July 12, 2012 – It’s becoming almost as difficult to get good-quality professional contract and freelance work as it is to land a full-time job – and the competition is about to get even more fierce, according to OI Partners.

“Contract, freelance and temporary work are one of the few areas of the job market that have been consistently doing well – throughout the increase in hiring earlier this year and the current summer slowdown,” said Patty Prosser, chair of OI Partners, a global coaching and leadership development and consulting firm.

About one-third of the jobs added in June were in the temporary help sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are several reasons why competition for contract work has increased and will be growing even more intense, according to OI Partners.

  • Many employers remain reluctant to take on the investment of additional full-time employees and have been hiring contract workers instead.
  • A growing number of employers now prefer to hire new employees on a contract basis before making a decision whether to hire them full time.
  • More people are using the contract employment route in hopes of getting a full-time position with an employer.
  • The number of people choosing to become full-time contract employees is rising and now comprises more than 30% of the workforce.

“Consulting, contract work, and freelancing are especially popular among professionals who can work out of their homes. They can sometimes acquire former employers as their clients,” said Prosser.

However, there are often no guarantees and no promises that contract workers will be hired full-time even if suitable openings arise. “The downside of contract work is there is the possibility that it can detract from a regular job search and create false hope about a full-time job. So, be careful about stopping or putting your search on hold,” added Prosser.

OI Partners offers the following tips to people on how to get contract or freelance work:

  1. Start with employers who know your work best and inform them of your availability for contract assignments. Prime targets would include your most recent employer if you have been laid off, former employers, people you have freelanced for before, and networking contacts.
  2. Perfect your telephone skills. “While telephone calls are discouraged as a means to getting a job, it is a useful – and necessary – skill that must be honed in order to survive as a freelancer. Your initial contact can be by email or letter, but learn to follow up over the phone if you expect to get anywhere,” said Prosser.
  3. Specialize in only one or two subject areas – those you know best and can successfully compete for business in. “Don’t present yourself as a ‘jack of all trades,’ but focus on those areas where you can outbid and outperform the competition,” Prosser stated.
  4. Go the extra mile to stand out. Send prospects a proposal that showcases what you can do. Offer detailed recommendations on how to improve sales, marketing, productivity, quality, management – whatever your field of expertise.
  5. Assemble a portfolio showcasing your talents and experience. Customize the portfolio to highlight your relevant experience within the same industry and/or with the same type of company as each business prospect you contact.
  6. Find out what the prevailing hourly or project rate is in your area for your type of work, and undercut it if you can. “Choose an hourly rate or project cost that will enable you to be profitable. But you also want to ensure that you get in the door and start doing business with your target,” Prosser said.
  7. Ask up front if you can apply for full-time openings that arise during your contract period. Have this spelled out and don’t take it for granted.
  8. Use social networking websites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and others to announce your new venture. Also spread the word via e-mails and text messages to your networking contacts, former colleagues, friends, and family.
  9. Build a website that will give you an Internet presence. “Don’t expect to initially get much business from the Internet, but refer potential clients to your website for more information about what you do,” Prosser  stated.
  10. Volunteer your services to nonprofit, civic, or religious groups to make business contacts and promote your enterprise.
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