Talent Development Centre

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The Talent Development Centre includes advice for independent contractors in IT from one of Canada’s top staffing and recruitment agencies. See all posts about challenges.

15 Podcasts to Help Independent Contractors Get Through Difficult Times

For all of the good times, being an independent contractor can bring on some tough times that make you feel alone. Some days finding the next IT gig is like pulling teeth and you’re left with little or no income for a period of time. Then, after putting in hours of effort to finally land a contract, technology projects can go off the rails, clients and their employees might throw you under the bus, and your personal plans start to get destroyed. It’s times like these that you need to be strongest and get back up fighting, but where do you find that motivation?

Fundera has a solution for you… actually they have 15 helpful solutions! This infographic suggests podcasts on nearly any topic that are both inspiring and help build resilience — perfect for the independent IT contractor. Check them out and let us know you favourite in the comments below.

15 Podcasts to Help Independent Contractors Get Through Difficult Times

Customer Service – A Challenge for the Service Industry

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

A common challenge for any company in the service industry is building and maintaining strong, positive customer service. One airline in Canada recently sent out an email campaign thanking us for voting them the “best airline in North America, again.” I won’t mention names, but think about ANY airline that you know – there is so, so, so much room for improvement with all of them. You’d think that if they wanted to be honest, they wouldn’t say they were the best airline industry in North America, instead they’d use the slogan “we suck less!”

Staffing agencies struggle with this as well – yet we absolutely offer legitimate value in the service we provide. Without staffing companies, hiring would be extremely inefficient. Our industry’s intense focus on this one aspect results in our use of people, processes, and technologies that wouldn’t be cost-effective for individual companies to purchase/hire. The staffing industry saves our economy millions of dollars vs. what would need to be spent if there were no agencies. And from the consultant’s perspective, it is very hard to work on assignment and still find time to market themselves. Agencies have insight into opportunities that would be near impossible to find on their own.

Yet, our industry has an image problem. We are often seen as a “necessary evil”, rather than being embraced as a partner. As hard as we try, we are not able to please everyone all the time. Some relationships become strained and the result is dissatisfaction. At Eagle we try to be as reasonable as possible. But we still have a business to run, staff to pay, and technology in which to invest. We make it a point not to take advantage of people, but we cannot allow people to take advantage of us either. We try to set realistic expectations with both clients and consultants and do what we can to remain true. Sometimes business realities change and make it impossible to hold the line set. But when this happens we try our best to work through things with as much fairness and transparency as possible.

Eagle is ISO 9001:2015 certified, meaning that we have a quality framework that we use to manage our business and that the management team and staff are knowledgeable about our processes and committed to delivering quality always. Part of being certified is measuring how we are doing against our quality goals. For this we conduct monthly surveys with both our consultants and our clients to solicit feedback – what we’ve done well, what we’ve done poorly, and we look for opportunities to make our processes even better. All in all, this has worked well for us over the years.

However, the staffing industry, despite having strong industry associations such as ACSESS and the NACCB, requires no/limited licensing or certification requirements to participate. Anyone can hang a shingle on their door and they are a recruiter. Published codes of ethics for agencies exist and most follow the code set out by ACSESS, but they are not compulsory. Here at Eagle we have also implemented our own code of ethics. But a few bad apples can spoil things for all.  A case in point is the new “protective legislation” that the Ontario Government has put into place. The legislation is meant to protect at-risk temp workers, but as is often the case, the unintended consequences result in burdens on our industry and in some cases, the legislation actually hurts the very people that they were intending to help.

And what about incorporated consultants and contractors? They provide a service too. Their company is part of the service industry and has many of the same customer service challenges. If a consultant contracts directly to the end-client (a practice that has seen dramatic reductions thanks to some of the government legislation and CRA deemed-employee rules) then their client is the company that they work for. If, however, a consultant works through an agency then they have two clients – the agency who hired them and the company at which they are providing their services. Do contractors think of the agency as their client? Do they treat their agency as they would with other clients? The most successful consultants work in partnership with their agencies, coordinating and collaborating to find lucrative and successful engagements. These contractors are re-engaged by the agency for other opportunities as often as possible. Consultants offering poor customer service are not.

