What should I remember to remain successful as an independent contractor?

What should I remember to remain successful as an independent contractor?

The Fundamentals

The independent contracting process is based on some fundamental principles. Don’t forget the following:

  • You have to know what it is you’re trying to sell.
  • You have to focus your client search efforts.
  • You have to get through to someone who can make a hiring decision. Clients care about themselves, not you.
  • Make your clients talk about themselves and listen.
  • Ask for it instead of waiting to be asked.
  • Get it in writing.
  • Get used to “no” and don’t pay it any mind.
  • Act like a professional.
  • Act like you’re really independent and under contract.

The mystical process derived from these principles can be reduced to just four steps:

  1. Identifying and contacting new clients. You start by locating organizations that could possibly use your services. You then make contact with those organizations and identify the person who can make the decision whether or not to use your services. When you do, you contact that person and set up a meeting.
  2. Meeting with the client. During the meeting, you determine the organization’s needs and problems, and also start the process of convincing the hiring individual that you’re the one who can help them solve these problems.
  3. Presenting a proposal to the organization. You put together a plan of action to solve the organization’s problems, which includes the tasks you’ll perform, the schedule for completing those tasks, and how much you’ll get paid. To accept your proposal, the hiring individual just signs it in the space provided.
  4. Doing the contracted work. Once your proposal is accepted, you perform the tasks you proposed and get paid.

Remember–you’re not an employee!

We can’t place enough emphasis on those words “independent” and “contractor,” because you can’t succeed as an independent contractor unless you grasp the full ramifications of those two words.

Since you’re independent, you don’t need anyone else to provide you with motivation, skills, or resources necessary to do a good job. You are able to assess your performance, know when you are not performing satisfactorily, and are able to take steps to improve your performance. You take the initiative in performing tasks, and understand that a good effort or a good excuse isn’t an acceptable substitute for desired results. You’re comfortable shouldering the responsibility for completing an assignment satisfactorily; this is good because that responsibility is inherently yours.

You’re an independent contractor, not an employee. Don’t forget it! With that in mind:

  1. Keep records. Since your relationship with an organization is contractual, you will need to keep written records of everything affecting your contract.
  2. Assert your independence. Clients who insist on treating you like one of the “hired help” are not being malicious; they’re just forgetful. You’ll need to politely but clearly assert your independence in such situations.
  3. Keep track of your finances. Your financial record keeping is the lifeblood of your business.
  4. Invoice. Invoicing is one of the most important elements of working on your own. If you don’t send out invoices, you won’t get paid.
  5. Collecting payment. In our experience, if you stay on top of your invoicing, after choosing your clients wisely, you’ll have very few problems with uncollected bills. When you do, make sure you follow up every phone conversation with a letter to your contact person at the company. As mentioned earlier, the best way to avoid such difficulties is to be selective about who you take on as a client.
  6. Ethics. Professional ethics is an important consideration for an independent contractor in any field. Many professions have a written code of ethics. If yours does, it’s a good idea to read it and know what’s in it. If you always tell clients the truth and keep them fully informed on events affecting assignments you perform for them, you’ll go a long way toward avoiding any ethical.
  7. Angle for more assignments. The importance of repeat business lies simply in the fact that it costs more money to develop proposals and to seek out new clients. When you’re selling, you’re not making money.
  8. Keep your overhead down. Needless expense has brought down countless independent contractors. Every expense not directly related to producing income is suspect.

Adapted from On Your Own: How to Escape the Corporation and Make More Money as an Independent contractor, by Carol Lewis and Harry Helms.

Learn more about Independent Contracting – Common Questions

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,