30 March 2022

Contracting through a recruitment agency – what you’ll need to know

So you’re thinking about becoming an independent contractor? Well the good news is that this is a very lucrative market in all sectors of the Built Environment, and it’s tempting a lot of professionals to take the plunge. If that includes you, the first thing you need to decide is whether to use a recruitment agency or not. It’s an important choice, so you need to be sure of how it works and what prep you need to do.  

First off, bear in mind that it should be a recruitment agency’s mission to know your sector’s job market from top to bottom. So, seek out an agency that specialises in the Built Environment sector.  

And also remember that it’s not just about finding the jobs that are already out there, but to know which ones are about to come up. And that’s also where specialist recruitment agencies come into their own. The best have networks of skilfully cultivated relationships with the movers and shakers in the BE industry.  

All of this means that they’ll be able to pair you up with the most suitable jobs for your skill set, and for the hourly rate and length of time that suits you best. Networks are gold dust to successful contractors, and you’re unlikely to have one as good as a specialist agency’s, so that’s one major concern taken care of. 

Before you go any further, another really common question regarding agencies is how much do they charge? And the very welcome answer is that in the UK, the contractor doesn’t pay anything – any fees are charged to the employer on top of the agreed contractor’s hourly rate, and the agency will pay you directly. Nice! 

That said, there are a few things that you do need to take care of, so your chosen agency can find you the work you’re dreaming of.  

Do your skills need any extra honing?

Chat with a few agencies, and let them know your area of skill. They’ll get you up to speed on whether the market requires you to expand your training and experience into emerging areas. They also know exactly what employers are asking for so you can clearly see the road ahead of you. 

Give your CV a vigorous spring clean

Good recruitment agencies will help you with this, but it’s as well to get your ducks in a row. There are a lot of good templates available on the web, but the most important thing is to make it relevant and bang up-to-date. 


If you’re in permanent employment before going it alone, it may be a sensible idea to start gathering positive feedback on your work. LinkedIn is a great resource for this, and will connect you to past colleagues who will give you some public high-fives. 

Get cosy with your agency

Once you’re on the independent road, and you’re nearing the end of your latest contract, touch base with your agency contact. Let them know that you’re interested in what’s coming up, so they can then keep a good lookout for something suitable.  

Keep an open mind about what’s on offer 

You never know – that two week fill-in may lead to a seven-month contract. Similarly, other jobs may be cut short. The key is to be flexible and to trust in the process. With a good agency, any problems will only be hiccups on your journey. Disappointments will occur – hey, that’s life! – but there are always great opportunities around the corner. And one thing’s for sure, a recruitment agency will most likely hear about them first. 

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