NEWS + ADVICE
How to Apply for a 1099 Gig on ClearedJobs.Net
In 2020, I received three 1099 offers that started with me uploading a resume to ClearedJobs.Net.
The first was with a company supporting DHS for $130/hour. The second was for a contract at ODNI offering $144/hour. The third was for an NGA contract that I ended up taking for $160/hour.
I used to think that the only way you could get a 1099 gig was to network or somehow be an “insider” on a project. Turns out that’s not true!
Here is how you can do it too:
Create a resume with a narrative
There is a lot of bad resume advice out there. They’re not bad because they focus on resume formatting or other superficial tips, but because they miss the main point: your resume needs a narrative.
A resume narrative conveys (a) what you do and (b) why what you do is helpful.
Every element in the resume will support the narrative. This lets you focus solely on professional experiences that are relevant. You can leave out your hobbies and your high school job as a lifeguard.
This allows recruiters, hiring managers, and program managers, to quickly understand what it is you do and how you can help them.
Conversely, a resume without a narrative leaves the reader going, “hmm, I’m not exactly sure where this guy would be a good fit.”
To create your narrative, complete this sentence:
I am a [type of professional] who specializes in [professional skill] to help [your typical client] achieve [describe the positive impact you have].
Here is mine:
I am an experienced business intelligence consultant who specializes in Tableau development to help government executives solve critical business problems.
I have a version of that on the top of my resume under a section called “Professional Summary.”
Every bullet I have from my previous projects and experiences supports that narrative.
“I developed a Tableau dashboard for the chief diversity executive that helped her make resource allocation decisions for diversity initiatives.
“I developed a Tableau dashboard for the IT Enterprise Schedule team that automated monitoring of key schedule milestones which helped senior leadership process RFCs.”
Anything that doesn’t support your narrative, you can leave out.
Once you have a compelling and focused narrative you’ll find you’ll get a higher response rate to resume submissions.
Here are some narratives I’m making up off the top of my head:
“I am a cyber engineer who specializes in penetration testing to help understaffed IT departments achieve compliance with federal guidelines.”
“I am a program manager who specializes in managing understaffed projects to help government contractors achieve contractual goals.”
“I am a cloud solutions consultant who specializes in transitioning customers from on-premise servers to AWS cloud solutions and improve uptime metrics.”
It’s clear I don’t know much about these fields, but do some thinking around a narrative in your own professional field. It’s not an easy exercise when you’re doing it for yourself but once you have it, you’ll set yourself up for success.
Upload the resume to ClearedJobs.Net (and other job boards)
I am not a fan of applying for jobs online. Your resume is just one out of many and it’s unclear whether you’ll get a call back even if you’re a good fit for a job.
That being said, job boards, particularly niche ones like ClearedJobs.Net, are great because recruiters and hiring managers are constantly looking for qualified people. After I uploaded my resume I received tons of inbound e-mails and calls asking if I was interested in an analytics or Tableau developer role.
A resume with a strong narrative will stand out from the pack, and will likely even attract attention for positions you weren’t even thinking of considering.
For example, when the recruiter from the company with a DHS contract reached out, they were initially looking for a “database administrator” which I have no experience in.
BUT, the recruiter saw I had analytics experience and specialized in working with government executives which was the real problem they were trying to solve. Being able to figure out the database stuff was secondary.
So upload your resumes to job boards that focus on government contracting. You can also upload your resume directly to company websites, but I wouldn’t spend any time writing a cover letter or carefully copying and pasting resume bullets into their text parser.
The goal is to get enough eyeballs on the resume to generate inbound interest. Once you start getting recruiter e-mails, you can move on to the next step.
Mine the screening interview for information
There is a good chance the initial phone call you have with a company will be with a recruiter, or at least, someone who isn’t the hiring manager.
The purpose of the call for the company is to make sure (a) you’re not a total weirdo and (b) your background, interests, and comp expectations line up with the open positions.
If you’re interested in going 1099, your purpose will be to get as much information as you can about this company, contract, and position to assess (a) whether or not you actually want the job and (b) whether or not 1099 is likely.
Here is the information I would ask for:
- Who the government customer is (agency, specific department, name of government point of contact/client)
- The specific area the client needs help with (tech implementation, strategic guidance, just another worker bee, etc.)
- Details about the contract (duration, type of contract, etc.)
- Whether the company is a prime or a sub (important from a 1099 point of view)
- Salary range to help you assess billable rate
The information you get will help you determine whether you actually want the job and whether or not a 1099 arrangement will be feasible.
For example, if the company is a sub-contractor, it lowers the odds of them being able to bring on a 1099 because many government contracts prohibit “2nd-tier sub-contracting.”
