How contractors can succeed, not cringe, at self-marketing

The contractor who left their real name off the Contractors’ Questions form when asking about using a company logo probably isn’t alone.

Marketing oneself or ‘self-marketing’ makes some modest Brits want to disassociate themselves from what’s still regarded by some as a US-centric, chest-thumping practice.

But actually, even the many contractors with queries about LinkedIn are indulging in a bit of self-marketing, writes Matt Craven, managing director of the CV & Interview Advisors.

And rightly so. Contractors are often their own business, and there isn’t a senior business leader I know who wants to rush out tomorrow to dismantle their marketing department because it gives them the odd cringe.

Though let’s be clear. I’m not talking about your niche, self-respecting coding, programming or consultancy business launching some over the top, superlative-ridden, tripe-filled campaign at dawn. That wouldn’t work for a contractor business and it certainly doesn’t work for individuals. Still, I recommend you carefully think about:

  • what you stand for
  • how you want to position yourself in your market
  • what you want to be known for, and how that distinguishes you from the competition
  • the advantages you might achieve by developing ‘Thought-Leader’ status
  • the pros of being able to quickly present your USP and value proposition (and being able to do this thoroughly, if required)

These five are most definitely good things to be focusing on that shouldn’t faze even the most humble, US-phobic British contractor!

Of course, these five elements need to be communicated in your CV. But there are other marketing pillars that can be put in place to prop up your chances of winning contract work:

Thought Leadership

This term gets bandied about on a regular basis, but what does it really mean and how can contractors use it as a tool for winning business?

The key is to present yourself as an expert in your field. Most people hide under a rock, so if you are the one that gets out there; writing articles and blogs, being interviewed for industry pieces, contributing to groups or forums, for example, then people will gravitate towards you.

More than this -- try to turn your expertise into something tangible even if, for example, that’s simply creating a 5-point plan for successfully delivering change in the ‘xyz’ sector. Post your 5-point plan or blueprint on LinkedIn. Perhaps do a series. That way people know on a regular basis you’re hosting a living thing that, subtly, enhances your status in your area of work.

Next -- people power. Setting up industry or sub-industry groups for other professionals (on LinkedIn or otherwise) is a good way of building a deeper network of contacts. But also, as the leader of that group, you by default garner some kind of semi-celebrity status which once again raises your profile and attracts opportunities for contract work. Marketing is all about exposure so the more of it you do, the more people you interact with, the more opportunities will come your way.

Webinars

This really follows on from Thought Leadership, but could you deliver a webinar on a subject that you have some expertise in that is closely aligned with the types of contract roles that you are seeking?

If you have built up a following on LinkedIn and some of those connections are decision-makers, delivering a webinar on a subject that they are interested in can be very powerful. Once again, it pitches you as the expert or the ‘go-to’ person in that area. Obviously, this will increase the number of conversations that you are having with decision-makers to increase the number of contract opportunities that you are exposed to. If you want to dip your toe in the water before splashing a webinar out there, upload a video from your smart-phone; make a YouTube video or gauge the webinar’s potential audience size by doing a Podcast first.

Networking

This is something that we should all be doing on a regular basis, yet I still get people asking me what they should do if someone has sent them a connection request on LinkedIn.

Building up your network serves to increase your exposure and the more exposure you have i.e. the more people you interact with, the more likely contract opportunities are to come your way. The Beatles once said, “Let’s write ourselves a swimming pool”. What they meant is that they had such a massive following, all they needed to do was write a song and people would buy it (so they could acquire said-swimming pool).

If you can build yourself a large following by developing your own professional network, you also have a captive audience to sell your services to. My key tip would be to seek out ‘Connectors;’ these are people who make it their mission in life to connect other people i.e. make introductions to people in their network. If you have a few Connectors who are introducing you as an expert in ‘xyz’ to decision-makers in your field, then good things will almost certainly start to happen.

LinkedIn

A rather obvious channel, but remember when you’re on it that LinkedIn has become the largest talent database in the world. There’s no surprises that this is where recruiters are looking for contractors.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is well-written and optimised for keyword searches.

More than this -- blogs and articles will improve your search ranking and connecting with peers as well as decision-makers carries weight in terms of LinkedIn search engine optimisation. LinkedIn is also a good place to be thinking about thought-leadership, webinars and networking and in many ways, forms the foundations of a contractor’s marketing strategy. Just like you should be aspiring to be in relation to what your contractor business does, it should be your ‘go-to’ when self-marketing.

Want to know more? Contractor UK is running a live one-hour presentation (webinar) on Wednesday 8th November at 7.15pm all about creating an effective LinkedIn profile and using it as a tool for winning contract work. This will go into much more detail about some of the ideas mentioned in this article. Why not join us and find out how marketing techniques can be incorporated into your LinkedIn profile to drive more contract opportunities? You can use the link below to register for this free event: https://cvandinterviewadvisors.co.uk/webinars/registration/8th-november-linkedin

Wednesday 1st November 2017