Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: contracting

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to independent contracting.

The Secrets to Building a Successful IT Contracting Business

The Secret to Building a Successful IT Contracting BusinessIT Contractors have a cyclical challenge of finding new gigs and competing to win business. While the tasks never get easier, they can certainly seem simpler when you have the routine down to an art. When you already know what to do, where to go, and how to separate yourself from the others, it allows you to get faster wins, better serve your clients and, ultimately, charge higher rates!

To start, you need to know where to find IT contract opportunities. Indeed, your favourite recruiters and go-to job boards are sure to have some for you, but there are often additional gigs out there waiting to be found, you’re just not hearing about them. Simple Programmer published an article a few months back explaining how you can find freelance jobs that are not advertised by including these four simple concepts:

  • Talk to People: Hang out with the kind of people you want to work with at meetups, industry events, conferences, etc. Look for people in a similar role and company you’d like to work at and who are using the technologies you want to use. From there, avoid selling yourself but talk to them and build conversations.
  • Put Yourself Out There: Make sure people know what you are up to and what you are interested in. This means sharing relevant content on social media or a blog, and simply talking to like-minded professionals about what you do. The more you put yourself out there and start conversations, the more luck you have!
  • Build a Reputation: The author of the article puts it best — “Once you have the chance to work with a client and help them achieve the results they want (or better), this will lead them to tell other people about you. The other people will want those results too, and they’ll come to you when their business needs you.
  • Skip the Competition: When you hang out with your target customers and position yourself as a solution, you’ll no longer be one of 100 people who bid on a gig. You’ll be the professional they already know and trust!

The final two points are crucial to building your IT contracting business finding tech gigs with less effort, but also the most challenging to accomplish. Building that solid reputation will get you more business and allow you to bill at a premium, but you will not do it tomorrow. The good news is, Dice has some suggestions to get you there:

  • Use SOWs to Measure and Track Your Performance: If your client doesn’t already have one, work with them to create a statement of work with specific deliverables, timelines and schedules. Regularly review it and demonstrate how you’re meeting or exceeding expectations.
  • Connect Your Role to the Bigger Picture: Understand the strategic value of a project and work to make suggestions that add value. Reducing costs, decreasing errors and producing more code are all examples of how you can go above and beyond.
  • Document Your Achievements and Attributes: Keeping a regular journal of your accomplishments, conducting end-of-assignment interviews, and getting testimonials is a solid way to get your next contract. These referrals and reviews can be included in your resume, personal website or social networks and will do wonders in your job search.

Building an independent contracting business is hard enough, and getting to a point where you minimize the amount of time you spend searching for jobs is even harder. However, when you put in the work and continue to maintain those efforts, you’ll understand why so many senior IT professionals would never look back from their contracting lifestyle.

2018 in Review: Business and the Workplace

Independent contracting is no regular type of employment. On top of ongoing skills development and job searching, you have to worry about the rest of your business – accounting, taxes, marketing, networking, navigating relationships with recruiters, building your reputation… the list goes on!

If you’re drinking your coffee today and stressing over some of these areas (actually, even if that doesn’t sound like you at all right now), have a look through the list of posts below. Today, we compiled the top posts of 2018 that are related to running a business, navigating the workplace, and keeping an overall professional image.

Enjoy!

Working with Staffing Agencies

Life as a Contractor

Workplace Tips

Contactor Quick Poll Results: Would you ever go back?

The life of an independent contractor is filled with ups and downs. It seems that every benefit of being a contractor comes with an extra stressor. Some IT professionals start contracting and later realize that they prefer the life of being an employee, where as others will get into the new lifestyle and never look back.

In last month’s Contractor Quick Poll, we were curious to learn how many of our readers want to return to the employee life versus how many love the contracting world. It turns out, that while few independent contractors want to get back into a permanent position as soon as possible, more than half said that if the right opportunity came along, they would consider ditching their current freelance career.

How likely are you to leave independent contracting for a permanent position as an employee?

5 New LinkedIn Features for the IT Contractor

5 New LinkedIn Features for the IT ContractorLinkedIn is the best social network for professionals in all industries to connect, network, share information and, of course, find new job opportunities. Recruiters frequently search LinkedIn to build relationships with IT contractors and when you’re not active there, you are missing out.

