When looking for any kind of service or expertise these days, my first stop is the computer. Depending on the problem, I look for a variety of common themes including: best price, best value, expertise, great reviews.
In the contracting world, things are not quite as simple or straight forward. Often when a client hits a wall, how do they find you? Generally, they want the best person to solve their problem and you are not simply a click away.
Often clients will work with agencies where they have an existing relationship. They will work with the agency representative to define the problem and describe the type of resource that they need that can deliver a solution. The agency representative will take this information and begin their search. But where do they start? An agency will always start with who they know. Their ‘go-to’ list will be resources that they have met, that they have had experience with and/or that they have gotten to know.
So how do you get yourself on this list?
Never turn down the opportunity to meet – from having a coffee at the local coffee shop or going into the office for an interview – these are all opportunities to build your relationship.
Always take advantage of networking events. Many agencies host networking events and these are great opportunities to get to know people in your industry and the people that can help you get your next contract. If you are uncomfortable at these types of events, read some of our articles on networking and practice! A time investment in these events will pay off in the end.
Respond to every interaction, whether it’s via email or a phone message, acknowledge the message. Even though you may not be available, a positive interaction is always memorable.
Offer your assistance. You may not be available for a particular contract but you might know someone that is. Being the contractor that offers up an alternate resource will automatically put you at the top of the list any time a job matching your skills comes through the door. This is a great place to be and pays off when you are looking. In addition, most agencies offer a referral bonus so you might even get some compensation for your referral!
As you get to know the key people that sell your talent, you may find yourself in an advisor position. After all, they are great sales people but don’t necessarily understand the tech talk. If you have positioned yourself as an expert in your field, you may be called upon to help define the right resource for a client problem. This is advantageous at so many levels even if you can’t take on the work yourself from extending your own network to positioning yourself as an expert with a client. A client will absolutely keep you in mind the next time something comes around and may even put the project on hold until you are available.
Taking a long-term view and investing in your relationships will ensure that you are never out of work. How do you invest in your relationships? Leave a comment below.