The prospect of ditching your 9-to-5 sales job to become a contract sales professional (CSP) is both exciting and downright scary. You may be confident about your sales ability but feel tentative about trading in the security of your W-2 status for the uncertainty that comes with a 1099.
But don't let fear deter you from a path that could be perfect for you. Instead, consider the following guidelines to help you decide if contracting is right for you, and use our tips to learn how to go about obtaining work as an independent contractor.
Employee vs. CSP
Whether you're an employee or independent contractor depends on the "amount of control exercised by the employer over the work being done," according to the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Essentially, an independent worker takes on an entrepreneurial spirit. You may think that, as a contractor, you should adopt a loner mentality, but your goal is actually to attach yourself to your clients by building partnerships in the marketplace that address your clients' needs. As an employee, by contrast, you aim to establish yourself within a company.
To be a successful CSP, you want to turn your clients into long-term partners, despite what your initial contracts say. Most companies utilize short-term contracts to test the waters. Enter every contract with the goal of renewing it by adapting to the needs of your client, and you will be on your way to becoming a flourishing independent.
Pave Your Way
If you've decided to venture into contract sales, follow these guidelines before you take the leap:
- Do Your Homework: Research the companies that you plan to contract for. Contact some of their clients and discover the strengths and weaknesses of the services they have been receiving. Take notes and adapt your mission statement to accommodate the most vital concerns you come across.
- Ease Your Way In: Develop a relationship with other CSPs who are on their way up. If possible, before quitting your full-time position, master your trade, learn all that you can about your market and ease into your new role. Before obtaining his real estate license, Brenard K. Wilson, president of Brenard K. Wilson Investments Inc. in Nashville, had a goal and a plan to achieve it. “I knew I wanted to work for myself one day,” says Wilson, an eight-year veteran of the Philadelphia Eagles. In his off-seasons, Wilson took classes to obtain his broker license.
- Be Responsible: Build yourself a life preserver, and protect your savings and investments before taking the leap as an independent.
- Buckle Down: There is a raft of information to assist you in developing your business plan and applying for the appropriate licenses (if required) at the SBA's Starting & Managing a Business site.
- Be Ready to Start from Scratch: Do not expect your current clients to follow you, as they may be loyal to your employer. “Develop a market plan,” Wilson suggests. “The same work ethic and foundation I had as a football player I use in my business today.” Be prepared to market yourself on the Internet and in print. Join an organization to enhance your skills, make no-fee presentations where your targeted audiences reside, obtain a listing of companies that seek your service, and make some phone calls -- with passion -- sharing the mission of your service.
Above all, remember that the very first sell that you make will be to yourself. If you do not believe in yourself, your product will not stand a chance. After all, as a CSP, your product is you.
Learn more about sales careers.