Fracking Opponents – Justified or Misinformed?

David Cameron has recently announced his support of Fracking in the UK, yet there are still many protests taking place at proposed Fracking sites in the UK (the highly publicised protests at Barton Moss being just one example). These protestors have serious concerns about the effects of Fracking on the environment and the the way it could impact the lives of those living near to the proposed sites. So, what are the specific concerns and are they founded in truth, science or experience? Here we take a look at some of the worries and how seriously you should be taking them.

Wear from drilling operations

Currently wear on well casing from the fracking process is a problem that does need solving. Not only does the wear on the casing cause higher costs around the need for replacement or fixing but it can also be a contributory factor in any water and ground contamination that may occur.

There are suggestions and reports that a new way of managing the casing on the wells could prevent such contamination. The new suggestion is using cement to prevent the risk of contamination. Currently in America, cement is used to fill the gap in freshly drilled gas wells between the earth and the casing which is supposed to fill any cracks which would allow contamination to occur. However for it to be effective it must fill the entire space surrounding the well, from top to bottom, it is also important for workers to wait at least 8 hours for the cement to harden.

The issue is that often workers will not wait or will not pump enough cement to coat the well which has been attributed to cost saving measures.  This is possibly due to a lack of experience in the field (which we’ll cover next) and can lead to cracks forming in the cement and therefore contamination.

Lack of experience or expertise

There are other worries that those working, or planning to work on fracking sites in the UK may not be prepared or experienced enough at the scale that the operation requires. When this lack of experience happens the consequences can lead to other issues, such as those mentioned above.

This is obviously a problem with an easy answer, training and strict measures on site will ensure that contamination fears are quashed. That said, regulation and legislation remain a large area of concern among those opposing fracking in the UK.

Water contamination

We mentioned this earlier and how it can occur and there are obvious reasons for those living around potential fracking site to be concerned.  Many iof these concerns can seem justified by the fracking industry in the US where 6% of wells in a Pennsylvania region have sprung, and reported some sort of leak.

Leaks are potentially very hazardous as carcinogenic chemicals are used in the extraction process and allowing them into groundwater can affect wildlife and nearby water supplies.

The contamination to the supply can cause long term health problems for those exposed. Surveys on the chemicals used have shown damage to skin, sensory organs and in more extreme cases, effects on the brain and cardiovascular harm.

More work still needs to be done to see the definitive effects of Fracking on human health as well as environmental health, but with increased regulation and training, again this is something which can be addressed.

Environmental costs – large amounts of water use

There’s no denying that the large amount of water used in the fracking process can have a great environmental impact. For each well millions of gallons of water is used and obviously transporting such a large amount of water to a site will have significant environmental impact, especially from emissions, and will also put a large strain on local resources.  The counter argument is that the natural gas that is extracted has a far lower carbon footprint as an energy source than oil or fossil fuels which far outweighs the environmental impact the extraction process may have.

Tremors

One of the most well documented and publicised worries surrounding fracking is the risk of tremors or earthquakes. Some recent tremors have been attributed to nearby fracking sites, which scientists call ‘induced seismic events’.  Although  an increase in the amount of Fracking could lead to an increase of tremors, most earthquakes do only measure as small magnitudes on the scale.

Regulation

There have been previous worries that regulation of the fracking industry in the UK had been outdated and that new legislation was needed to make sure fracking was safe and that appropriate steps were being taken to minimise any issues such as leaks.

With regulations in place to ensure a safer practice this will not be an issue in the future and will in turn lead to less risk of environmental damage. Parliament are looking into new terms for regulation for the onshore oil and gas industry which should help implement best operational practice.

 

Sources: http://www.wearepowershift.org/blogs/cement-fracking-solution, http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/hydrofracking_w.html, https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=8&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CHIQFjAH&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.parliament.uk%2Fbriefing-papers%2Fsn06073.pdf&ei=eJJWU9-EIfGT0QWniYHYBA&usg=AFQjCNEhFud3UZQwOgaejL-C96qG9g0DSg&sig2=20ZgtBZSRCw7KqHOoLsrRQ&bvm=bv.65177938,d.d2k

Advice for money management as a freelancer or contractor

Many freelancers and contractors face a certain level of uncertainty surrounding their finances.  Variations in what and when you get paid can make managing finances complicated. We’ve put together some money management tips to help you take control of your money.

Open a business account

If you’re a freelancer or contractor who operates through a limited company where you’re the only employee you can opt to use your personal account for your business in-comings and outgoings.  However, it’s not the best idea for managing your business finances.  Setting up a business banking account makes it far easier to create a viable budget and manage your business accounts.

It will provide you with one place to receive payments and pay out any pension money, tax and business expenses. A business account could simplify how you keep track of your ins and outs as well as being able to see how profitable your business activities are.

Project income and expenses

Freelancing is rarely synonymous with a stable income and changes in your contracts may mean fluctuations in monthly income.  It’s important to have a monthly plan to control your business spending.

