The moment you choose to strike out on your own as an independent contractor, it is all up to you to stay afloat and thrive in your industry. There is no-one above to make the big business decisions or to hand down a detailed growth strategy to you; there is no one to market your services, attract new clients or deal with legal issues, customer complaints or vendor relationships.
With your to-do list growing by the minute, it might seem like a waste of time to set a few minutes aside to regularly follow industry news and trends. In fact, it might seem like an altogether irrelevant task, especially if you already have a number of loyal clients you are happy with who provide regular gigs and a stable income. Why on Earth would you be foregoing the dollars you could be out making by sitting down to catch up on your industry?
If you can answer affirmatively to the following questions:
- Are you the only electrician/plumber/designer/programmer/etc. in town?
- Can you keep your rates high the moment your competitors lower theirs and not lose your clients to them?
- Are you happy with your present rates and never dream beyond what you are currently making as a contractor?
- Do you believe expanding your business is out of the question?
- Do new clients come knocking on your door begging you to take on their project?
- Is the service you offer recession-proof?
Then, by all means, skip the industry updates and simply go about your business. But if you are always on the lookout for new and better opportunities in your business sphere, you can no longer ignore the importance of keeping abreast of industry developments. Here are just a few of the paybacks of sparing a few minutes daily to scan the latest news.
5 benefits of staying on top of industry trends:
1) Target the right clients
So, business has been slow recently? It’s time to check out new prospects. Industry trends should show who is hiring and who is firing among your clients, who has had a good year or ambitions of expansion, and therefore, a higher budget for contracting outside professionals. Which services are shrinking in volume or are becoming obsolete and what new services are emerging? Perhaps you need a professional makeover to meet the new requirements of your industry before you start approaching new clients.
2) Market yourself
Where do your ideal clients hang out? Which social media is popular among your clients? Which forums do they frequent? What magazines do they read? Your industry news will reveal hubs you might not be aware of where you can go to market yourself by engaging with prospects, offering advice and guidance and letting your name be associate with expertise by regularly providing valuable content and consultations to those who need it. It may be time consuming, but your reputation is certainly worth investing in.
3) Be comfortable with charging higher rates
An expert can justify charging a higher rate. Besides, given that you have the right industry knowledge, you are no longer simply a contractor – you are a thought leader. You can offer strategies to the client, gleaned from the direction you industry is going, insights, advice on how to do a project better, faster and at a lower cost for the client (which is not identical as lowering your rate). Even if your competition is drastically dropping their rates in order to get more work, you can retain your best clients, and even attract more, since low rates are mentally associated with lower expertise, and the clients worth keeping will not be interested in that.
4) Make clients come to you
By positioning yourself as an industry expert by providing news, advice, coaching and commentary on what is trending, you are inspiring trust in the people who haven’t yet done business with you. You are more likely to be contacted for new and larger-scale business than your competitor Joe who is only focused on his own profit and relies exclusively on mouth-to-mouth reputation.
5) Optimize your processes through technology
Technology is sweeping through all facets of industry. It is hard to think of a job that has not been significantly transformed by technological innovation in the past decade. Follow what’s new in terms of technology in your industry and don’t shy away from employing it in your day-to-day business to be more professional, flexible, productive and efficient in your work.
Where should you look for the latest developments in your industry?
There are a number of places you can scan on a regular basis to keep up with the latest developments or trending topics in your industry:
- Trade journals
- Industry and company blogs
- Forums and discussion boards
- News headlines
- LinkedIn Industry-related groups
- Your competitors publications, websites and online presence
Personally, I don’t spend hours reading hefty research papers on the utilities sector to get my next electrician’s contract and I don’t sit down at my computer at the break of dawn to peruse all trade publications to make sure I haven’t missed a thing that has happened in my business sphere overnight. Still, I try to stay informed through regularly scanning the major news outlets pertaining to my industry either over a cup of tea in the afternoon or when I wait for my doctor’s appointment.
That’s also my main advice to you – don’t overdo it, but don’t shun it either. You never know where your next opportunity will come from and whether you are currently equipped with the knowledge to take on an exciting new challenge.
Author: Jason Snowhill is an electrician contractor and the owner of PoweredElectrician.com helping other electricians find their way through licensing in their state.