Preparing your Tax Return
It’s now time to start thinking about your tax return and getting your paperwork in order. If you would like help completing your return, 2020 Accountancy offer a one-off service which is available to NWM clients.
2020 Accountancy use proven technology to ensure you have a clear view of what you can safely take out of the company, what you owe the taxman and that you are always on time and compliant with your HMRC and accounting submissions.
In order to help you complete your return, you will need to provide 2020 Accountancy with the following information:
Have you received personal income from any of the following sources?
• Other Employment within the tax year outside of your own Ltd Company (This includes employment where you have previously paid PAYE)
• Dividends received from your own Ltd Company
• Other UK Dividend Income
• Personal Bank/Building Society interest received net of tax
• Pensions Received
• Social Security Income
• Rental Income
• Capital Gains
• Business Income
• Child Benefit
• Reliefs and Deductions
Have you had any relief or deductions and claims from the following sources:
• Student Loans
• Married Couple's Allowance / Additional Personal Allowance (Only relevant if you or your partner were born before 6 April 1935)
• Personal Pension Payments - Payments made personally
• Gift Aid
You will also need to provide any other income or outgoings that you may think relevant in completing your Income Tax Return which may not have been mentioned above including foreign income and gains.
Once you have got the information together you can fill out this quick questionnaire on their website and they take care of everything else!
What is an Umbrella Company?
What is an Umbrella Company?
An umbrella company employs freelancers and contractors who typically work through recruitment agencies. The recruitment agency or client then engages with the umbrella company rather than directly with the worker.
Umbrella companies have become more prevalent in the UK since the British government introduced IR35 legislation that creates tests to determine employment status and ability to make use of small company tax reliefs.
Once your contract is in place with your client, you give the details to the umbrella company who deal with all the invoicing and PAYE and NIC contributions so that you receive a regular pay check with the total take home pay – just like PAYE.
The Advantages Of Working With An Umbrella Company
• Work related expenses which you claim for are paid free of tax and National Insurance, which increases your take-home pay.
• You’re entitled to paid holiday, so you're not out of pocket when you take a break.
• As an employee of NWM you are covered by comprehensive insurance policies so you know you have the right level of protection while you're working with us.
• You’ll have access to a workplace pension scheme.
• The umbrella system has advantages for people dependent on static income levels. As a general rule if your charge rate is under £15 a hour you may be best to operate through an umbrella, or if you plan to contract for a short time.
How Much Will This Cost?
Umbrella companies will typically take a percentage cut of the value of the contract to cover their margin. To get a quote, call us on 0330 333 4240.
NWM Umbrella makes life simple as the contract covers any number of short-term assignments. You are able to enjoy the security and benefits of being employed by NWM, but at the same time keep the flexibility of moving from assignment to assignment as you choose.
To find out more about how working with the NWM Umbrella could be beneficial for you, contact us or visit http://nwm.uk.com/.
Perkbox - FREE Benefits For Contractors!
NWM are proud to collaborate with Perkbox, a leading employee and customer engagement platform to provide their clients with free and exclusive access to over one hundred benefits and perks. When you become an NWM client, not only do you receive excellent service and customer care, but you will also be added to this fantastic customer loyalty scheme.
Contractors will receive these free benefits whilst they are working with us.
• FREE mobile insurance
• FREE breakdown cover
• 2 for 1 meals plus much more
What is Perkbox?
Perkbox is an employee benefit scheme that is designed to reward employees for all their hard work and make life a little more affordable. It aims to ensure ‘team happiness’ and help employees to feel valued in their company.
It makes you an instant VIP at lots of big name brands, saving you hundreds of pounds every year on groceries and other daily essentials. Splash out with exclusive discounts on clothing, entertainment and meals out. Exclusive savings on gym memberships, dental insurance, health cover and more.
Perkbox was set up with the belief that the best companies to work for look after their teams and value their staff. The most successful businesses are comprised of people who are engaged, satisfied and loyal. Providing perks and engagement tools helps build stronger teams and incentivises workers to aspire to greatness.
Having added perks and benefits are usually ranked amongst the top reasons that employees enjoy their jobs, camaraderie coming a close second. We want our clients to be able to enjoy these extra rewards and deliver a little happiness.
Offers are redeemed using a dedicated smartphone app, with hundreds of deals categorised in to different areas including wellness, fitness and food and drink.
Register with NWM to start receiving these benefits after your first week - call 0330 333 4240 today or CONTACT US!
Thinking of going alone?
Contracting can be a rewarding way to work. Making the move from a permanent employee to a contractor is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you are thinking about it then we suggest you take some time to consider the following -
Understand your skills
It is important to be realistic about your abilities and how the skills you have would be required by industry in which you wish to work. Are your skills in demand, and are you at a similar standard to the competition. Understanding these elements will allow you to predict your income levels from becoming self-employed. Failure to appreciate them can see you unable to gain contracts as you appear too expensive, or working for too little as you sold yourself too cheaply.
Maintain you skills
As a contractor you do not have the opportunity to rest on your laurels. You will be required to hit the ground running, and therefore expected to be up to date with all areas of your job.
Lay the foundations
Building your profile can take some time, so it is advisable to do some ground work first. Consider taking on projects alongside your permanent job for a while if you can. Build yourself a reputation whilst you figure out whether it is something you would like to do full time.
The right step at the right time
Think about the industry, when are contracts at their peak? Try to plan your switch for a time where there is extra work available. You do not want your first few months to be during the slower months when people with much more experience are bidding for the same jobs.
Make use of your contacts
Are you able to contract for your current employer? Could that offer some safety net for the first few months? It could have mutual benefit as your current employer retains some of your skills whilst a new recruit is being trained.
You don’t have to be all alone
You can be a contractor but still have the support of a back office to help manage your payments and manage your tax – in a similar way to an employer. Umbrella organisation NWM manage your work invoices and pay you via PAYE – which means no nasty surprises at the end of the tax year.
Top ten must do’s on Linked In
Known as the world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to marketing yourself and your skills here are our tips on making the most of the social platform.
1) Get endorsed – endorsements are a great way of showing readers that other people value your skill set. Ask past employers or fellow contractors to write a piece about your skills and how you have helped them. Think about the skills you want to highlight most and ask them to concentrate on those. You can also endorse other people, and in doing so they may feel inclined to return the favour. Be careful to make any recommendations appear natural but not asking too many people to do them at once.
2) Include a CV – include your education and explain any relevant accreditations and areas of study. Also, ensure your job experience section is up to date, explaining the roles you have held and the responsibilities within those roles.
3) Include a headline – make sure your headline tells people what your skills are. Include your most recent job title or the type of role you are looking for next. Make sure the term you use is universal to get the most attention.
4) Be found on searches – recruiters will use Linked In search tools to find a short list of candidates to approach. Try to ensure you are on their short list by making sure the search terms they use are included in your profile somewhere. The tricky part can be figuring out what these terms might be.
5) Make connections – but be smart about them. People are often bombarded by invitations to link up, and they need to understand why they want to accept your invitation in a matter of se cords. Make sure you include personal messages that explain exactly why you want to be linked to them to stand the best chance of them accepting.
6) Include a picture –having a professional image attached to your profile helps you to stand out Ensure any image you use gives the right first impression
7) Join groups – they can be helpful to you as well as putting your profile in the right places Groups can be great for industry networking and keeping up to date with industry news. Active members boost their rankings within the groups and their profiles get more coverage.
