The Way We Work
September 15, 2010 by Tamara Rice

Are you just dabbling in contract work, or are you in it to establish a new and thriving career? Apply a little time and these key habits to transition yourself to a successful contract career.

Career Contractors …

• Treat contract work like a business. Why? Because it is their own small business. Market yourself. A great contract worker understands (or learns) how to market herself and her skills. Network, network, network. Network to find other contractors who have related skills. For example, a graphic designer might take note of a few website development gurus to refer work to — and may find the favor returned.

• Hunger for success. The old adage couldn’t be more true: The early bird really does get the worm. Be a seeker. Always be on the lookout for new employers and keep applying to relevant jobs. A career contractor doesn’t wait for the next great job to find him — he goes out and finds it! Look ahead with confidence. He will also seek jobs that push him higher in pay, deeper into his field of expertise, and broaden his range of experience.

career contractors• Are true professionals. Don’t let working remotely or working from home hinder your professional performance. Have a routine. Career contractors keep regular work schedules and let employers know when they can expect to find them online. Organize. Stay on top of tasks, deadlines and conference calls. Set up your own system of organization and use it.

• Communicate well from the first contact to the last. Your ability to communicate — whether you are a blog post writer or a software programmer — will directly affect your contract career success. Practice clarity. Career contractors are professional and clear at all times. (Read: no texting lingo.) Stay in touch. Don’t take a job and then drop off the radar until the day your project is due. Stay in contact through emails or calls, updating on status, clarifying issues, etc. Career contractors keep the lines of communication open with other team members throughout the assignment.

• Build relationships. Whether you are networking or just working, keep relationships in mind. They are part of the bigger picture. Be social. Career contractors take a few minutes now and then to get personal with people and aren’t just work robots. Offer satisfaction. Career contractors think about pleasing the client, not just completing an assignment. Repair damage. When you screw up, be the first to own it. Honesty fosters trust, and trust builds your career.

career contractors two• Go above and offer to go beyond. Career contractors don’t just wait around for opportunities to shine, they chase them. Add value. When you can improve the projects you are working on, take the initiative to share your ideas for improvement. Offer more. Offer to manage others — if you’re leading the project, you’re getting more visibility throughout, and more people are seeing your talent.

Are you a career contractor? Tell us how you made the transition from dabbling freelancer to careerist!

Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

Tamara Rice is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. She joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, after more than six years on staff at an award-winning national magazine.