The growth of the contingent workforce – that part of the workforce that works for an organization on a non-permanent basis – is not a new trend. In an article written in April 2011 by Joshua Wright (Data Spotlight: Independent Contractors On The Rise on http://www.economicmodeling.com), it was indicated that as of 2010, the number of independent contractors had increased by more than a million since 2005. Across all industries for which data was available, the percentage of independent contractors rose. Now in 2014 and 3 years later, I have no doubt that, with the economy heading in its current direction, the trend has picked up steam.
Whether you label yourself an independent contractor or a consultant, being your own boss can be a risky proposition. As an independent contractor, you assume the responsibilities that are traditionally the burden of the corporate entity. You must market your product or services, assure payment of invoices, pay your own taxes, carry your own insurance, and manage your own image.
The fears that accompany these responsibilities can be formidable, particularly if you have a family to take care of or other long-term financial goals and responsibilities to maintain. Workflow can be inconsistent from contract to contract, which means cashflow can vary drastically.
What can you do to increase your success as an independent contractor?
Network constantly. View every person you meet as a potential for new business, whether directly or indirectly. That person knows people, who know more people. Word of mouth is a powerful tool; nobody likes the risk of hiring someone they don’t know. Networking groups are helpful, but by no means should membership in these groups be the only means of connecting with potential work opportunities.
Keep your horizon clear by considering everything. I am a firm believer in peeking into open doors, even when they don’t look the way we expect. Some of my most successful endeavors have been a result of this approach. Not only does this expand your income opportunity, but it can contribute to a larger network, a broader perspective, and an expanded skillset.
Maintain and grow your skillset. Speaking of skillset, always be on the cutting edge of what is going on in your industry. You can do this by reading, attending industry conferences, experimenting with new techniques and software applications, networking. Oh, and you can also take classes now and then. The worst thing you can do to your career as an independent contractor is to stagnate by not paying adequate attention to what you bring to the table.
Stay positive. There is nothing more to say about this. Too many negative thoughts can kill any great idea or opportunity. Be positively pragmatic by understanding the risks and by identifying at least one advantage for every disadvantage.
Don’t burn bridges. Review the idea of networking discussed previously, particularly the part about “word of mouth”. People talk. Who you become in a conflict will stick with you longer than you think. Negative talk due to inappropriate or destructive behavior will get around eventually. Remember that independent contractors are scrutinized much more in the job process than their corporate counterparts. Be discreet, principled, and positive in every situation.
Be your own best advocate. Remember, you are your own advertising and marketing department now. Doing quality work will ultimately be the last word. But, don’t be afraid to speak about your strengths and abilities.
Keep precise records. Not only will a daily log help keep you on track and accountable, most times it is necessary for invoicing and taxes.
This is by no means a finite or definitive list; success is subjective, to a degree. I hope that every individual who reads this post will have other ideas about what works and what doesn’t and that they will post it, comment, and contribute to this knowledge base.
Bottom line is that the traditional makeup of the workforce is changing. Many more of us are choosing to be our own boss. And, thanks to networking and social media, the information we need to be able to do that more successfully is right at our fingertips.
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