How to make yourself more employable — become a freelance contractor

As Calgary's unemployment rate hit 10.2 per cent in October, a number not seen since 1993, some industry experts say securing contract work is the way to go to get a paycheque.

Helpful hints to find contract jobs to keep you busy and earning money

Our employment expert believes becoming a contractor is a great way to stay employed so long as you keep a consistent network. (Eugenio Marongiu/Shutterstock)

As Calgary's unemployment rate hit 10.2 per cent in October, a number not seen since 1993, some industry experts say securing contract work is the most effective way to get a paycheque.

So the Calgary Eyeopener reached out to its get-a-job guy for insight on how to transition into becoming a contractor.

Richard Bucher is a senior consultant with Right Management, a Calgary-based talent and career-management company.

Q: Who should consider becoming a contractor?

Almost anyone can. I think the sooner that candidates begin thinking like a contractor rather than an unemployed candidate, the closer they'll be to work.

Q: If I've always thought about doing it, but never really pulled the trigger how do you do it? 

It's fairly easy. You can set yourself up as a sole proprietor by going down to the registry office, filling out a form which takes about 10 minutes, giving them $80 and you're a sole proprietor.

If you want to incorporate, it's a slightly longer form and $300.

Q: Is there a difference between being a sole proprietor or incorporating? 
Richard Bucher is a senior consultant with Calgary's Right Management. (Submitted to CBC)

As a sole proprietor you can account for expenses and revenue on your personal tax return.

But don't take accounting advice from a career coach and don't take career advice from an accountant.

It's not a bad idea to consult with a professional so you stay on the right side of CRA and you have your bookkeeping sorted out properly.

Q: How do I know people will want my services?

Employers are looking for solutions to the problems that they have. They don't want to take on a full-time equivalent accountability or a severance liability as they would with an employee. They'll bring people in on a contract basis.

The relationship you have with an employer is somewhat like the relationship you would have with a contractor in your kitchen — you're not part of the family, you're in there to do a job and then when your day is done you're not staying for dinner and you're not sleeping over.

You're only as good as your next contract

Q: But that's a tough thing to stomach isn't it? Because it's a different sensibility.

It is. There are meetings you don't get to sit in on, there are things you're not copied in on e-mails — you're not an employee.

This is a danger with some people who take on contracting — they start treating it like it is a job; they stop networking. They don't realize they are only as good as their next contract.

Worse, they can sometimes go through the same emotions that they'll suffer when they get laid off when their contract comes to an end, because they felt like it was a job and of course, it's not.

Contractors can feel the same emotional stress as being laid off when the term of a contract comes to an end. Industry experts advise trying to have jobs lined up. (iStock)

Q: Is this type of work more reflective of what today's marketplace really offers?

Permanent and full-time doesn't exist. The positions aren't permanent. Death and taxes are permanent.

Your name is your brand

Q: Say I take the leap in being a contractor, then what do I do next?

Your name is your brand. Why would you try and reintroduce a name that nobody knows? It's not about cold-calling. Find out where the work is, what are the problems that aren't getting the support and that's where the work is going to come from.

Q: How do you know what to charge? Can you make more than when you were a staff person.

Have conversations with people and find out what kind of day-rate they are generating. Employers and clients have a budget for consulting; they know what they are prepared to pay. Ask what rate they had in mind, tell them what you can offer but also that you are willing to fit within the confines of the contract.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener


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