Orion Social Content May24 Contractor Fb Copy

​How to become an in-demand contractor

Back to Blogs
Blog Img

​Becoming an 'in-demand' contractor

When it comes to work, more flexibility, higher earning potential, and increased independence sound good, right? These are only some of the reasons why people leave full-time employment and jump into a career formed from contracting roles. But before you make the switch, it’s important to be in the right place, both professionally and personally. Here, we take you through the steps you should take to become a successful contractor.

While our experience is predominantly in energy, life sciences, construction and skilled trades, the advice is applicable to all sectors.

What is a contractor?

Let’s start with the basics. Veriforce CHAS defines contractors as “professionals who provide skills or services to companies for a fixed period. They may be contracted for a set number of hours, a specific time frame, or for a project’s duration.”

In the UK, contractors may be self-employed (a sole trader) or operate as a limited company or partnership (if you’re in business with another person).

There’s no official data on contractors and their earnings in the UK, but ipse says the 1.9 million solo self-employed contributed £287 billion to the UK economy in 2022. Contractors are a crucial part of the economy worldwide and their skills and approach to work are highly sought after.

Developing an in-demand skillset

In the energy sector—in which we have 37 years of experience—it’s unusual for people to start contracting at the beginning of their careers. This is not a blanket rule across all sectors, but generally, contractors increase their chances of getting regular work when they have a solid set of demonstrable skills in the bank, gained over at least a few years of work experience.

To make yourself extra employable as a contractor, you should be able to:

●      Define what your job title is. Are you a technician, a manager, an engineer, a specialist, or something else more niche?

●      Supply evidence of the skills you have acquired within that role

●      Demonstrate previous project successes

●      Share details of all the relevant qualifications and certifications that employers would expect you to have in that field, as well as information about any additional training or personal development endeavours

●      Provide at least one referee (two is preferable) who can vouch for your experience

●      Show you have the appropriate insurances.

If you’re not quite there yet on all fronts, you might benefit from staying in paid employment until you can tick all the boxes - unless you’re confident that in your field you can start contracting in a less senior role and progress as you gain experience.

Building a strong professional network

There are many ways to get contracting roles (try a global recruitment firm with 37 years of experience, for example!), but using your contacts is a great place to start. Make a list of people you’ve worked with - previous managers, colleagues, clients and suppliers, as well as friends who work in the same industry. Do they all know you’re a contractor now? If they don’t, tell them, and accompany your message with information about the type of work you’re looking for. If possible, find out how their company goes about employing contractors, as many companies will outsource that work to recruitment agencies like us.

To help widen your network, consider joining industry associations or networking groups, which can be industry-specific or generalist ones aimed at businesses in your local area.

Developing a compelling contractor profile

Linked to our point on leaning on and expanding your professional network is this next topic: your online presence. While it’s not a necessity for contractors, having a credible online presence can set you apart from others. As a minimum, we recommend creating a LinkedIn profile, or if you already have one, ensure it’s up-to-date. Our recent article details how you can boost your LinkedIn profile.

To really stand apart from the crowd, consider creating your own website. Here, you could produce a more visually appealing version of your CV that highlights career successes and major projects you’ve been involved in. If writing is something you enjoy, you could add a blog section too, where you add articles about industry developments and personal insights. Adding extra content such as this has a double bonus: it will add gravitas to your profile AND help recruiters find you online.

Understanding contractor rates and the contracting process

The question on every newly hatched contractor’s lips: ‘How much will I get paid?’. It’s a BIG question. We know that people want to know a number - or a range at the very least - in pounds, dollars or euros, and we would love to give you that information. The problem is that we don’t know ourselves. Contract rates fluctuate depending on these factors:

●      the industry

●      the client

●      the local and global economy

●      the country the client is based in, and the country the job is in (if they are different)

●      how niche or in-demand your skills are

●      how much experience you have

●      how much risk is associated with the role

●      how much time you’re expected to spend away from home.

To calculate your desired contracting rate (and check if it’s realistic), we recommend speaking to other contractors in your industry, scanning online jobs boards and speaking with recruiters. One quick way to reach a minimum hourly or daily rate is to take your previous salary and use it to calculate how much more you would need to be paid per day to do the same job as a contractor. Remember to include all possible expenses averaged out over the year: insurance, IT equipment, travel, training, subscriptions, uniforms, memberships, bookkeeping etc. You will also need to account for benefits you received from your employer, such as paid holidays, sick pay and parental leave, gym memberships, pension contributions, learning and development and time off in lieu.

Thinking about your circumstances

One last thing to consider before leaping into contracting is whether you are suited to that style of working, and if it is the right time in your life to be making the transition. Working as a contractor offers all the benefits listed at the start of this blog, and many more. But, as with every big decision, there can be downsides too. Here are a few questions we recommend asking yourself:

●      Money. Do I have savings to rely on if it takes longer than expected to land a role? Am I prepared to handle my own expenses and admin, such as tax returns, and can I handle having a variable income? Am I about to apply for a mortgage or loan that requires evidence of regular income?

●      Lifestyle. Am I happy to work away from home, and if so, for how long at a time? Would I be willing to move to a new country for work? How flexible can I be with my working hours?

●      Mindset. Will I be able to cope with increased uncertainty about work? How will I deal with rejection?

●      Development. Will I be able to undertake the training I need to do my job well without an employer's support? Do I have a good network of professional contacts that can help me find roles?

Convinced contracting is for you?

If you’ve reached this far and are more excited than ever to transition away from permanent employment, there are huge opportunities to be had. We may be ever-so-slightly biased, but we think getting on board with an experienced recruiter can make the whole experience even better.

Browse our current opportunities for inspiration, and upload your CV to be the first to hear about fresh roles.