If you have a long history with the agency or government client and the company is a prime, you are potentially very valuable to the company. Sometimes institutional knowledge is a key differentiator.
If the salary range is too low, the likely 1099 rates might not be worth it to you. If a company is offering $120,000 and you apply the “divide by 1000 and add/subtract 20%” method of estimating billable rates, you’ll get a potential rate range of $96 – $144/hour. If your target rate is $150/hour, it may not be worth pursuing.
If the contract only has a few months left on it before it is re-competed, it’s probably not worth the risk of moving forward.
The recruiter may not have all this information, but maximizing each conversation you have with the company will help you increase the odds of successfully getting a 1099 gig.
I’ll also note that if you’re not desperate for the job and would only accept it is as a 1099, it’s okay to tell the recruiter you’re only looking for 1099 roles. Usually this will end the conversation since most companies are optimizing for W2 hires, but on occasion the recruiter (particularly for smaller companies) might send you along to the hiring manager or program manager anyway.
Otherwise, just play along with the idea that you’re open to W2. Who knows, if it’s a step up from your current job you might consider a new W2 role anyway!
Impress the hiring manager or program manager
While you’re excited about getting a 1099 gig, the hiring manager or program manager (PM) is stressed out and busy and just wants someone who understands and can help with their customer problems.
Like any job interview, your goal is to demonstrate that you can do that.
During the interview, act like a consultant and ask the manager questions to figure out what their issues are:
- Who is the primary customer you work with?
- What kind of initiatives or programs is the customer focused on?
- What specific areas of the program are you helping the client with?
- Has it been smooth sailing or have there been some challenges?
- How urgent is it to get someone to fill this position?
It’s not a one-way interrogation. As you uncover problems or areas you can help with, share stories about how you helped solve similar problems in the past, and suggest how you could help the PM with their current problems.
For example, on my current 1099 project, the PM said the main issue was that the customer wanted Tableau dashboards but (a) there was no one on the team that knew Tableau and (b) the customer was always changing their requirements.
So I told him about all the times I worked with customers who didn’t know what they want, elicited their main business goals, and helped them develop dashboards with KPIs that aligned with their business goals.
Once you’ve accomplished the main goal of impressing the PM, you can also ask and/or confirm details about the project and contract that you received from the recruiter on the screening call.
At the offer stage, open up the 1099 discussion
On occasion the PM will indicate during the first interview they will want to make you an offer. Other times they will call you back another day, particularly if they are screening other candidates.
When the PM starts discussing compensation packages, start dates, etc., it is a good time to bring up the 1099 topic.
Say something to this effect:
“I really enjoyed learning about the project and I could definitely help your client with X, Y, and Z. That being said, while I’m excited to potentially work with you, I’m very focused on eventually working for myself as a 1099. Would that be impossible on this contract?”
It is at this point the range of responses could be a flat “no, we never do 1099” to “well we’re a great company and I think you’d like the benefits package as a W2” to “yes we can definitely do 1099, what’s your rate?”
Counter-intuitively, it’s the “maybe we can do 1099” response that is the most fruitful. The companies that are overly eager or VERY open to 1099 usually have low-ball rates because it’s part of their business model to hire many 1099s to lower their risk.
Assuming it’s not a flat out, “no we never do 1099s,” then you can start engaging further.
The PM will keep encouraging the W2 option but (assuming you wouldn’t take it as a W2) just keep re-iterating that you’d like to work with them, but that 1099 is the only arrangement that makes sense for you.
It’s likely at this point the PM will “need to check” to see what would be involved to get you on as a 1099 and set up a call in a few days.
If the PM calls you back and starts asking about rates, you’re good to go, assuming you can negotiate a rate that works for both you and the company.
You only need one
Finding a 1099 gig, particularly using the “job application” method I describe in this article, is a bit of a grind. You’ll probably go through a dozen phone calls and interviews that don’t lead anywhere.
BUT, you just need one to work out. So do your best to take it in stride and not let your frustration stop you from pursuing a great career alternative to the W2 path.
Free chapters for ClearedJobs.Net readers
Because ClearedJobs.Net helped me get my current 1099 gig, I’m offering two free chapters from my book, Going 1099: How to become a solo federal sub-contractor and gain control of your working life, earn more money, and unlock more free time.
- Chapter 8: How to “apply online” for 1099 jobs and
- Chapter 12: How to manage your security clearance as a 1099
I also invite you to e-mail me any questions you have about 1099 solo federal sub-contracting at [email protected].
Dale Davidson is the author of Going 1099: How to become a solo federal sub-contractor and gain control of your working life, earn more money and unlock more free time. You can e-mail him directly at [email protected].This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 8:00 am