Is it time contractors evolved with the times?
These are certainly challenging times for contractors, with a recession, a pandemic, IR35 reform and, who could forget, Brexit to contend with. As I’m writing this, the words ‘you couldn’t make it up’ pop into my head – there are so many concurrent obstacles for the contracting industry to overcome that it’s unsurprising so many people have recently stopped working for themselves – 238,000 in the three months to August to be exact, according to the latest ONS statistics.
IPSE suggested this massive drop in self-employment was due to a lack of support from the government, which most certainly has had a big impact. But I’m guessing it’s deeper than that. My hunch is that many freelancers, contractors and self-employed workers have thrown in the towel because it has become increasingly difficult to win work.
Has it been too easy for too long?
The truth is, many contractors have become accustomed to securing work through recruitment businesses – and not to put too fine a point on it – simply don’t have the business development (sales and marketing) skills to win work any other way.
This is completely understandable, given that times have been good for many years – securing work in this way has been fruitful for the vast majority of contractors.
Unfortunately, though, times have changed. But perhaps the solution isn’t to move away from contracting, but to find new and smarter ways of winning work.
A comparison between contracting and businesses
What do any other businesses do to acquire customers?
- They develop their brand
- They formulate a marketing strategy
- They invest in professionally created marketing collateral
- They have a marketing budget
- They have sales teams that talk to prospective clients
Why is this relevant? Well, I assume most would agree that contractors are businesses – at the very least, those who are aiming to work outside of IR35 have to demonstrate that they are a true business.
So why would a contractor operate differently to any other business? Why in many cases is there no marketing activity? Surely the very essence of being a business requires some broader effort to win work?
Reaching out to a market to acquire customers has been a fundamental requirement for business success since time immemorial.
“The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time.” – Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the USA
So what is the solution?
Independent professionals who thrive in these unprecedented times will be the ones who change with the times and embrace new ways of winning work. Recruitment businesses will still be part of this, but other channels to market need to be explored and exploited – whether that’s LinkedIn, email marketing, networking, CRMs, websites, thought leadership, marketing automation and webinars, which can all play an important part. And the best thing is, direct clients bring work at higher margins than sharing your spoils with recruiters.
To delve into the finer points of winning direct work, why not join our 3-hour contractor winning-work workshop on the morning of Friday 27th November or a lite version on the evening of November 19th? We are billing this as ‘The Most Comprehensive Contractor ‘Winning-Work’ Workshop Ever’, which you can learn more about by clicking here.
Matt Craven is founder of The CV & Interview Advisors, experts in personal branding and winning-work in the contract market.