8) Be contactable – make sure your details are up to date and made public so that when somebody wants to contact you they can do so with ease. Check you inbox regularly and answer any messages promptly.
9) Keep it up – an up to date profile is important, so keep adding new experiences – you do not want to be overlooked because your profile looks like you are under qualified.
10) Be vocal – have you got something to say? Try publishing an article through Linked In pulse. Make sure any articles you write are relevant to your professional life, stick to areas you have the most experience and be ready to answer any comments if necessary.
Understanding Professional Indemnity Insurance
Professional indemnity insurance is one of the most important types of insurance for contractors or freelancers. Often you will find you are unable to commence an assignment until you have proof of adequate business insurance.
What is Professional Indemnity Insurance?
Professional indemnity insurance is designed to protect contractors against claims for negligence (such as making a mistake, or giving incorrect advice.) It also provides cover for loss of documents, loss of data, breaches of intellectual property, and defamation and libel.
Professional Indemnity Insurance covers you for as long as you make the payments, not for the period of time you did the work. Therefore you must consider how long you should maintain cover, to ensure any future issues can be covered.
Why do I need it?
Professional Indemnity Insurance covers you should you a mistake that you are responsible for. If your actions are deemed to be negligent, then insurance will protect you against any compensation claims charged against you as well as cover legal costs.
Claims against your business can run in to thousands of pounds, which can be difficult money to access at short notice.
If you are accused of negligent work, however you disagree, you can use your policy to help you to fight the accusation legal. Professional indemnity insurance provides you with the pea ce of mind that you will be able to afford to defend any claims if necessary.
Having Professional indemnity insurance is a good indicator for IR35 compliance. It shows HMRC that you have a legitimate business, taking responsibility for the risks of your actions, rather than transferring them to the contract owner.
Contractor headaches to avoid
Contracting is a lifestyle choice. It goes beyond the financial benefits for many people, to a choice about when they work, were and gives opportunities to work in new and interesting locations. However, for anyone considering a change in career, it is important to remember the benefits do not come without some pitfalls. Here are some common frustrations we hear contractors talking about –
Contractors are constantly looking one job ahead. Unless you secure a very long contract, you will need to think about lining up your next role. Finding out about opportunities available in the future requires you to network within the industry so that you are ready to apply when the time is right. Social media can help you keep up to date, make sure you keep in contact in influential groups, but do not overlook the personal. Quick conversations with your contacts can keep your profile high and keep you in the loop.
Gone are the regular payments made to your account each month. Contracting means a constant run of raising invoices and monitoring and chasing payments. How easy this is can be entirely down to how organised your client is. Sometimes larger organisation’s may have internal processes that hold up the process of being paid, which can put a big strain on smaller organisations. Making sure you keep track of your contacts is important but can be a job in itself. Using an agency is one way of taking away these pressures so that you can focus on the task at hand, secure in the knowledge that you have a back office managing the payment process for you.
Setting a price for a job can be a struggle, balancing a number of factors. The competition for the role, who else will be bidding and their experience relative to your own, the opportunities to work elsewhere, how much other jobs are paying, the length of the contract, location plus many other variables will all have an influencing factor. It is important to remember to approach payment issues with a cool head. Trying to undercut competitors can be risky, as you will need to be sure you are able to operate that the price you put in. Value your time, collate all the information you are able to create a realistic picture of the opportunities and put in a bid that reflects your abilities. In addition, make sure your bid outlines all the benefits of employing you over the other bidders. Do your best to set out your skills so that they can see value in your bid. Remember the cheapest will not always win.
PRISM call for a s strategic review of legislative framework relating to contractors
Trade body PRISM are calling for a review of all legislation in order to simplify the tax regime, and create a level playing field for workers in all sectors.
With 10% of the UK working population being employed in a flexible arrangement, which do not fit the traditional categories of employed or self-employed. Rather than continuing with a “sticking plaster approach” an entirely new solution is required, that is designed with the unique needs of flexible workers. PRISM boss Crawford Temple states “If we don't get a review, we are concerned about the threat to UK plc's flexible workforce.”
Crawford explains there are six key reasons for a review to take place
1. To create a system that is easier to understand
2. Allowance for differences in worker circumstances and different industries
3. Create fairness across industries
4. Making compliance easier
5. Clarity for the future of legislation
6. Clarity throughout the supply chain
“[We currently have] a domino rally of market distortions, as firms attempt to give employers and workers what they want while trying to follow rules that were never meant for them,” he added.
Calling for the intricacies of the labour market to be exposed so that they can be fully understood and legislated for as a whole, with “the overriding principle must surely be that the temporary worker has certainty and clarity over their tax affairs in the same way an employee, the self-employed or an entrepreneurial businessman does.” concludes Crawford Temple.
Changes to T&S - options available
From the 6th April 2016, contractors working with an umbrella company will no longer be able to claim for Travel & Subsistence. Whilst this could mean a reduction in income, there are solutions for contractors looking to maximise take home pay. By setting up as a limited company, you could take home up to 85% of your earnings and protect yourself from the changes in regulations.
It doesn't change the way you work.
Setting up a limited company doesn’t have to be complicated if you do it the support of industry experts. You can carry on doing exactly the same as you do now and focus on your day to day job; NWM’s sister company, 2020 Accountancy will handle the rest! 2020 Accountancy are on hand to manage the whole process, from establishing your Limited Company to the monthly processing of invoices to keep you up to date.
2020 Accountancy offers you -
• Fast and easy set-up of your Limited Company.
• Your own qualified Personal Accountant who you can message via our superb online accounting technology.
• Easy Online access 24/7- with instant access to expenses, timesheets and balances.
• Competitive Fees.
Simple to use dashboard
2020 accountancy online portal is based around a simple to use dashboard that shows you exactly where you stand, including exactly how much you can pay yourself each month. Everything is set out for you to keep up to date with your account, at the touch of a button, any time of the day. If you have any questions then our experts are at the end of the phone, giving advice specific to your situation.
A choice of plan to suit your needs
2020 recognise that every business is unique, so we offer packages to suit you. Simply select the level of assistance you require and pick the price plan to match. You never pay more and you will always know what you are getting.
We urge anyone worried about changes to T&S to contact us to talk through the options, and make sure you continue to make the most from your income.
Christmas Opening & Payment Details
Wishing all our customers a very Merry Christmas and a
Happy New Year.
As the end of the year approaches and the festive season goes into full force, please take note of the following payment details and office closures.
W/C 21 Dec 2015
OPENING HOURS : Monday to Thursday 8.30am to 6.00pm
EXPENSES DEADLINE : Monday 21 Dec 1.00pm
PAYMENT DATE : Thursday 24th December
W/C 28 Dec 2015
OPENING HOURS : Tuesday to Thursday 8.30am to 6.00pm
EXPENSES DEADLINE : Monday 28 Dec 1.00pm
PAYMENT DATE : Thursday 31st December
W/C 04 Jan 2015
OPENING HOURS : Monday to Friday 8.30am to 6.00pm
EXPENSES DEADLINE : Tuesday 05 Jan 1.00pm
PAYMENT DATE : Friday 8th January
**Please note that we recommend you submit expenses either by fax or by email as we will not receive any post until after the deadlines above.**
Any expenses not received before these deadlines will be processed with future payments.
We would like to Thank You for your support in 2015 and look forward to working with you in 2016.
Uncertainty for contractors continues
The autumn statement did not deliver the fatal blow as anticipated by many industry experts, however contractors are warned not to get too complacent. The battle is not yet over. Whilst there was little mention of IR35 or personal service companies, the amendments due in April could still have wide-rangeing impact.
