Marketing your limited company

Winning a contract is a two-stage process – marketing and selling. Marketing advertises a contractors’ skills to relevant clients – marketing is there to make a contractor’s name and skills known to the people with the budgetary authority to engage their services. Selling is the point at which interest in a contractor’s services turns into a firm order.

On this page, we look at:

  • the importance of a contractor CV
  • local networking opportunities for contractors
  • specialist contractor recruitment agencies
  • online job boards for contractors
  • LinkedIn for contractors
  • a contractor limited company having its own website
  • email marketing

The importance of a contractor CV

No matter which role a contractor applies for, their CV is the first thing that a client or a recruiter operating on a client’s behalf will see. The higher the quality and relevance of a CV, the better the chance a contractor will have of being shortlisted and interviewed by a client.

A contractor (or technically their limited company’s) CV should be written very differently from a permanent CV. A permanent CV has to not only demonstrate the skills of a candidate in the role they’re applying for but also how they’ll fit into an organisation professionally, culturally, and socially for many years to come.

A contractor is a professional brought in for a specified reason for a pre-defined length of time. A contractor CV should focus strongly on the skills required to perform the contractor on offer to the desired standard and to get to the desired outcome.

A contractor CV should focus on their skills, their past work which is relevant to the needs of the client, and it should be laid out in a standard format making good use of bullet points. Many clients skim past educational experience, marital status (including number of children), and hobbies & interests. A good rule of thumb is that if it does not help the reader see the value in a contractor’s skills, it should be left out of a CV.

There should be two versions of a contractor CV – one which can be attached as a PDF on an email and another which has been formatted for relevant job boards. Where possible, the version of a CV sent directly to a client or recruiter should be amended each time by a contractor to demonstrate the specific skills being offered for a particular contract.

Getting the most out of recruitment agencies for contractors

As well as working to place full-time employees with companies, recruitment consultants also introduce their clients to contractors working through their own limited company. There is healthy competition among recruiters to introduce the best contractors to their clients. This competition offers many opportunities for contractors looking to be placed quickly.

A contractor should look for a recruiter with a firm knowledge of and experience in their marketplace. They should also look for an understanding of both what a client wants on a particular job and what a contractor needs to have knowledge and skills in to satisfy a client’s wants.

A contractor should also check that a recruiter is fully conversant with agency regulations, IR35, debt transfer provisions, tax legislation, employment rights, and more. If a mistake is made by a recruiter on taxation, HMRC will hold the contractor responsible and pursue them for money.

A recruiter usually engages with and invoices the end client for the work, taking a percentage from the total amount invoiced – this is their profit margin. The contractor then invoices the agency from their limited company. With some recruiters, there may be room for negotiation for a contractor to ask for higher rates however many recruiters refrain from this practice. This is because, in the long term, many recruiters and contractors feel that contract-by-contract negotiation erodes trust between the two parties.

In most cases, if a client wishes to extend the contract, they will negotiate this through the recruiter and not the contractor. Once an arrangement has been agreed in principle, an offer will then be made to the contractor who will then be free to accept or reject the deal.

Recruiters are often overwhelmed with CVs for particular contracts. People buy people first so many contractors argue that personal contact with a recruiter, particularly phone contact, can prove beneficial in winning particularly sought-after contracts.

Which job boards are for contractors?

Many clients and recruiters advertise their requirements on job boards and CV libraries. The top 10 searched-for limited company contractor job boards in the UK at time of writing are:

  • Jobsite
  • CV Library
  • Monster
  • The IT Jobboard
  • Jobserve
  • Totaljobs
  • CWjobs
  • Technojobs
  • Indeed.co.uk
  • Jobs.co.uk

Often clients and recruiters will make direct contact with relevant contractors through these boards.

A limited company contractor should prepare a separate version of their CV for inclusion on job boards and CV libraries. This different version should use keywords and key phrases to make their skillsets as easily locatable as possible by clients and recruiters.

When searching for jobs or when inputting keywords into a CV, a contractor can be very specific, mentioning their sector, speciality, and location – for example;

  • IT contract jobs London
  • IT project manager jobs London

Others may use their and speciality leaving out a location. For example:

  • IT project manager contract jobs
  • IT project manager jobs

Some contractors use their speciality and location only, for example:

  • business analyst jobs London
  • project manager jobs London
  • project manager jobs London South East

Others use just their speciality when searching for role – for example:

  • business analyst contract jobs
  • project manager contract jobs
  • contract project manager jobs
  • programme manager jobs
  • project programme manager jobs
  • senior project manager jobs
  • technical architect jobs

The less precise a description, the more likely that a contractor will be found more in client’s search results however that lack of precision may need to many enquiries that are not able to be serviced. Most CV experts would advise that something vague like “contract jobs” would produce so many results that the chances of being seen by a desired client are next to none.

Networking for contractors

As long as it does not breach any restrictive covenants, contractors find success in securing new roles by contacting people they have worked with in their industry in the past. Potential targets include former employers, customers of former employers, and relevant friends and family members.

Although these contacts may not have any contracts available at the moment, there is value in asking them to store details until such time that a contract does arrive. A contractor should also always make sure that they ask a contact to introduce them to any people or companies they know of for which their skills could be useful either now or in the future.

There may be value to be gained in joining the local Chambers of Commerce, breakfast networking events, and more.

LinkedIn for contractors

Much of the networking that was previously carried out face to face now occurs on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a social network with a professional focus. It is a very popular platform on which professionals across different industries link with each other sharing updates and pitching for business.

Each user has a profile on which they can list the clients they’ve worked for, the skills they offer to clients, and their availability for work. Users can make themselves more findable by including their skillsets in their taglines, following it up with a strong 2,000-character profile detailing the reasons that they should be considered for a new role.

LinkedIn will integrate your current email inbox contact list looking for matches on its platform. This is the standard way for most users to begin building up their list of contacts. The search box at the top of the page can be used to search for new and relevant companies and contacts to connect with.

LinkedIn rewards participation so the more connections a user makes, the more posts they upload, and the more they help other users, the more visible their profile becomes to other users.

Contractor websites

Limited company contractors may wish to use on their CV as a base on which to build their own website. A website can go into much further detail about a contractor’s skills than a CV. It can also contain other important information including testimonials, case studies showcasing particular skills, day rates, and more.

Websites can be built cheaply using various WYSIWYG online editing tools like Wix, Squarespace, and GoDaddy.

Email marketing for contractors

Email marketing is a less popular but often very effective way for a contractor to make new connections and receive advanced notification of any upcoming contracts.

There are two types of contractor email marketing – cold emailing and email broadcasting.

A cold email is a highly personalised email written specifically for a particular contact. It often involves making direct reference to information about the contact that can only be found out by viewing their LinkedIn profile or their website. Searching “cold email for contractors” on Google yields some very usable results, for example “9 cold email formulas that just plain work”. Many of these sites are written with an American audience in mind so care should be taken to re-write to match British sensibilities.

An email broadcast involves the transmission of the same email (subject to changes in salutation lines) to a broad group of people. It involves the purchase of an email marketing list containing the types of targets likely to buy contracting services – for example, IT directors, HR directors, and so on. Be careful when purchasing a data list to work with a Direct Marketing Association member.

In May 2018, new laws on data protection came in – the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Business to business email marketing is generally unaffected by GDPR but contractors should take care only to email prospects working for limited companies or public sector bodies. It is against the law to email a sole trader or a partnership for marketing purposes without prior consent.

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