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When you first make the move from full-time employment to contracting, the differences in working practices can leave your head spinning. Particularly overwhelming is the idea that you need to go out and find work, rather than simply have it land on your desk.

Fortunately, the online world has made it easier than ever to gather the knowledge and tools you need to find work as a contractor. In this article, we’ll round up some important things to remember, as well as linking to some great online resources, too.


Figure out your day rate—and stick to it

Perhaps the most daunting aspect of moving into contracting work is setting your day rate. Inevitably, you’ll feel like you are either offering your services for way too little money, or massively overcharging.
Unfortunately, there is no simple formula to give you the right answer. That said, it doesn’t have to be a complicated process either. Start by doing a bit of digging to find the average day rate for your industry—Check out SJD’s day rate calculator here,

Once you’ve got to a number you’re happy with (remembering to think about tax, national insurance, and pension payments), it’s important to stick to it. It can be tempting to lower your fees in order to win an exciting-looking contract. But if the work becomes gruelling or the project starts to unravel, that discounted fee will feel like you’ve short-changed yourself.


Get your contractor CV up to scratch

When approaching potential clients, your CV is the key tool to get you through the door. So, it’s worth spending a good chunk of time getting it tuned to perfection. As an absolute minimum, you should make sure that it’s concise, well presented, and thoroughly spell-checked.
Beyond the basics, there are a couple of extra things you can do to really make your CV stand out. Firstly, consider tailoring the CV specifically for the contract you’re aiming to win. It doesn’t have to be a drastic overhaul, but tweaking the order to highlight skills and relevant experience will improve your chances of getting the contract.

Secondly, if you feel that your CV is really out of shape, you could bring in a professional writer to take things up a notch. While this option isn’t cheap, it could give you an edge when it comes down to the wire.


Use a specialist agency

It’s estimated that up to 80% of contract work is sourced through agencies. With that in mind, it’s worth shortlisting a selection of agencies and reaching out to them at the earliest opportunity.
Remember that quality is more important than quantity here. Spend some time researching respected agencies and—if possible—gather the opinions of some other contractors. Once you’ve made a list of those you really want to work with, approach them to arrange a call or face-to-face meeting. And, when working with an agency, remember these three things:

  • Use specialists. A specialist agency will have expert knowledge of your industry and they’ll be able to communicate your skills to potential clients competently. Put in the legwork to find the best specialists in your sector.
  • Keep chasing. Recruiters are busy people and, as such, they might not get back to you right away. Don’t give up. Give them gentle reminders regularly, without hounding them. Perseverance is the key here.
  • Build relationships. As with most areas of business, a positive working relationship will yield the best results. With this in mind, put some effort into building a rapport with the agencies who are representing you.

How to find contract work online

The power of the internet to help you find new work really cannot be overstated. It provides a wealth of information, potential contacts, and community support that could have only been dreamed about a few years ago.
We’re going to look at three key areas of the digital world where you can focus your efforts:

  • LinkedIn. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but LinkedIn is undoubtedly a great place to get information and promote your brand. As with real-life networking, concentrate on building mutually beneficial relationships, and don’t be afraid to show off your skills.
  • Website. There’s really no substitute for having your own website. It’s a digital storefront for the world, and it’s the perfect place to display your experience and capabilities.
  • Digital jobs boards. As the name suggests, these are simply job boards that are available online. They make seeking out new projects easier than ever and they tend to be industry-specific, meaning that you won’t have to trawl through tons of assignments that are completely out of your field. We’ve recently launched our own jobs board—you can check it out here.


That rounds up our guide to winning your first few contracts. If you’re looking for more information on running your contracting business, check out our full list of free resources.

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