The autumn statement merely confirmed the desire to close to options for PSC using the travel & subsistence tax relief. Under current proposals from April 2016 contractors working through an agency no longer be able to claim travel and subsistence expenses, once the current proposal passes into law.
APSCo commented: “The lack of an announcement in the Autumn Statement doesn’t mean that the government won’t go forward with this proposal in the future, but it does almost certainly mean that it won’t come into effect in April, 2016, which is what we feared.”
The IR35 discussion continues, with the HRMC still considering responses to their announcement. With a desire to ensure fairness runs through -out the system without putting individuals or businesses at an increased burden.
But to Qdos Consulting, an employment status firm, the government’s wording in the AS suggests that ‘SDC’ is the favourite to reform IR35.: “[Although] Autumn Statement certainly wasn’t the bloodbath many were expecting… the fact that clause 3.20 doesn’t refer to ‘supervision, direction or control’ – whereas the T&S consultation did - could infer that HMRC are indeed planning on using ‘SDC’ for IR35 too.”
Referring to the T&S restriction, Julia Kermode, chair of the Freelancer & Contractor Services Association, said “Although [this is a welcome clarification] we note that further change on the employment intermediaries legislation is [to] come following Mr Osborne’s statement that he will look into ‘disguised remuneration’.”
In line with her warning, AS chapter 3.87 says the government intends to “take action against those who have used or continue to use disguised remuneration schemes and who have not yet paid their fair share of tax. “
If you have any questions about how this affects you one of our team would be happy to talk through your options.
Contract vacancies remain strong
Great news for contractors looking for long term stability as APSCo reports that the number of contract vacancies remains stable. The number of vacancies for both temporary and contract opportunities has risen ever so slightly by 1% from 2014.
And if you are in finance and accountancy industries, the news is even better. SDJ Accountancy have recently concluded a study, that showed an increase in vacancies of a staggering 24%, accompanied by an increase in pay rates as well. The number of people earning in excess of £750 has doubled in the past year. A double helping of good news in the run-up to the festive season!
Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo, commented on the recent findings, “The perpetual war for talent means that contract vacancies are consistently strong, despite an increase in permanent roles. Contract vacancies within finance and accounting are particularly high as financial institutions bring on board niche skill sets on a project basis to manage change.
She added, “Monumental shifts in the UK banking sector, such as impending ring-fencing legislation, structural reorganisation and changes in customer behaviour mean that specialists are needed to ensure that the sector is future-fit. There is simply not the supply to fulfil demand.”
In further research, carried out by MBA & Co, it is predicted that top-level contractors demand will grow to in excess of 1,000,000 by the end of 2020. This rise is due to the dual benefits felt by employing contractors. Individuals enjoy the flexibility of choosing the contracts that work best for them, choosing where they work and when. Organisations benefit from taping into a pool of high skilled individuals as and when they are required. Keeping their overheads lower and allowing them to mix and match skill sets to meet the needs of the projects.
Contractor market returns to growth.
October results show that the number of contracts awarded during the month in the UK has risen, following a number of months of declining growth. The news offers contractors reason to increase confidence in the continued development of the industry. Giving more job security and allowing workers to choose contracts most suitable to them.
The Report on Jobs published by the Recruitment and employment Confederation showed that demand for IT contractors now stands at 60.3 compared to 58.6 in September (on the REC index)
Taken with REC’s other figures (July 59.2; August 58.7 and Sep 58.6), the data suggest that the recent relaxation in the growth of IT contractor demand has ended, as hirers enter the final quarter. REC Jobs Outlook for October 2015 has also reported that 38% of clients are planning to increase their contractor headcounts before the end of the year. Giving contractors more reason to believe the medium to long term outlook is good.
Currently there are five skills sets that are scarce within IT contracts - Digital Marketing, Java, Oracle, PHP, Testers. These areas of skill shortage are due to be addressed in the Autumn statement.
This month’s Contractor Calculator Market Report highlighted that
• Clients increasing head counts should fuel contractor demand as improved confidence in the economy continues
• Contractor shortfall in Scotland is blamed for slowing economic growth in the region.
• REC warns infrastructure projects may slow down due to acute skills shortages.
• Morgan McKinley’s London Employment Monitor for September 2015 reports a significant year-on-year increase in demand for contractors in the finance and IT sectors.
• The manufacturing industry shows significant opportunity for increasing the base of contractor workers.
NWM gets behind PRISM to halt the war on contractors
PRISM have launched a campaign to urge MP’s to rethink the proposed T&S plans. And at NWM we want to urge everyone to get involved.
Prism CEO Crawford Temple said: "The taxman is going to war on temporary workers and contractors. These are people, for whom there is no normal commute as they move around different workplaces, sometimes working for dozens of companies a year over a wide area.”
Under the proposed plans the chancellor wishes to remove the ability to contractors to claim for Travel and Subsistence. This could cut the take-home pay of the average contractor by around 20 per cent from April 2016. The race is on to change the decision, as the autumn statement is now only a month away.
Contractors enjoy Travel and Subsistence relief on the costs incurred due to not having a permanent place of work. Typically contractors change work locations frequently, travel long distances to sites and miss out on the ability to cut travel costs through season tickets. Claiming T&S is one of the few benefits enjoyed by contractors who have ZERO job security, and helps to make contracting a sustainable working practice.
Under the YES2T&S, PRISM are asking contractors to write to their MP and ask them to help protect contractors by getting behind the Yes2TandS campaign and urge George Osborne to think again. PRISM has set up a dedicated section of their website. Visit the campaign here
to show your support and write to your MP for support.
PRISM are focused on proactively promoting and supporting the flexible workers market. They are a not-for-profit trade body working with organisations who deliver services to contractors in the UK.
The difference between a traditional CV and a contractor CV
Contractors are brought in to a business to solve a business need. They offer the solution to a problem that has a foreseeable end. This is why a business chooses to hire a contractor rather than taking on staff. This is the reason that a contractors' CV is very different to a standard one.
A contractors CV needs to focus on the evidence of delivering results. Traditional CV’s might show someone in a role for many years, but businesses looking for a contractor often do not have this time to nurture a role. Instead, they want to see exactly what results you delivered in what time scale. They want to see how you used the resources in order to make change happen in a short period of time.
Allocate enough space on your CV to prove your competence with a results focused write up of the projects you have been involved with. Highlight the projects that have the greatest relevance to the role that you are applying for.
Focusing on your experience will have greater effect than the education you received. Although, this does not mean relevant qualifications to undertake work are not important, they are. However focusing on how you have used these skills learnt to great effect in a practical sense has a much greater value attached to it.
For many roles, especially in the public sector, there are some certificates you have to have in order to undertake a project. Security clearance will be required in order to have access to certain sites or access to data. For these roles, a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check will be necessary. These days they checks are carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
The DBS checks need to be complete annually for a small cost. The check is personal to you, and therefore, you can take the check with you if you move from one role to another. It is recommended that you advise you have cleared a check on your CV.
The secret to creating a winning contractor CV
Securing the contract of your dreams can be life changing. A new project can give you opportunities to work on high-profile projects, use new technologies or provide you with your desired work-life balance.
Securing that role will take a lot of work, but it always starts with getting yourself noticed by the recruiter. Your CV is the first opportunity to connect your skills with a role you would like. Making sure your CV stands out will give you a much better chance of being short-listed to stage two.
Take a look at these tips for your contractor CV. Then review your CV and see whether you have these bases covered.
