We’re all going on a summer holiday – unless you’re a freelancer

Freelancer Holiday

It’s that time of year again. Everyone in the office is telling you where they’re going on their summer holidays. Kerry from Finance is off to Florida, Matt from IT is heading to Ibiza, and Jane from HR is going on a cruise around the Greek islands.

And you? Well, you’re a freelancer so if you can scrape together three or four days off together and all of your invoices are paid on time, you might be able to nab a long weekend somewhere. But wouldn’t it be nice to jet off on a holiday for a week or, dare we say, a fortnight? It might not seem possible with the busy, sometimes hectic, life of a freelancer, but we have some tips to help you on your way.

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What makes a great contractor CV?

CV

When you were an employee, your CV was probably just this thing saved somewhere on your computer that got dusted off and updated very occasionally if you decided to throw your hat into the ring for a new job.

Now you’re a contractor, your CV is constantly being updated and sent out as you pitch for new projects and this can often lead to it becoming unwieldly and disjointed. If this sounds like your CV, read on to find out how to spruce it up so it’s marketing you brilliantly to potential clients.

Market yourself

You need to start with a headline – a marketable description of what you are. It needs to be specific so don’t be tempted to put something vague to appeal across the board. This may mean you need a few different CVs to appeal to different clients, but this is better than being so vague you appeal to no one.

Structure and content

A strong structure housing clear content is a must. A good structure looks something like:

  • Profile
  • Key Skills
  • Career Highlights
  • Career History

You should include a value proposition in your Profile, using FAB (Features & Benefits) statements to sell yourself. Keep your Career Highlights short and consider using the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Activity, Result) to outline your achievements and use quantifiers where possible. If you work with particular technologies, remember to include specific details of exactly what you are expert in.

Keep it easy on the eyes

No one wants to look at a CV that’s dense with text all in a size 8 typeface. Cut unnecessary things out rather than be tempted to go for a too-small font. And, while you’re at it, choose a layout that’s visually appealing. There are plenty of downloadable templates out there, or you could even hire a designer to work on it for you.

It’s all in the detail

Seemingly small details can all add up to make a strong (or weak) contractor CV. Things to check for on a second read-through would include:

  • Making sure tenses are all correct. For instance, details of your current position should be in the present tense, while completed projects should be in the past tense.
  • Ensuring your alignment is consistent. Assuming you’re using headers, sub-headers and bullet points, you’ll want to make sure these are all lined up consistently from section to section and that you’re using them in the same way throughout.
  • Optimising for ATS and recruitment software. For better or worse, most CVs go through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) before they are ever read by a human, and those that don’t pass muster never get read at all. You can help ensure your CV passes by including obvious headers that signpost sections and plenty of relevant keywords. Even including your postcode can help.
  • Including insurance details. Most recruiters and clients will demand that you have contractor insurance so including a line on your CV saying what type of cover you hold can help you get noticed. If you need to organise contractor insurance, you can get a quote from our website.

Good luck pitching for new contracts!

Think cyber criminals don’t bother with small businesses? Think again.

Cyber Crime

It seems to be a regular news fixture: large, well-known companies suffer massive data breaches where personal data is obtained by hackers. The type of business and nature of the data often changes, but the stories are always connected through how instantly recognisable the businesses involved are.

So, you’d be forgiven for thinking that as a small business you’d be safe from the interest of hackers. However, the truth is very different. According to the Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 43% of cyber-attacks target small businesses. In fact, attacks on small businesses make up the largest share of attacks in the report.

This suggests that small business owners are lacking in the resources and knowledge required to prevent such attacks, especially when we consider that 21% of the breaches were caused by error, while 15% were caused by misuse.

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The cost of (not having) contractor insurance

Insurance

Contractor insurance can seem like a right headache to sort out. Let’s face it, it’s not exactly a glamorous expense. But you need to have it to satisfy agencies and clients, so you figure you’ll just go for the cheapest premium you can find and that’ll be that.

After all, you’ll never need to use it, will you?

