An on-going concern for contractors is where the next project is going to come from. Many contractors find themselves starting to think about securing their next job well before they've finished their current project – it’s not the sort of thing you want to leave to the last minute.
If you've given it some thought and decided you’d like to stay on with your current client after the term of your contract has ended, there are some proactive steps you can take to better your chances of being offered a contract extension or renewal.
Have you shown advancement?
Before coming to the end of your contract, try to spot opportunities where you can add value for the client in the future. Perhaps the project you’re currently working on is ready for the next stage, or you know of similar projects at the company that you could work on, or there are systems that need improvements and upgrades. Based on your observations whilst on your current contract, you may even want to propose a new project, showcasing your ideas about what you can offer and how you can benefit the client.
If you want to stay on, don’t be shy about letting it be known. Make it clear that you’re interested in an extension and would like to continue working for the client – and don’t just tell the decision-maker, but speak to colleagues, team-mates and other influencers who could support your case. You should also phone your recruiter and share your goals with them; they may know of other opportunities at the company. One guideline to bear in mind: when there are approximately 30 days left on your current contract, call a meeting with the client to discuss your project status. Be ready to discuss your exit plan, including tying up loose ends and handing over unfinished projects. Letting everyone know where the project stands if you’re not asked back shows that you’re professional and thorough, and forces the client to consider whether they really want to let you go.
You never know where your next lead will come from. Network informally with a variety of people from different areas of the company to learn more about where you could get involved on potential new projects. Share your observations and ideas with others, support and encourage your colleagues and team-mates, listen actively, and do everything you can to make yourself invaluable. It may sound self-serving but it doesn't have to be – showing a genuine interest in the company and your co-workers only demonstrates that you’re the sort of employee they’ll want to keep around.
Show your value
It probably goes without saying, but do everything in your power to ensure you’re the type of person they’d want to have back. Work hard, be professional and collegial, and deliver results – this is a case of actions speaking louder than words. Always request feedback from your manager to check they are happy with the work you have produced. This gives you a sense of how your efforts are being perceived, and gives you a strong foundation to ask for an extension.
When all is said and done, if you’re not offered an extension, don’t take it the wrong way. Many companies are operating with strict budgets and limited resources; maybe the project’s been cancelled for other reasons. As the Godfather says, “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business.” Always leave the client with a sense of your professionalism and trustworthiness – they could be a terrific referral, or you may very well be asked back another time.
What’s your best advice for securing a contract extension? Is it best to be pro-active or wait for the client to ask? And what are the downsides to staying on too long? Is there a case to be made for not extending? Please share your thoughts below.