The 101 on starting your contractor career

Launching a career as a self-employed contractor can be daunting – when you start out on your own, there are many challenges, regulations, and unforeseen obstacles to tackle. However, being your own boss, controlling your work schedule, and selecting the projects that interest you can make all of the extra effort worth it at the end of the day.

If you are thinking of starting your career as a self-employed contractor, the brief guide below will provide you with the ins and outs of the profession and what you need to know before you even get started.

Plan ahead

This is perhaps an obvious point, but it is essential to take time to deeply consider your career path. You should reflect on whether or not you really want to be self-employed and to shoulder the responsibility of working independently. Aside from the lack of financial security that being self-employed brings, it can be difficult to work alone if you do not have the kind of personality that will allow you to cope. Managing the stress and anxieties of running your own business can be a challenge.

Read up on the law

Before you decide to pivot your career and become a self-employed contractor, it is essential to do your homework and read up on federal and state-level laws and regulations for small business owners, independent workers, and contractors.

You should also plan for the insurance policies you will need as an independent contractor. It is essential to have contractors insurance to cover any potential injuries, property damage, and even libel, slander, and defamation claims. These issues are likely not the first thing you think of when you envision your career, but it is vital to have coverage when something inevitably does happen.

Get your financials in order

It is crucial to plan as much as possible before launching your contracting career. That includes ensuring your financial planning is watertight, that your business plan is comprehensive, and that any loans or financing investments you need are secured.

It can be very daunting to draft a financial plan or business plan from scratch, especially if you have never done this before. Thankfully the U.S. Small Business Administration has a comprehensive series of resources and guidelines to help you with everything from approaching a business plan to understanding the legal requirements and exploring your financing options.

Build your reputation

As an independent contract, it is essential to develop your reputation for reliability and standard of work. The first step is to create a simple marketing plan to get the word out – this can include everything from social media posts to leaflets or small ads taken out in the newspaper.

Your reputation will slowly grow and develop as you complete more jobs and build relationships with your customers. You can protect your reputation by working to correct mistakes, under-promise, and over-deliver, and treating your customers well.

Another way you can develop your reputation is by behaving professionally at all times. This does not just mean avoiding saying or doing anything inappropriate. It also means answering emails and calls quickly, responding to online reviews, and providing customer service when needed.

Be realistic

When you are just starting out, it can be tempting to take every job offered to you, and you may even feel guilty having to turn some jobs down. However, it is vitally important not to overburden yourself and instead only take on the projects you know you will be able to complete to an acceptable standard.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the task of running your own business while also working as a contractor, consider outsourcing some of your work, such as social media, communications, and web design. Doing so will allow you to focus on income-generating work. You do not want your whole life to be consumed by your job, so be realistic and control your workload.

Expand slowly

Some contractors prefer to continue working independently to avoid the hassle, paperwork, and the additional challenges that hiring presents. It can be difficult to find new workers who have a specialized set of skills, and you may find that additional employees do not always generate more income than the cost of their employment.

However, if the business is booming, you may want to consider slowly expanding and outsourcing some of your tasks such as web design, IT help, and communications. Once you are ready to hire part-time or full-time employees, rather than outsourced contractors, take your time to advertise and sift carefully through the applications. Invite for an interview just two or three that seem the most promising.