Contractors, is your daily rate being maxed out? If not, ‘do a Boris’

With Boris Johnson’s Brexit negotiating strategy set to dominate our screens for the next eight weeks, let’s look at what contractors might be able to take from the PM’s techniques to give themselves an uplift in the pay stakes, writes Matt Craven of The CV & Interview Advisors.

A bit like Boris who wants a better deal, contractors want a better rate than the one which is already on the table, often against a seemingly unyielding party. I’m going to reveal how you can do this, for your own contractor business, on Wednesday 21st August in a 19:15 webinar you can participate in, for free! But let’s look here at ‘BoJo,’ currently trying to do it for the UK, and his political livelihood no doubt.

Have you bought the T-Shirt?

In nearly all businesses, having a track record is essential to being selected as a supplier. Any business has to have ‘been there, done it and bought the T-shirt’ to convince a buyer they are worthy of consideration. Our PM is no different, already stressing the UK’s successful history and strong national track-record in numerous areas.

Well, the same applies to winning work as a contractor. Demonstrating your track record is where your CV comes in, but also your LinkedIn profile and interview technique. In this regard, how consultancy firms sell themselves is a worth a look. They have a multi-pronged approach, though they all rely on marketing case studies to put some context around their client work. Any marketeer worth their salt will tell you that case studies are a highly effective medium for demonstrating a track record to a potential client.

So I would recommend that you incorporate case studies into your CV and LinkedIn profile (in the ‘Projects’ section of LinkedIn). Keep them to six lines, write them in STAR (Situation, Task, Actions and Result) and put them on page one of your CV just before your ‘Work Experience’ section, which we would recommend contractors rename ‘Career History & Assignments.’

The ‘Proof’ is in The Pudding

When we review CVs, one of the key questions we ask is, ‘How can the reader ascertain that you are good at your job?’ Most weak CVs that we review are devoid of evidence and outcomes and are overly focused on tasks. Boris knows the importance of evidence. Talking about sin taxes this month, he said: “A good way to start would be basing tax policy on clear evidence.”

Similarly, it’s the outcomes and business benefits that you as a contractor drive, that sets you apart and helps you justify your rate demands. If you have delivered significant business benefits that have a tangible / measurable value, then a potential client will be able to see where they will get Return On Investment (ROI) from engaging you.

‘Key Achievements’ and ‘STAR’ case studies are your vehicle for communicating tangible, measurable and statistical evidence that you are good at what you do, professionally, on your CV. This should be reinforced on your LinkedIn profile. And then, thirdly, you should be able to talk about outcomes freely in an interview. Talking freely in interview? Something else we know Boris excels at.  Should you fear you are not excelling with your CV or LinkedIn profile, you can request a free CV / LinkedIn appraisal here from me and my team:

The ‘Social Proof’ is in The Pudding

Lat time you booked a hotel, I bet you checked TripAdvisor beforehand? Reviews have become a key part in the buying process and social proof that a product or service is high quality is crucial in today’s business environment. It is no different in the contract market.

LinkedIn’s overlooked statistic is that you are three times more likely to be contacted about an opportunity if you have a selection of good Recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. It therefore stands to reason that a couple of really credible Recommendations on your CV is also a good idea.

And a couple of key recommenders worked very nicely for Boris too, when he was eyeing Number 10 and needed votes. Backing from a former leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, and from former chief whip and so also influential Gavin Williamson, were hardly unhelpful to the former London mayor’s latest job-seeking campaign. Getting the thumbs-up from Jacob Rees-Mogg, and by extension many of his hard-Brexit colleagues, was another recommendation that Boris probably couldn’t have done without to make his No 10 dream a reality.   

For contractors, the key with recommendations is to pick two or three which are ideally no more than four to five lines long, and to make sure they are well-written, with the right message, from someone credible. Pop them at the bottom of your CV where some people write “References are available on request” and I guarantee they will make a difference to your success and the daily rate that you can command. You are leveraging social proof of your abilities so that a potential client feels more compelled to engage you at a higher rate.

Be like Boris – negotiate with (measured) confidence

Negotiating rates is a tricky subject to tackle, and with recruitment agencies trying to take as big a cut as possible, you often end up with less than you wanted. Part of the challenge is to be bullish and confident (although not overly), and yes, we’ll see how Boris fares with this in due course as he faces off with the EU!

With contracting, it’s also about supply and demand and how much the client wants you! This is where everything that we have already mentioned becomes crucial; if you have demonstrated through case studies and hard statistics that you can deliver exceptional business benefits and strong ROI, then your rate becomes secondary to what you can deliver.

Obviously, clients just want their project / initiative delivered and delivered well. If you can deliver it better or faster or with less risk, what they pay you becomes less important. A safe pair of hands commands a premium!

When pitching to a client, try to get them thinking that your rate is an investment and not a cost and demonstrate through examples that there is minimal risk to hiring you and that you have a consistent track record of delivering positive outcomes. A great tactic is to keep reiterating the business benefits that you can / will deliver, rather than merely focusing on the tasks that you will perform.

Thought Leadership

You may have heard the term ‘Thought Leadership’ bandied around and dismissed it as one of those annoying buzzwords that doesn’t get anyone anywhere. In actual fact, nurturing your own PR and developing your profile, so that other professionals see you as an authority on a certain subject, will only attract more and better opportunities. Nurturing his PR, developing his profile but always sticking to his identity has certainly paid off for Number 10’s new occupant. For now at least.

For contractors, it’s worth you thinking about who the experts are in your professional arena -- and ask yourself if that could be you! I’d like to think that I am seen as an authority in the Personal Branding / Contractor Winning-Work / CV and Job space. Running webinars, writing articles and speaking at events all helps, but so does developing intellectual property such as our CV Writing Methodologies and Interviewing Techniques.

If you really want to hit the big time as a Thought Leader, think about any frameworks, systems, blueprints, formulas or ways of working that you could package, parcel and own. Then write or talk about them at every opportunity! This will build your thought-leadership status and help you command a higher rate. Talking about belief in Britain, and the British people, seems to be what Boris is talking about at every opportunity. What’s your oral business card that you can personalise as your own?

Register for August's free webinar

For help with this and other techniques to maximise your contractor pay rates, on 21st August, ContractorUK will be hosting a webinar on 10 strategies that you can use to win more work, increase your rate and optimise it. You can register here:

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Written by Matt Craven

Matt is the Founder of The CV & Interview Advisors and Linked-In-Credible. 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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