Be Specific : Make sure you tailor your CV to the role you are applying for. Make sure the terminology is right for the industry you are entering. Research the role and find out what the key requirements are and make sure your CV shows clearly you have them – don’t expect the recruiter to read between the lines. Make it easy for them to make their requirements to you.
Be Succinct : Try to keep your CV to just 2 pages. Keep all the information relevant to the reader and make sure they can read it with ease. Remember your recruiter may not know as much about the technical side as you do, so make sure it is easy to decipher. Put your headliners at the start of the CV in order to give the recruiter a reason to keep reading.
Be Universal : Make sure you send in a format that the recruiter can open. A standard format to use is often PDF as you will be able to set the layout exactly as you intended. Using other programs can leave you open to older versions corrupting your layout which will make reading your CV difficult.
Be Social : Limiting your CV to two pages might seem impossible. If so use your Linked In profile. Add all the detail , links and images to your profile and them direct to it from your CV. Make sure you have included enough content on the VC to get them interested otherwise it is unlikely they will spend the time looking on line.
Client cancelled your contract?
Sometimes projects do not run to plan, and this can cause problems with the client and contractor relationship. Should the client decide to cut losses and cancel the contract it is important to understand where you stand. Due to the nature if contract and freelancing work, having the legal right to be reinstated should your client cancel your contract is very rare. However, there are occurrences where you may be entitled to compensation if the contract is cut short.
Contracts offer clients and customers clarity in the scope and responsibilities within a project, and as such should always be the preferred method of working.
A contract is any agreement with two or more parties, that can be written (on paper or e-mail), oral, implied or a combination of these. Be aware, that just because you haven’t physically signed a written contract does not mean you are not obliged under its conditions. If you have entered in to work it can be viewed as acceptance of the contract.
The contract for services to be provided by a contractor will usually cover the following -
• The intention to enter into legal relations
• The offer and its acceptance
• Payment - known legally as Consideration
There are no legal minimum notice periods for freelance workers, therefore if you want to enforce a notice period, it is important to have it drawn up in your contract. You may have a clause within the contract for compensation for a lack of notice if the project ends early through no fault of your own. Always consider any termination clauses within a contract and understand what would constitute a reason to terminate – eg unable to complete a project or being deemed unfit.
Your rights as a freelancer
As a freelancer you have the right to a certain level of treatment from your client. These include –
• To not be discriminated against in the workplace.
• To a place of work that complies with relevant health and safety laws.
• To be compensated for any work delivered
Taking action against a contract
If you feel you have been treated unfairly resulting in the termination of a project, you may be able to sue for breach of contract. This will enable you to try to claim back for any losses incurred. Beware though, the same applies in reverse, and if a client doesn’t feel their service has been given to the required standards they too can claim breach of contract and look for compensation from you.
Tips for winning contracts
The public sector can be a fantastic source of work for contractors. Each year Billions of pounds worth of tenders are released. Often smaller contractors can find the whole process a bit overwhelming and choose not to put themselves forward. This can be a great missed opportunity. By following these tips, you can help yourself to be more confident in reaching out to these contract gems.
1) Seek out the opportunities – the first step is to find out where the tenders are being advertised and make sure you regularly check in to see what is available. On most sites, you can register for updates to be sent directly to your email. This can be a great time saver and helps avoid missing opportunities.
2) Be selective on what you bid for. Whilst it can be tempting to go after every opportunity, it makes sense to save your time and resources for the tenders you have best chance of winning. There is no doubt about it, submitting a tender is time-consuming and it is sensible o spend the most amount of time on the projects you have the best chance of obtaining.
3) Get to know the client. If possible, a quick conversation to the buyer can help you to understand their motivations for the project. This conversation can help to steer your bid format and help you to stand out from the crowd.
4) Understand what the buyer wants. And show them you can deliver it without question. A professional tender submission is not a business advert. You need to make sure your proposal is specific to the task at hand.
5) Showcase your strengths – against the critical elements of the project. Read through the tender, understand the critical elements and focus on wowing your buyer with impressive solutions to their needs. Include examples of similar work so they can feel confident you deliver on your promises.
6) Have your prep ready. Understand the type of standard information you need for most tenders, and have that information to hand, ready to slot into place. This can reduce time as you search for various documents and accreditations you need to show to be allowed to bid.
7) Know your value. Understand the value of the project and the cost to yourself. It can be tempting to submit lower costs in order to secure a tender, but this route can lead to difficulties later one. Be realistic with your costing and focus on explaining the value in the project.
8) Reflect. If you do not win a tender, do not be disheartened. Review your bid, learn from it and be ready for the next opportunity with a better, more polished document that will see you through to a positive outcome.
National Minimum wage changes from 1st October 2015
The National Minimum Wage (NMW) will increase from 1st October to £6.70 for workers aged 21 and over. Introduced in 1999, the National Minimum Wage acts sets a minimum hourly wage for workers across the UK.
National Minimum Wage rates 2015 (from 1 October)
21 and over £6.70
18 to 20 £5.30
Under 18 £3.87
*This rate is for apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year. All other apprentices are entitled to the National Minimum Wage for their age.
•The rate employees can demand depends upon the age of the worker.
•Workers over school leaving age should be entitled to claim the NMW.
•The rate is review annually, with changes to rates being implements in October each year.
•The NMW applies to all businesses regardless of their size.
•HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) can take action against employers not paying the NMW.
National Living Wage
From April 2016 the national living wage will be implemented. The living wage will initially be set at £7.20 per hour, for workers aged 25 years or older. For workers under this age, the NMW will still apply.
The National Living Wage is different from the Living Wage, which is an hourly rate of pay set independently by the Living Wage Foundation and is calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK. The Low Pay Commission recommends the level of the national minimum wage will also make recommendations for the future National Living Wage rate rises.
Our accreditations Part 2
Professional Passport accreditation is given to Umbrella and Accountancy service solutions providers that have been independently audited to maintain compliance when dealing with their customers.
As an independent professional membership organisation professional Passport work with all sectors of the flexible workers market including Contractors, Agencies, End clients and Providers. Buy maintaining links with all sectors Professional Passport are able to manage benefits for all including cost savings, enhanced protection and simplified processes that work in the real world.
Professional Passport works closely with Government departments and industry trade bodies to identify issues, design the solutions and ensure these solutions meet both regulatory requirements and are practical in the commercial world.
Professional Passport’s processes meet or exceed the standards required by government departments. Professional passport provides are compliant with MSC legislation, and our agency and end client members are fully protected with £5million debt transfer liability insurance.
JIB is the JOINT INDUSTRY BOARD for the Electrical Contracting Industry. The JIB aims to improve the electrical contracting industry through setting standards for employment, welfare, grading and apprentice training. By doing this they help to create a more stable work place for members who enjoy better working conditions.
Our members of the JIB benefit from a ‘one-stop-shop’ for advice on employment issues, offers health and benefits schemes, and gives access to markets other contractors cannot reach.
TEAM Service Providers
TEAM (The Employment Agents Movement) - the largest network of independent recruiters in the UK with over 500 membership locations run by experienced recruiters for recruiters since 1994. TEAM offers clients and candidates one of the widest selections of services and job opportunities. Members of TEAM are the most talented recruiters in the industry and between them cover most of the UK and represent most industry sectors. Members, mostly from owner led independent agencies, are invited to join based on their high degree of commitment and professional level of customer service.
Being a Team Service Provider shows our contractors, and Team Members they can be confident when choosing NWM for their payroll solution.
