Now you have your own firm, how do you go about getting that first job?

A shiny new car in the drive, candlelight dinners lovingly prepared by the better half, the children's recent exam results showing a marked improvement and even the dog's tail is still wagging. This could all come crashing down if a commission fails to arrive some time soon. Your experience as a QS, working in both private practice and on the contracting side has given you a broad base of experience which should come in useful. You feel confident of including dispute resolution in the list of services you are prepared to offer.

CDM has not been your bag, nor for that matter project management, or employer's agent. However, you have included them on the list to enable you to offer a broad spread of services. There are a couple of one man bands of your acquaintance, who you could use as sub consultants should work in this arena come your way; the mark up on the fees would help pay a few bills. But how does one go about securing that crucial first job? You have been told that securing the first job is the hardest one; however all this does is to cause depression to set in.

Having decided the services on offer, how to get the word into the right ear is a key question. An advert on the back cover of Building would portray the right image, but the cost would blow the budget in one hit. The idea of purchasing a list of prospective clients has crossed your mind, but it is a bit too much of the blunderbuss approach. In any event, the idea of sending out a mail shot to compete with the mass of junk mail which arrives on all of our desks each day, holds little appeal. If you could put your hands on a list of email addresses of those in a position to give you work, may be useful, but fingers are all too ready to hit the deleted key at the first smell of spam.

The cheapest and usually most successful method of securing that elusive first commission is to start by producing a list of personal contacts. Your last employer should be at the top of the list. Many firms go into redundancy mode when work appears to be getting low. Often they overreact and find themselves short of staff as soon as a small bulge in the workload appears. Placing a short-term commission with a trusted ex-employee is often the answer. You should be thankful that you bit your tongue on your last day at work and decided not to let them know your true feelings concerning the competence of many of the directors. In view of you losing your job due to redundancy and in the absence of any restrictive clause in your conditions of employment, you feel at ease in putting on the list clients of your former employer, with whom you have worked.

Having completed the list, what mode of communication should you adopt? Emails get deleted, mail arriving by post gets lost with the junk mail; fax on the other hand is now a novelty and normally merits being read. Don't forget to include your list of services and tell them that you have spare capacity, which is a coded message for saying you are short of work. Finally, tell the persons you write to that you will be getting in touch by phone.