Expand your resume by contracting

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When most people think of going into freelance work, they think of getting clients through their own sales and marketing. That is all well and good, but is there another way?

Yes, there is.

There is a much overlooked potential source of work: other peoples’ clients. What do I mean by that? Client theft? No, no, no. That’s just not cricket!

I mean: contract work.

These days there are lots of web design companies, web development firms, and advertising agencies with their own specialized web departments. They all have the need for skilled web professionals. Some might have employed all the workers they need but, in my experience, most are happy to hear from freelance web specialists.

Why would they want to hear from you? What’s in it for them?

Having a number of reliable external contractors who can be called upon as and when they are need is a huge advantage to firms, as it gives them extra capacity and the possibility of taking on work that normally, might be beyond their skill set. There are other benefits too — they don’t have to pay worker benefits to contractors, nor are they obliged to keep them on once the work is complete. In effect, a contractor is an “off the shelf” employee – only brought in when needed.

What is the down side for them?

  • Contractors are usually more expensive on an hourly basis than a regular employee.
  • Contractors add an extra element of risk to a project. Will they complete on time and will their work be of a high enough standard? This risk is usually negated to some degree by the contract they sign.

So what’s in it for you?

  • work, money and the chance to work on projects and with companies you wouldn’t normally get a sniff at
  • an improved resume and less administration work
  • increased exposure and the chance to demonstrate your skills to potential future clients

What are the downsides?

  • You will generally be paid at a lower rate than your ideal hourly rate.
  • You may have to wait longer to get paid (depending on company and the contractual agreement).
  • You may well have very tight deadlines that will require you to work long days and weekends.
  • The client is not your client.
  • The firms will demand and expect a higher standard of work from you and probably, a quicker turnaround than a regular employee.
  • As an “off the shelf” employee, you also get a new boss at each firm you work for — something you may have started freelancing to avoid.

So, to contract work or not to contract work, that is the question. Ultimately, it is a personal decision. I strongly recommend you consider contracting not only for the experience and potential clients that it could lead to, but also, it doesn’t hurt having some big-name clients on your resume.

In my next post I’ll give you my top tips on how to approach these firms.

Oh, in case you are wondering — I have 7 years of experience working as a freelance and contract web developer, and I’ll have plenty more to say about working in the web industry on this blog. TTFN

Toby SomervilleToby Somerville
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