Statistics have shown that 80% of contractors use agencies to help them find work. Choosing the right one can make a huge difference to your contracting career. While some agencies will operate a ‘one size fits all’ policy, others will go out of their way to find you the assignments you want. For contractors, especially those who change assignments on a frequent basis, signing with the right agency is particularly important. Choose the right one and you’ll gain access to more reliable work, a greater variety of clients and a representative who promotes you. Go for the wrong one and you could find yourself presented with a stream of unsuitable roles or worse – nothing at all. Here we take a look at some tips for choosing the right agency for you.
Provide the right information
While an agency can take a lot of the leg work out of sourcing contracts, they can only work with the information you provide. If you’re vague about the kind of work you want, the location you want to work in and how much you expect to earn, this makes it difficult for agencies to narrow down assignments for you. A clear and realistic idea of the kind of work you’re looking for will prevent wasted time on both sides. If possible, it’s better to wait a little longer for the right assignment to come up, rather than taking on contracts that don’t feel promising. This will ensure that you’re ready and available for the right assignment when it crops up. It’s also a good idea to make sure your CV is accurate and up to date, and that you regularly check-in with your recruiter to keep them informed of any changes in your circumstances.
Choose an agency with specialisation in your area
Ideally, contractors should choose an agency that specialises in dealing with contractors. Knowledge of the specific issues affecting the contracting sector is increasingly important, with complex legislation such as IR35 being rolled out in the private sector next year. Although some agencies may simply classify contractors as temporary workers, there are significant differences, particularly for those working through a limited company structure. It also helps to have an agency with knowledge of your skillset, as well as the industry you work within. For example, you could be an IT contractor working in the finance sector, so having an agency with an understanding of Fintech will dramatically improve their ability to find you work and negotiate on your behalf.
Do some research
To see what kind of roles an agency handles and the sectors they typically recruit for, take a look at their website or LinkedIn page. You can also identify suitable agencies by looking at specific roles you’re interested in, then looking at the agencies that handle those clients. If you want to work for a certain company, particularly blue-chip, you’ll often find that a small number of agencies act as preferred suppliers. It’s worth finding out from the client or other contractors which agency to contact.
Know the payment structure
Do your research and get a good understanding of the market value for your services. Bear in mind that agencies will take a margin for placing you in an assignment. You can look online to compare rates in your field and the roles that will secure you a higher charge-out rate. In a tight labour market where there is strong demand for your skills you will be in a strong negotiating position but where there is a surplus of contractors chasing the same contract, be prepared to be flexible in either your rate or your working arrangements. A flexible contractor who can offer value for money will be in a stronger position with the agency and ultimately the end client when conditions are more favourable.
Ask for recommendations
Asking your contacts who may have a similar skillset or who work in the same industry as you is a great way of getting a good agency referral. Although there can be competition among contractors for the best assignments, the contracting community is generally good at sharing experiences on forums. It’s also worth building your business contacts on LinkedIn; like any networking, word of mouth tip-offs can place you ahead in the game and can also be a valuable means of differentiating yourself from other candidates. If your business contacts know that their company is recruiting, they might be able to put you in touch. Even if a company is outsourcing contracts to an agency, let that agency know that you were referred by an existing employee or contractor at that firm.
Speak to several agencies
Contacting several recruitment agencies will enable you to make comparisons between them. Although you might not register with each one, calling and speaking to them will give you a feel for each of their communication styles, services and pay structures. An agency that has a specific position matching your qualifications is worth pursuing, while some agencies will interview and place contractors on their books for future assignments, so be prepared to wait. You can also get a feel for what’s included in the service. It’s always helpful to have a direct contact who can offer you personalised help and advice as your contracting career develops. Some agencies are more profit-driven than others, but forward-thinking agencies know that by investing time in getting to know the needs of their contractors and business clients, they’ll make matches that ensure repeat business.
If assignments are thin on the ground in your sector, it’s worth asking an agency about opportunities to use your skills in a different area. If you’re starting a new contract, ContractingWISE have a range of hassle-free services that can help you set up a fast and efficient payroll. To talk to a member of our team, call: 0203 642 8679