If you’re an IT contractor, chances are pretty good that you already know what you’re doing when it comes to the world of IT and how it relates to your business. You already know that you’re going to be working entirely on a B2B basis, and you probably know all there is to know about IR35. You know that you have to be able to sell yourself and have the skills to back it up, because you’ve got plenty of first hand experience of how tough the competition is.
But what about knowledge concerning things that are well outside the realm of your industry specialty? What about marketing? Or working with clients based outside the UK? If you still don’t get why you need to foster personal relationships with people who work at a company you’ll only be with for a month, then read on. Because here are the 4 facts that every IT contractor needs to know.
Your marketing has to be B2B
We know that you know all about working business-to-business. But it’s important for you to keep in mind that to get hired by a business, you have to be able to speak their language. Even though, yes, the businesses are your consumers in this case, you’re still targeting businesses as a whole instead of individuals.
When it comes to your marketing and your personal brand, you need to remember that you’re trying to appeal to corporations and not to laymen; from your website to your CV right down to your social media posts. And yes, before some of you ask, of course your business should be on social media. It is one of the easiest and best ways to strengthen your brand voice and to make sure you are as visible and accessible as possible at all times.
Expanding your client pool overseas isn’t all that scary really
Expanding your client pool to include businesses based abroad can be a very effective way to build a roster of respectable clients, and to naturally decrease the chances that you will go without work for extended periods of time. And it’s not as intimidating as you might think.
For instance, did you know that it was possible to claim money spent on your time fulfilling a contract for a client overseas back on expenses? And there are plenty of tools and resources available to help you as well. For example, an online banking system like Regent FE can help you cut down on your overhead spending when it comes to dealing with finances outside the U.K. And sites like Buffer can help you schedule your social media posts in advance, which is handy if you’re busy working in a different timezone, and you want keep reaching people in the U.K. at peak times. You can also use add-ons like Boomerang to schedule emails to reach clients at peak times, no matter their timezone.
If you just do a little digging, you can find dozens of tools just like these ones that will make working with clients abroad much easier.
You need to network
As an IT contractor, you know that it’s important to be competitive and confident when it comes to scoring clients. But it’s also incredibly important to be liked. Those of you who thought contracting would mean the end of awkward work do’s and of forcing conversations with Bill from HR by the water cooler were, I’m afraid, sadly mistaken
Even though you’re only working with clients for a short while, you need to do your best to make yourself valued and liked, because referrals are incredibly valuable when it comes to getting contract work. LinkedIn is a great way to keep in touch once your contract ends, and people whom you’ve worked with in the past can publish recommendations straight on to your LinkedIn profile.
Having to find a place for yourself in so many different work environments can sometimes feel exhausting, but it will be worth it in the long run. By taking the time to form solid professional relationships as you build your client pool, you’ll also be building a list of friendly contacts and glowing recommendations, which will in turn help get you more clients.
You don’t have to go it alone
Don’t shy away from spending on extra help if you need it. Just because you’re working alone in some respects doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself.
You’ll probably need a lawyer if you don’t already have one. You might think about hiring an agent to help you secure new positions. And because accounting software works best with a human element, it could be worth investing in a contractor accountant to help you make better sense of your financial data, instead of just relying on your own interpretation.
The BCC’s John Longworth reportedly “believes businesses in the UK’s service sector have the potential to close the country’s trade gap by exporting overseas”, but that “the UK lacks a workforce equipped with (the) strong foreign language skills” necessary to achieve it. So you might even consider taking a language class in your spare time or hiring a translator so that you can communicate better with your overseas clients.
There are even freelance marketing consultants that you can work with on an ad hoc basis to help you with all that B2B marketing you’re about to start! If your funds can stretch to it, a little outside help can go a really long way. You don’t necessarily have to be an expert in everything from blogging to tax law to make your IT contracting business take off.