It’s that time of year when the words “next year I’m going to drink less/join the gym/lose weight” start popping out of our mouths. Quite often, we really do mean it as well. We’ll then all hurtle into 2020 with the best of intention before promptly giving up on 12th January. But what about making some New Year’s resolutions that you can keep?
Before you became self-employed, Christmas at work was probably either the most fun you had all year, or a horror you’d prefer to forget. Office Christmases can be wildly hit or miss and, if we’re being honest, can be often more of a miss (except here at Kingsbridge HQ, obviously).
Just when we all thought things couldn’t get any more complicated with regards British politics, a 12th December General Election has been thrown into the mix. As the news is filled with stories of campaigns, Brexit, and whether or not nativity plays will need to be cancelled, most contractors are wondering what this (and the delayed Budget earlier this month) will mean for April 2020’s IR35 reforms.
If you’re in the process of setting up your own business as a contractor or freelancer then one of the biggest things on your mind is probably how best to market yourself.
There are lots of things you can do and some you’ll have already implemented: designing business cards, polishing your LinkedIn profile, signing up with recruiters, and speculatively calling and emailing companies or brands you would like to work with are just a few. However, building a website could well be something you’re undecided over whether or not to do.
It’s an unpleasant fact about contracting and freelancing: occasionally you may come across clients who either pay late or don’t pay at all. Sometimes this can be an innocent mistake, sometimes it can be a deliberate tactic on the part of the client to manage their business’s cash flow. Either way, it’s annoying for the self-employed who then have to dedicate time and energy to chasing up late or missing payments, which takes away from time spent on actual work projects.
No, we’re not talking about some crazy exercise fad or bizarre pastime. Instead, we’re talking about ways you can disguise your perceived “weaknesses” as a freelancer or contractor and turn them into strengths that will make you uniquely hireable.
But what does this look like in real terms?
What got us thinking about this was reading about Hannah Martin, co-founder of The Talented Ladies Club and successful freelance copywriter, who was also a parent. In the early days, she found being a mum meant she could rarely be available to work onsite with a client. However, she performed a rather genius sleight of hand by identifying her USP.
This was built around being the go-to copywriter if you had an urgent brief, or if you needed work doing overnight or over the weekend. Clients suddenly weren’t bothered by having to brief her over the phone and have her work remotely if it meant they were delivering work to their boss on time. This is a great example of putting a spin on a supposed shortcoming and making it a strength that sells.
If you’re a younger contractor and freelancer, your comparative lack of experience can be a bit daunting. The same goes for older contractors who have perhaps only held one or two long-term roles prior to becoming self-employed – you may feel inexperienced compared to people who have a more varied CV.
Remember though, a more focused career doesn’t necessarily make you inexperienced, it makes you a specialist. While others may be able to do lots of things, you can do one or two things exceptionally well. It’s just a case of turning how you think about yourself on its head.
Fees may not seem like something you can put a spin on. They are what they are, after all. But that doesn’t stop prospective clients (for freelancers more than contractors) attempting to haggle when you give them your estimate for an assignment.
Putting a spin on your fees helps prospective clients see the full value of your service and what is included in that estimate. So, instead of simply telling a client your day rate and what deliverable they’ll get at the end – whether it’s a new company-wide email system, a civil engineering project, or simply some marketing copy – make sure they know that they’re also getting your years of experience, your various skills, your problem-solving abilities, your contractor insurance and anything else you consider relevant. This can be the difference between winning a contract and losing out to someone who’s cheaper but not necessarily as talented.
Spinning yourself as a contractor or freelancer isn’t about being dishonest – you’re not saying anything about yourself that’s not true. It’s simply about knowing how to market yourself and make sure that your USPs shine through. People can be quick to dismiss things that don’t fit into their way of thinking, so putting a spin on things that could be seen as problematic instead shows that they are, in fact, benefits of hiring you. And that can be no bad thing.
While it’s popular to say “you do you”, this may not be the case if you’re in an interview situation.
In fact, a recent report from CV-Library and TopCV (based on a survey of 200 employers) found that a huge 75% believe that personality is the most important factor when considering someone for a job, whether that be as a contractor or as a permanent employee. Just to put it in perspective, that’s compared to those who believed it was education (13%) or appearance (12%).
So, you could have all the skills and education, but if there’s a clash of personalities, you could well lose out on the contract.
According to the report there is a top ten of personality turn-offs that are almost guaranteed to get you taken off the recruitment shortlist. These are:
- Being unreliable
- Being immoral
- A sense of entitlement
- A short temper
The list of the most favoured personality traits is somewhat self-explanatory. It includes being reliable, having confidence, honesty, being honourable, loyalty, friendliness, and being self-disciplined.
Careers Expert at TopCV, Amanda Augustine, had this to say on the results of the survey: “Historically, assessing job seekers was contingent on two factors – experience and skills – but our new survey reveals that more intangible qualities, such as personality, are determining which candidates rise to the top.”
Of course, the fact that personality traits are intangible can mean it comes down to personal preference, but there are things you can to do make sure you’re at an advantage.
How to make sure you come across at your best
When bidding for a contract, you have a relatively small space of time to convince the hiring manager that you’re the right person for this project. As well demonstrating your experience and skills, you also need to use the time to show off your sparkling personality. So, what do you need to do?
- Tread the fine line between selling yourself and coming across as arrogant and entitled
- Be open, transparent and honest
- Arrive in plenty of time and prepare anything you said you would
- Show yourself to be open-minded and well-informed
- Be kind, polite and pleasant – it costs nothing
While this might seem obvious to most people, it’s easy to get carried away in an interview environment, especially with the race-to-the-bottom business culture so often demonstrated on the likes of LinkedIn and in popular culture. It’s not necessary to be an awful person in order to get ahead and, as this report shows, it can actually damage your chances in very real terms.
Of course, there are other things that can also damage your chances at securing a contract and not having the correct contractor insurance is one of them. If you’re ready for renewal or need to buy for the first time, our expert team can help. Simply call 01242 808740.
Here at Kingsbridge Contractor Insurance, we recently had a conversation with an IT contractor that gave us insight into a scenario that we think may be fairly commonplace. How to be assertive when contracting.
The contractor told us that a couple of projects she had recently worked on had overrun past their deadline due to her clients holding things up internally. This was due to things like long turnaround times on sign-offs, delays in providing information and other hold-ups. She said she felt as if she should have pushed back to her clients, reminding them of the deadlines and asking them to speed things up. However, she didn’t feel confident to do this as she is a contractor and didn’t feel she had the same influence as a permanent employee.
So, we’re here to tell you what we told her: never be afraid to be assertive.
Not that long back, not working from the office meant, instead, working from home or, maybe, a library. Then came the coffee shops with their free WiFi and the idea of more flexible workspaces began to gather pace, cumulating in the more formal co-working spaces now available in most cities across the UK. These offer WiFi, food services, printing facilities, meeting rooms, virtual office services and the company of other freelancers, and latest research has shown that these workspaces are growing in popularity with no sign of tailing off.
Contractor Umbrella reports that forecasts suggest there will soon be more than 20,000 co-working spaces globally and this number will reach 25,968 by 2022. That’s 56% growth in 2018 alone and an average of 2,500 new spaces popping up per year since 2015. Last year, a new flexible workspace opened in London every five days.
But what are the pros and cons of using these spaces?