Having an independent contracting business can be lucrative. You have more control over your finances, and can earn more than as a permanent employee. You can also sidestep and avoid office politics. But it has its cons. Especially at the start, it can be feast and famine. When you’re in a contract it’s usually full on and when you’re not you’re busy looking for a contract. So you are busy on the day to day and can find it difficult to play anything more than tactical. Working to get from one paying contract to the next, snatching at any contract that will pay and you can get stuck at one level and not progress or find interesting projects. But there are 5 tips to help with that.
#1 ’Sharpen The Saw’
First tip, is really a no brainer, and is one of the 7 Habits of Successful People from Steven Covey’s book – Sharpen the Saw. Make sure that you are at the top of your game. Keep fresh. Be at your best. You are your product and it better be a good one, so make sure it is a sharp saw.
#2 Have a Plan
The next tip is to have a plan, be purposeful and make each contract count (checkout my checklist to measure contract suitability). You are in control of your career now. You are your HR department. Make sure that you use each contract to either level up your skills and experience, or build up your network by working in interesting organisations or with great people.
#3 The Laws of Attraction
The next tip is a little tougher for us, especially in the UK, but be attractive and magnetic. Understand the Laws of Attraction This is not about making sure you’re dressed well but showcase your talents. Build a ‘brand’ and if your saw is sharp, then let people know that you have a sharp saw and you’re happy to use it. Make it easy for those looking for your type of saw, ‘brand’, to find you. Write a blog; start or go on a podcast; speak at conferences, networking meetings. Make sure that those who hire contractors know that you are the real deal.
#4 Build in Resiliency
The feast and famine nature of freelancing and independent contracting can be tough. It can make being purposeful, tip #2, difficult. It is tough to hold out for a good contract when you just need any contract for cash flow. This is where the next tip helps. Build in resiliency. This is both financial and personal resiliency. When in a contract it’s usually very lucrative, make sure you look after the cash, prepare for the down times. Understanding how to manage and leverage your money is important. You are the finance department of your business. To be up front and honest, this is where I struggle.
If you can find a second stream of income that helps you with some kind of stability while you’re building your ‘brand’, then that can help too. Checkout the Side Hustle School Podcast and Chris Guillebeau’s book for loads of examples.
#5 Find your eXtras
It may sound like Contracting is a solo game but it’s better played in a team. If you’re the HERO of the story, you need a cast of eXtras. Network and leverage your network. Leveraging is not the same as using other people. It is about win/win (another of the 7 Habits mentioned above) and being stronger together.
As I’ve said, it’s better to play in a Team, and all good teams have a coach. So one of the first players on your team. One of your first eXtras is a mentor or coach. Someone that will help you with all the other tips in this list.
Playing the Independent Contractor game can be tough, but it can be fulfilling and lucrative. Follow these five tips and you can move from feast and famine to a steady and fulfilling business.
To help ensure that you make purposeful decisions about your contracts – checkout my checklist.