8 lessons for new contractors

So, you’ve finally had enough of working for the man and you want to go it alone huh? CONGRATULATIONS! What a liberating sensation, are we right? We don’t want to stem the flow of your creativity and positivity by telling you about all the potential pitfalls and problems, as we are sure you know about them all already, so instead, how about we give you some top tips for really making a go of working for yourself?

When a new year means a new way of working for yourself it can be easy to get carried away and not get a cohesive plan in place, so follow our tips and your first year of contracting should be rewarding and enjoyable!

1. Set reasonable hours

You know yourself and your working style better than anyone else, so if you work better at night, make that your standard work ‘day’ and only take on as much work as you can feasibly handle.

If you are good at what you do and your industry allows for a lot of flexibility, really hone your hours to fit you and chase the work that suits that best. For example, if you work exclusively from home and always like to work at night, why not think about completing contracts for overseas clients that are in different time zones? See? There really is a solution for everything if you stay true to yourself and your abilities and work with them instead of alongside what everyone says is right!

2. Have some emergency money squirreled away

We like to believe that you will have been sensible enough to not leave full-time, permanent work until you had some savings anyway, but if not, really try to get some behind you as this is an invaluable safety net for any new contractor.

If you have a quiet day, week or month, you need to know that you are still going to be able to meet all your financial responsibilities, without getting into debt, so we suggest trying to accrue a minimum of three months wages before going it alone. Remember that an overdraft is not actually money!

3. Hone your negotiation skills

This is a stumbling block for many new contractors, as we have almost been programmed in the UK to feel embarrassed when talking about money. This has to be overcome if you are going to work for yourself, otherwise you will never be able to command the rate you deserve and need to live.

There is a tangible difference between haggling and negotiating, as one is casual and the other professional, but practicing one can improve the other! If you don’t believe us, why not pop along to a new car sales office and try to barter yourself a cheaper vehicle? You don’t actually have to buy it, just see what you can get off the ticket price and what extras you can get thrown in. Watch your ‘opponent’s’ body language and respond to it. Make a note of what discount you manage to agree, then go back in a year and see how much better you fare. We bet you will be a seasoned negotiator at that point and will come out having sold them something!

The temptation to undersell yourself in order to win a contract should never be given into, especially as clients will be able to sense your weakness. They might even use this as an excuse not to hire you, so charge a fair rate for your expertise, qualify it and go from there. The secret to negotiating is to always validate your reasons and to give them with an air of authority that cannot be questioned.

4. Enjoy your newfound freedom

When you were in full time, permanent employment, we bet that you would lay in bed after the alarm had gone off, really wondering how much you needed your job. You probably also thought how great it would be if you could get up when you like, work in your pyjamas and not worry about taking a two-hour lunch break. Well, now you work for yourself, you can explore these benefits and make the most of them, but try to also earn some money!

See your new employment status as a way to enjoy quality time with your family, a chance to not have to miss out on events and an opportunity for trying out some new hobbies, but try not to go overboard with the lax timekeeping; this is still your job, after all.

5. Make sure your family and friends are onboard

With a supportive network around you, making the transition to self-employment will be far simpler, especially if they can offer you any advice or expertise in your first few weeks. If you have friends working in similar industries to those that you are planning to target, ask if they can recommend you or get you an ‘in’ at their companies.

One tip we really want to impart is that you frequently thank your family for supporting you in your new endeavour, as this can be an unsettling transition. If you work long hours or can’t take holidays for a while, it’s important that your family always knows that you appreciate them.

6. Create a working space that is suited just to you

Working from home is fantastic, as you can create a space that is purely focused on you, the way you work, what you need and how you like things, but there are also potential pitfalls, such as getting interrupted by family or, worse still, family members treating your working environment like a communal study.  Set some rules and make sure that everyone knows your workspace is off limits and that when you are in it, you shouldn’t be disturbed unless it is absolutely necessary.

If you prefer not to work from home, rented office space is a great way to keep a home/work divide in place and can be tax deductible too.

Follow these tips and we just know that your contracting career will take off exponentially!