How to Get Ahead in the Gig Economy


How to Get Ahead in the Gig Economy

If you’re interested in contracting you’ve probably seen a fair amount of coverage in the news about the gig economy.

These articles usually focus solely on either the downsides or benefits of the gig economy, and portray it accordingly as either modern slavery or the answer to a happy work life.

If you’re an established contractor, just starting out or maybe considering if contracting is the right path for you, it can be overwhelming trying to wade through all this mixed information, and it may leave you feeling that success in the gig economy is becoming more and more elusive.

We’ve used our own experience with contractors to present what you’ll need to know about the gig economy, what risks you should be aware of and some key tips to succeeding as a contractor.

In a Hurry? Skip ahead to the most relevant section

The truth about the gig economy

Although people frequently use the term “gig economy worker” for anyone who works on short term projects or contracts, they rarely make any sort of distinctions, whether its between freelancers (multiple ongoing clients, often a variety of types of work), contractors (one client at a time, fixed contract, normally one main specialism) or workers (short-term, casual or agency workers, zero hour contracts).

The idea of “gig” work is often portrayed as a new phenomenon, but in reality it has only been expanded by new technology and ideas that make it more easily available to everyone; for example, apps like Uber.

Much of the negative press stems from the idea that people are being forced into self-employment when the nature of their work is really as an employee e.g. workers who would prefer not to be on zero hour contracts.

However, this does not change the fact that for many highly skilled specialists, contract work is still a viable, rewarding and sustainable way to earn a living. And finding success as a contractor is not as hard as you might think.


Defining success

Before starting any project, you would make sure you understood the end goal, right?

It helps you to stay on target, keeps you motivated and justifies your decisions.

You should think about your career in a similar way. Consider what you want to get out of your work and how contracting can help you achieve that. Chances are, if you are or want to be self employed, this may be fairly different to the goals of people who prefer full-time employment.

Create a list of aspirations and use these to define a success statement. You can remind yourself of this statement when considering new opportunities, feeling unmotivated or struggling with your projects. It will help to remind you that success looks different for everyone, and it is more important to hold yourself to your own standards than anyone else’s.

Avoiding common pitfalls

Once you’ve established where you fall in the gig economy and what you want to get out of it, you can then begin to identify the possible risks and difficulties you may face.

Being realistic and aware of potential problems means that you can work to prevent or prepare for them. Some may be specific to you or your industry, but we’ve identified some of the common issues or mistakes that contractors make to help you avoid them.

Poorly managing finances

For many contractors starting out, a major concern we hear time and time again is how they will manage their finances with an unpredictable income.

Of course, one of the main attractions for contractors is that the work is often better paid. A DevOps contractor, for example, could earn an average of £550 a day.

If you can manage your money cleverly, you should have no problem compensating for quieter periods of work and other added expenses with the money you earn during busy periods.

There’s a wealth of information out there on what you need to be aware of financially when contracting, but we’ve distilled this down into three key tips:

  • Prepare for your taxes. This one’s a no-brainer. Whatever you earn, put 20% to one side to cover your taxes. It’s better to have oversaved than under saved when that tax bill comes through.
  • Make hay while the sun shines. Another simple one. Work may be sporadic, and you will certainly notice periods of higher and lower demand. Budget yourself so that the money you make at your busiest will cover you when you’re in a quieter period.
  • Save for unexpected complications. No one likes to think of themselves getting sick, or being unable to work. But as a contractor, you have to be your own safety net. We suggest trying to save enough money to cover your living costs for at least 6 months, or looking into unemployment insurance, to give you peace of mind.

Thinking like an employee

It can be hard when you first start contracting to change your mindset from that of an employee to someone who is self-employed. But thinking like an employee can be detrimental to your contracting career.

Once you understand that you are not dependant on others for your income and take full responsibility for your own career, you will feel more confident.

