If you want to ensure your career as an independent contractor is sustainable and profitable, these five things will come in handy. 

It’s a new year and after a few weeks back at your desk job you may feel it’s time for a change.

Instead of looking for a new position, becoming an independent contractor can be a way to explore new opportunities. You may even find this working style suits you because of the higher hourly rate and the potential to work for companies all over the world.  

However, making the leap from permanent employee to independent contractor requires a shift in your skills and mindset. Take a look at five things you need to know about the transition.

You Need to be Adaptable and a Great Communicator

Independent contracting often involves short term roles. This means you’ll need to form connections, sell yourself and get to know people quickly. 

Selling yourself means building relationships with recruiters and establishing a good online profile so you can have a steady flow of work. 

If your job requires you to be part of a team, you’ll need to adapt to a new business’s culture and workflows with ease. After a couple of initial contracts, you should find this becomes easier. 

Time Management is Important

Independent contractors are often left to self-manage. You’ll need to be good at setting your own priorities as well as working to deadlines. 

You might end up working in a different time zone to your employer. In this instance, you will have to be available during the windows when you can speak in person and find a way to stay motivated when the majority of your colleagues are off the clock. 

Work Search Skills

People with long-term jobs often find they haven’t updated their resume in years. 

As an independent contractor your resume is one of your most important assets. You will also need to maintain profiles on the leading contractor websites, so you can be found by recruiters, even if you’re not actively seeking your next contract. 

Think of yourself as a micro-business of your own, then consider your ‘brand’ and how you want to be perceived. Sharing regular posts on LinkedIn about what you have been up to or sharing your opinion about certain things can be a good way to build your reputation with future employers. 

Negotiation Skills

As a micro-business/independent contractor, you’re now also in charge of ‘deals’. You’ll need to make sure contracts are worth your while before you accept them, particularly if they are long-term positions. 

Working with an employment lawyer initially may help you to understand the fine print of an employment contract. Eventually, you will develop an idea of what to look out for.

Some of the points to negotiate include salary, working hours and hardware. When it comes to salary, make sure to research industry averages so you can find the sweet spot of charging what you’re worth but not asking too much. If you’re new to contracting, remember to add around 30% to your existing salary — contract roles pay more than full-time positions. 

Personal Priorities

Contracting can deliver an excellent and flexible lifestyle. Because of the higher pay rate and the global demand for skilled workers, especially in the tech space, you have the opportunity to live where you like, balance the demands of family, relocate to a new city and take time off between jobs. 

However, it does come with the risk of one contract ending and your savings running out before the next one comes along. Some people also find taking on contract work may impact things such as applying for a home loan (although if you can demonstrate you are consistently employed this shouldn’t be a problem after a couple of years). 

Once you have established yourself you should find it becomes easier to find work but the other thing to think about in terms of personal priorities is whether you are ok with being a short term worker in a company with lots of permanent employees. It helps to be a people person who enjoys new experiences and likes to have a lot of different connections with others.

Read Career Planning for Independent Contractors for more information.