours of inactivity every day. Make sure you are aware of your entitlements and contract work procedures.
Permanent employment can often involve a drawn out recruitment process, but freelancers and contractors are usually required to start work urgently which means the decisions happen much faster. Typically there is only one interview before the decision to hire is made, often within the same week.
Organisations tend not to exercise the same caution when hiring a contractor, as opposed to a permanent employee, because there are no employment protection rights for contractors, meaning they can be easily terminated from a contract.
Some dos and don’ts when you’re looking for a contract.
- If the employer has an urgent project, you could often be offered the position on the spot, or even hired without interview on another’s recommendation or the strength of your CV. References with previous clients are rarely followed up as employers will regularly want you to start work within the week, and everyone adds a little extra ‘colour’ to their CV, don’t they?…..Be warned that, as a freelancer or contractor, if you over embellish what you know or exaggerate your skills and then go on to not complete the job satisfactorily, the employer will simply fire you!
- Before you start applying for work you’ll need to do some preparation, this includes writing an impressive (but honest and accurate) CV, and establishing your market rate. You can find some great tips from Contractor Calculator here and here.
- Once you’ve created your CV you should send it to as many agencies as possible. Even if they don’t have suitable work, you’ll make it on to their databases or the future. You could also do this via an online site such as Jobserve which will send out your uploaded CV to agencies for you. It is best to get all this set up at least a month before you plan to start working to allow your details to be uploaded, ready for cross-referencing with jobs.
- From here you should then create a daily schedule for following up. This should include:
- Follow up calls to recently made aplications
- Calls to the agencies about positions you’ve applied for
- Searching job websites for recently added suitable positions
- Sending off new email applications
- Setting up keyword alerts from job sites.
- It may be that your varying skills are suited to a variety of roles and you should have different versions of your CV to reflect that fact that you’re not just applying for one type of job. Highlight the skills that are more relevant to the job role and don’t use a blanket email cover letter, tailor each one to the employer and point out your successes in their industry sector.
- When you’re searching for new contract positions your time is best spent looking for recently advertised jobs. As I mentioned earlier, the time frame in which these jobs are filled is very short. Ideally you only want to be looking for jobs posted within the last 24 hours. Most job sites have a filter option so that you only need to view the most recently added jobs.
- If you’ve applied for a contract job via email and you’re waiting for the phone to ring. Don’t! Most of the time, if you don’t follow your email applications up with a phone call you won’t get the work you deserve. You obviously need to strike a balance between persistence and nuisance but do send follow up emails and make calls. Record the times and dates of when you have called particular agencies to get a sense of when you can cut your losses regarding a particular job; remember that most agencies carry a large client and applicant base and simply won’t have the time to answer every contractor call.
- Watch out for fake job advertisements. Unscrupulous agencies often put out a fake advertisements and this can be for a variety of reasons. Simply phishing for leads or contact names is the most common of these. Although they may seem to be asking standard questions it could be that they’re simply trying to get the name of your current boss. They may also be looking to be more ready than the competition and want candidates pre-vetted for another position that may (or may not) become available. The other reason could simply be that they’re heavily targeted and just need more CVs for their database.
- Finally, look out for contract to perm type adverts. The advertiser will state that they may be looking for someone to take on a permanent job after a short-term contract. The reason for clients using this strategy is that those with the skills they need are selling them at a premium in the contract market. If you’re new to contracting, these types of jobs can get you to the top of the candidate list and then when the permanent offer comes about you can decide whether or not to pursue it. If you’ve been contracting for a while, it could be in your best interest to put these to the bottom of you prospective job pile.