6 Ways to Stay Competitive as an Independent Contractor

By MBO Partners | May 7, 2024


Key Points

Stand out from your competition with the right skillset, a strong personal brand, and the right marketing strategy.

Cultivate relationships with clients and peers to find new opportunities for work.

Diversify your revenue streams to stay agile and prepare for market changes.

In today’s rapidly evolving marketplace, finding ways to stay competitive as an independent contractor is more important than ever. More than 72 million Americans report working independently—and companies are relying more on independent talent to fill strategic positions and build out project teams. Discovering your niche and differentiating the services you offer can help you stand out from your competition. By maintaining a competitive edge, you can ensure you land the clients you want to work for.

Here are six ways to keep your independent business competitive.

1. Cultivate Skills and Expertise

When you run your own business, any sort of professional development is up to you. Make sure your skills are up-to-date and stay on top of emerging technology and industry trends. Investing in skill development enhances your value in the eyes of potential clients and can make you more competitive among other independents in your industry.

There are several ways you can go about cultivating skills and expertise. You can take professional development courses online, attend educational webinars or professional events, or take a certification program. Depending on your industry, it may be helpful to update the software you use to do business or focus on improving your soft skills if your work is more people-facing.

11 Ways to Develop Skills and Knowledge for Work

2. Develop a Strong Personal Brand

Your personal brand will be your client’s first interaction with your business, so make sure to put your best foot forward. Consider how you want your company to be seen by potential clients. What are your values? How does your business stand out from people offering similar service? A strong personal brand should clearly convey what you do, have visual continuity, and be memorable.

9 Ways to Build a Personal Brand for Small Business

3. Cultivate Good Client Relationships

As an independent contractor, you already know the importance of networking. Cultivating good relationships with clients to expand your network will help you stay competitive and find new opportunities.

When you start a new project, be sure to have a thorough understanding of your client’s goals, listen, stay humble, and set realistic expectations. During a project, simple actions like being responsive to emails and keeping your client updated on your progress will go far in developing your relationship. Once a project ends, ask for candid feedback and talk to your client about implementing relevant changes the next time around. Then, be sure to stay in touch with your client. Every so often, send them a relevant article or relevant update.

5 Ways to Build Strong Relationships with Existing Clients

4. Build Relationships Within Your Industry

While developing strong client relationships is important, building relationships within your industry can be equally helpful in staying competitive. Attend industry, events, conferences, or meetups to build your awareness of industry trends. Join professional organizations or stay active in an online forum where you can engage with peers, exchange ideas, or even find a mentor.

How to Network with Peers When You’re Self Employed

5. Adapt to Market Changes

Staying agile and being able to adapt to changes in the market are key to staying ahead of the curve. Technology is continually advancing, and client needs can shift in the middle of a project. Stay open to exploring new opportunities, pivoting your focus within a project, or expanding into different niches within your industry

Diversify your revenue streams by exploring a new target audience, branching out to new regions of the country or world, expanding your skillset, partnering with another independent, or applying your same services to a different industry.

5 Ways to Diversify Your Small Business

6. Invest in Marketing

Marketing your business can help give you that final competitive push to rise above your peers. Yes, marketing efforts require dedicated time and resources, but they can bring your business to the next level and ensure your target clients can find you. Tailor marketing efforts to your target audience and leverage digital marketing techniques such as using SEO keywords, email campaigns, and content marketing.

By investing in your skills, building a strong brand, cultivating relationships, diversifying your income streams, and marketing your business, you can position yourself as a competitive force within your industry. Change won’t happen overnight, but perseverance and a proactive mindset can help you reach your goals.

5 Tips for Marketing Your Small Business


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