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What to consider when making contracting your full-time job
Being your own boss, setting your own hours, and not being tied down to one company for longer than a few months: the world of contracting seems like a dream to some people. And it can become a fulfilling full-time job – if you do things right. Here are some tips on things to consider as you start to transition into being a full-time contractor.
One of contracting’s biggest advantages is the freedom of not being tied down to the same job in a few months. However, it can also be one of the biggest challenges. Plan ahead to be able to manage jobs that come up, making sure you don’t find yourself without anything on the schedule in a few months – or with way too much on your plate.
Keep a detailed schedule of when projects start and finish, how long they will take, and how much you will be paid for them. This ensures that you have a steady, manageable flow of work in the upcoming months. Looking ahead also guarantees smooth transitions, and allows you to deliver on everything you promise, especially if you’re managing multiple clients at a time.
Set the right price
How much is your time worth? This tricky question might take a while to get right. If you don’t charge enough, you might end up working all day and night just to make ends meet. Instead of asking, “How much should I charge per hour?”, ask yourself, “how much is what I’m doing really worth to this client?”. It might be intimidating, but setting and negotiating a fair salary will give you more freedom to pursue and do better work.
Research market rates for similar roles, and use those as a benchmark to set your own rates, along with factoring in your own training, experience and unique skills that will help you excel in the role.
It is also important to estimate how much time you’ll need for a certain project - always add “buffer time” especially if it’s a new project or if the outcome is slightly less predictable. Set a minimum project rate especially if you find yourself taking on more small projects, as these require as much administrative work as bigger projects.
Finally, remember to factor in the costs that will need to be deducted from your earnings, such as taxes, funds to cover your own sick pay, and travel expenses. Leaving these costs out can turn a seemingly good daily rate into insufficient take-home pay.
Focus on time management
Time management is a challenge for everyone, but contractors face a unique set of issues when it comes to making the most of their time due to short contracts and juggling multiple clients. Therefore, it is important to find ways to maximise your time.
One way of doing so is to filter information that’s coming in, focus on the key bits, and eliminate the other distractions. Many distractions throughout the day come in the form of email, Skype, Twitter, IM, and other social media. These are all productivity killers, so instead of being ‘online’ all the time, limit or block out a time to check your email or messages.
Contrary to helping you to save time, multi-tasking sabotages your brain power. Rather than switching gears from one type of project to another, try blocking out time to focus on specific projects. This eliminates a chaotic schedule and makes workdays more routine, which eventually saves you time and energy.
Make the right contacts
Networking and marketing yourself is a big part of being a contractor. If you’re not comfortable with networking, now is a great time to start practicing networking skills. While your main skills are your specialty, every contractor needs to be able to understand how to make contacts that can help bring in work.
Attend industry events, join the social parts of conferences, and create meaningful connections with people at each job you do. Even if projects are short-term, think long-term relationships – you never know when a company will need your services again, even after this project is finished.
Finally, get in touch recruitment services such as Page Personnel, which can help you line up contracting roles that might not be widely advertised, and ensure they’re the right fit for your skillset.
Work on your own terms
Contracting is all about working on your own terms. Whilst you might want to please clients and make a good impression, it should not be at the expense of your own happiness and fulfilment as an employee. If something is out of your job scope, or borders on an unreasonable request, it’s ok to politely point that out, and work out compromises to get the job done.
Practice saying ‘no’ and being firm about it – both to specific clients who are asking for too much, but also to jobs that seem like they will take up more time than they are worth. It may seem counterintuitive when first starting out, but learning how to turn down projects can be critical to your future success. Focus on those that are in line with where you want your career to go.
Finally, contracting is as much of a job as full-time employment is. Working from home and having flexible hours often means that you need to make an extra effort to strike a work-life balance, but treat your contract role as a full-time job, and you might find a fulfilling career path.
Find out more about contracting opportunities with Page Personnel.