8 contractor career mistakes and how to resolve them

By Alice Murray

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Everyone makes mistakes in their job – some of us more than we’d care to admit. But the important thing is having the ability to resolve the situation and learn from it.

As a contractor, it can be easy to make some blunders; mainly because it isn’t your usual practice to work amongst the same people day by day. Therefore, you have less time to assess a client’s needs and less time to adjust to your environment.

Being an expert at evaluating new people and new places needs to be a standard custom for contractors, because you aren’t given trial shifts or training days or inductions like permanent employees usually are.

You are in a job that you need to know like the back of your hand by day one. If you don’t, you risk not having a project completed by deadline day, which is why it’s not unusual for contractors to make a few errors - especially in the early stages of a new role.

Here at KnowNetwork, we have had a think about the common mistakes made in the contractor industry; and how you can get around them.

Being too oblivious

One of the easiest traps to fall into is underselling yourself and not making the most out of your skills. If you have a skillset that’s in high-demand, your day rate needs to demonstrate this.

Don’t work for pittance when you could be making a fortune. Do your research, find out what you are worth, and earn what you deserve.

Not reading contracts

Hopefully you’ve never signed your life away without checking out the small-print. You don’t need to be reminded that a contract is a legally binding document that, if not adhered to, can serve up some pretty serious consequences. So make sure you read it word for word before you put pen to paper. If you do notice something in your contract that doesn’t make sense to you, don’t be afraid to ask for changes.

Lack of tax knowledge

It’s fairly self-explanatory. If you aren’t aware of the ins and outs of tax, PAYE or insurance, you need to talk to an accountant pronto. It isn’t the most thrilling aspect of being a contractor, but it’s something you need to get your head around nonetheless.

Sticking with bad clients

If you insist on renewing a contract with a client who you haven’t particularly warmed to or enjoyed working for, you’ll only have yourself to blame when your work makes you miserable. Staying on with clients who don’t value you won’t do anything worthwhile for your career or allow you to develop your skillset further. Life is too short. Move on to better things.

Missing deadlines

People in all walks of life are regularly at risk of missing deadlines. As a contractor, if you feel like you’re overworked to the point where you can’t get the job done, you need to extend your time period on a project or turn it down completely. Missing the cut-off point shouldn’t be an option if you want to impress.

Poor record keeping

If you run your own limited company as a contractor, the importance of maintaining records in an organised space cannot be reiterated enough. You are responsible for the decision of an entire business, therefore you must have your company expenses, PAYE records and insurance documents under control. If you find it tricky to keep a handle on such things, the option to hire a secretary or an accountant is always open.

Being afraid to negotiate

This comes hand in hand with underselling yourself. Being a contractor takes a fair amount of grit and self-belief. If you think your services are worth more than what you’ve been quoted, don’t shy away; fight for it. If you want to find out more about mastering the art of negotiation; check out our previous article on the topic here.

Not setting definitive goals

It’s always a smart move to note down what you want to get out of a contract, because not getting anything from it at all is futile. You might not find it a challenge to consecutively land new roles, but part of being a contractor is growing your skills and boosting your rate up as much as you can. Set yourself aims and plan what you want to do for each project that you work on; so that when you achieve what you set out to do, you’ll feel more successful than ever.

If you’ve ever had a work-related catastrophe, let us know about it and how you overcame it, in the comments section below.

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