Advice for Self-Employed People Securing Contract Work
  • By Check-a-Salary
  • Posted Tuesday 15 th September 2020

Advice for Self-Employed People Securing Contract Work

The task of finding contract work is very different to securing full-time employment. Clients are less interested in whether you will complement their company culture and ‘fit in’ and are more interested in what problems you can solve and whether you are able to start immediately!

Considering the nature of why they need a contractor, self-employed workers are appealing due to their skill set, their previous experience, and their ability to give projects an extra push or the professionalism required to deliver them.

Contractors will increase their chances of securing work, reduce the time that they spend looking for their next contract, and securing a higher rate if they have a joined-up approach to finding work.

CV Tips for Self-Employed Contractors

People who are self-employed should have subtle differences on their CV to people who work full time. Freelancers need to create a CV which captures all of their skills and experience without it being too long.

It is important that your CV is short and tailored for the type of work that you are targeting, and it should highlight your strengths. 

  • Be clear on what your key skills are and give an overview of your achievements.
  • Outline the companies and projects you have worked on.
  • Align dates to each contract and show when the contract was extended. 
  • Reference points: There is a chance you would have worked for many companies in your time as contractor. Display your reference points, with the line manager’s name, and job title if possible, as this can be very helpful.
  • Do not disclose your daily rate. You could be deemed too expensive and subsequently miss out on interviews. On the other hand, you may be paid less than the client was prepared to offer, so avoid sharing this on your CV.
  • Be clear on how much travel you are willing to do.
  • Show your industry qualifications. 

Finding work as a Contractor

Contact your network 

People from your network are easy to find, as many people are on LinkedIn and other social media channels. If you are not on LinkedIn, set up an account now. It’s a great way to reconnect with previous contacts and you can start conversations immediately. 

You’ll discuss your current work status which will soon open up conversations around your self-employed status, and potential contract opportunities in the market.

Working through your network, you can expect more success, or at least quicker feedback when contacting people that you have previously worked with. People in your network will immediately know your strengths and will be readily able to formulate how you can assist them by knowing your strengths and matching them to requirements in their company.

It might be that they don’t have immediate openings but can work as a sponsor on your behalf, promoting you to their company or even through their external network. 

The great thing with contacts from your network is that if they don't have suitable openings, they are more likely to ask around on your behalf than someone you don’t know!

Be more targeted in your approach

Identify niche and general job sites that offer lots of jobs in your sector. You can manage this process more efficiently by setting up job alerts. When you apply for jobs, ensure you keep track of the jobs you have applied for, recording information such as the company, the line manager’s name and be sure to follow up accordingly. 

Use social media to find contract jobs and approach line managers directly

Applying for a job via a job site doesn’t ensure that the line manager will read your CV - in fact there is a chance the person leading the recruitment won’t even read it.

You can have more success working like a recruiter and approach line managers directly. There is a strong chance that the line manager is on LinkedIn and if this is the case send them an invite to connect. Assuming they reply, use this chance to ask them about contract roles in their team and show you are interested.

It could be that someone else is the line manager, in which case they may be willing to make an introduction. In this engagement, you would have pitched yourself and your skillset, so they’ll be in a good position to help you.

Promote your contractor status on job sites!

With most placements of contractor jobs being made by agencies, it is of great importance that you are found and start to build new relationship with agencies who specialise in placing people with your skillset. 

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of agency recruiters who are desperate to learn about you.

Start making noise online and get discovered!!

Proactively find agencies and make approaches

So, this is going in slightly cold, but it will soon warm up! Use job sites to see which agencies are advertising jobs that you are well suited for, and review the agency online. 

You will soon learn who the recruiters are that you should be working with and if not, simply call the agency and follow up by sending them your CV.

Don’t expect the agencies to contact you!

You will achieve success by keeping in touch with recruiters in your space. This can be about a specific job or maybe after an application. Competition can be fierce, and the buck stops with you.

Work your angles though, and make sure you have a good reason to call. It might be that you wish to help them by sharing insightful information, or perhaps you are calling to ask for some advice.

Interview Approach for Contractors

Interview Prep

If a contractor is late for a job interview and is poorly prepared, obviously they will hinder their chances of securing the contract, this is the same with any job interview!

Prior to the interview you should research the journey time, transport links and whether parking is available.

Research the client, and any news or press releases that you can find about them online.

The Interview

Contract work interviews aren’t that different to interviews for permanent employment; like full-time work, it is equally important to build a rapport, but because you are there to help them on their journey, or to fix a problem, you may need to be more assertive.

You can do this by understanding what they are trying to achieve, and suggest the methods you would use to help them.

You need to understand the past history, whether there are any issues, whether anything is broken and you need to establish why they are at this particular juncture.

A stronger interviewee will use this information and the client will define what success is. If this is a strong aspect of the way you approach an interview, you will be able to pitch your skillset, any suitable experience, and share information about comparable projects and how you delivered the results effectively in similar positions. This will give you a strong chance of securing the job offer.

Job negotiation

Even if, during an interview, you know that there is a good chance of receiving an offer, you should resist negotiating on monies.

If you have focussed on understanding the job, and have discussed how you are going to evolve in the position, only then should you talk about monies, and only if you have been invited to.


Starting your Contracts

At the point of agreeing to the commercials of the contract, start to map out how you are going to tackle the contract if you haven’t gone into enough detail already. 

Agree whether any preparation is needed, who you will be working with, and set up any meetings with your team or possibly with clients. First impressions are everything, so planning before you start will stand you in excellent stead.

The working day before you are due to start, or maybe even several days before you start, it’s a good idea to reconnect with the line manager and with the recruitment agency who may have helped you - this way they’ll be no surprises!


Subscribe to our newsletter to get notified of new blog posts from Check-a-Salary