There are many perks to becoming a contractor, from increased flexibility and varied projects, to the financial benefits.
However, moving from permanent employment to your first contract can be a big step. If you’ve recently made the move to become a contractor here’s how you can make sure you ace that all important first contract.
Focus on building your contractor reputation
Gaining a good reputation for yourself during your first contract will put you in good stead for a successful contracting career. Follow the obvious new job principles such as dressing smartly and being friendly, polite and punctual, and then make sure your work matches up to this good impression. Go the extra mile to develop a reputation for reliability and good quality work, whilst working with honesty and integrity. Putting in the extra effort and delivering more than is required will help to show off your skill set and dedication.
Making a good impact within the organisation will help you build a stronger relationship with your client, and thus increase your chances of getting a glowing reference or contract renewal. A personal recommendation from a reputable client will hold a lot of sway with potential clients in the future. To help build your reputation, try to be a real team player and mix well with your colleagues. Get to know your clients not just as an organisation, but individually, so that you can really understand what value the client is looking to get from your time on the contract.
Work hard to integrate into the team
As a contractor it’s likely that you’ll be working with permanent staff that already gel well as a team. It’s therefore really important that in order to complete your first contract with a good impression, you put the time in to be a part of the team. By integrating yourself in the team you will gain respect, and ultimately you will be able to get the best out of your new colleagues, in both a professional and social sense.
As a first step you need to be approachable and friendly. Getting on with those around you is likely to make your first contracting experience a positive one, it will also make it easier to find the information you need.
Once you’ve made good connections with colleagues and team mates, keep in touch with them. In the age of LinkedIn it has never been easier to stay in touch with clients, permanent colleagues and fellow contractors. Forming and then consolidating relationships is how many experienced contractors secure future work.
Many contractors work remotely, in which case it can be challenging to fully integrate into your new team and workplace. As a first-time contractor you obviously want to be noticed and create a great impression, which can be hard if you’re not physically around. If you work remotely, make the effort to visit the office from time to time to meet with your colleagues face-to-face. Putting in this extra effort could make a real difference for your client when deciding whether to extend your contract.
Demonstrate you are adaptable AND reliable
If you want to be successful, you will need to learn how to be adaptable. From contract to contract, you will need to find your feet and integrate yourself into your new workplace quickly. If you can learn to be adaptable and versatile from your very first contract you will set yourself up well for a successful contracting career.
Being adaptable as a contractor means always being one step ahead. Although you may only be on your first contract, you must think about your next contract and how your career might evolve, and how opportunities to specialise could arise.
Whichever industry you work in, it’s always important to exceed expectations and deliver more than is expected of you. No matter how much planning you do for your first contract, things will change and life will throw in a few hurdles along the way. As an adaptable professional you should expect these hurdles and ultimately take them in your stride.
Start off on the right foot
Contractors that are passionate and focused on their role will find it a lot easier to succeed. For example, being enthusiastic will create a good impression on your client and make your first contract a positive experience.
Remaining focused on the project at hand and avoiding distraction is a key skill for contractors, especially when it comes to keeping all stakeholders happy. With clients relying on your flexibility and expertise, it’s important to give yourself an opportunity to be 100% focused rather than worrying about how your contract could go wrong.
If an unexpected situation ever does arise, then make sure you are fully covered and protected by having the right insurance cover in place. Holding professional indemnity and public liability insurance is one of the steps you can take to give yourself the peace of mind to succeed at your first contract.
For those just starting out on their first contract it can be tempting to work excessive hours to get the work done. Although you need to work hard and deliver quality work during your first contract, you also need to make sure that you don’t burn out, which could have a negative impact on your work and your job satisfaction. Of course you should work hard and go the extra mile, but make sure you pace yourself through your contract so that you enjoy it too.