The Gangmasters Licensing Authority works in partnership to protect vulnerable and exploited workers. They are a Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB) governed by an independent Board who regulate businesses that provide workers to the fresh produce supply chain and horticulture industry.
As a GLA Licence holder NWM have been assessed to check they meet the GLA licensing standards which cover health and safety, accommodation, pay, transport and training. Any labour provider in the industry must have a GLA licence to work in the regulated sectors, it is a criminal offence to supply workers without a licence or use an unlicensed labour provider.
Managing your budget for project success
Budgets can make or break a project, and therefore need to be managed with extreme care. You can deliver on every aspect of a project, but if the budget is blown doing so, it over all result will be considered a failure. Whilst outside influences often impact budgets beyond our control, being able to minimise any affects or keep on track will determine the outcome for a project.
Here are our tips for effectively managing your budget
Review. Review. Review.
Keeping a track of the budget at every stage is a must for maintaining control on a budget. Failure to review will cause problems further down the line, when it comes to budget management the wiat and see approach is rarely a good idea. Having full details of a budget against plan through out every stage will help you to understand where you are. Of course budgets do run over, but you are going to make better decisions if you know where you are at a given point and the snow ball effect is lessened. A small budget over spend is easier to claw back through later stages when you are aware of it. Small decisions regarding getting things done quicker for more money or use alternative methods but save some expenditure can make a huge difference in light of a full budget review.
Review the future of projects to ensure the resources needed are properly allocated and accounted for. Know what resource you need when and which you do not need. Underutilised resources cost money, and can be hugely expensive. For instance having a team on site but unable to perform a task as the previous stage over ran will increase staffing costs as they will need to return on another dates – doubling the staffing cost for that particular element.
Stay on track.
Manage the outcome of the project within the confines of the budget realistically. Do not under estimate the effects of additional work here and there throughout a project. Ensure you re estimate costs for any mid project changes and forecast the effect on the budget as soon as possible. If a budget needs to change it is better to make adjustments at the start of the project rather than present a client with an enhanced bill at the end.
Let the whole team in on the budget, and let them understand the critical factors. When a team understand the issues and are empowered with the information they can make better decisions or bring fresh ideas to the table. A team aware of issues are likely to respect their charges to you as they understand the limitations of the budget.
Make sure people know who can authorise spend on a project and how much they can authorise. This will help to keep track and adds a sense of responsibility for that person which should result in them taking better care when approving or rejecting spend. Teams where many people are authorising spend can be difficult to track and it is easy for invoices to get lost or be forgotten about in the short term – but be sure will be found out eventually!
Our accreditations Part 1
We are very proud of the quality of the service we off to our clients, and always strive to offer the best in everything we do. We have a number of accreditations which are shown on our website that we are also very proud of, as they show external recognition of the service we provide. Here we are going to run through the accreditations and why they are important.
The Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100
Fast Track is the leading networking events and research firm who create a league table which ranks Britain's 100 private companies with the fastest-growing sales over three years, and publishes these in The Sunday Times.
Recognising the importance of private companies for the creation of jobs and boosting innovations, Fast Track created a network of the UK's top-performing private companies and entrepreneurs.
Typical Fast Track 100 companies are:
• Owned and run by entrepreneurs
• Employ between 20 and 500 staff
• Average 3 year sales growth ranging between 45% and 375% pa
• Sales ranging between £5m and £100m
Worldwide Quality Assurance
The WQA registered logo is displayed to show that our quality management system complies with BS EN 9001:2008 requirements.
ISO 9001-2008 standard has been developed for manufacturing and service industries, and awarded to organisations that demonstrate their ability to consistently provide services that meets customer needs and delivers on applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. Businesses show an ongoing commitment to developing customer satisfaction through a well embedded system in their processes to offer a consistent level of service.
WQA are a First Choice certification provider for companies around the world.
APSCo provide firms who are involved in the recruitment of professional talent distinctive voice they need to be successful.
APSCo members share a commitment to excellence, the specialist support that delivers a professional service within recruitment markets.
The APSCo is a trusted badge of quality candidates with reassurance that they are working with organisations they can depend on.
APSCo represents members they respect in a profession we understand:
• APSCo are a membership organisation representing professional recruitment
• APSCo brings people together in a relationship based on trust, respect and leadership
• APSCo provide a trusted badge of quality for professional recruitment in the UK and across the world.
Contract surplus reported
The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) have revealed that there has been a rise on contract opportunities year and year, with an increase of 3% across the board. With contract and temporary vacancies on the rise, this give hope to contractors looking for their next project.
The interim Management Association has reported there has been a significant increase in organisations using interim workers to help them with their staffing requirements, claiming there has been a rise of 93% since 2006, and state there are 16,000 senior level workers operating as a self-employed contractor or on a freelance basis. With the continued use expected to rise, the market for contract workers could be worth £2 billion by the end of 2015.
Contractors offer organisations a flexible workforce, being able to call upon none critical or specialist skills for individual projects. This avoids the need to hire and fire which is a timely and costly process. By bringing in specialists only for the time they require the opportunity to harness the best brains in the industry giving them a better output for a similar overall cost.
Bernard Brown of KPGM has also reported that there is a skills shortage, resulting in few applications for roles available. This may be another reason for organisations out sourcing skills to contractors as they are unable to secure the skills in house.
In a report prepared by International Research and Analysis for Staffing industries key findings were presented -
• 16% increase year on year for Permanent vacancies
• Finance & accounting sectors indicate growth opportunities
• Marketing opportunities lead the growth of the market
• Contract vacancies have risen 3% year-on-year
• Average salaries increased by 2.9%
Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo has commented stating “Temporary and contract vacancies remain strong across the professional staffing market with opportunities up by 3% across the board year-on-year. Vacancies in media & marketing are particularly strong, increasing by 9%. This ongoing trend towards the use of contract professionals is reflected in new research from the Interim Management Association (IMA), which found that the use of interims has grown by 93% since the pre-recession levels of 2006, with 16,000 senior interims currently working in the UK.”
Estimating project budgets
Managing a budget and costs is critical for the success of a project. The first step in effective budget management is the estimation of the costs involved in order to complete a project. The budget for a project can be set ina number of ways, most common are -
Top down budgeting - When a budget is set for the project manager, often based on financial constraints, and the project manager must find a way to fulfil the project with in the budget.
Bottom up budgeting– when a project manager is asked to submit a cost for a project based on the project scope.
Whether you have been given a budget, or you have to submit one, there are a number of strategies you could employ when compiling an estimated cost for a new project.
Expert Judgement – you can use your expert judgement or experience to estimate the cost of a project. This method can be useful experts often take account of factors that inexperienced project managers may not consider. This approach can be good for a rule of thumb indicator, however a more complex analysis is required when producing detailed budgets. It is also advised that the judgement is based on current costs or market conditions, as prices can fluctuate and basing on expert judgement could prove dangerous if price hikes are not considered.
Replication – Using old projects to create an estimate for the new. This method can be time saving, and as long as you consider and account for the differences between the two projects it can be a good way to estimate. This method benefits from experience and helps new projects to include previously overlooked aspects.
Supplier Quotations – you could use the costs from a number of suppliers to come to an average costing base from which to work from. This process can take more time as you have to brief the project to a number of suppliers, and ensure you are comparing like for like bids, however benefits can be gained by more people considering the project which could result in a more innovative solution.
Find the middle ground – Using the best case, most likely case and worst case scenarios to build a picture and produce a weighted average.