The service industry can be exciting, fast-paced, and rewarding. But it is hard as well. Any services-based company relies on their reputation to win new and (especially) repeat business and a big part of this is the level of customer service that is provided. This is important to Eagle as evidenced by our extensive investment in and commitment to our ISO quality standards. Managing a services business, regardless of its size, requires one to treat both customers and suppliers well. This is true for all companies within the Service Industry – airlines, staffing agencies, and for independent incorporated contractors alike.

9 Struggles Only Freelancers Understand

This post was originally published July 28, 2015 on Levo’s article page by Meredith Lepore.

struggling at workWith more than 53 million Americans doing freelance work as of 2015, they now make up 34 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to a 2014 survey by Edelman Berland. So, there’s a chance you too may find yourself considering this career path. After all, the freelance life sounds pretty great: no more cubicles, no boss looking over your shoulder, pants aren’t a requirement if you are working from your bed. But before you go and quit your day job, make yourself aware of these common freelancer struggles (take it from someone who’s lived this life for more than two years already!):

  1. Your parents think you’re out of your mind.

Our parents are from a different generation, and when you say “freelance,” you may as well say “I’m selling friendship bracelets in Union Square.” Try to be patient with them—and assure them that you have a plan (offer to lay it out for ’em) and know what you’re doing.

  1. Your friends assume you wear your pajamas all day.

You will inevitably get a G-chat message from a friend asking you if you are out of your bed and have even gotten dressed today. Now yes, there are some days when no one will see you from the waist down, but inevitably most freelancers do get dressed (and yes, yoga pants do count as getting dressed).

  1. …and that you live paycheck to paycheck.

For people who have always worked for one company, it is very hard to imagine that you could work as an independent contractor, much less make a living at it. However, in many industries you can actually make more money as a freelancer than if you were working for one company. Still, some of your friends will assume you are one week away from selling fruit at a gas station.

  1. You have to deal with clients who don’t pay on time.

You do need to know that—unlike working for a salary, where you get a paycheck once or twice a month like clockwork—you have to hustle for your money in the freelance world. Sometimes you will have to harass people to pay you on time, and there may be weeks where no one pays you and then weeks where everyone pays you at the same time. You just have to be as financially organized as possible.

  1. Your friends also assume you do yoga for three hours day, in the middle of the day.

If you are going freelance, do get ready for people to ask you if you workout in the middle of the day or go to movies or sit on a bench and feed birds. Yes, making your own schedule is a perk of freelancing, and you may be able to do some things during the day that people in an office can’t, but it is probably because you started working earlier, or plan to work later, or on weekends.

  1. Your taxes are scary.

Be prepared to get professional help with your taxes—because they are going to be a tad complex, and you should not do them yourself. (I repeat, you should not do them yourself.) What you can do? Keep track of your expenses (especially if you work from home). It’ll help you big-time come April.

  1. A coffee shop will become your second home. 

Expect people to ask which trendy coffee shop you work in, and that they will often imagine you sitting there in a striped tee, sipping on a cappuccino, staring out a window (for some reason you are French in this fantasy). Yes, freelancers do work in coffee shops often, but they are usually the ones with their heads down, working tirelessly, and not staring out the window. (PS: According to The Economist, freelancers work longer hours than full-time employees—it comes out to around 6 percent more hours per week.)

  1. It can be a little lonely.

Though there are days when you don’t think you can stand being in an office full of coworkers, believe it or not, you do start to miss having people around. This will result in you chatting up baristas, store clerks, and dogs on the street more than you ever thought you would.

  1. You are your own boss.

This can sound great because, well, you’re your own boss. On the other hand, YOU ARE YOUR OWN BOSS. You are responsible for adhering to deadlines, the final product, any tools and resources you need, finding health insurance, and, you know, your income! That is a lot of pressure!

As with any job, there are pros and cons of going freelance—but anything rewarding usually involves some kind of risk. Just stay focusedconnected, and buckle up for an exciting ride!