Tips on becoming an HR contractor

I think we’ve all experienced the requirement to do more with less in response to organizational ‘right sizing’, often achieved by vacant roles remaining vacant for extended periods of time.  For current or potential HR contractors, this presents a further opportunity to gain contract work, as organisations seek to up-skill and increase the productivity of their workforce.  Talking with colleagues and HR peers, one of the common questions coming up is about going into businesses as an HR contractor.

In response to this, I’ve decided to put together a list of tips for those considering entering the independent HR contractor space.

Saying no is okay.  As an HR contractor you’re selling your skill-set, this is predicated on you having a reputation that the client can rely upon.  Saying yes to work that you’re unfamiliar with, is a sure fire way to damage your reputation.  This can seem like you’re giving work away, and yes sometimes you’ll lose a client as a competitor will step in and complete the work – and potentially keep the client.  The aspect to remember here though, is that you’re in it for the long term.  A reputation takes a long time to earn, but can be lost instantly.

First impressions.  Related to the above point, the first impression you make will impact on your ability to have an opportunity to make a second impression.  Every meeting with your clients should be treated like a job interview – they get to decide if you’re coming back into the office tomorrow, or if your contract time-frame has been reduced i.e. you’re not coming back into the office tomorrow.  Be professional, walk the walk and talk the talk.

Etiquette.  This can be one of the big ‘trip up’ areas for individuals new to the HR contractor space.  While as employee, we generally have some allowance for personal calls, or checking Facebook etc, as a HR contractor we’re on the clock.  Your client is paying for every minute, so every minute of your time is there’s while you’re on the job.

Preparation.  As an HR contractor your paid to hit the ground running, as an employee you had an opportunity to gain your orientation to the business over the first couple of weeks.  As a HR contractor, you’re expected to hit the ground running from the first hour.  You need to know exactly what the organisation does, what the issue or opportunity is that you’re being engaged to fix, and what departments are involved if not what individuals.  Do your research, go in there with a plan – and as part of your plan, intelligent questions are encouraged.

Assignment management.  The assignments you’ll pick up will have fixed end dates, however these end dates can be flexible.  Remember to leave some space between contracts, if you’re unable to for whatever reason, be sure to communicate this to your client prior to it coming up.

This certainly isn’t a comprehensive list of tips for becoming an HR contractor, rather its intent was to alert potential HR contractors of some points they may not have considered.

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