I’d like to talk to you about contractors. Spoiler alert: I’m a contractor myself. Contractors are specialists who possess knowledge that is not available at the company they work for. The company, or client, requires this knowledge for a specific period. Once the project is over, or when the budget runs out, they say their goodbyes. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
I’ve seen many contractors come and go, one more successful than the other. But what makes a contractor successful? And how do you build a sustainable relationship?
I felt that this blog needed writing when I discovered that every contractor has a different approach when they get a new client. What the right approach is? Unfortunately, there is no secret recipe. But let me suggest some ingredients.
Tiny disclaimer: this article primarily focusses on contractors in the digital world. It is not rocket science, but sometimes the simplest and most straightforward things are the most challenging.
As contractors, we aim to make the client feel that we’re not contractors at all. We become part of the company and its culture, and we contribute to it. We become ‘internal external contractors’, so to speak. Here are my four ingredients:
I’ll start with an obvious one. Your presence demonstrates your dedication. Easy, isn’t it?
Yet, more and more people seem to believe that they can do what they do from home. “I’m a digital professional. Why should I work at an office?” I don’t agree with this at all, especially when you start out somewhere. Your presence at the office is vital. You get to know more about the company culture, they get to know you, and you have easy access to the stakeholders involved. These things allow you to do the job faster and better.
Ask questions. Once you know the team, you will have better grasp of the context of the project.
Every team welcomes you differently. One team may have set up a complete onboarding training for you; other teams just ask you to sit down and do your work. These are things you have no say in.
But you do have a say in the way you present yourself. Try to get to know people. Find common interests. And last but not least, ask questions. Lots of them. Most people love to talk about themselves and people are more likely to help you if you know them.
It’s the small things in life that make the difference, and a bit of extra effort can go a long way.
Is it your birthday? Bring cake. Drinks on Friday? Join in. Heavy items that need lifting? Offer to help. New office equipment that needs setting up? Help set it up. People are more likely to consider you part of the team when you do.
This is both simple and important. They have hired you because the knowledge you have is not available in-house. So what should you do with your knowledge? Share it! Because what happens if you share your knowledge? You build up authority, and so does your team!
You can share your knowledge several ways in various gradations. A short overview:
Not very exciting, but very effective:
Super exciting, super effective:
The knowledge you bring to the table as a contractor is often valuable to the people who hire you. But who you are as a person, that makes you even more valuable. Use it to your advantage.
Ps. Don’t forget to add everyone you worked with on LinkedIn after you’ve finished the project. Who knows, maybe you can help each other out again;).
You can also find a Dutch version of this article on LinkedIn.