Try and run yourself as a business, considering all areas that a traditional business would have and adapting them to yourself. Have you got a plan in place for managing your finances, marketing yourself and selling your services alongside your everyday work?

Saying ‘yes’ to everything

Many new contractors often take the saying “make hay when the sun shines” to mean they should accept every opportunity they are offered. However, if your aim is for a long term, successful contracting career, this may not be your best option.

Be realistic about the work you want to do, the income that it will generate and the experience every opportunity will give you. As a new contractor, you must find the balance between being so picky you can’t earn a living, and so broad that you never define your niche.

Undervaluing yourself

Another common mistake contractors make is selling themselves short. The fear for many contractors is that if you charge too much, your clients will simply find someone else.

What you need to remember is that you have specialised skills that these clients need. If they are going to make you an offer at all, it is because they see you as a good match for their project, and most employers are willing to pay for the right person.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate with your clients, but remember to be flexible too. Most of the time you will agree on a reasonable rate that works for you both.

At ClearHub, we regularly enter into salary negotiations on behalf of our contractors, and work hard to ensure that they are offered a fair market rate for the specialised skills they provide.

How to improve your work performance

Once you’ve mastered the basics of building a successful contracting career, you can begin to look at ways to increase your productivity, value and job satisfaction even further.

We know that when you’re self employed, time is money. So we’ve put together some top tips for increasing productivity and saving time.

Create a holding environment

This is a great strategy for improving the way you work, and the chances are you’re already partly implementing it. It involves creating a mental and physical environment that allows you to do your best work, and it helps to keep your personal life and your work life defined.

You may be working primarily from home, or working on multiple sites with different clients, but you can still find a way of creating a ‘space’ that works for you.

It may be a home office that you’ve set up for the sole purpose of working, or it could be a set of routine you use to prepare yourself for work. It can involve identifying a higher purpose that allows you to connect to your work, or interacting with specific people you associate with work.

Essentially this replaces your traditional office, colleagues and routine that subconsciously put you in the right frame of mind to work.

Invest in yourself

Our Head of Innovation, Simon Wood, recently wrote a blog on the importance of reskilling, and it’s something we think every contractor should be aware of.

As a contractor, you are your own biggest asset, and you shouldn’t be afraid to invest time and money in developing your own skills.

To save time: Register with an e-learning platform, such as Lynda, and leverage the ability to hone your skills around your busy schedule.

Keep up to date with your industry

Another great way to remain relevant is to keep up to date with what’s going on in your industry. Not only would it look bad in an interview to not know about major changes or breakthroughs, but you can leverage the knowledge to help you find new opportunities, or decide what areas to train in.

To save time: Use a tool such as feedly, that sends you news updates on whatever topic you choose, as a quick and easy way to keep track of what’s going on.

Manage your network

I’m sure most of you have heard the phrase “Your network is your net worth”, coined by Porter Gale to emphasise the importance of a strong portfolio of contacts.

For a contractor, these connections can be seen as security for your future. They could provide the chance for new opportunities, become advocates for your personal brand or offer support and guidance when you find yourself struggling.

If you’re still in the early stages of contracting, it may be beneficial to engage with an existing network that’s relevant to your skillset.

ClearHub offers it’s contractors the chance to get in front of some industry leading contacts, and saves them the time they’d spend managing their own networks.

To save time: Try a tool like Buffer, which lets you batch schedule content to post out on your social media. It can help you keep front of mind and engaged with your network, without taking up too much of your time.

Embracing change

For many people, the move into contracting is scary. You may feel like you have to give up your security or take a step down. But the reality isn’t scary – contracting is just a different way of working.

To be successful you have to accept that you are no longer an employee of someone else, and need to start running yourself and your time as a business. It may mean more responsibility and you may find that you have to develop new skills to be successful. But it can also mean more autonomy, more job satisfaction and often more income.

If you’re a technical contractor looking for more opportunities or advice, get in touch with us or take a look at some of the benefits ClearHub offers for contractors. We’ve already helped contractors find positions in companies like Fox and UBS, and we are always looking for contractors to fill our exciting new positions.