Well… While we would hope your business runs completely smoothly and you never need to use it, experience tells us that some people do have to make claims. Unfortunately, if you’ve opted for a cheaper policy, this can be where you discover to your detriment that you get what you pay for.

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Do IR35 changes apply to me?

IR35

IR35 reforms are set to hit the private sector in April 2020 and a lot of contractors are still none-the-wiser as to whether or not it will directly affect them. It can be hard to gauge because to know if it will affect you, you need to know if it will affect the businesses you work for.

We’ve pulled together a quick guide to help you understand if IR35 reforms will affect you or not. However, this is by no means exhaustive and we recommend chatting with your clients as well.

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Why you might want to return to self-employment

Self Employed

So, you were self-employed for a while, but then got lured back to the bright lights of regular employment.

Perhaps it was for a great career opportunity, perhaps it was for the guaranteed monthly salary, perhaps it was because you wanted to take advantage of a maternity or shared parental leave package, perhaps you were just sick and tired of doing your own admin.

Whatever the reason, you went back and spent some time as an employee and you’ve been enjoying it. Let’s face it, it’s quite nice not having to do your own taxes every year.

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Are you being treated lawfully as a contractor? A tale of Network Rail, Employer’s NI & IR35

Network Rail IR35

Another month, another IR35 story but this one isn’t about the rollout to the private sector, but rather public sector organisations allegedly making unlawful deductions from contractors’ fees.

In this case, the public sector body in question is Network Rail, as reported recently by ContractorCalculator. The accusations pertain to two separate contractors who were negotiating contracts with Network Rail in April 2018 and September 2018 respectively.

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I’m a Celebrity…and I’ve been caught by IR35: What lessons can we learn?

IR35

Lorraine Kelly. Christa Ackroyd. Eamonn Holmes. Robert Glenister. Kaye Adams. No, it’s not the latest Strictly line-up. The above TV stars are just the visible few of the potentially large number of well-known names who are likely to have been caught-up in HMRC’s ongoing IR35 crackdown.

As anyone with half on eye on the news will know, some have fared better than others. Lorraine Kelly, or rather ‘Lorraine Kelly’, avoided a substantial fine by claiming that her happy-go-lucky TV persona was just that – a brand, and not a reflection of the real person. Kay Adams was judged to be sufficiently detached from the BBC to be outside IR35. Ackroyd was not. Glenister lost due to a combination of a lack of understanding and flimsy, poorly prepared legal arguments. Holmes’ case is still going through the courts, with £2m of tax at stake.

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Substitution Clauses: What, Why and How

Substitution Clause

One subject that has come up repeatedly in our recent blogs, especially those focusing on IR35 regulations, is the idea of a “substitution clause”. But what exactly is a substitution clause, and why do people keep urging you to have one?

Most contractors and freelancers operate as individuals, taking on projects themselves and seeing them through to completion. However, a substitution clause is a section within your contract that tells your clients of your right to provide an alternate person or persons to carry out the work that you have been contracted to do.

It can be useful if:

  • you’re ill
  • you have a family emergency or other issue
  • you’re on holiday or abroad for another job but you have clients that need looking after
  • you want to temporarily step back from work for some reason

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Grids, Likes, Followers and Connections: Which social media platform suits your contractor style?

Social Media

Despite the hype around social media, there are lots of reasons that contractors might be tempted to avoid it altogether for business use. It takes investment in terms of time and, increasingly, money, as platforms tighten their algorithms to restrict the reach of business posts. It’s easy to get wrong, and it’s hard to do it really well when you don’t have a dedicated social media team in-house. But equally, not using social media could be a wasted opportunity for contractors. Our advice? Use it, but use it smartly. Don’t spread yourself too thin, and target one or two key platforms that best fit the needs of your business and get you in front of the right audience. In this guide we take a look at four of the most popular social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. We’ll look at which platforms are most suitable for which types of content, and the types of client they will allow you to connect with, to help you kickstart your social media strategy.

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