More and more IT contractors are getting direct contracts it seems. So what is the best way to get direct contracts?
According to a long running poll currently around half of contractors are now getting direct contracts and not through agencies.
So how do they do it? They do it by a number of methods, but it could involve cold calling – something that contractors are normally afraid of.
After three or four calls of refusals (or even of abuse) they tend to give up the ghost. Whereas recruiters could do this all day long hoping to get that one opportunity.
The advent of email has made it a bit easier for those ‘shy and retiring’ contractors who don’t want to cold call. But it is not nearly so successful.
An agency exclusion clause in the contract may not necessarily stop you from going direct.
So what would be a good strategy?
1. Prepare Beforehand
Decide that you are going to start up a database of all the useful information that you can find that you will use in the future to contact suitable clients
2. Define Your Market
Write down the skills that you have. Highlight the ones that you think are most important, e.g. the newer skills and the ones that you think will get you work at a lucrative rate.
3. Find Out Your Potential Clients
Find out which companies actually use the skills that you use. There are a number of ways that you can do this:-
a) The people that you work with have pretty much the same skills as you do usually. Ask them for the names of the companies where they have worked using similar skills. Also ask them for a good contact name there (preferably more that one in case the other one leaves). Ask them if they would supply a reference for you as well if needed.
b) Write down the names of the companies where you have used the same skills in the past. Make sure that you have contact numbers for the key people there.
c) When you leave your current company make sure that you have the names and contact details of the key people there.
Keep a Database of Client Companies’ Contact Details
d) Keep a database of the contact details of all the people that you’ve worked with who have the same skills. When you are looking for direct contracts, they might be at a client who is looking for more good contractors.
e) Tell the IT contractors who give you their contact details that they can also contact you when they are looking for work in the future. Give them your contact details. Now you have a network for getting direct contracts.
Can you see the possibilities here? You are at a site who need more contractors with the same skills . You have a database of many of those contractors. So, you now have the opportunity to take some commission as well for selling on their services.
You have a client who not only wants your services but is willing to take other people from you. If you make sure that you supply good people then they’ll come back to you for more. You might even want to bid for some small project that they are tendering.
Contact Tool Vendors Who Use Your Skills
f) Contact the suppliers of the skills that you use, e.g. the tool vendors to see if they can give you any more info on who uses their tool. You might get that from the Account Manager, or you might even be able to get it from your permie boss. After all when tool vendors sell their tools, they usually give out info on what other major companies also use their tool.
g) Offer the tool vendor your services. They know all the clients and sell on their own people as consultants at extortionate rates. They are often short of people with the skills and are happy to sell on a few contractors as well.
h) Trawl the internet for companies who use those skills. The skills that they use are often on their web pages. You might also come upon the tool vendor’s web site with the bumph about which companies have already bought from them.
Professional Contractors Group
i) Join the Professional Contractors Group (now IPSE). They have around 18,000 contractor members of which around half of them are in IT. It is a good network for contractors
So you now have a network both of clients who use your skills and IT contractors who share the same skillset as you and can get direct contracts
How do you capitalise on that to get direct contracts?
1. Send Your CV with a covering note.
Make sure that the CV is tailored to highlight the skills that the client will want. If you got the client’s contact details from a fellow contractor tell the client this and say that the other contractor would be prepared to recommend you.
It’s best to do this by post rather than by email. That way he has it in front of him on his desk and may keep it there or in a drawer for future notice. An email is too easy to leave for future reading and then it is lost off the bottom of the queue.
2. Call the Client
You may get a call or an email from the client, but if not, call the client within a day or two of him or her seeing your CV.
3. Prepared Spiel
Have a prepared spiel about what you are going to say. Keep changing it as you work out what parts are effective and which parts are not so effective till you’ve got it just right.
If the client says that he has no work now make sure that you ask him if he foresaw any work in the future. Also ask him of he would mind if you could email or call him every few months in the future to see if the situation has changed.
Also, make sure to ask him if there are any other people at his company looking for contractors with your skills on direct contracts. If there are get him to either transfer you, give you the contact details of the other person (or people), or to pass across a copy of your details to that person.
Network With Other Contractors
As you go through your career your network and your database will grow and grow. Your approach to the clients will gradually become refined till you’ve got it just perfect.
As long as you keep this database up to date then your opportunities will grow and grow as regards direct contracts.
As you get further into your career you will have more and more clients and may even be able to have more than one client at a time, all on direct contracts.
You will also get the opportunities to supply the clients with other good people with the same skills and will get opportunities to take over part of the system or to bid for new projects.
Too many IT contractors don’t take the opportunities that are offered to them and that is mainly because they don’t keep a Contacts database. Very often they just don’t get to hear when opportunities come up for direct contracts.
When you own the client you own the business.
Make sure you are not one of them.
PS – if any other contractors who get direct contracts have any extra advice to offer, please put them in our Comments section after this article.