Monitoring the Budget
Once a budget has been agreed and costs estimated, the nest stage is to monitor the reality against the plan. Use the plan as a reference when supplier quotes come in and use the costs that best match both the project requirements and the estimated costs, in order to keep the project on track for completion within scope and budget.
How to boost your productivity
Sometimes we will be working all the hours we can but just don’t seem to be getting to where we want to be. Days and weeks can pass by with little to show for them. Take a look at these tips for boosting your productivity and see if they can help you to achieve more.
• Banish unnecessary tasks. Ask yourself does this task need to be done, can it be done in a different way or can somebody else do it for me? By reducing your focus on these you will free up more time to focus on the critical tasks.
• Set yourself a goal – for every hour, day or week –however suits you and your project. By breaking projects down in to stages you have more chance of keeping on track and seeing the progression along the project path.
• Get the worst tasks out of the way first. Getting the worst tasks off your to do list will create a sense of relief and spur you on to tackle the remaining items on the list.
• Time out – give yourself time away from distractions to get jobs done. Whether it is an hour in the day you turn off your phone or work from a new location, it gives to the focus to make things happen.
•Plan your day ahead – if you need to make a number of phone calls plan an hour or so to focus on them rather than having them interrupt your day. By lumping similar tasks together you create a smoother work flow and will achieve more in a smaller space of time.
• Find your most productive hours. Are you an early bird or night owl? By knowing when you are most likely to get in the zone you can plan to work those hours and let yourself have a breather during hours you find yourself getting distracted. Long days are draining, but shorter sessions at the right times can get just as much done.
• Plan meetings to stick on task. By creating an agenda for your meetings you can make sure the conversation stays on track, therefore minimising the risk meetings with no outcome or duplicating meetings.
• Know your deadlines and stick to them. Self-imposed deadlines can be a great way to keep you momentum going but you must be strict with yourself and stick to them. Regardless of what the real deadline is, by giving yourself a definite deadline you avoid having projects hanging over you – which can be a cause of ongoing stress. This also prevents you from over procrastinating about a job in hand and gets the task done. Ticking off items gives you focus on the next stage and avoids the problem of everything needing to be done at the same time further in to the project.
• Focus on the job in hand. Don’t let distractions leave you with a job undone, jot down any items or messages you get and dedicate time to them once the job in hand is done.
To tweet or not to tweet?
Almost certainly, as a contractor managing your brand you will want to be tweeting. Here we are going to run through a few of the basics that will get you and running and using social networks to benefit you.
Twitter is one of a number of social media platforms, we discussed linked in here, you can use freely to market your brand, Tweets are short messages out u to 140 characters, but can also include videos, images and links to external sources. By building a follower base, you can use twitter to keep your audience up to date with your latest news.
Twitter works by users sending their short message to their users. Those users can then share or favourite that message so that their followers also get to see the message and your brand. Therefore to gain maximum exposure you want to be creating content on twitter that inspires an audience to share.
Creating your account
1) Practicalities of choosing screen name & setting up the homepage. Setting up an account is fairly straight forward, and is completed in a few simple steps. These steps will include asking people to follow you and suggesting a few ages to follow to start with. You will need an appropriate twitter image and profile picture. Your brand, photo or a showcase piece of work are all potentially good things to choose.
2) Building followers – building followers to listen to your messages is important. Take time to see who is already using twitter, follow them and quiet often they will start following you back – assuming there is some connection there! This tactic rarely works with celebrity and media accounts though!
3) Tweeting useful content - Creating content that the audience wants to share will help you to use your followers audiences so that they too may start to follow you.
4) Varied content – you may start by introducing your company – describing what you do and how and where you do it. But after this it can become difficult to decide what to tweet about. You may want to think about special offers, hints and tips and industry news. Often you can simply retweet headlines with a click of a button, but you can get more mileage by adding your own thoughts so that you not only share the news but start a conversation about it. Keep your messages varied too much self promotion will turn your audience off.
Make sure you try to keep your timeline interesting by including the correct sized images alongside any messages. Images have more chance of being shared and therefore have the potential to reach a larger audience.
Other uses for your twitter account.
More than a self-promotion tool, twitter can be a sound source of information that helps you in your everyday role. Industry hints and tips, latest news etc can help you to keep up to date and more relevant in the marketing place. Simple links to industry announcements on their own can be very useful.
If you are on twitter then it is likely that your competitors are too, and the good thing is you can see what they are up to. Using this information can help you to change your own twitter activities, but also give an insight in to the activities of your competitors giving you much valued intelligence to use to your advantage.
Lastly, using twitter to network with people you would not normally come in to contact with. You messages can be a simple low key drip of information ready for when they need more, and can also help to portray your capabilities should a contract become available. You never know who is looking at your twitter profile.
Managing your own time
Freelancing has amazing benefits to enjoy, not least in the ability to live a flexible lifestyle – not constrained to the 9 – 5 schedule employed counterparts work to. Whilst this gives you great opportunities, it can have big consequences if your time management isn’t kept in check. It can be easy to find time has slipped away from you and at invoice point you realise that you have either not focused enough and your projects are not ready for invoice reducing you income or alternatively you have spent such a long time on projects your hourly rate is greatly reduced. Whilst experience is often a great teacher, new and experienced freelancers may gain some benefit to consider the following -
Track your time
Keep an eye on time you have spent by completing time sheets. Not only does this give you a day by day appreciation productive hours you will be able to invoice for – it also helps with costing projects in the future. Time sheets can help you to analyse your projects and see where your time is being spent. Is this on the areas of biggest return? If not it might be time to reconsider your work flows.
Minimise interruptions and distractions
Whilst your flexible lifestyle is important, it is essential that you and others do not take advantage of it – as ultimately your service will suffer. Even though you don’t have a boss to answer to it is not wise to spend your days on calls to friends, or having people drop in. Allocate your time for work to suit your lifestyle, but make the hours at work be about work, and ask that people around you treat them as if you were in an office too.
If you work from home
It is good practice to set some space aside where you can shut yourself off from those around you and get in to a work zone. It doesn’t have to be a complete home office, but an area you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the projects you are working on. If working from home is not productive, consider renting space in a shared office where you can take yourself away from distractions and keep as a professional zone.
Stay on task
Make sure you understand your timescales for each day with a plan for outcomes. Although new priorities may appear, setting daily outcomes helps to keep the project momentum going and keeps a gentle pressure on you. This can avoid projects over running or last minute panics.
Find your own balance
No two freelancers will work in the same way. You need to understand when working works best for you and your customers. Whether it is in the day or in the evening, as long as the hours are put in and the customer has the service delivery they expect.
Avoid burn out
Often working for yourself you will find you are working much more than you ever expected. Make sure you are aware of the hours you are working, and set limits for your work life. With the increase of mobile devices it is becoming ever harder to step away from work. From phone calls from clients at the school gates, or a constantly checking emails when socialising with friends, switching off can be difficult. You might consider setting the number of hours you will work a day, or having zones of the house where you don’t think about work, such as the family room; find a balance that works. If you are constantly switched on you will find the freedom of independence soon weighs heavy on you.
What makes a good contractor?
Becoming a contractor for the first time can be very alluring, especially if you have been working along-side contractors as a permanent employee. You may have witnessed them receiving higher rates of pay for the same work, more flexibility in the roles that they take and a greater variability in their experiences – meaning they progress within the industry faster.
