How To Become A Rockstar Independent Contractor 

woman facing paparazziFinancial Samurai has a terrific article on how to become a rockstar independent contractor.  The artcile discusses the benefits and then offers great recommendations on how to be a rock star independent contractor:


Part of the reason why I wanted to be a contractor is so that I could write this post based on a couple years of contracting experience. Here are some tips to follow if you want to be a rockstar contractor who always has work lined up.

1) Add value, but SHUT your mouth.

Adding value is always a good thing. Adding value in a new arena where they didn’t expect you to add value is even better. But you also have to be careful and shut your mouth if you dislike something or think their way of doing things is wrong. Advise without judgement.

My biggest problem is that I “wear my heart on my sleeve” all the time (good answer when an interviewer asks, “what is your biggest weakness?”). I am very opinionated when I believe in something or think something is going down the wrong path. As a result, I may rub people the wrong way if I don’t agree. This is almost always how conflicts start at work. Sometimes it’s best to just STFU and make other people happy.

Before opening your mouth to add your two cents, think to yourself whether the greater good is achievable if you are going to undermine someone else’s authority. Even if you are right, if a colleague believes you’re throwing them under the bus, they will make it their mission to discredit you. It’s easy to do so because after all, you’re a contractor and not a full-time employee. Provide balanced advice when asked, but don’t push your opinion onto others….

2) Know your place. Rightly or wrongly, contractors are not treated the same as employees. Employees have full-time benefits, get gifts, attend private events, and so forth. As a contractor, you shouldn’t expect any sort of full-time employee treatment. If there is a company milestone celebration where everybody gets a nice dinner gift certificate for two, you will probably get zilch. Don’t cry. That’s just the way it is. Remind yourself about all the benefits of being a contractor.

I find it very easy to be part of the team, whoever I contract for. Then, it’s the occasional meeting I see everybody in, where I’m not invited that reminds me of my place. Not knowing your place can get you in trouble because you start presuming things will happen that are not relevant to you. For example, I was once told not to use the words “we” or “our” in my writing because I’m not a full-time representative of the firm. That hurt, but that’s just part of being a contractor.

Just like loving someone more than he/she loves you will cause problems, caring too much for an organization as a contractor may lead to your downfall. You can end up despondent like an adopted puppy who always wonders why his mother feeds the other pups first. Align your interests with your clients and everything will be alright.

3) Manage expectations aggressively. When I first started contracting, I worked about 40 hours a week for 24 weeks in a row despite only being paid for 25 hours a week per my contract. I wanted to over-deliver in order to ensure that my contract continued every three months. There was even some hope that I would perform so well my first six months that I might even get a raise. I didn’t. I then re-aligned my work hours to what was agreed upon in the contract. I took a risk, and lost. At least my contract continued for another year.

My father even told me when I was in Hawaii for 10 days one time, “Are you sure you’re just working several hours a day? Because it sure looks like you’re working all the time!” He reminded me of my workaholic tendencies, and the importance of setting limits.

The hours you spend working while not getting paid are hours you could spend working for another client and getting paid. You’re not a full-time employee with the luxury of always getting paid no matter how much or how little you work. Your time is your business. You must set boundaries in order to keep your sanity, maximize your profits, and stay happy. I now use an out of office notification when I’m unavailable to contract or I’m pushing my hourly limit.

4) Never stop networking. Once you start contracting at a particular firm, you will inevitably receive a lot more inquiries from other firms in the same space. If you do good enough work, people will take notice through word of mouth, meetups, through your online profile on LinkedIn. Go to all happy hour functions. Attend client events when you can. Never stop networking at meetups. There’s this virtuous FOMO effect where other companies want to also hire you once they see what you’re up to.

I’ve received a half dozen inquiries from other companies for my services that I’ve turned down in 2014 and 2015. Feel free to contract with multiple companies at once. You don’t get benefits, so you have every right to earn what you can to pay for your expenses and save for retirement.

5) Know your worth. Before highlighting your rate, do as much market research as possible beforehand. It’s an unnatural feeling to charge by the hour, day, or week if you’re used to getting paid based on an annual salary. My sense is many contractors undercharge what they are truly worth. They forget that because a company doesn’t have to pay benefits, it is saving roughly 30% by not hiring you full-time. As a result, you should charge at least 30% more for your services to make up for the lack of benefits, if not much more. –

After you do your market research on how much you can charge, you must do an honest self-assessment on your experience and the value you can provide. The market will tell you whether you are charging too much when nobody responds, or too little, when your inbox gets flooded.

6) Be grateful for the opportunities. Never speak ill of your clients. Always be grateful for the opportunities you’ve had. Whatever field of work you’re in, know that the circle is very small. Everybody knows everybody, or is at most three degrees of separation away. People also seem to change jobs every three years on average nowadays. You never know where someone might end up.

I had a disappointing experience after I sent my good-bye e-mail to a team of writers I hired for a client. Only two out of five responded with a “best of luck” or a “thank you for getting me onboard.” Guess who I recommended management keep after I left? You got it. The appreciative ones. Always be thankful because there are plenty of people out there with less, or who want your same opportunities….

Read the full story at How To Become A Rockstar Independent Contractor 

1 thought on “How To Become A Rockstar Independent Contractor 

  1. I really like number 3 about managing expectations. That’s not just for contractors, but it really is crucial in all aspects of life and being good at managing expectations will help you get through life more easily.

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