Why contractors must emulate The Boy Who Cried Wolf

I’m a big fan of strategically using stories and framing a professional message through anecdotes, writes Matt Craven, founder of the CV & Interview Advisors. Indeed, did you hear the one about the contractor who told a tale to land a lucrative contract?

The reason I like using stories to enrich a message probably stems from my own tendency to quickly become rather bored by my own musings. I’d go so far as to say that it might be my attempt to keep myself interested, as much as anyone else. But I also believe that story-telling keeps a professional message from slipping into a dry, potentially boring space.


Narrating your contracting strengths

This general strategy can and should also be adopted by contractors who are selling their skills and experience to potential clients. Let’s face it; CVs and the like can be rather dry and tedious, so anything that makes them less so is a good thing. We don’t want to move too far away from acceptable conventions however, so borrowing proven methodologies from the world of marketing is a sensible place to start.

The most tried and tested marketing technique that can be used in a contractor CV is the case study. Any experienced marketing professional will tell you that case studies are incredibly powerful tools for walking a potential client through a piece of work, to convince them of the bidding company’s abilities and track record. We see them on websites, in brochures and on LinkedIn. Written in the right way, they have huge impact. They work because the message can be framed, memorably, with more context and applicability.

The power of story

As an example (yes, here comes one of my anecdotes), I have a 7-year-old son who is very well-behaved. He’s as honest as they come. But if he ever did transgress into telling the odd porky, then I’d have two choices; yell at him, tell him he shouldn’t lie and send him to his room without access to any electronic device for an hour -- or, sit him down and read him the Aesop’s Fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Now I’m sure that being banished from his iPad for an hour would certainly pinch, but framing my message about the pitfalls of lying through a story is so much more powerful, and definitely memorable, due to the understandable concern of being eaten by a wolf!

The same applies to selling yourself; you could tell a client how wonderful you are but writing a case study that frames and evidences your abilities and track record is always going to be more impactful.

Ready your three top tales (using STAR)

To get started, I would recommend using the STAR framework for writing your case studies (Situation, Task, Actions, Result). Keep the case study to six lines and have three of them on page one. Try to give each one a human, perhaps quirky, memorable detail -- like the wolf.  I would suggest having a whole portfolio of them and each time you put yourself forward for a contract, copy and paste the best and most relevant three onto page one. So contractors, what’s going to be your beginning, middle and end?

I will be revealing more about persuasive case studies, selling yourself with stories and writing an effective CV for the 2017 contract market next Wednesday evening. Join the free ContractorUK and Technojobs.co.uk webinar on April 19th at 7.15 pm by registering here.

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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