Did you know that even if you are diligent at keeping your LinkedIn profile updated and connecting with recruiters, you could still be falling behind? That’s because, like any technology-related company, LinkedIn makes ongoing advancements and updates to their product. The IT contractors who know about them can quickly set themselves apart from those continuing with the status quo. Here’s a look at some of latest LinkedIn features from the past year:

Find People Nearby

Have you ever been at a large conference or networking event and wondered who in your network is there? LinkedIn’s new “Find Nearby” will help with that. All you need to do is open your mobile app and go to the My Network section. Turn on the “Find Nearby” option and give permission to show your location. The tool does have its limitations because you have to remain on the Find Nearby page in order to be discovered and others have to be doing the same. In other words, this is only useful at a large event where many people are also interested in connecting and know about the feature.

Give Kudos

This might be the most interesting feature LinkedIn has added — being able to publicly thank a connection on one of 10 subjects (Amazing Mentor, Inspirational Leader, Going Above and Beyond, Great Job, Great Presentation, Making an Impact, Making Work Fun, Outside the Box Thinker, Team Player, Thank You). To use the feature, visit your connection’s profile and under “More” select “Give Kudos”. From there, choose the topic and follow the rest of the instructions. You only get to give kudos three times per week, so use them wisely, but what a powerful way to build a relationship!

Select “Remote Jobs” as a location

Independent contracting is all about flexibility, including the location where you work. Depending on your local economy, finding IT gigs locally may not be easy and uprooting your family for a 5-month contract also isn’t feasible. Now, when you search for jobs on LinkedIn, the location field includes a “Remote Jobs” option that will display opportunities you can do from anywhere in the world. You can also add remote work to your career preferences so recruiters on the other side of the world will know to contact you for opportunities.

QR Codes to Connect to Your Profile

It took long enough, but it appears LinkedIn has finally adopted QR codes. Customizing your LinkedIn URL is a must when you want to easily share your profile, and QR codes give you one more way to share your credentials. From your mobile app, the search bar now has an icon to the right of it that looks like a QR code. When you touch it, a new page opens up to either scan somebody else’s QR code or view your own code. Download your code and place it on business cards, signature blocks, resumes or anywhere else you may want to share your LinkedIn profile.

Ask for a Referral

There is no better way to get a recruiter’s attention than by a warm lead and LinkedIn now makes it even easier to get them. When you see a LinkedIn job posting, it will also tell you if anybody in your network is already working for that company. If they are, LinkedIn shows a “Ask for a Referral” option, which generates a message to your connection asking them to share your profile with the recruiter or hiring manager, and links back to the original job posting.

What newer LinkedIn features are you most excited about? Or, are their any tried and true classic features that you can’t live without? We’d love to hear more about how you use this powerful social network to increase your opportunities. Please share in the comments below.

Best Productivity Tools to Save Time

Guest Post by Chanell Alexander

Describing the life of an independent contractor as busy is an understatement. Managing deadlines, producing quality work, distributing invoices, scheduling appointments, collaborating with clients, and everything else in between can be more than overwhelming. An independent contractor in IT is a one-person band, and while technology is not necessarily a cure-all, it can help to accomplish daily tasks more efficiently. Here are five productivity tools to save time.

Best Productivity Tools to Save Time

1. Flipboard – Stay current on industry trends

 

If an independent contractor specializing in IT knows one thing, it is that staying up-to-date on technology industry trends and emerging developments is essential. Flipboard is an app that individuals can use to receive curated news by selecting topics they want to see. This app collects news from various news outlets so that users do not have to take the time to comb the web for issues relevant to them.

2. JibberJobber – Keep track of the job search

Looking for new clients and ongoing assignments are a regular part of the life of an independent contractor. After multiple emails and job submissions, it can be challenging to keep track of the job application process. JibberJobber is a platform that enables the user to keep track of jobs applied for, track relationships and follow-up opportunities, and relevant company news. Contractors will never have to worry about whether they already applied for a position, or when they should reach back out to check a job status as JibberJobber takes care of this guesswork.

3. Harvest – Time management and invoicing

Keeping track of hours worked, projects started, and deadline can be a day’s worth of work in itself for an Independent Contractor in IT. Harvest allows users to track the amount of time they have worked on a project, ensure they are staying in budget, track expenses, and turn billable time into invoices that can be emailed directly from the application in PDF form. Users can also do a bit of forecasting to ensure projects meet budgetary and time requirements.

4. Hubspot – Customer Relationship Management

An independent contractor makes an excellent contact at a networking event. Great! Now, how can they continue to stay on top of nurturing this person from contact to customer without the hassle of an Excel spreadsheet? Hubspot is a free customer relationship management system (CRM). Contractors can keep track of appointments scheduled, conversions, and sales activity. All information and every interaction with a potential (or actual) client can be recorded in Hubspot. Many Hubspot users mention how easy to use the platform is and how simple it is to set up email campaigns.

