How to get hired – advice for contractors

Scroll places hundreds of contractors in roles every year. I’m Hetty Meyric Hughes, partner at Scroll, and I manage this process. Here’s my advice on what you need to do to get your next contract.

What agencies look for

I often feel like a matchmaker when I am placing a contractor in a role. This is what I look for in pairing people up.

  • You have experience that fits what the client is asking for (or that will be useful to them, even if they’re not asking for it).
  • The role will be interesting for you and ideally stretch you, helping you to extend into new areas that you’ve had some exposure to but need to practise a little more.
  • You’ll get on and fit in well with the client.
  • If several Scroll contractors (affectionately known as ‘Scrollies’) are going to work on the project, I try to balance the team (will you all get on? Do you have complementary skills?).

Brush up on multi-disciplinary team skills

There’s an increasing trend towards clients (especially in government) wanting more rounded individuals who can work in multi-disciplinary teams alongside user researchers, ux designers, analysts, developers and so on. So the more you can learn to speak others’ jargon and understand the basics of what they do, the stronger your own position will be.

When I say ‘work with’ I mean really understand their roles and even demonstrate some of those skills too. These are the sorts of people that get snapped up really quickly and who prove invaluable in the bigger and more complex projects.

So if you’re ambitious to extend your knowledge of service design or content strategy, multi-disciplinary is the way forwards.

You need to react fast

Roles are offered and filled in a matter of days – you need to be ready and act fast.

We sometimes get invited to submit a tender with a partner company at the last minute, or a loyal client rings asking for help urgently. A lot of our work is done in response to replying to an invitation to tender, and tenders now often have a single week’s deadline.

Most recently, I was called at 4pm on a Friday to include a CV in a partner supplier’s tender – deadline 5pm.

And we also have regular work with clients who know we can find them proofreaders and editors at 2 days’ notice – they come to us because they know we can meet that requirement.

So please help us to help you!

Here’s how to be prepared

Update agencies about your availability

Scrollies should contact us about a month before they finish any current contract.

Be clear about what you can and can’t do

Be clear with us about where you’re prepared to work, if you have to be part time, if there are any travel or accessibility limitations.

Update your CV and LinkedIn profile

Make sure your agency has a current version of your CV on file.

Scrollies – start by asking for your formatted CV (if we’ve ever put you forwards for a role we’ll have one on file) and update that, so we don’t have to spend time updating it.

Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date. And when you do a contract through Scroll, mention us! Some clients even see it as a mark of distinction!

Adapt your CV for the role

Wherever possible, tweak your CV to the role. Clients don’t like generic or over-long CVs. To save time in an emergency, just rewrite the introductory paragraph (5 lines or so) making you seem you’re the only person in the world who could do this work.

Create a file of recommendations and project summaries

Keep a file of handy summaries and quotations. It’s handy to be able to churn out a 10-line summary of a project you’ve done in the past (like a mini case study) and quotations about your performance from past clients.

These are gold dust as we can include them in tenders, which will position you well for the role. Have them ready so you can give them to us at a moment’s notice.

On that note, don’t be embarrassed to ask clients for comments about your performance. It’s normal that contractors need to sell themselves!

Keep your security clearances current

You’d be surprised how many people end up falling at the last hurdle because their security is out of date. At the very least, ensure your Disclosure Scotland is less than a year old and that you have a couple of referees whose contact details are correct whom we can contact.

After you’re offered a contract

Help us to clear you through any security hurdles quickly by sending us the information we ask for asap, and retaining it for the next time.

Mug up on the project: look at the website you’ll be working on, read up on the topic so you can show you’re interested.

Ask us if there are any other Scrollies who work there or have worked there in case we can put you in touch for a pre-start date chat.

Sounds like fun?

We’re always on the look-out for good content designers and strategists. If you’re interested, please send us your CV.