Should contractors use agents or find contracts themselves?

There are two options for you as contractor, when trying to find work:

One is to use agencies and other to find a contract yourself.

Finding a contract via recruitment agencies

When register to several recruitment agencies, you are maximising your chances to find a contract job that matches your skills and desired salary.

You should choose the agencies specialized for your field of expertise. Three to five agencies are enough to build working relationships with recruiters.

Set your contractor rate at the beginning, and ensure you are getting jobs with the pay you deserve.

Using recruitment agencies saves you a time needed to find a contract. Once you apply for a position you will need to chase up applications, by calling your agent or potential client.

An agency will typically mark up your rate by anything from a minimum of 12% to up to 20%.

Some companies have a policy that all contractors must contract via an agent, even if they are sourced directly.

Companies which hire direct contractors usually will not pay higher rates than contractors hired via agency. Large companies who use agencies have a list of agencies they will use.

Sourcing a contract through agents requires applying to jobs advertised on the internet job boards and then chasing them up for interviews.

To get a good rate via an agent you will need to know your market rate, and have good negotiation skills.

Sourcing a Contract yourself

Finding a contract directly with the client allows you to be more selective with the roles.

The most important thing when you decide to go directly to client is your professional network. The greater the network is the greater are possibilities to find clients for future contracts.

However, this can be more challenging.

You will have to be active, to promote yourself on LinkedIn, search job via job boards and constantly work on growing your network.

You will want to source contracts yourself if you believe that you can get higher rate than with agency, if you have specific skills set, that are not typically advertised or you think you can do better than agent.

Two methods to follow

There are two methods for sourcing yourself: through your own network and by contacting companies directly.

If you already have an established network, with lot of colleagues and potential clients, many recommendations and activities, this could be the easiest method for you.

For direct contact, first thing to do is to find list of companies and people you should contact.

This can be challenging as many companies’ managers are being called every day by agents and job seekers, so most of your calls will be rejected before you get opportunity to speak with manager.

If you get to manager, most of them will reject you.

If you manage to convince them to talk to you, you will first have to find out whether there is a free position requiring your skills. I the most cases there will be no such position.

But if there is such a position, there are chances that they will refer you to an agency they work with if they have a policy of using agency.

Otherwise you will have very short time to convince them you are the person they need and get yourself an interview. This can be a long process: first establishing a list of contacts, and then working with that list to try and locate a client who needs your skills, hires contractors directly and is prepared to interview you.

Should you even consider direct contact?

If you have good network that you should consider finding a contract yourself – it can be really fast an you can negotiate better rate.

But if you don’t have network and rely on direct contact there are few difficulties;

It is very time consuming and you can’t do it while you work on contract, so there will be large gap between contracts. This will cost you as you don’t get paid. On the other side you will probably not be able to get higher rate and there are no advantages compering working the agent.

An agent has professional selling experience and has a list of leads he can work with. They will do better job in shorter time.

So if you don’t already have a great network of contacts, it could be a good idea to use agencies for securing a contract.

Meanwhile, learn some negotiation and selling skills and try and get the best rate possible on each contract.