Shaiza Wan

8 things you need to know if you want to become an L&D contractor

Having placed hundreds of learning and development (L&D) contractors in organisations, and with over 13 years’ experience in talent acquisition, Shaiza Wan knows a thing or two about what helps someone transition into becoming a successful L&D contractor.

Check out her top 8 tips below on what to think about when considering taking your career to the next level by becoming a L&D contractor:


1. Know what makes YOU stand out

Ask yourself:

  • What is my point of difference?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What aspects of L&D do I enjoy the most?
  • What strong project examples do I have in my portfolio?

Getting clear on your point of difference in the L&D contracting market will help you to shine and get that next contract when things get competitive. For example, it could be:

  • I’m strong in change and transformation projects.
  • I can confidently work in highly ambiguous and ever-changing environments.
  • I’m highly technical and am competent in the most important eLearning authoring tools and LMSs.
  • I’m experienced and passionate about human behaviour and learning culture.


2. Portfolio, Portfolio, Portfolio

This is probably the most important thing you need to consider and focus your attention on when looking to become a contractor. The first thing most of my clients ask to look at is a contractor's past projects and portfolio. They want to know what this contractor can bring to the table that’s different. We are getting more clients saying, if I'm going to outsource this piece of work, if I'm going to bring on a consultant or contractor, I want them to bring something different and extra than what my internal team has to offer. I want them to bring new ideas on how we approach these things that my team might not think of.

Having an up-to-date portfolio showing your range of work helps position you as an expert in certain areas. A great portfolio also provides potential hiring organisations with that confidence and trust that you can help them with their unique challenges.


3. Reputation and references

Managing your reputation may be tricky when you’re starting out, but it’s so important, especially here in New Zealand. There have also been a lot of changes to the L&D industry in NZ since COVID-19 impacted everything so you may want to listen to our podcast on that topic to get insights into how that has affected the industry.

Learning and development is a tight-knit community, so your reputation in the industry will spread through word of mouth. Many of my clients will consult with a few of their L&D colleagues to get that informal and objective opinion to see if they know you, have worked with you or have heard of you. So think about your work relationships and your projects and keep in mind that in our country of '2 degrees', we are all connected at some point.

Ensure you have some strong references and make those connections wherever you work so you have senior managers and credible people ready to vouch for you and your quality of work.


4. Be flexible and it's okay to start small

If you’re starting out it's important to be flexible. No project is too small or too basic to help you build your portfolio. Your first contracting role may not be your dream job, but it all adds up to get to the next level. Remember, it’s not just about portfolio but reputation and references, so cultivate those relationships wherever you go and let the quality of your work and service help sell you into your next contract.


5. Don’t forget taxes

When you’re a contractor you need to pay your taxes. I needed to make this a specific point all on its own as many contractors forget this important task.

Make sure you get some advice on how to manage your invoicing and accounts and be aware that this is your responsibility. You won’t have to pay your taxes in the first year of business, but you need to remember to put a percentage of your earnings aside to pay for your taxes in the second year of business. You don’t want to be stung with a big surprise bill, so keep this in mind and get some expert advice.


6. Get support and get connected

Just because you’re going out on your own doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Ensure you get the advice and support you need to help with the transition. For starters I’d recommend you get an accountant (see point 5), talk to your peers that have already taken the plunge into contracting and get their tips and advice. You may even want to think about hiring a mentor or business coach to get the extra professional support to take your work and services to the next level.

Connect to relevant professional meet-up groups and L&D professional groups in your community. Also ensure you have met with the appropriate recruitment agencies that specialise in L&D talent so they can find opportunities for you. I’m always here to support you too if you want free and specific advice on your unique situation. Book a meeting with me anytime to chat about your contracting questions. 


7. Know your WHY

It’s important to understand what your motivations are for becoming a contractor.

For example, is it because:

  • you want the flexibility and work-life balance
  • you want to make more money
  • you want variety and want to work with different clients on different projects
  • it’s the logical step to take with where you’re at in your career?

When times get tough it’s important to know why you’re doing this and get clear on your motivations. Having this clarity will help you to get through the ups and downs that can come with contracting.


8. Be brave and keep positive

There can be a lot of fear and uncertainty when you make that leap into the freelancing or contracting world. There are always risks; there are pros and cons. However, if you really are serious about going into freelancing or contracting, you need to make sure that you've got a strong portfolio, something that you can show to potential clients. You’ve got to be really passionate, be able to manage your processes and not be afraid to put yourself out there.

It’s an exciting time full of possibility and potential, so I would advise you to do your homework and if you’ve taken all these steps, be confident, be brave and take that leap of faith.

If you want any help or advice, or want someone to represent you in the market, book a time with me and we can look at working something out. I’m happy to help you out.

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