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I have been freelance consulting for only a short while (about 6 months) and things have been going great so far. Lately, I've been getting calls from recruiters and networking referrals to various job opportunities, some of which seem like a good fit for my skill set.

Is there a tactful and effective way to convert these job opportunities into consulting gigs? I don't want to misrepresent myself and go on a job interview when I really want a consulting relationship, but I don't want to pass by a potential opportunity either. Have others had luck doing this in the past?

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    i love this question – Muhammad Umer May 22 '14 at 19:12
  • Can you explain more what consulting means? Also what is your field of expertise? – Peter MV May 22 '14 at 20:02
  • Software development. By consulting I mean independent contracting of any type. I know there is probably a subtle difference between the two, but I don't think it's necessarily relevant to this question. – k1243 May 22 '14 at 20:27
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When I receive recruiter emails, I politely respond with my situation (I work from home, do hourly consulting, won't relocate, always have people knocking, etc.) and say if that doesn't work for them, then I won't be able to help them. The responses usually come in two forms:

  1. Thanks for your response, but my client (confirms they're a real recruiter, and not even necessarily an employee of the company they have an email address at) requires on site. Do you know of anyone that might fit?
  2. We really want to grow the team locally, but need someone right away. Can we talk further about what you might be able to do for us? (confirms that it's actually an employee, that they are actually hiring to fill a specific need, not just generic growing, etc.)

The second one, for me, has turned in to a consulting gig more often than not. It fulfills what codenoire says about not wasting time, but also confirms that it's actually a full time spot. A real recruiter will get paid more for full time placement so, of course, they won't lead with consulting opportunities. A team of real employees just needs to get work done. If their recruiters are failing, they'll need to fill in regardless. If you're the right person, they'll usually appreciate the simplicity of a consulting agreement over hiring, anyway, especially since it's gives them flexibility down the road.

Incidentally, unlike what codenoire says, all my contract work is 10-99 based. All my work is done in the state I'm located at; my clients are never in my home state, though. Video calls have almost completely removed the need for on-site visits. (Unfortunately, I enjoy the occasional work trips.)

I hope this helps.

  • I do this exact same thing whenever the job sounds like it might be something I'm interested in, but it has (that I recall) never actually resulted in a gig. This is out of literally hundreds of recruiter responses. Once or twice, it has led to a conversation. In general, I get somewhere between 2-10 recruiter emails a week, mostly via linked-in. I've had a higher success rate outside of linked-in, but very few come in that way. (Maybe 1 in 20.) Anyway, I do think this is a good practice, just thought I'd respond with a slightly different set of (anecdotal) data. – livingtech Mar 20 '18 at 21:39
  • I should clarify... I'm speaking (above) specifically about recruiters not recruiting for the company they work for. 3rd party recruiters, I guess you'd call them. Re-reading the answer I'm commenting on, I think they are also lumping in recruiters that work for the company they are recruiting for. I have gotten a few gigs responding to those, but they are also in the minority of "cold" messages. (And I don't usually think of them as recruiters. Usually they are hiring managers, or otherwise involved in the team they're recruiting for.) – livingtech Mar 20 '18 at 21:42
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I found my longest term client by offering the consulting at the time they were looking for a perm. YMMV.

There is another way looking at this: if a lead is looking for expanding their business, they are not meeting their current demand with the available resources. It is a powerful trigger what makes your approach to them relevant and timely. The problem is, recruiters are just not into it. To maximize your chances, you should circumvent the recruiter and go directly to the decision maker - who might be actually a level above the hiring manager (the latter guy might be just interviewing anyone (s)he is told to - perms, temps, consultants).

I do not suggest being unethical to the recruiters and stealing their data. Typically the job description for this opportunity is scattered across the web, sometimes at the employee website or with indications pointing to one. Recruiters, on other hand, tend to hide this information, mostly from each other. So just google the most unique-looking parts of the JD and sometimes you find who are the guys. Then dig into their corporate site, LinkedIn profiles etc. and find the guy who should be a decision maker for this position. Then connect to them via a short email or call. Email is better here because it gives them time to actually consider your offer rather than switch to defensive mode. Keep it <100 words and to the point. Do not sell there for now, just make the person interested. Do not boast how great you are, tell how great you made your clients who are just like them. Add links to portfolio, testimonials etc. here.

Your might find better luck with smaller organizations where you can go to C-suite or director level with this decision - they are more flexible than larger shops.

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Look, if a recruiter calls and says the job is full time, then it's just that - a full time job, not a consulting opportunity. Don't waste anybody's time trying to change what's offered, because the recruiter has already established the situation with the end-client. Now, what you'd be looking for are contract jobs instead. (I take these gigs myself, so I know.) Some recruiters don't offer contract jobs at all.

Contract jobs are abundant in certain parts of the country (I'm gonna assume you are in the US) but rare in others. They're most plentiful in larger cities like L.A. and New York. The recruiter might offer to pay you as a W-2 employee, or you might have the option of what we call "corp-to-corp" (corp-to-corp assumes that you have established a legal business entity such as a corporation or LLC). There's another classification called a 1099 job which is the recruiter paying you directly without the need for the corporation or LLC, but these are really rare.

It's a big pond. Don't get eaten by the sharks.

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