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10 common mistakes made when searching for a contract

The process of contract search is a skill. Learning that skill and doing it better than your contracting counterparts will minimise your gaps between contracts and maximise your revenue.

This guides explains the top ten mistakes contractors make and links to a more detailed article on the topic.

Common Mistakes

There are a host of reasons why some contractors find it harder to secure contracts than others. These are the ten most common ones:

1: Failure to research the market and establish market rate.

This can result in pricing yourself out of the market, or not charging enough to maximise your revenues.

See Determining the Contract Rate for Your Skills When Entering the Contract Market.

2. Attempting to move from a permanent position to contracting without handing in your notice first.

Unless you have highly in demand skills agents are unlikely to choose you for interview over someone who is definitely available. There is always the risk that you won't actually leave your permanent job in which case the agent would prefer to put someone else forward.

See Contractor Doctor - Should I Quit My Job Before Applying For Contracts.

3. Poorly prepared and not targeted CV. Using a one size fits all CV.

A poor CV means you won't get noticed and will lesson the chances of obtaining an interview. A high impact target CV is crucial to your contract search.

See An Introduction to Effective CV Writing for Contractors.

4. Not phoning agents to chase positions

Unless you are the only applicant, which is unlikely, you will need to chase the business by phoning agents after making applications via email. Not doing so will seriously reduce your chances of being picked for interview. Be prepared to be ignored, calls not returned, emails not returned, and what you might consider poor service. The reality is that agents do not have the time to speak to everyone who applies and keep then updated. Don't take it personally.

See How to Find a Contract: Guide for UK Contractors.

5. Quoting an unrealistic rate and not being flexible

Quoting and an unrealistically high rate will result in no success at all. Appearing inflexible on negotiations will also put agents off picking you for an interview spot. Try and give a range, be vague and give the impression that you are reasonable and prepared to negotiate.

See Negotiating your contract rate.

6. Focusing on rate too early before getting an offer

Too much detailed discussion and agreement on rates before the interview stage does not maximise your revenue. If you get a contract offer then you will be in a much better bargaining position and will be able to negotiate a higher rate.

See Negotiating your contract rate.

7. Not applying for enough positions

Getting a contract requires playing the numbers game. Apply for everything that comes on your suitability radar rather than making applications one at a time. If you are fortunate enough to get two offers you will be in a strong bargaining position when it comes to rate negotiation.

See How to Find a Contract: Guide for UK Contractors.

8. Not taking enough action. Assuming agents will be actively trying to place you

Searching for a contract is a task in itself. You should probably be spending about four hours a day to maximise your chances of getting a contract quickly. Over time you will discover the power of networking, which is a far quicker and more effective way of securing your next contract. Remember, the vast majority of contracts are not advertised, and get filled through networking - you need to be involved.

See How to Find a Contract: Guide for UK Contractors.

9. Not writing a small covering email with each application

Some web sites have facilities for applying on line by sending your CV on to the agency. It is also good to send your own application (perhaps via email) with a covering note explaining why you are perfect for the position. Or use LinkedIn to connect to the agent. Many of them advertise on LinkedIn first.

See Applying for a Contract Via email.

10. Poor or minimal interview preparation

Good preparation before the interview should ensure you breeze through it and get offered the position.

See Preparing For An Interview, The Killer Interview Technique and How To Pass An Interview

Updated: 07 February 2018

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