One of the best parts of being an independent contractor is that you can start out part time while still being employed in a traditional job. Then expand to full time as you get experience and clients. However, that does not mean you can skip planning and setting goals. A plan is always the cornerstone of any entrepreneurial venture. This is as much a business as a retail store. Put all the business basics in place before going forward. The plan should include a detailed budget with anticipated overhead expenses (supplies, telephone, insurance, travel, equipment, software, office space) and a salary for you. This salary should have some basis in reality, but should be more than what you would make as an employee since you are handling many of the employment functions yourself.
One of the initial steps will be to determine what service you are going to offer. Assess the skills you already have. They do not need to be something that requires advanced training or education, although those are definite possibilities. Often companies using independent contractors simply need extra hands for part of a particular project.
Along with assessing your particular skills, you need to decide what your goals are. What would success look like for you? A certain salary? Travel? Variety in what you do? Working with different types of people? Making a contribution? The combination of your skills and your success criteria will help you set the goals for what type of contractor you would like to be and who you want to sell your services to.
Begin drafting a letter and/or marketing materials that describe the services you are offering. In many consulting positions it is useful to provide samples of your work or references from other clients you have served. Don't be afraid to use former coworkers as references if you do not have a track record as an independent yet. They can attest to the quality of your work, your skills and any other special knowledge you may have.
You also need to put together basic business documents so you are ready when that first offer arrives. Look at some sample independent contractor agreements. The business employing you may have their own, but you need to know what factors you are willing to agree to and to have a contract that clearly states your terms. Not only does this exhibit professionalism, but protects you in case of disputes about scope of work and compensation levels. Be extremely careful about maintaining your independent contractor status . The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has very strict rules about the difference between an employee and an independent contractor. This can impact taxes both for the employer and yourself. Read the IRS guidelines and make certain all your agreements meet the legal requirements.