Considering becoming a contractor for the first time however should not be done on these factors alone, whilst rewarding there are many pitfalls to be managed too – including managing your own work flow, keeping on the right side of the tax man and the loss of benefits you become accustomed to as an employee – such as sick pay, pensions and holiday pay.
Once you have considered these pros and cons on the industry and found a network of support that can give you the security to make the change, you should also consider whether you are the right fit for such a role. Think about the following –
Are you adaptable? As a contractor you can be moving from site to site and as such will need to find your feet quickly. If you are someone who can adapt you will be fine, however there will be little time for settling in so if you can’t land on your feet and deliver instantly you may struggle.
Are you approachable? Can you get on with a new team quickly to make sure you can work together to meet project deadlines. Landing on site and being able to work alongside other trades quickly is essential.
Are you diplomatic? You may find yourself working alongside an organisation employees, making changes to projects they have spent years on. Being able to manage these situations without causing a disruption or causing unnecessary friction will help to make these circumstances much more productive.
Are you organised? You will find you need to manage many more relationships – from reporting back from site to your client, to scheduling in new projects, start dates and/or delays; you will need to make sure everybody has the information they need at hand when they need it. Clients do not like to chase their contractors and will quickly move on to another if they find that they are not getting the service they need.
Are you driven? You will need to focus on building a client base and make sure they are aware of your services should any opportunities arise. This requires a network of contacts with whom you connect regularly. Make sure you have the rights to do so and are not restricted by your previous roles.
Are you respected? Contractors with a good reputation are always in strong demand. Making sure you use every project as a PR exercise, giving your clients a reason to talk favourably about you and your work to ensure your reputation puts you are the top of the running when new contracts are being awarded.
Self-employed drive growth in UK employment
The UK’s labour market has experienced rapid recovery and substantial growth recently, and reports suggest that self-employment is accounting for a third of this growth. These reports stating that as much as 15% of the UK workforce are now classified as self-employed.
Why is self-employment becoming so popular?
There are many factors that could be driving the entrepreneurial spirit in the UK, including -
Organisations being open to contractors / freelancers- Have organisations become more open to the benefits of utilising freelancers to deal with peaks and troughs in demand? Out sourcing means they do not have the fixed overhead costs to deal with and they avoid the costs of employment and redundancies.
Technology –The enablement of the internet to connect people wherever they are has opened up opportunities to integrate remote workers in to the work flow within an organisation. The ability to have remote call centres, to integrate software to simultaneously collaborate on projects means that the practicality of working with contractors is becoming easier.
Demand for a more flexible lifestyle – is the rise due to a need for flexibility in lifestyles that being your own boss creates? With more contractors working on a part time basis is the juggling of commitments in a busy world the reason why self-employment suits people better than operating within the confines of an employed role. Statistics have shown that older people are more likely to set up their own business, and often have more luck in doing so. There has also been a rise in females becoming self-employed – maybe due to the flexibility enabling them to continue with careers they have built but with the flexibility needed for family life. It has been shown there is a rise in the £5,000-£7,500 income band, suggesting that many of the roles may be part time.
A result of the recession – maybe the rise was due to the need to be creative as job hunters looking for work found employed roles hard to come by. Setting up on their own in order to bridge spells of unemployment and get by until a secure role becomes available. Individuals, who have been made redundant, maybe have some cash to fall back on or help to set up a new business venture and so may find they have nothing to lose by giving it a go.
The consequence of becoming self-employed however is that the skill base of an individual needs to be broadened. Freelancers and contractors have to take charge of their finances and ensure invoices are managed correctly to ensure they get paid on time and compile accounts for tax purposes. There are however solutions, such as NWM solutions that make this much easier to manage.
Skills shortage offers opportunities for increased incomes
Reports in February suggest that Britain has been hit by the worst skills shortage in 30 years resulting in increased earnings for skilled people willing to put the work in – with the potential to earn up to £100,000 early in their careers. Reports of incomes of £2000 a week for young plumbers or £1000 for bricklayers are impressive – especially when they consider their peers who are choosing to go to university are ending up with huge debts in the process.
Attributed to a decline in the availability of apprenticeships over recent years, there has been a lack of entrants in to the market with the right level of skills. This has been a problem festering for 30 years according to Steve Murphy of The Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technology 'Skills shortages are a direct result of the industry failing to invest in the future. The entire mind-set of the construction industry is focused on maximising short-term profits.'
Another issue has been the personnel movement away for the sector during the recession. Those that found themselves out of employment have retrained and entered new professions, meaning that now the contracts are available again the workforce to do it is greatly reduced.
Part of the long term issue has been the way businesses have avoided bringing construction employees on to the books, preferring to maintain a contract agreement, therefore intimidating people and stopping them from entering the profession. However, this increased risk can bring big gains for those willing to take the plunge and work for themselves and contractors or sub-contractors.
All this means the time has never been better for skilled people in the industry to take the opportunities to develop a portfolio with new contracts – maybe nationwide. As the government are lobbied to encourage young people in to the industry, and with companies recruiting from foreign shores to meet the shortfall in projects, the call to set your stall out now, gaining your reputation and building your portfolio has never been more compelling.
For help with looking after your livelihood and managing the payment side of your contracts, NWM solutions are perfectly placed, with years of industry knowledge.
The hidden life of a contractor
The life of a contractor for an outsider may look rosy. Flexibility, higher incomes and variety in job roles can look appealing at first glance. However the life of a contractor can be much harder that people give credit for. Along with winning a contract, comes a lot of responsibility to manage the process and your own career in tandem. This work, often done in the background, maybe in evenings or weekends, can be the hidden life of a contractor. Managing it well and it will be rewarding. But it is also the mostly likely cause of anyone’s contracting ambitions failing. Many people under estimate the quantity of paperwork that needs to be completed as a contractor.
Record keeping and report writing – keeping records for your own benefit, your clients and to conform to industry regulations, can be a timely activity that seems thank less at the time. It however can avoid future conflicts and be a life saver should questions arise in the future.
Tax – making sure your records are available for HRMC to review if necessary is essential. If you were ever to be investigated, through no fault of your own the stress and impact will be minimised by complete records.
Insurance – working at other peoples locations you need to make sure your insurances are up to date and cover the work you are carrying out. Without it you risk everything you own and potentially your freedom.
Time sheet management – Keeping track of time spent on site for your own management analytics and to ensure compliance with IR35 rules is strongly advised.
Licensing and certification requirements – Time needs to be spent on making sure any industry requirements for certifications and licencing are up to date, in place at the right time.
Customer service – keeping your customers happy with timely and accurate details about the status of a project is essential. Customers often are buying in your expertise for critical projects and therefore they need the right information, delivered at the right time in the right way. This can change project to project so you need to adapt to the needs of the current customer. Keeping your customers happy is essential for managing your own reputation.
Building contacts – keeping up to date within the industry to know where and from whom you can obtain services, to know what new technologies are available that can influence your project. Building a network of contacts you have ready to call upon for their input will make your project easier to manage than sourcing as you go would.
Reviewing suppliers – being able to rely on others to deliver your materials on time to your requirements is essential too. Having a network of trusted suppliers is key to ensuring other organisations activities do not negatively impact upon your reputation.
Making Linked In work for you
You'll have heard about the importance of Linked In and the ability to use it to build your online portfolio, build a network of contracts and keep up to date with industry news. Creating a Linked In profile however is only part of the journey. In order to reap the rewards a Linked In profile can bring you, you need to manage your portfolio and use the resource to best effect.
