As an independent contractor, you are a small business owner. And just as every business needs to sell its products and services so, too, must you from time to time. Long term, multi-year contracts aside, contractors’ businesses are very often defined by frequent client engagements. When you are busy delivering your service it can be a challenge to find the time to market your company, after all there are only so many hours in a day. Likewise, sales isn’t typically your primary business and many contractors and consultants struggle with this part of their business (or, at least, it isn’t their favorite part of running the business).
What’s an independent contractor to do? There are some basic things that every small business can do to ensure they are getting their brand out to the market. These include:
Maintain a nice clean, easy-to-navigate website that lets prospective clients know what you do best and have accomplished
Ensure your LinkedIn profile is accurate and up-to-date… and “connect” with as many people as possible… and participate in work-related, online forums and chat groups
Invest in business cards and stationery, an important part of your branding strategy
Network, network, network… Just as a restaurant’s success has a lot to do with its location, your business success is a result of people in your industry knowing about you and the work that your company does better than anyone else. Getting out where industry peers and potential clients meet and engaging with these people is vitally important
Work your “champions”. If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you will have made some deep and lasting professional relationships. These people will want to see you succeed and knowing that you are interested in pursuing new opportunities, they will do their best to help you identify new prospects by making introductions.
…And, as the title of this blog suggests, leverage your staffing agency partners to the fullest! Your agency doesn’t technically work for you as it is their customer base that hires them to conduct searches on their behalf; but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from your affiliation with them. Especially when it comes to marketing your business. Eagle, for example, holds multiple networking events each year, we send out industry and market updates regularly, and our Recruiters are great sources of information and ideas. Staffing companies make their business by finding the best possible talent for their clients and, if you happen to be a good fit for one of their open roles, they will do the selling for you!
Staffing companies do not charge you (the contractor) to work for them. Instead their clients negotiate hourly fees that they will pay over and above the rates that you charge. Most end-clients are content to pay a premium to off-load the search, vetting, qualification, onboarding, hiring, and payment functions to staffing specialists as it is much more efficient and cost effective than doing so themselves. And they find the best talent available in the market this way. Therefore, you are able to charge your regular rates and get the benefit of agencies selling your services for you. Be sure to visit their job boards regularly and by responding to their Recruiters when they call, you will be better aware and engaged in new opportunities.
Other things you can do to help your agency partners to make a better impact on your sales efforts is to be consistent in your messaging. Branding is very important for any business… what is it about your business that sets it apart? If your website,and resume and “elevator pitch”/sales messages are all on-point and consistent it makes it much easier for Recruiters to understand your value proposition and to sell your company to their clients. Recruiters will often prefer a consultant who does one thing very well (and can demonstrate this through past work experience) to people who are good at a lot of different things. It is easier to sell and easier for the end-client to see where the “fit” is in their own teams; so tailor your branding and messaging to the job you want and communicate this to your agency.
Another little thing that makes a big difference is to invest some time into building relationships with key Recruiters that you trust. With very little effort you can build your Recruiter contact into a business champion of yours. Ensuring that you are reachable and making yourself available to meet or talk goes a long way towards building a Recruiter’s preference for working with you.
A lot has been written in Eagle’s Talent Development Centre blog site over the years about building strong and successful relationships with agency Recruiters. Any and all of these hold great tips that will turn an agency into a salesforce that works for you! Here are some links to these past articles:
Breaking the “Working and Not Selling” and the “Selling and Not Working” cycle takes some focused attention… but by spending some time getting your business’s Marketing program in place, you can avoid some of the time-gaps between engagements and develop your career in the direction for which you’ve planned!