Direct Contracting. How I succeeded by Giving up Agencies – Why Dont You?

Direct Contracting with the Client
Direct Contracting with the Client

Direct Contracting

This article, about Direct Contracting, is from our Comments section and is by regular contributor Trigger.

There’s no reason why contractors shouldn’t get lots more contracts direct from the client.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of potential clients who have seemingly given up their marketing strategies to the Finance Director. And he/she will issue the edict “save more money!”

But there are plenty of firms who want to know who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and where’s the references to prove it.

Last year I had to give up finding assignments from agencies. I decide on direct contracting to the client. It wasn’t through choice. I quite like the protection that you get working through an agency, particularly when you bill weekly or monthly and your pay comes at regular intervals.

But the work didn’t come and something had to give. At the end I had, I think, 19 roles I had an interest in and submitted my CV for, either as a result of Jobserve or from agency phone calls.

And did I get an interview? Did I heck!

Did I get a single follow-up phone call? No, I didn’t!

So, and I don’t speak from recent experience, when the agency does phone about a role, does the question of money come into the conversation? I don’t know, but I suspect it does.

Rarely Discussed Contract Rates

During the boom times, I rarely discussed the fee with an agent before I got the offer of a job. I used to do high-end HP-UX stuff, and the rates were between 37 p/hour and 50 p/hour (oh back in the good old days!) Now it seems to be tough to find anyone on above 22 p/h.

Why didn’t we discuss rates?

It‘s because the client didn’t want a “cheapie” on-site, or a wombat, or a jellybrain or a space-cadet. He/she wanted someone who he/she trusts with their vital enterprise environment. Now like a few contractors I blagged my way through a few assignments (get to desk, rip open manual…) but by the same token I also voluntarily excused myself from a role when I was out of my depth (even when it wasn’t obvious I was to the client).

How Things Changed

So how did things change for me? Well…

1. I gave up with the agencies – they’re just timewasters, spacewasters, phonecall wasters in my eyes.

2.  I hit the potential clients direct with free pens (courtesy of an sample free gift via the FSB directory listings), tri-fold brochures, emails, a Web site, and anything else I and the wife could come up with. I even considered taking-out a “directors” box at Old Trafford, but that was just a bit too expensive.

3.  I chose to do short-term roles anywhere in the UK. Short-term means anything down to 4 1/2 hours. Sometimes I’ll do a job that leaves me with a minus income (after the travel and b&b are subtracted) – but it gets you in with a client, and quite a few come back for more. Quite a few times I’ll be on-site for 6 hours, and travel for 11.

4.  I work weekends without hesitation, and don’t bill stupid fees for it (so the clients can contemplate using you) and how many IT projects require weekend work?

List of Client Contacts

I didn’t possess some huge list of client contacts. My wife rings up firms and harasses the telephonist until we get the names of the key staff.

There shouldn’t be a term “inexperienced contractor”. There might be contractors who don’t have bang-up-to-date skills (because they haven’t worked for a while) but inexperienced? Of course not. They bring with them years of knowledge of how to well…get things done.

I have no particular skills and no particular axe to grind. I just wish more UK contractors would do the very same as I did, not by design, but by sheer expediency.

Stop depending on Jobserve, stop depending on some spotty snot from an agency ringing you back.

The work is absolutely, definitely out there (it‘s just not the same sort of work I was used to). The cut-backs most firms have made have left them in a mess much of the time, and that‘s where a “flexible friend” is sought after.

And these firms don’t want cheap Indians, they just want someone to save them from the doggy-doo they’ve dropped themselves into.

Direct contracting is something that all contractors should look seriously at.