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Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Test the market and yourself: As Lindsay Olson writes in US News, “Contracting is not for everyone.” Before you take a plunge, assess the market. Do you foresee a demand for your services? Contracting also means constantly looking out for gigs, at least in the beginning. Do you have the patience and persistence for long periods of job hunting? Can you support yourself at times of limited to no work? How flexible are you? Can you work different/odd shifts?
2. Establish your niche. Where are you most competitive? What is your unique selling point? What services can you offer and why would somebody want to hire you? Do your skills have an expiration date? Dominic Connor writes in The Register, “A good test to apply is working out what would happen if your core skill dramatically went out of style. Are you a one trick pony?”
3. Make your elevator pitch: Once you've identified your niche, sell yourself. Make an elevator pitch of your services. If you only had 30 seconds to impress your future client into hiring you, how would you do it? Practice with friends and family.
4. Network, network, network, both online and offline: Join groups that have similar interests, maintain contacts in your past job, and offer to contract with them. Reach out to contracting agencies and specialized recruiters for your field. Market yourself. Update your resume, and make it project specific. Check out websites like Elance, Craigslist, Guru, Momcorps, Indeed.com, freelancer.com, etc.
5. Get recommendations: A good word goes a long way. If you have great references and recommendations, you’re more likely to land a gig. Once you start getting contracts, try your best to over deliver on your results and offer exceptional customer service and support to differentiate you from the market. Reputation is everything. Your clients’ recommendations will go a long way in getting new offers and in ensuring the retention of your services where possible.
6. Research: Before you approach any organization, learn about the work they do, what they’re interested in, and what kind of opportunities they have. If they operate in a domain space that you want to contract in, make your case and connect with them through email. It works better and faster if you have contacts in the organization that can connect you with the right person. Check your LinkedIn profile, where common contacts are visibly displayed. In other cases, you’re going to have to send an email and follow up.
7. Upgrade your skills and stay updated: Apply for new certifications, renew your old certifications, and learn about the latest in-demand services associated with your specialization.
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