5. Asana – Project and Workflow Management Tool

Asana is an all-in-one project management program. If contractors are collaborating with multiple staff members in one company, or are working side-by-side with clients to develop a deliverable, Asana is a great place to begin the journey. Contractors can track progress, assign tasks, set deadlines, and report on work progress. Users mention that Asana can even integrate with Harvest to turn tasks into billable hours for invoicing. This program also has a mobile application so contractors can manage tasks and productivity on-the-go.

The Wrap Up

The life of an independent contractor is anything but easy, but having an arsenal of tools to stay on top of the workday can go a long way to make life a little bit easier. As long as contractors intelligently map out how these applications and those like them can increase their productivity, then the day can unfold a bit more smoothly.

Chanell Alexander currently resides in Atlanta, GA. When she’s not traveling and trying new restaurants in the Metro Atlanta area, she writes about the latest technology and tools for TrustRadius.

2017 in Review: Independent Contracting

2017 in Review: Independent ContractingAt the core of the Talent Development Centre is our desire to help independent contractors gain more opportunities and be more successful in their business. That is this blog’s mission. So, when summarizing a year, it’s only natural to review some of the most popular posts on the topic.

First, there’s the business of independent contracting…

Another part of being a contractor is working with staffing agencies. In many cases, it’s inevitable. Here are a few tips to help the relationship go smoothly…

Building Confidence, Competence and Happiness for Success as an IT Contractor

Build Confidence, Competence and Happiness for Success as an IT ContractorThe very nature of IT can be lonely, especially so for someone working independently. As an independent contractor, you generally don’t have any immediate colleagues. Often your clients want to hand over their problems for you to fix and they don’t want to be caught up in technical issues they don’t understand. They’re happy to leave you on your own. Once you start working on projects you may be surrounded by the world of bits, bytes, code and networks, with little to no human interaction.

It’s enough to make you feel like the old Maytag repairman, the loneliest guy in town. Worse than simply being lonely, your confidence, competence, and happiness can suffer if you’re working in a black box with little to no communication and feedback. You need all three of these attributes to win jobs, negotiate rates, and deal with clients. The good news is that you can take proactive steps to enhance each of these.

Keep your confidence high

Practice regular techniques to maintain a high level of confidence and provide motivation.

  • Solicit customer feedback. If you utilize a simple feedback process, most of the time you’ll get thanks and positive comments. This is not only satisfying, but will help you better understand what your clients value. At times you will get negative comments. Think of these as gifts to help you improve. After all, without feedback, no improvement is possible. Address the issues and your next clients will not have these complaints.
  • Set milestones and goals and celebrate achievement. Since you don’t have a boss to give you a pat on the back, be your own cheerleader. Rather than waiting until the end of a major project to give yourself some recognition, do it daily. Be sure to reflect back on what you have accomplished; don’t just grimace at the long to-do list remaining.

Keep your competence high

In order to be confident, you need to be competent.

  • Benchmark within the IT and greater business field not only for specific technology solutions, but also to understand characteristics and practices of the best IT people.
  • Create your own self-assessment. Using the benchmark information and customer feedback, create a self-assessment process that you can use with each project or client for honest reflection on your strengths and weaknesses, what you delivered, and how you could have done things better.
  • Reinvest in yourself by improving in any areas where you have gaps and building new skills. The world of IT changes practically overnight, meaning clients have constantly changing needs. Stay ahead of the curve by carving out some time to become knowledgeable in new technologies in advance.

Be happy

You are spending 40, 50, or more hours each week at your job. Take steps to make work fun and rewarding.

 

  • Create your own team. If you work independently, you don’t generally have the socialization opportunities that other 9-to-5 business folks have. But you can make them. Take the time and energy to partner with your customer on a personal basis. Participate in networking events. Find a mentor. Put together a team of resources that you can call on for help and reciprocate in turn.
  • Smile. Call center employees are routinely trained to smile while they’re on the phone since customers can hear the pleasantness in their tone of voice. That same effect can work for you in IT, even if you’re the only one who “hears” the smile.
  • Love your work. If you find that the work you do has become tedious, find ways to transition to something that piques your interest. New clients, new technologies, new approaches, and even working in a new setting can make the work itself more enjoyable.
  • Be assertive to meet your rights and needs. Studies have shown that assertiveness at work can help deliver happiness. Although your policy may be that the customer is always right, that doesn’t mean you should let customers walk all over you.

Have difficult clients? Fire them.

