Perhaps you’re ready for a different challenge in your professional life. Maybe you’ve just started a family and are looking for more control over your schedule. Or possibly you’re just eager to take on new projects to sharpen your skills.

Whatever your reason for making a change, choosing to become an independent contractor can be a positive career step for many people looking to take a different step in their professional lives.

Among the reasons user-centered professionals choose to become contractors include:

  • You want to focus on creating great work without the “busy work” that can sometimes come with full-time office roles.
  • You could benefit from a flexible schedule where you choose when to work and for how long each day.
  • You want to explore a new area in your field and are looking for new projects and clients to gain experience.

If you meet any of the criteria above, choosing to become an independent contractor may be a great decision for your career. With added flexibility, you can shape your portfolio in a new direction or become more selective about the type of work you do. The choice is yours—a powerful step to take in moving your career forward.

As you become a more experienced contractor, you’ll learn there are many keys to successfully completing high-quality work, building your client base, and strengthening relationships with prospective clients. Among the steps we recommend for contractors getting started include:

Diversify your client base.

When you’re just getting started, it’s tempting to find one dependable client and work almost exclusively on their projects. While this works well for the short term, you’re opening yourself up to long-term risk by depending solely on one major client for the majority of your contract opportunities. It’s always good practice to diversify your client base so if one client cuts back on assignments, you have a replacement. This practice also benefits your work portfolio, which will demonstrate that you can work across different types of businesses, projects, and products.

Always meet deadlines—or communicate if you can’t.

As a contractor, the ultimate responsibility for completing your assigned work falls on your shoulders. That’s why it’s critical that you always meet pre-arranged deadlines, or, if you aren’t able to make those deadlines, to communicate with your client why you need more time, as well renegotiate a new deadline. Most clients understand that user-centric work shouldn’t be rushed, but for certain projects, such as a new product launch, deadlines are crucial. Eventually you will have a better sense of how long it will take you to complete a given project. In the meantime, it’s best to err on the side of caution and give yourself plenty of time to deliver your results.

Take pride in your work and select clients and projects that reflect your skills.

Being an independent contractor is liberating because you are your own boss, allowing to pick and choose the type of work you want to do. While it’s reassuring to take every assignment that crosses your desk, one of the benefits of working as a contractor is the ability to say no to assignments that don’t fit your skill set, aren’t interesting to you, or don’t match your career direction or focus. Don’t be afraid to be selective—it will ensure you’ll receive more projects that match your skills in the future.

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