Re: How to become a "Contractor" not a "Sub-Contractor"

Subject: Re: How to become a "Contractor" not a "Sub-Contractor"
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 7 Sep 2001 09:53:38 -0700 (PDT)

"Dave Weisbord" wrote

> So my question is: How does one go to genuine contractor status
(eliminating the
> middle man)? How do you get you clients? In other words, how do you get
to keep
> all the $$?

1. Form a corporation.

2. Advertise and market your services. This is a lot different that just
sending out resumes. You need to demonstrate why people should hire you
exclusively and not use their well established relationship with an
agency. You need to build a corporate presence that has something of value
to offer customers. If all you can offer is your writing, you'll be hard
pressed to compete with local agencies.

3. Network. Remember that the people who hire you are not always tech pubs
managers. They are likely to be development managers, engineering
directors, or even company executives. So you have to network outside of
the tech pubs world.

4. Draw up contracts, you might want to hire a lawyer for this.

5. Prepare to work twice as hard for less money for the first year or two.
It took me close to 4 years to establish a stable and profitable client
base. And my first two years were very lean. I worked sporadically and
often for less than I wanted to.

6. You'll have to become a full-time sales person and 3/4 time writer.
Every job you do is a stepping stone to the next. And you have to be in
constant "sales mode." I like to say that my job begins about 20 minutes
after I wake up and ends at bedtime. I am constantly in a process of
"selling my company and services."

7. When you get a contract, you must obsessively "work the numbers". If
you don't make a profit (i.e.. you eat up all your income) you can never
grow, expand, or have any longevity.

8. Defend yourself legally. With an agency between you and the client,
your legal risk is minimal. Without the agency, you're exposing yourself
to lawsuit. One blown project could wind you up in serious debt. I know
this programmer who contracted to a big company here in Portland. He
totally bombed this project, so they sued him for the money back and
damages. I don't know how much they got from him, but he isn't driving a
very nice car any more.

9. Don't focus on the money. If all you want is more money, then improve
your skills and get higher paying contracts. Contracting alone will not
get you more money at first. You'll likely earn nothing for a long time.

10. Know thy competition. There is a lot of competition for tech writing
work. KNow the local players in your market. You'll have to compete
against them...which leads to #11.

11. Differentiate yourself. Why are you better than Hall Kinion. What can
you do that they can't. Clients need to understand why they should hire
you (a small company) rather than a large, respected agency.

It isn't easy. If 60+ hour work weeks are not appealing to you, I wouldn't
recommend going at it alone. Stick with agencies. The margin they take is
worth the frustration. If you saw, in detail, some of the nonsense they
deal with for you, you'd understand why they charge such a large margin.

Good luck.

Andrew Plato

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