Being a contractor involves being in competition with others bidding for new roles. While, on paper, you might have a wealth of experience and good technical skills, these alone will not guarantee you winning the work.
“You may not have sales skills on your resume, but when it comes to winning work, you’ll most likely need them and negotiation skills to sell yourself.”
How Do Sales Skills Differentiate?
“What will differentiate you as a contractor from your competition, and in fact from permanent employees? The answer is how you present yourself, how you frame your skills to potential hirers.”
There is a difference between what the contractor is selling – their skills – and how they sell it.
“The experience and technical skills are, relatively speaking, straightforward for the contractor, providing they are the right fit for the role. You find most contractors are highly skilled at what they do, otherwise they wouldn’t be contractors. But, unfortunately, these qualities alone are not a guarantee that they will get the roles they are chasing.”
Research the Market
A successful contractor understands the market in which they are operating and, critically, how to position themselves within it.
“Where you fit in the market can very much determine the rate you charge and, obviously, whether this is in line with what a hirer is willing to pay”
Where a contractor is looking for a role in a rising market, then checking their position in relation to their peers can help them achieve a better rate. However, where the market is driving down rates, things can get trickier.
“It’s a stark reminder that, as a contractor, you are a product, and as such, your price can rise or fall. This doesn’t reflect on your competence, experience or skills, but it does mean you need to know the market first, before you negotiate.”
The Art of Negotiation
“Negotiation skills are something that every contractor needs to learn. The preparation part is vital, and so is striking the right tone.”
Approaching a negotiation should not involve being aggressive or confrontational. It does, however, require assertiveness and confidence.
“Put yourself in the client’s shoes. On the one hand, your value is determined by your replaceability in their eyes; but on the other, they are looking for a straightforward solution to their recruitment needs, with as little complication as possible”
The contractor, therefore, needs to understand what factors shape the client’s perception, and how these affect how they value the contractor’s work.
“Think also about the client’s timelines, business needs, and the potential consequences for them of not hiring the right contractor. Balance these against your own lifestyle needs and the minimum pay range you can work within.”
Before Decision Time
“You should know what your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA, is. It’s as much a psychological thing as anything, because being certain about what you’ll do if you don’t get an agreement puts you in a much stronger position and firmer frame of mind.”
“Contracts do not exist out of context: they affect how the client expects to run their business, but also how the contractor values themselves and supports their own lifestyle”
“As a contractor, you can develop your own resources through understanding your market value and building your negotiating skills ,” Mike concludes.
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For an additional read, please visit Are Contractors Missing the Point With Small Print?