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Do you have any advice for other contractors? We’d love to hear from you! Comment below or send us an email!

5 ways smart recruiters find the right agile resource

5 ways smart recruiters
5 ways smart recruiters

5 ways smart recruiters find the right agile resource

 As part of our Future of Work series we’re looking at what it takes to find, manage and retain agile talent. The following is from our comprehensive deep dive on building agile teams, which you can download for free here.

These days, those involved in recruitment need to look at what a person can bring to the organisation, regardless of their qualifications and experience. This is especially important for an agile team. Hiring managers also need to ensure their offer is attractive as possible, and that goes beyond money.

ClearHub spoke with Talent Acquisition Partner for Shop Direct, Simon Halkyard, to get some insight on hiring the best tech talent. Here are five ways in which this can be done:

1. Defining the job, not the skills needed to do the job.

Before beginning the sourcing process, have a session with the people who will be involved in the hiring process to identify the actual job requirements. This should include at least five objectives — actual deliverables that need to be achieved. Skills shouldn’t be ignored of course, especially for technical roles. The tool-specific skills (e.g. Jira, AWS, Java) of the ideal candidate should be considered.

2. Experimenting with different hiring methods and tactics.

Unless outsourcing to a service like ClearHub, whose resourcers already do this kind of activity, there are numerous tactics to consider as part of the hiring process. Due to high competition, organisations have to appeal to passive candidates, as well as active job seekers. Here are some examples of tactics:

  • Pay to post the role on a relevant job board or aggregator site
  • Headhunt candidates using LinkedIn (paid options offer more access) and other platforms
  • Use an internal referral scheme
  • Attend job fairs
  • Network at IT events
  • Participate in forums and other online channels
  • Paid digital advertising (e.g. Google, social media)
  • Offline advertising (e.g. billboards, tube, print media)
  • Email marketing and direct mail

3. Focusing on mindset and values.

For an agile team, recruiters look beyond a person’s CV and are careful that the CV doesn’t limit them from meeting great candidates. This should also be factored into the interview process.

The key here is emotional intelligence (or EQ). EQ is the capacity of an individual to recognize emotions – their own and those of others. Teamwork and communication is essential for an agile team, and a key component of productivity, so questions that unlock such information should be considered. Organisations often use personality profiling for existing teams, and in their hiring process, to ensure a good fit.

4. Give the candidate what they want!

A simple, yet often overlooked aspect of hiring that is especially important for tech roles. If someone is the right fit, smart recruiters make sure they sell the role.

As Simon explains, offering flexible working is a no-brainer when trying to attract the right talent: “Candidates are not asking for flexible working, they are demanding it. In a candidate driven sector such as tech you nullify a huge amount of candidates if you dismiss this as a fad or temporary. Flexible working is here to stay and just like we do with customers we need to listen and adapt to the needs of candidates if we are to hire the best ones.”

5. Being open and honest.

Hiring the wrong person is expensive (ClearHub discovered as much in a recent study) so ensuring the hiring process is a dialogue, rather than a one way conversation, is important. Being open about the organisation’s culture, team structure, any upcoming changes, expectations and the frequency of change, for example, will avoid any future disruption.


Want to learn more about building an agile team? Download our free ebook: The future of work: building the agile team of tomorrow

In it you’ll learn:

  • Tangible advice on hiring the right people for your agile team.
  • Insight on how to ensure your team can collaborate better, while maintaining agility, regardless of their location.
  • A hot take on distributed teams and how you can utilise the human cloud to hire specialist talent, with expert advice from Atlassian.


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Hire for Attitude: Train on Skill


Hire for Attitude: Train on Skill

Recruiting used to be interrogation-style: Candidates would send in a CV, get invited for interview and, (if they were lucky!) offered the job.

It’s point was to find the most skilled person, fit for the role.

