For contracting to be a sustainable way of making a living, you need to be an authority in your chosen field.
You need to know what you are doing inside out and have the skills and expertise to complete projects to the highest of standards. You must be able to address any potential problems and provide positive solutions every step of the way.
Contractors generally earn more than their permanent counterparts and part of the reason is that they are considered experts, so your chances of securing contracts will depend in part on your ability to demonstrate this.
One sector where this is especially true is the IT sector. The UK is home to a significant number of IT contractors, so competition for contracts is fierce.
There are many areas that you can specialise in when it comes to IT, however, technical skills alone are no longer enough, according to one IT contractor with more than 16 years of experience in the sector.
Speaking to ContractorCalculator earlier this year, Darren Houldcroft said there are a number of issues would-be IT contractors need to consider.
He stated that possessing general IT skills is not sufficient in today’s world: “Avoid being a generalist – find a product and specialise.”
However, even possessing specialised IT skills may not be enough in today’s competitive market.
He revealed that nowadays, businesses want IT contractors that boast core technical abilities in addition to business and ‘soft’ skills.
“Clients are looking for much more than just technical skills from a contractor. We need to see the bigger business picture and understand what the client is trying to achieve with a project and the benefits the client’s organisation is expecting,” he told the news provider.
So what exactly are these ‘soft skills’ that clients are looking for?
Soft skills is a term that encompasses many elements essential to being an effective part of a team. These include communication skills, time management, a strong work ethic, team working capabilities, flexibility and the ability to perform well under pressure.
These are prerequisites for many jobs and as a contractor, it is essential that you demonstrate you have these and other skills pointing to strong emotional intelligence.
Mr Houldcroft also recommended that contractors step out of their comfort zone when the opportunity arises.
He gave the example of when he volunteered to undertake a security element in a project despite the fact that it was not stipulated in the contract for him to do so.
The result was that he learned new skills and developed “incredible goodwill” both with the client and other contractors on the team.
In recent years, many people have been drawn to the world of contracting, given the better rates of pay and greater flexibility that it brings.
That means that competition for contracts – particularly in the IT sector – is fierce and you need to do what you can to distinguish yourself from the crowd.
As well as investing time in improving your core technical skills, you should also take a look at the strength of your emotional intelligence and see what areas you can improve.
Teamwork, time management and a positive attitude can carry you a long way, so ensure you have these skills in abundance.