During Techweek2021, we joined forces with Hnry for an interactive kōrero all about contracting! With insight coming from both sides of the fence (both career contractors and hiring managers), we’ve whittled down the insights to six key takeaways:
1. How do you stay employed over time?
Contracting is all about longevity, so forming lasting relationships with clients is critical – even if it’s just a three month contract, leaving a lasting impression can only increase the chances of them returning down the track for other contracts:
Leave the organisation in a better place than when you joined. It might be a simple tool or a process change – if you can add value, they will remember that for a long time.
Are you able to deliver more than what you were brought in to do? Are there other root causes to problems? Again, if you can add value, and save the organisation time and money, you’ll stand out.
Hitting the ground running. This starts before day one – doing your due diligence, analysing competitors and knowing your client’s pain points. While you’re not always expected to be delivering from day one, connecting with the right people (and asking the right questions) speeds up that process.
General professionalism. It’s all about your brand! Making the effort to integrate yourself with the people in the business is a big help too!
2. Professional development as a contractor
Putting aside money for your own learning is key here e.g. enhancing your skill set in one particular area each year (remember, it’s all tax deductible!). It’s important not to look to clients as a training ground, either – at the end of the day, it is the contractor’s responsibility to take it upon themselves.
From the hiring manager’s perspective, excluding contractors from training can have a negative impact on their morale. If training is relevant to their squad or team, it’s definitely worth including them alongside your permanent team members.
3. How do you set your rate card?
It’s always difficult to know how to position yourself when you first go out. While the client and market will dictate a lot of this, knowing your worth is key. It can be better to walk away from some situations e.g. if you’re being lowballed just because you are available. Of course, personal circumstances can dictate whether you are able to turn down work or not.
It’s important to gain as many data points on your value as possible – don’t just listen to one person...do your research, talk to recruiters and talk to other contractors in your space.
4. As a hiring manager, how do you manage people coming and going without affecting your culture?
It’s not about outsourcing a problem or rotating contractors in and out, but more about how your contract resources can benefit others around them. As specialists, contractors can often upskill the rest of the team – it’s an opportunity to learn from their expertise!
Contractors have a lot of choice and many of them would have worked with bad clients they’ll never go back to. With this in mind, embracing them as part of your culture and treating them like a permanent member of your team will only encourage them to come back if you ever need their expertise again.
5. What is ‘contractor etiquette’?
This is your brand, so it’s important to be open and transparent with all of your clients right from the outset.
If you only have 16 hours a week spare, tell them (as a specialist resource, hours aren’t always set in stone).
If you are doing multiple gigs at the same time, make sure they know what days you are available, how you can be contacted when you’re not visible, and what days you have earmarked for other clients.
The same goes with timings around projects e.g. if you’ve committed 5 hours a week, but realise that it’s only going to take 2 hours a week – be upfront.
6. How is the contracting landscape evolving?
You can work for anyone, from anywhere. Contracting has traditionally been limited geographically, but the last 12 months have shown that it no longer makes any difference! As a hiring manager, is your talent pool limited to the city limits? New Zealand? The world? It’s no longer about finding the best infrastructure architects in Auckland, but finding the best infrastructure architects, period.
There’s no such thing as a permanent job (we’re just one pandemic away from being out of a job) so it’s not much of a surprise that mindsets are changing fast and it really is an exciting time to be a contractor. We’re likely to see more and more contracting opportunities over the next 12 months, and this comes down to that mindset shift.