But, today there are missing elements to this method. Over the last few years, ‘hiring manager’ friends I’ve spoken to have all started to say the same thing:

“I prefer to hire for attitude, rather than skill.”

Thanks to the gig economy a greater focus on attitude, and the impact of new technologies on the younger workforce, your recruitment needs are changing – fast.

That’s true if you work at big corporations, (like I have for 15 years) – or if you work for smaller companies – like some of the businesses we’ve helped here at ClearHub.

And I can see why: Only 19 percent of your new hires will succeed in the long term. And of those – a full 89 percent – will lose their job due to their attitude or personality.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that you should ignore a candidate’s experience. But if you are looking to hire, it’s in your best interest to put as much focus on their attitude as you do skill.

Imagine how many more business goals your software development team will meet if you increase team retention rates by 10%, or even 20% – simply because they all get along.

Of course, this raises questions:

What if you find a candidate that is culturally perfect – but, who is  lacking in a specific skills?

Or – worse still – what if your mission-critical project calls for no time to onboard, upskill and train them?

The good news is: I’ve found a solution.

Great teams thrive on trust

We all know that the best companies are made up of great teams.

But what you might not know is that hiring someone who’s not an ideal cultural match for your team, is the number one reason why recruitment managers are changing their mindsets.

A couple of years back, I read this Google survey on team effectiveness.

The researchers found that what really matters for your teams to work effectively, is less about who is on it, and more about how they work together, instead.

As you can see, teams that feel safe to take risks around their team members (without fear of peer judgement, or ridicule) perform the best.

That’s also why 84% of employees agree that meeting the team, is one of the most important parts of the onboarding process.

In fact, happy employees are also up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees,

So it only makes sense that you should prioritise attitude.

If you’ve already got a happy and motivated team, why would you risk losing them by putting all of your effort into hiring someone who is the wrong fit?

Especially when there are now so many candidates to choose from.

The gig economy is changing everything

The gig economy isn’t just a buzzword – it’s changing the way your teams get their work done.

And those changes are here to stay. By 2020, it’s estimated that freelance workers will exceed 40% of the workforce.

In addition to helping increase the speed of your project work and plugging specific skills gaps in your teams, the gig economy can help you find a team member with the right attitude.

Ask yourself this:

How often do you hire a contractor that fits seamlessly into the team?

I’m guessing that it’s not very often.

But, if you had access to a smart profiling system, with communication tips and preferences,  as we’ve developed at ClearHub, you’d have the ability to do this.

Plus, the better the fit, the greater the chances of your team wanting them to return for  future projects.

Candidate attitude is key

You just need to find someone who seems to fit with your team and has a willingness to learn some new things.

Easy, right?

Apparently not: The complication  most recruiting managers have with hiring for attitude is that it’s pretty ambiguous.

Ask yourself:

What type of personality do I need in my team?

In ClearHub, having energy, compassion and creativity are all key markers of success; as we’re focused on finding the right IT contractors for our clients.

When you identify the right attitude in your next hire, you’re identifying what your team needs to meet their goals, first.

You might find that’s a necessary change in pace, and a reinforcement of what’s already been working is all you need.  Either way, your hire will be filling the gap, as intended.

Plus, by making your team happy, you will increase your productivity.


When I hire people, I’m not hiring a job description.

I focus on attitude, and it almost always get me a hire who fits in with my current team. Better yet, it usually means I’ve found someone who is ready to jump in and learn the skills that will help my product grow. In return, I cultivate their passions and applaud their experimentation.

With the high costs of staff turnover, you need to focus on cost-effective recruitment methods. Hiring on attitude, as well as skill, is the best way to do this.

First you need to focus on making your current team feel safe and happy. Next, you’ll have to come up with a way  for them to feel included in the hiring process.

If you adopt this idea, you’ll see a happier, more motivated team, and a new hire that will need very little time to settle in.

What are you doing to make sure you hire the right candidates for your team?

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