Contractors, IR35 is another reason to ensure your personal branding is on-message

Contractors are usually pragmatic souls and often not fans of buzz words, flannel, and far-fangled concepts!

Despite some sniggers that it might, does the business concept of Personal Branding fall into this category? Well, although marketing can seem like a fad, there are currently some real signs that contractors are starting to realise that personal branding can make all the difference.

At the very least, personal branding should definitely be on the radar of contractors, and attendees of my Preparing Contractors for Autumn webinar on Wednesday will learn why it pays to switch onto it, writes Matt Craven of The CV & Interview Advisors.

IR35

It’s everywhere at the moment as a concern, but I actually hesitate to mention ‘IR35.’ Often, the mere mention of the rule tends to make people shudder!

However, the essence of keeping IR35 at bay is the practice of contractors acting like a ‘true’ business rather than a disguised employee. And the owner of that business should have a brand; as a rank-and-file permie wouldn’t.

Assuming everybody is on board with this distinction, successful contractors who want to work outside IR35 will have cottoned onto the fact that they are a business entity, which should be operating as any other business does at all times, with identity, principles, standards, procedures, and branding, each playing a part.  

Managing your PR

It’s fair to say that most successful businesses have a corporate identity or, in other words, a brand you can quickly identify. One’s personal brand is no different. It’s simply how the external world sees you. And by ‘external world’ if you’re a contractor, I’m referring to clients, suppliers, peers, and any other person you interact with while going about your work.

Put another way, it’s vital to actively manage your own PR and be proactive about how the world sees you, and most importantly, how your existing and prospective clients see you.

IPSE has found personal branding is already doing the business for contractors

But I’m in danger of preaching to the converted here! In fact, the very latest Freelancer Confidence Index by IPSE highlighted that many contractors and independent professionals used the second quarter of 2021 to benefit from personal branding, as a business tool.

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) explains: “Freelancers were asked to rate the importance of 15 different factors affecting the performance of their business in categories ranging from significantly positive and slightly positive, to no impact, slightly negative and significantly negative impact.”

Well, the most positive result was from ‘brand value/reputation’ – chosen by a hefty 63% of contractors. Looking at the other responses contractors gave to the association, it means ‘brand’ scored more highly than ‘innovation’ (57%), and ‘collaboration’ (54%), as a booster of contractor businesses.

It therefore appears that in these strange times (have you tired going to a petrol station recently!?), many independent professionals are embracing the personal brand as a way to win work or solidify their position.

Competition, confidence and a corner-turned

Contractors; quick question. If a good chunk of your rivals are now ‘doing’ personal branding, and are getting better results from it than from collaborating or innovating, how on earth are you going to keep pace with the competition if you don’t get your personal branding on-message too, with the rest of your business?

Last but not least in IPSE’s index for Q2, it emerged that the average independent professional’s confidence in the market is at its strongest level since early 2015.

To me, that signals that despite the odd appearance on our high streets, (most) markets are opening up -- and now is the time to get your winning-work strategy and marketing collateral in place.

Fine, but what is marketing collateral?!

Okay, you might accuse me of slipping in here one of those buzzwords contractors love to hate! But quite simply, your personal brand is communicated to the world through your everyday dealings with people, but also through your CV, LinkedIn profile and website. These three are (broadly) your ‘marketing collateral.’

We might be fast-approaching 2022,  but many contractor CVs and LinkedIn profiles are still just a simple list of contracts, with a few bullet points describing the role. This is all well and good, but it doesn’t help with communicating a brand identity. This is the job of your CV’s ‘Profile’ section, and the ‘About’ section of your LinkedIn profile. So I recommend using these two sections to describe what you are, what your value proposition is; what your blueprint for success is, and the outcomes you can drive.

Your LinkedIn profile can take this a stage further and talk about your ‘ethos’ (or ‘philosophy’), which you embed in your individual approach to projects or work. It humanises your commercial offering, by lending even the busiest agent a quick insight into you as a person.

Key take-aways (if you too are in a rush due to trying to land an urgent contract!)

In summary, three things are really evident right now, and these will inform the prep for the autumn which on Wednesday I’ll outline contractors ought to take:

  1. Markets are opening up and confidence is surging.
  2. Independent professionals are embracing the importance of personal branding.
  3. Winning work and higher rates are largely dictated by how well you sell yourself (remember; it’s no longer the realm of ‘best contractor gets the job’).

My belief is that in the post-pandemic and post-IR35 reform landscape, successful contractors will be those who are managing their PR, focusing on marketing collateral, honing sales skills, and refining business development and networking strategies. These are all things that we will drill-down on in our Wednesday evening webinar.

Further help...

For a more detailed understanding of personal branding and how it relates to your CV, LinkedIn profile and in the interview room, join the ContractorUK webinar here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5411586642290956556

You can also request a free CV or LinkedIn profile review here: www.cvandinterviewadvisors.co.uk/contractorukfreeappraisal

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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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