Consider this situation. You have a client who:

  • Constantly changes requirements while you are working on his or her project
  • Always demands work to be done on a rush basis, creating disruption to your schedule
  • Asks for a little bit more when you’re approaching the end of the project… and doesn’t understand that a scope change deserves more payment
  • Rarely expresses satisfaction or gratitude
  • Seems to distrust you, even after you’ve worked together multiple times
  • Pays less or takes more time than your other clients

If you do all-in unit costing for this client, including your time for extra bits of communication and changes, you might find that you’re getting a lot less in payment per hour of attention and generating a lot more personal stress compared to any of your other clients.

Of course, your first efforts will be to work with the client through communications and contracting. With tact, process skills, and plenty of patience, you might be able to groom this troublesome client to be as professional as the rest of your customers. However, sometimes this type of client just doesn’t get it… and never will. If that’s the case, you might want to cut your losses. After all, if you get rid of a “bad” client who consumes an inordinate amount of time and causes you stress, you can replace him or her with one or more “good” clients you absolutely love working with.

If you want to fire a client, you will have to be tactful. Let the customer save face to the extent you can without compromising your values or losing significant money. You don’t want to create such hard feelings that your client starts a word-of-mouth campaign to discredit you.

What’s the bottom line?

Until you become the next IT whiz with a success like Apple, Amazon, or Facebook, you’re likely to continue to work largely by yourself and rely on yourself. But that can be quite okay. As the noted author Wayne Dyer said, “You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.”

Visit Acuity Training’s guide to confidence for specific assertiveness tactics to apply throughout each step of your freelance process.

The Key Differences Between Contract and Permanent Resumes

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

The Key Differences Between Contract and Permanent ResumesYour resume is one of your best marketing tools.  In addition to a great social media profile, your resume is the primary tool used to get you through the door for an interview, affording you valuable face-to-face time to ultimately sell yourself to a potential employer.

Candidates often ask how their resumes should differ if they are targeting permanent vs contract employment.  In many cases there would be significant differences, and we strongly recommend having more than one CV if candidates are genuinely interested in both permanent and contract work.

For consulting opportunities, clients are generally focused on a candidate’s ability to come in, hit the ground running and successfully deliver on a very specific mandate.  Consulting resumes are often longer and more detailed, particularly when consultants are bidding on public sector work.  In these cases, clients require very detailed information to clearly show that a consultant’s experience fits their mandatory requirements.  Clients are typically seeking someone who has ‘been there, done that’ as there is little ramp up and training time afforded in the contract world.

For permanent employment opportunities, clients are trying to gauge a candidate’s overall fit for not only the role, but the organization as well.  It is, therefore, not only essential to focus on past achievements and quantifying details on how you have benefited your previous employers and added value to the organization, but also to provide some insight into your work ethic, leadership style and ultimately your personality.

To offer an example, a Project Manager’s consulting resume should always have details provided for key projects including budget, team size, initiative and the outcome (was the project completed on time, under budget).  It’s also important to list specific dates as clients are particularly interested in frequency and duration of contracts.  For a Project Manager’s permanent resume, it would be more important to keep the resume concise and to capture the reader’s interest — but also to show how you can provide value to the organization beyond just leading projects.  It might make sense to provide more of an overall synopsis of achievements but offer an addendum of projects that can be provided on request.

There are many free tools and templates available today, so be sure to do ample research and ensure that your resume is keeping ‘up with the times’.   Is it time for you to revamp your resume(s)?

10 Important Things to Remember Before Becoming a Travelling Freelancer

Eagle typically recruits independent contractors who work on technology projects at a client site, or at least in the same city as their home. Occasionally IT professionals will take a gig in another city and do some travel, and while this trend has picked up in the current economy, it’s still less frequent for us. As such, most of the posts in the Talent Development Centre are directed to IT contractors who work in their hometown.

There is another side of contracting and freelancing that we don’t touc10 Important Things to Remember Before Becoming a Travelling Freelancerh on much, but may pique the interest of technology professionals, depending on where they are in life. We brag about the freedoms that come with working for yourself, including the ability to take time off and travel, but what about the ability to travel while working? This is a common practice and, if you’ve been meaning to see the world, may be something for you to try for a year or two. Before quitting your job or deciding not to renew your current contract, consider some of these tips for working while travelling the world:

