Guest post courtesy of James Leckie of Contract Eye

When you leave your job behind to embark on a new life as a contractor, there are many new things to get used to.

As a permanent employee, job-seeking follows a fairly pre-defined route: you search for a new job, apply, go for an interview, and hopefully secure a rewarding new role.

As a contractor, things are quite different. You are, in effect, a small business – competing with many others to provide professional services to end-clients. Although many contract roles are advertised online, a sizeable number aren’t.

To succeed as a long-term contractor, you need to develop additional ways to market yourself and your business. Here, James Leckie, MD of IT Contracting (and former IT contractor) outlines some of the key ways you can promote yourself, and increase your chances of securing the best contracts.

Create a brilliant CV

A contractor CV is a different proposition to that of an ’employee’. Clients are looking for highly-skilled professionals to fill short-term skill gaps. Your CV is the most important marketing tool in your armoury: you need to provide a recruiter with details of your key skills and experience in an instant, as the vast majority of CVs end up in the bin within seconds. Make sure your CV is professionally presented, contains no spelling or grammatical errors, and avoid ambiguity. Keep your most recent roles and achievements at the top – and list previous roles chronologically. Spend time to tailor your CV to a specific role.

Use LinkedIn

alongside your CV, your LinkedIn profile is a crucial marketing tool. The site is widely used by professional contractors, and will often be a point of reference for pre-employment checking – so you should take time to create a good ‘resume’ regardless of your thoughts of the site itself. Due to the nature of the site, you need to increase your chances of appearing in recruiter searches. You can do this by embedding key words within your profile. Take some time to join groups, make recommendations, post comments and connect to people you have worked with in the past. You can increase your visibility quite substantially even with just a small amount of effort. Keep your resume updated, and there’s no harm in mentioning your availability – either you’re currently seeking contract work, or your current contract is due to expire on a certain date.

Other ways to market your contracting business

Although the successful marketing of your CV and your LinkedIn profile are by far the most productive ways you can improve your visibility to potential clients, there are a number of other marketing tasks you can carry out which can only add value to both your personal brand and your contract search.

  1. Create a website for your business

This is relatively expensive, and help is readily available online. You can buy a domain name and set up a WordPress website on a shared server for under £100 per year. I’d recommend spending some funds on creating a professional logo and site design. Bear in mind you can use this branding across all of your marketing channels – your email signature, letterheads, invoices, and so on. On your website, you can host your CV, details of previous contracts, and recommendations or reviews from clients and other businesses you have worked with.

2. Reconnect with old colleagues

It’s very easy to lose touch with people you have worked with on old projects, but often they are the best source for new contract openings. Most contract roles never reach the online job boards, as they are filled via word of mouth. You simply cannot beat a recommendation by an old colleague. Fortunately, LinkedIn makes reconnecting easier than ever – the perfect communication method for time-starved contractors.

3. Become an expert

If you want to stand out of the crowd, one of the best ways is to become known as an expert in your particular field. If you’ve created your own site, you can publish articles which you can then promote via your other marketing tools – via LinkedIn, once again or other networks such as Twitter. Get in touch with niche sites which may benefit from your expertise – offer to write content, or answer questions from other users. You can also become a contributor to business forums.

4. Advertise

This may seem a radical departure from what you may be used to as contractor.  However, if you’re prepared to put aside some modest funds to promote your services online, this will provide you with another useful marketing channel. You can use Adwords to promote your business within Google’s search results or pay for promoted posts on Twitter and Facebook. You can advertise elsewhere too – for free. Consider including your website details in your email signature, within your LinkedIn profile, and below any contributions you post online. From my experience, the more niche and targeted your online advertising is, the better.

You are the business

Ultimately the business is you – you are the company’s key asset. You can get started with your marketing efforts immediately, with a fairly minimal effort by creating an eye-catching CV and building your online profile. If you dedicate some time each week to increasing your visibility, you will increase your chances of standing out in the crowd. Just be patient, and don’t give up!

About the author 

James Leckie was a data analyst IT contractor before turning his skills to creating online business communities in the late 1990s. Over the past 20 years, he has created and run some of the most popular contracting news sites, including IT Contracting and Contract Eye.

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