Here are a few basic details to consider for your profile page -
Getting seen – being active on Linked In increases your chance of being seen - for example joining groups and participating in discussions alone can make your profile 5 times more likely to be viewed. By networking, joining groups, and becoming active participant it keeps your profile relevant and in the sight of fellow group members, on networks home feeds and visible to contacts past your own network.
Be up to date – If you are working hard to get a presence it makes sense to ensure that when these people make it your profile that is as up to date as possible. By including your newest projects your CV appears more relevant to today’s industry, therefore giving your viewers a better insight in to your activities of now – rather than the past. Being up to date lets people know you are still active and see that you have been successful in gaining recent contracts.
Simple details can make all the difference, for example including the industry you work in, your education details and include a summary 40 words or more to sum up your current position gives you much more chance of being found in a search.
Be creative – make your profile stand out with a mix of relevant media – including videos, images, infographics and presentations. They do not all have to be created by you personally. If you come across something interesting and think it is relevant to your industry (will others around you also find it interesting) then share it with them. This content helps to add an all-round view of your profile. If you have industry ideas or suggestions you wish to express or want to share experiences publishing these on Linked In can amplify your reach massively. Ensure they stay on topic and they are respectful articles written in the right tone. This isn’t necessarily a place to rant about issues you are facing – best to save those for your work colleagues, unless you are confident you can deal with the fall out. Remember once published online content can take a life of its own and cannot be undone.
Don’t be shy – make sure your profile covers all your key skills, in order of relevance. Review your current skills, those that are important in the industry at the moment and those you have a unique ability in. Put those to the top to get them noticed. Be specific where necessary. If you have certain qualifications that mean you are able to carry out restrictive work make sure the qualification is included in full – you never know what people will be searching for.
Managing the work life balance
A recent report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) highlighted a gap between skilled jobs being created and the number of skilled workers available for them. This gap in skills causes employers to look for alternative ways of employing these skills – which is great news for contractors! However with increased workloads there is a danger that contractors are losing sight of a healthy work life balance.
According to Tilda almost 50% of adults describe their work life balance as contributing to their lack of happiness, along with working long hours, lack of sleep and eating a poor diet – all pitfalls contractors can find themselves in if their time is not managed well.
Contractors often leave secured employments in search for more control, flexibility, variety in jobs and of course to reap high financial rewards. Whilst the financial side is of course important, so too are maintaining the other benefits of contracting.
Consider these points when trying to maintain your work life balance –
Understand and vocalise the balance that is important to you. Do you need to be home for the family meal each day? If so make people aware that you are available for meetings anytime from 7am but will not schedule one in after 4pm. If people are aware of your constraints they have a much better chance of respecting them than if you keep these details to yourself. An upfront approach can lead to far less pressure later on.
Be consistent with your approach. If you say you have to leave at 5 each day but rarely leave before 6 people will not respect your need to leave – as they can see you don’t either. By living your values others are more likely to honour them. If you only stick to your guns when it suits you, again others may see your actions as selfish.
Think of an alternative way of getting it done. Do you need to leave for a few hours to spend the time with your family, but can afford to get back on to a project later in the evening when they have gone to bed? Maybe schedule a video call from home at 9 pm when everyone have had chance to have some down time.
Focus your time on the things that matter. Managing time to ensure that time allocated is in proportion to the importance of the task. Becoming more efficient in the tasks you are doing can free up more time to use at your leisure.
Understand your workflows. Sometimes life is hectic and there is no way around it, it is a matter of getting your head down and getting through, however these should be balanced with calmer times when you have more time to catch up. Ensure you take time to understand your patterns. If the hectic period is becoming too long you are in danger of burning out. Let yourself take the time to see how it could be managed better. If your other half is nagging about time spent at work maybe it’s time to hear them.
Find the off button. It is the bain of modern life, mobile technology follows us everywhere so we rarely switch off – constantly on edge waiting for the next email to come in or being tempted to just write a quick reply or quickly read that report. But it is important to switch off. Self-imposed bans on technology at the dinner table or bedroom can create spaces where you can turn off for a while and zone in to more personal activities.
The lack of clarity surrounding self-employment status to be addressed
That is if the Office of Tax Simplification gets their way. In a report published earlier this year, the OTS stated that more needs to be done to help determine whether a person is an employee or self-employed for the purpose of taxation classification. As the number of people challenging the standard working relationship and exploring ways to manage their own work life balances, the issue of defining the status of a contractor is becoming increasingly important. However the challenge of finding a defining principal is still proving elusive.
A single reliable method of determining employment status that is all encompassing has never been achieved before. Different test are applied by different offices – for example tax, pensions or employment law. Whilst the Office of Tax Simplification suggest the indicator used by HM Revenue and Customers was worthy of consideration further amendments are essential to make the indicator a reliable resource that can be universally applied.
The importance of defining a person’s status comes down to the tax that they pay. Currently those in employment are treated differently to those who are self-employed, and significant differences were found in relation to employers NIC’s. By using outdated processes to define the new modern ways of working clear gaps in the ability to pigeon hole different types of worker have appeared and workers do not sit comfortably in the current system.
The report considered short and long term options to better help businesses and individuals – such as a helpline in the short term, but with a view to combine the payment of income tax and national insurance contributions in the longer term. By aligning tax and NIC rates, alongside benefits that these two groups of workers receive, the need to so clearly define the roles becomes less imperative.
The report identified a requirement for all aspects of employment status to be held in a centralised "employment status portal", that’s harmonises both tax and employment rights. A third option that creates a new segment all together that creates a new status that sits alongside employed and self -employed was also mentioned however this was not expanded upon so quite how this would work or what the status would mean is open for debate.
So whilst the report has invited debate, it has not heeded any glimmer of clarity for employers or contractors to help determine their working status.
How to handle a HRMC Investigation
It is only natural to feel concerned about an impending investigation by the HRMC. Even if you have full confidence that you have acted in good faith, the process can be daunting. It is important to remember that an investigation is just that, it isn’t an assumption of guilt, from random checks, inconsistencies or inaccurate records there could be a number of reasons they checking out your records in more detail. The most important thing to remember is to stay calm and deal with it head on. It is the quickest and most painless way of finalising the process and getting back to your normal daily activities.
Things to do when being investigated
Get in touch with your accountant – make an appointment to visit and talk through your tax affairs in detail. As experts in the field they are likely to have an idea of the cause of the investigation and be able to put your mind at rest. If it is not instantly clear they can run through a number of factors with you which might highlight the reason for the investigation.
If a mistake has occurred it is likely to be minimal, talk through with your accountant the likely consequences and how to go forward from there.
Be open and honest – trying to hide or disguise any details will cause you, hopefully unnecessary, complications. It is always recommended to give the investigators all the information you have, tell them the steps you have taken and any advice you have been given. Offer a complete story from the start and the inspectors will treat you with the same respect. Try to be elusive and the relationships can become strained making the whole process more difficult.
Review all your tax payments – and we mean all. Investigations could review anywhere up to 20 years of tax payments, so having a review and refresher of all your returns could serve you well and put you on a front foot ready for any questions.
Consider any issues – are there any activities in recent years that have been unusual? Maybe there has been a complicated or unusual payments made or your working habits have changed. Did you for example have fluctuating incomes year on year. There could be many reasons that prompt an investigation, understanding and challenging any inconsistencies first off could save a lot of time.
Know that the truth will out. Best advice is to hold your hands up now if any avoidance activities have occurred. The HRMC will look at every detail and trying to hide details now will be impossible. Understand the past has caught up with you and work with the investigators to put any inconsistencies right.