Whether you’re just starting out as a contractor or looking to expand into a new sector, you’ll need to sell your skillset. Charlotte Attwood from Technojobs shares her top tips for finding that perfect contract.

If you’re approaching the end of a contract and looking for your next piece of work, then you’ll need to source a contract. This isn’t as simple as it seems and is also very different to searching for a permanent job or a freelance role.

There are many things you’ll need to factor into your contract search, and many pitfalls to avoid. As an increasing number of contracts are now sourced online through job sites, you have to be absolutely sure you stand out as a contractor.

Based on experience, here’s a short list of do’s and don’ts when sourcing a contract. It’s not exhaustive but does provide a good checklist when you’re searching and applying.

Make sure you do…

  • Write an impressive contractor CV. It may sound obvious, but it’s the first deciding factor for employers so making sure your CV is as good as it can possibly be is hugely important. Crafting the perfect contractor CV could be an article in itself, you can read some further tips here on writing a contracting CV.
  • Sign up to relevant job sites. You may not know, but as many as 30% of jobs are never advertised as recruiters prefer to source CVs instead. It goes without saying that if you want to be considered for these contracts, you’ll need to be on these sites to increase your chances.
  • Chase up applications. Again, unsurprisingly, open contracts get a lot of applications. You don’t want to pester, if you don’t hear back from an application within a reasonable time (or if you potentially have other work in the pipeline), then it’s worth making a quick call to chase up the contract.
  • Know the market. So you’ve spotted a contract that you like the look of. But before you apply, make sure you’ve got a full understanding of the contract market – this can be everything from daily rates to what will be demanded of you. The more knowledge you have, the better you’ll be able to negotiate the best deal for you and also understand if the contract is right for you.
  • Networking. It’s not just about the CV. A spot of networking is always beneficial. Letting contacts, potential clients, ex-colleagues and others in the industry know that you are looking for a contract puts you on the radar and word of mouth recommendations can carry a lot of weight. Whether it’s offline at events or online through LinkedIn or Twitter, there are plenty of benefits in using your network and making new contacts.

Make sure you don’t…

  • Attempt to move from a permanent position to contract without handing in your notice. Contracts often need to be filled immediately and if it’s between you and somebody who can start earlier, you’re likely to lose out.
  • Have a poorly prepared, generic and non-tailored CV. Make sure it is focused on the contract you’re bidding for, highlights all your skills clearly and previous relevant contracts.
  • Rely solely on people finding you and chasing you. Sadly, it’s a competitive market out there. Not only do you have to sell yourself with your CV, you need to be pro-active using multiple channels to ensure you’ve got the best chance of spotting the opportunities at the right time. There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect contract just after it’s been filled.
  • Accept the first rate an agency might offer you – an agency will often try and take a higher margin so you may be able to negotiate on rates.
  • Stay “benched” for too long. One of the best aspects of contracting is being able to take time between roles and enjoy some much needed downtime. But spend too long out of action, and it could give the wrong impression, especially if you’re working in a sector such as IT that requires up-to-the-minute knowledge of industry developments. If you are between contracts for a while, take the opportunity to refresh or learn more skills. If you are worried about taking too much time out, it doesn’t hurt to take on a contract on a lower rate than you’d usually expect if it allows you to acquire new skills or allows you to get experience in a new sector.

Although there may seem to be many tricky aspects to finding a contract, as you can see there are also many ways to avoid falling into these traps. We hope these tips help you in your search for a new contract.

Charlotte Attwood writes for Technojobs on various topics mainly in the IT and Technical recruitment sector as well as specialist IT areas and skills including IT Graduates, IT Security, Business analysis and many more.

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