The mindsets that can make or break your contractor business during and after the pandemic

We are certainly in strange times and strange times can challenge our mindset and behaviours, writes Matt Craven, contractor work-winning expert and managing director of The CV & Interview Advisors.

Stand up and lead

I stumbled upon a recent article for Politico by Paul Taylor, headlined “Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Or not.” Now, I should say I have little knowledge of the writer or the publisher, but it was interesting to read about how various world leaders have risen to the Covid-19 challenge and shown leadership qualities. Or not. I didn’t agree with all of the article’s assertions, but the basic premise of the importance of leadership in a crisis resonated with me.

Now, as business owners, we are fortunately not required to navigate a country through coronavirus! But as limited company directors, it is incumbent upon us to lead our own respective outfits through lockdown, the inevitable recession, and for those that it applies to, the incoming IR35 reform.

As is well-publicised, there is limited financial assistance available to limited company contractors, so we all need to protect our businesses from the impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak. And this requires the right mindset.

One thing is for sure, sitting at home waiting for something good to happen is not the best plan; the likelihood of some kind of divine intervention that will save our business and personal finances from taking a hit is highly unlikely. Yet forming a plan and being proactive just might.

A story about Facebook

To highlight both the right and wrong mindset, look no further than a fitness and wellbeing company based in Yorkshire called Innovate. To navigate themselves through the pandemic, they have temporarily changed their business model from a bricks and mortar gym to running fitness classes online, and to promote these new services, they created a Facebook Ads campaign and duly hit the ‘send’ button.

What followed really surprised the owners! On one hand, their virtual fitness classes filled up and provided them with a revenue stream as well as a useful and valuable service to their customers. But on the other hand, they received a barrage of abusive messages from a number of people, with one particular lady really laying into them as she felt it was inappropriate for them to be promoting their services during the pandemic. Now these people were in the minority, but the owners of the business were quite hurt, and I dare say questioned their strategy.

Luckily, they pushed forward with their business survival strategy and have gained a lot of support from people in their community. Those who criticised have been duly lambasted.

To me, it’s a prime example of the right and wrong mindset to have! As a contractor, you have to be more like Innovate and less like said-lady and try to formulate your business survival strategy.

A story about Bob

We have experienced a similar scenario. When the government announced its financial package for those affected by the pandemic and we realised that limited company directors would be ineligible for adequate assistance, we racked our brains on what we could do to help the contractor community. In the end, we put together a package of every single freebie that we could possibly give away and sent an email to all the contractors who had previously engaged with us.

Now, of course, it wasn’t some far-reaching financial package that many might have hoped to get from the government to cover their self-employed operations through this crisis. But it was absolutely everything that little old us could muster!

We also briefly mentioned details of a special offer (reduced to the lowest price we could possibly justify), and given the fact that a significant amount of people bought it, there is clearly a demand. The freebies that we offered were well-received. Except by a gentleman that I shall refer to as ‘Bob.’

Unfortunately, Bob thought it was “offensive” that anyone should be selling anything in the current climate and made his opinion very, very clear in email. To leave us in no doubt as to his strength of feeling, he even resorted to CAPS.

Now, as anyone who has done a modicum of marketing will tell you, there are always people who won’t like your offering. But it did make me seriously wonder what logic Bob is applying to his own business and what proactive measures he is putting in place to keep trading and to thrive once the pandemic has run its course. And that’s the purpose of both this article – and a webinar we are running for ContractorUK readers on Thursday May 7th.

A quote from Rocky Balboa

It still surprises me several days on that a company director could be so appalled by a business continuing to market its services throughout these tumultuous times, even as proportionately as we were. It made me wonder how many other company directors feel the same and wrongly believe that the correct response to challenging conditions is to take a step back, and not to keep forging your business forwards. And don’t just take my word for it, take a much-admired heavyweight’s! In fact, doubters need only press play on lockdown essential boxset Rocky, specifically Rocky Balboa (2006), when The Italian Stallion advises: “It ain’t how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forwards”.

So, contractors, now is not the time to give up, now is not the time to be influenced by negativity and now is not the time to suddenly find a reverse gear. By contrast, now is the time to get out there and sell what you do. Don’t think you can start when the lockdown lifts; shrewd businesses will be quietly drumming up business now, so buyers can ‘buy-in’ to plans that the shrewd are making and putting into place as you read this.

That said, it might currently be more difficult and trying than usual to secure a new contract. Still, you can lay the groundwork and ought to lay the groundwork, so you are in the best possible position to secure work when lockdown is over.

How contractors should be prepping in lockdown

As a bare minimum, I would recommend contractors use this time to do some networking and build some connections with decision-makers in their marketplace. LinkedIn is the obvious place to do this.

More than that, now is a great time to do some business / career planning, to develop a business development and sales strategy and, to underpin those, get your CV and LinkedIn profile in order. Think about how you can carve a niche for your company post-lockdown, post-pandemic, or post-IR35 reform. What would a better business model for each of those new environments look like, for you?

And like Innovate, perhaps there is an opportunity for you to diversify your contractor business. Think of the fitness companies which are now running Zoom classes, the building companies that are taking orders for the summer and the restaurants that for the first time are doing deliveries and social distancing-conscious collection services. And similarly, I know some contractors who have developed coaching programmes that they can deliver remotely – perhaps this is something you can do too?!

All these businesses are doing a Rocky, not a Bob, and are keeping on moving forwards.

If you keep an eye out, there are lots of examples of people being entrepreneurial and proactive during Covid-19, and they’re finding ways to keep generating revenue despite what is going on across the world. We should be sensitive and mindful of these worldwide goings on – they are negatively affecting people’s lives and families like never before, but we must also support people trying to positively impact their own livelihoods, and those who work for them, not knock them down.   

Some of the offers that vexed Bob

  • A free download of our comprehensive career development resource pack worth £29.99 + VAT. Use discount code LOCKDOWN -  
  • A free on-demand interview coaching session worth £50 + VAT (this will really help you prepare for interviews in the coming months) –  
Wednesday 22nd Apr 2020
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Written by Matt Craven

Matt is the Founder of The CV & Interview Advisors and Incredibly Linked. He is considered to be a thought-leader in Personal Branding and is regularly engaged as a public speaker to deliver advice and guidance to global audiences on all things related to CV authoring, career advancement, LinkedIn, personal branding and thought leadership.
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