James Leckie, Director of ITContracting.com, is guest blogging on the ICS blog this week to advise contractors on the best sources of new IT contracting opportunities:

The best Sources of New IT Contracting Opportunities

The two most frequently asked questions by visitors to my contracting news site are: a) How can I pay less tax as a contractor?, and b) What are the best ways to source new contract opportunities?

Readers of the ICS blog are already in the right place to found out more about the way contractors are taxed, so in this piece I’m taking a look at the different ways you can find new contracts.

There have never been more ways to look for work – technology has made the tasks of searching for jobs and applying for them easier than ever.

Around 20% of contractors work directly for their clients, and the remaining 80% contract with clients via recruitment agencies. So, whether you find work via a job board, or a social media site, you will ultimately be dealing with an agency.

1. Recruitment Agencies

To increase your chances of finding the most relevant opportunities, you should get in touch with specialist recruitment agencies directly. Source them on the web, and submit your CV. If you know any contractors in your area of work already, find out which recruiters they’d recommend.

Although recruiters will upload contract postings to the leading contract job boards, they will usually scan their existing database of available contractors beforehand, so your chances of securing work will be higher if you’re an existing potential candidate.

There’s no harm in following up with a phone call. Despite the popular negative ‘contractors vs. agent’ mythology, recruitment is very much a people business, and developing good personal relationships with recruiters will add value in the long run.

2. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a ‘must’ for contractors. This site is perhaps the single most helpful addition to a job hunters’ armoury since job boards came online in the late 1990s.

Your online resumé provides potential recruiters with a concise summary of your skills, experience and also availability for work.

Joining LinkedIn is the easy part, however. Try this recent post which describes how to boost your profile and ensure that your profile comes up on prospective recruiters’ search results.

Other social media sites may be worth considering, although Facebook is considered a personal networking tool by many recruiters. I’d recommend setting up a Twitter account to follow some of your target recruiters, for potential new contract openings, and even industry / market news updates.

3. Contracting Direct

The 20% of contractors who work direct do so for a number of reasons. As you gain more experience as a contractor, you will make contacts along the way – and these contacts are frequently the source of potential direct roles.

Word-of-mouth recommendations are the highest value types of opportunity, and if a former colleague or client puts your forward for a contract, you may be able to work on a direct basis, depending on the way the end-client operates. Some clients will only ever use agencies as an intermediary, others are more open to direct contractors.

Alternatively, you may source work directly from customers / clients, depending on the type of work you do. Web designers, for example, often work independently of recruiters, as the opportunities to work direct are more natural to the role, than a database administrator, for example.

Final Thoughts

Although the process of finding work is more streamlined and efficient than ever before, the actual process of securing that elusive job is the same as ever. Competition for the most juicy role remains intense, and so the age-old rules always apply if you want to win over a prospective client.

Here are some final tips to maximise your chances of securing contract work:

a) Do your research
b) Keep your CV / online profile up-to-date
c) Tailor your applications to each individual role
d) Present yourself well

About the Author

James Leckie has been providing news and guides to contractors and small businesses since 1998. You can find out more at ITContracting.com.