Brand Identity: The Basics

Brand Identity

“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business” Steve Forbes, editor of Forbes business magazine

“Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” – Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO Amazon

You might think that brand identity is a concern only for big companies, or that, as a small business, you can’t afford to spend a lot of money on flashy marketing. But building a brand identity is all about communicating a consistent message about who you are and what you do, and it needn’t cost any money at all. This blog explores the basics of brand identity for contractors and freelancers and offers some simple principles for building a unified brand around your core asset: you!

As the quotes above tell us, branding isn’t a one-time marketing exercise. Rather, every encounter that a client or potential client has with your business should be considered part of your branding. Every interaction is an opportunity to build a positive relationship, and to communicate your story, values and benefits.

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Five signs that you’re ready for self-employment

Self-Employment

Everything is starting to feel a bit fresher and warmer. But sometimes the signs of spring can make going into the office every day feel like more of a slog. April is a great time to consider your position and decide whether you are ready for your next challenge. Many contractors held “normal” jobs for years before they decided to go it alone and take advantage of the freedom, flexibility, and financial advantages that can come with being self-employed. But how do you know when you’re ready to take the plunge, leave the 9-to-5 and take the reins of your own company? Here are five signs that it might be time for you to go self-employed:

Your reputation precedes you

If you are fighting off calls from headhunters, or if clients, customers or partners of your current employment keep trying to twist your arm into doing some extra bits for them “on the side”, then you should definitely consider giving contracting a go. Your expertise and experience are clearly visible to others and therefore should be easy to market, and you have a pre-existing group of potential clients to target for those precious first few contracts.

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What risks am I taking by operating without insurance?

Insurance

Every contractor wants to keep their business outgoings to a minimum. When you’re looking to reduce your business spending, it can be tempting to cut away at expenses that seem extraneous to your requirements: a business telephone contract that you’ve never used, expensive professional software licences when a free program works just as well, memberships of professional bodies where you don’t use any of the benefits. But there’s one contractor cost that should never be cut – business insurance.

It’s true that you may never claim on your insurance. But there are many risks to operating without proper business insurance in place, from the small to the serious. Even without the need to make a claim, insurance is working for you every day, helping you to secure clients, meet the requirements of contracts and as an IR35 indicator. In the event that things go wrong in the course of business, or you encounter an unhappy client or third party, insurance becomes even more crucial to protect your livelihood, mental health and even your home. This blog looks at the escalating risks of not having proper business insurance in place if you are working as a contractor.

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The Ongoing Issue of Late Payment

Late Payment

Although (like everything else) it might have been a bit overshadowed by Brexit, there was good news for contractors and freelancers buried in the Chancellor’s Spring Statement last month – a crackdown on late payments. It’s a scenario that will be familiar to almost every contractor and freelancer; the tiresome and often worrying time spent waiting and chasing for payment of invoices that are well overdue.

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Mortgage Tips for the Self-Employed

Mortgage

Read on below for a guest post from our good friends at contractor mortgage specialists CMME:

Becoming self-employed isn’t always for everyone. It’s a decision that can have consequences. You may feel alone in your journey when it comes to financial advice, especially when your high street bank doesn’t understand the way in which you work when applying for a mortgage – something that can hinder your opportunity.

It’s a common myth that the self-employed will be declined a mortgage or would need to have been self-employed for 2 to 3 years. This isn’t necessarily true and, with support and guidance from the right specialist mortgage broker, you could get a mortgage that reflects your true earnings.

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a professional looking to re-mortgage, CMME have created this helpful guide outlining everything self-employed people need to know about getting a mortgage.

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Fit and Flexible

Fit and Flexible

If you’ve spent the last few weeks trying and failing to make good on your New Year’s Resolution to get fit we might be able to help. It’s not always easy for contractors and freelancers to find time in already jam-packed schedules to get down the gym. And if you work from home, it’s not as simple as cycling to work, taking the stairs instead of the lift or getting off the bus a few stops early. But our businesses are only as fit and healthy as our bodies are, so how can contractors and freelancers make sure they get enough exercise?

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Choosing an Accountant

Choosing an Accountant

For contractors juggling busy work schedules, complex contracts and irregular payments, good accountants can be worth their weight in gold. Whether you are just starting out as a freelancer or if you’re an experienced contractor who’s dissatisfied with the service you’re currently receiving, we share our top tips on what to look for and the questions you must ask when choosing an accountant.

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Self-employment in retirement

Retirement

65 is the new 35, and many of us are finding that we’re not quite ready to stop working when we hit retirement age. There are, of course, valid financial reasons for deciding to work longer. Many of us are expecting to live longer, and so being able to keep ourselves in a comfortable lifestyle for longer is an attractive prospect.

But more than that, work is a source of fulfilment to many people. It keeps us social and active both mentally and physically.

Having worked hard all our lives, when we hit retirement, most of us aren’t exactly aching to keep doing full-time, 9-5 hours in stressful jobs. A survey by Merrill Lynch found that only 5% of those at retirement age wanted to work full time, while 33% said they wanted to balance work and leisure.

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Don’t let your contractor CV become clichéd

CV Mistakes

Your CV (or, indeed, LinkedIn profile) is the first thing prospective clients will see when you apply to work with them and, of course, you want to set yourself apart from the other contractors in your field.

Let us tell you now, the way to do this is not by filling your CV with meaningless, clichéd buzzwords that are more likely to send prospective clients looking in the opposite direction. The Plain English Campaign largely deals with getting jargon out of public comms, but that ethos can be applied to your CV too. So, instead of rubbish, fill your CV with simple facts that tell clients all they need to know about you.

What are the words and phrases to avoid?

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Contracting mistakes: Why it pays to have the right cover in place

Contractor Mistakes

We’ve written many times on these pages in the past about the importance of having insurance in place. Whether you’re a contractor, a recruiter placing a contractor in a role, or the end client, it’s important that you do everything you can to minimise risk.

99% of the time everything goes smoothly. Deadlines are met, measurements are accurate, and projects are completed. But there are times when things don’t go quite as planned. The financial and reputational costs that come with a claim are likely to be large, and having the right cover in place will help you to offset any costs you will incur.

So why are we bringing up this particular topic again? Two stories in the news recently got us thinking.

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