  1. Have a plan! This is common sense, but please do not pick up and leave with no plan. Know where you’re going to start, and more importantly, have a client or two lined up at your first stop.
  2. Know your worth. Understand how much you can charge in the city you’re working. Remember, markets are different so what you make in one place may not equate.
  3. Have an office. Doing contract work on a sidewalk or a coffee shop is going to get old. Do some research to share an office or workspace while you’re stationed in a city.
  4. You may not always want cash. Prepare to barter. Perhaps you can work for a place to stay, a workspace, or even food.
  5. Stay disciplined. Exploring new places and meeting new people makes it easy to get distracted from your work. Remember that your clients are the reason you’re affording to travel, so you must keep them satisfied and serve them first.
  6. Organization is key. With such little consistency in your life, you need some form of organization and routine if you want to ensure you’ll get things done.
  7. Pack light. Not just clothes, but you can’t be a technology diva either. It’s difficult to lug around a desktop computer and even some laptops may be excessive. Also keep in mind that everything you pack can be lost. Consider cloud storage and renting equipment with your office space.
  8. Research the legal side. How long are you allowed to stay in a specific country? What are the accounting implications of working abroad? Discuss your plans with an immigration lawyer and have a thorough understanding of what you can and can’t do in every location you visit.
  9. Find the right project and location is irrelevant. It goes without saying, but technology contractors especially rarely need to be in the same office as their client. If you plan right, you may be able to work on a single project from multiple cities.
  10. Don’t forget to take in the experience. We’re stressing the importance of working hard and serving your clients, but you’re also experiencing something few people will ever do. Remember to take a few days and enjoy savour the experience in every place you visit.

Countless people dream of travelling the world in their lifetime and never do it. If you share that dream, possess the skills, and are in a position in life to do it, then get out there and enjoy the experience. Before you do though, know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and how you’ll deal with all of the challenges. Have fun!

Applying for a Contract Job vs a Permanent Position

How to Adjust the Way You Search for Jobs When Looking for IT Contract Work

Applying for a Contract Job vs a Permanent PositionSwitching from being a full-time employee to an independent contractor comes with many changes. Everything from your lifestyle to how you get paid to where you go to work will suddenly be different. One change often overlooked by new IT contractors is the way they search for new work.

The first step in understanding how to look for work as a contractor is to know how and why hiring managers are seeking contractors. When dealing with permanent employees, HR departments search for long-term team members who will be a fit with the organization. They want a professional who will be there long-term to grow with the company. When contractors are the preferred choice, it’s often for a specific project and the hiring process is often managed through a separate department such as Procurement. The manager is primarily seeking somebody who has the skills to complete the job at the right price — personality and cultural fit is important, but rarely the top priority. Essentially, it becomes a business-to-business relationship.

Where Should You Look for IT Contracts?

Like any other job search, job boards and social networks are a good start for finding IT contracts. As well, there are websites such as Upwork and Freelancer that are designed specifically for connecting freelancers with companies looking for projects.

Don’t ignore the power a recruitment agency can have in finding you contract work. Staffing agencies will have multiple contracts available for you and the great ones will help you throughout your career. Building valuable relationships with the right recruiters could mean you’ll never have to search for work again. Instead, work will find you.

Finally, keep networking. Not just with Recruiters, but every professional you meet. As your network and reputation as a quality IT contractor grows, the effort you need to put into finding work will shrink.

Change the Way You Communicate

We can’t say it enough — being a contractor is completely different than being an employee and companies want to know that you understand that difference to protect them from certain risks. Demonstrate that you are in the correct mindset by adjusting your communication in resumes, interviews and on the job.

  • Ditch the cover letter. This traditional standard is in the process of phasing out for full-time jobs, but in contracting, it’s nearly useless. If anything, a summary in an introductory email will suffice.
  • Within your resume, eliminate any personal hobbies or career goals that employers typically look at to understand if you’re a fit in their organization and make sure you include a Profile Summary which outlines your key skills and experience.
  • Your interview will be more skills-based with questions targeted at learning how you will complete a specific project. While preparing for it, focus at answering questions related to the environment rather than where you see yourself in five years.
  • Keep in mind specific vocabulary that needs to change. For example as a contractor, you should talk about “rate” and rather than “salary”.

Before You Start Applying to IT Contracts

Prepare yourself before you start applying to these contract roles by understanding everything that comes with being a contractor. This includes a thorough comprehension of the business risks, knowing how accounting and taxes will be managed, finding a suitable insurance package and properly budgeting for the fact that paid vacation days and benefits are a thing of the past. We also strongly recommend incorporating your independent contracting business, as it will come with long-term tax benefits and make you more attractive to future clients. Finally, conduct extensive research to understand your rate as an independent contractor. Without this, you will either get stuck working for much less than you’re worth or not working at all due to a rate demand that’s out-of-sync with the current market.

Switching to independent contracting is an exciting. By understanding the application process and leveraging the tools available, you can cross “finding work” off of your list of stressors.