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Three ways contractors can ease the feast or famine cycle

Contracting can be a tricky old business at times, few problems more pronounced than the feast or famine cycle.

Posing perpetual problems for cash flow, at times you’re feeling flush whilst at others you’re feeling crushed. As such, it’s an issue that needs addressing if you’re to have a long and fruitful career as a contractor.

Now, there’s no definitive way to fuel endless feast, or equally end all periods of famine – you’re likely to get bouts now again, that’s just the nature of business –  but there are ways you can limit its impact, easing the strain on your wallet as well as your stress levels…

Market yourself, as much as you can

You may not feel like it when you’re in the midst of a tough and tiring contract, but it’s important to carve out time for marketing, even when you’re at your busiest.

This might feel counter-intuitive at first, but bear in mind that any marketing you do in the present might be grabbing you work later down the line. Try to do a little every day – perhaps pitching out for new work, networking, or chasing up old clients. It often takes time for marketing to transfer into sales, so the more often you do it, the better.

Cultivate a cross-section of clients

Don’t get too reliant on a couple of contacts, try to build a rolodex that’s filled with a broad range of contacts, offering potential contracts.

This should ease lengthy periods of famine, as you’ll have countless contacts to call upon when times get tough. Contractors are increasingly attractive to businesses big and small, what with the unsure economic environment and the rigmarole involved in taking on full-time staff, so don’t just chase the conglomerates – consider thinking small too.

Be Frugal With Your Funds

Speaking from personal experience, always try to create a cash cushion for when times might get tough.

Once I received payment for my first big writing job, I splashed out on an expensive holiday to Ibiza. Copious amounts of sun, sand and sangria later, I wish I’d put some of that money aside. A week or so after my returning the financial crisis hit and almost overnight, work became ten times harder to come by. In short, keep some money in your coffers as a famine can appear out of nowhere.

Mark James is a writer for online accountancy firm Crunch

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