Contract work offers many advantages. You can choose when and where to work and often have more flexibility than employees on a company’s payroll. Contract work is also a great way to ease back to the working world if you’ve been unemployed. Understanding the basics of contract work can help you find a job that’s just right for your circumstances.
Create a Portfolio
While a potential client can read about your skills on your resume, seeing samples of your work provides concrete proof of the type of work you can do. Portfolios aren’t just valuable for writers and artists; they can help showcase your talents no matter what type of work you do. Add copies of reports, spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations and other materials that showcase your best efforts. Include information about awards and honors you’ve won, and add a few testimonials from former supervisors or clients. An online version of your portfolio can be helpful if you plan to telecommute and won’t be able to show potential clients your portfolio in person.
Consider Your Needs
Once you’ve created a portfolio, it’s time to think long and hard about the types of jobs you’re willing to accept. If you are interested in contracting because it offers the flexibility to pick up your children from school and take them to sports practices and other events, a contracted position with long hours won’t be the best fit. You’ll also need to consider whether short-term or long-term positions will best meet your needs. Another important consideration is how far you are willing to travel for work. If working on a long-term project for a company would involve a long commute, you might suggest that you work from home several days each week.
If you are still in touch with former colleagues and employers, ask if they are in need of contractors or know of any companies that hire contractors. Online job sites can be a source of contracted jobs in addition to traditional jobs, as can professional association websites geared toward your specific industry. Sites that match clients with contractors, such as Elance, ODesk and Guru, can be useful in finding projects. Keep in mind that these sites usually take a percentage of your earnings as a fee.
Negotiate a Contract
One of the benefits of working as a contractor is the ability to negotiate a contract with favorable terms. Specify how many hours you’ll work per day and per week. Note the agreed-upon pay rate and include any provisions for overtime pay if the client requests that you work more hours. Include a payment schedule that details when you expect to get paid and what types of payments are acceptable, such as checks or online payments. If you’re working on a short-term project, you might want to require that the client provide a down payment before you start the work. The Entrepreneur website suggests you ask for a 20 to 25 percent down payment and include provisions for additional payments when you reach certain milestones.
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