A good way to keep your budgeting in control is to project your monthly income and expenses by either taking an average for the year or to looking at spending with a glass half empty attitude (seriously). Look at the worst case scenario by projecting the lowest amount of income you might receive based on an estimate from previous months and years.  Combine this with an expense budget in line with your most spend heavy month to date. You’ll likely always spend less and earn more than your projections which will leave you with a contingency for anything unforeseen at the end of each month.

If you estimate your income and expenses to an average taken from the previous 12 months (if you have worked a previous year) then this should also be an effective way of budgeting for the coming months. If your income is steady this is probably the best way for you to estimate.

Set milestone payments

If you work on lots of larger projects and are worried about when you’ll get paid, because usually you don’t receive your pay off until the end of the project, then setting milestone payments could be a good option to help ease the stress.

Many freelancers set up a contract when accepting work with clients to allow for payments along the timeline of work. So, instead of a large payment at completion, you would receive agreed sums of money throughout a project. These can be set at certain milestones throughout your project and can be based on key phases being completed to give your client peace of mind too.  If your work is for a set number of hours or days then you can charge based on your time. If you have no definite way of splitting up the job then perhaps consider breaking it up into 25% blocks and charging for each of those to help maintain a steady income.

You shouldn’t be anxious about approaching your clients to suggest this option.  Many companies will be used to operating in this way, provided they have an agreed set of deliverables at each phase of the project.

 Contingency plan

Finally, a contingency fund is a must in the event you suffer gaps between contracts. If you can manage to do it, having a fund to cover 6-8 months of bills and expenses could be a real lifeline.  Hopefully you won’t have to resort to using it but just the security of knowing you’re covered for a period of time is a benefit in itself.

Having this emergency back-up will not only make you feel more secure and relaxed about your freelancing career but you’ll find you aren’t as desperate for clients, so if there are any you don’t feel quite right about then you don’t have to jump at the chance to work with them. The same goes for worrying if current clients can pay their invoices on time, you’ll have a fall back if they aren’t being punctual.  Finally, you’ll have more freedom to explore other opportunities such as going to events or taking on some training.

There we have it, some handy tips to make your freelancing financial life more secure. If you have any other tips or ideas we’d love to hear them, comment below or tweet us @Kingsbridgeprof.

Skills shortages around the world

We keep hearing about the worsening crisis of skills shortages in the UK, especially in the Oil and Gas and engineering industries. The fact of the matter is, if the crisis continues it may prevent businesses from taking advantage of economic recovery.  It’s not only the UK that’s suffering, many other territories are affected by a skills shortage in a variety of industries which is affecting their economy also. We’ve decided to take a look at the (potentially global) crisis to see what skills are lacking and where, and what plans are in place to bridge the gaps.

The UK

In a recent survey of over 90,000 employers it was shown that 1 in 5 job vacancies remained unfilled due to a lack of skilled applicants. This statistic accounts for 22% of vacancies overall, which equalled 146,200. That’s risen from 91,400 from two years previously.

The shortages are evident in trades like plumbing, health and social care, those with foreign language skills, manufacture and construction. The main reason for these shortages is a lack of skill in communication, literacy and numeracy. It can also be attributed to the fact that employers are hiring employees with a higher level of skill and knowledge than what’s actually required for the role, which can often lead to bored and unmotivated employees.  Low paid- low skill jobs don’t appear as desirable for British workers; this also adds to skill shortages. However, immigrants from eastern European countries are increasingly happy to take these jobs which helps to fill the job market.

Other issues may be that companies aren’t investing as much as they should in training and development; during the recession cutbacks were likely to have been made to this particular work initiative. A public push of the importance of role training and development within the media would help to ensure that workers are progressing and learning new skills to become proficient in their industry.

Looking at the disciplines that are suffering most from the shortages on the surface it seems we need to encourage more young people to pursue subjects like science, technology, engineering and maths to help fill future roles in the industries that are currently suffering.

Australia

The skills shortages in Australia are mainly linked to the mining industry; in the past few years much of the debate about the shortages has focussed on the need for migrant workers to come to Australia to fill the open jobs.  The current plan is to boost immigration intake by 30,000 a year to meet the skills shortages. Back around the early 2000s there was a mining boom which set of a massive growth in mining employment, but since the middle of 2012 it’s seen a huge downturn in growth suggesting that a lack of skills are beginning to affect the industry.

Similarly the engineering industry in Australia looks set to suffer a skills shortage in 2014. A slowdown in major infrastructure projects has led to companies focussing on smaller projects which have then led to senior workers moving overseas to gain the right job for their skills, or even retiring.

The lack of engineering and other skills in Australia will require targeted policies from Government and industry to support an effective approach to training, attracting and retaining the right sort of talent.

Europe

A recent report has shown that around a third of companies in Europe are struggling to find employees with the correct skills for available jobs. Of those vacancies over a quarter of employers said that they were unable to fill entry level jobs over the last year. For some this caused major business issues which could have been detrimental to their future.

Across the EU of the economically active population, 10.9% were unable to find work and for those under the age of 25 the figure rises to 23.6%. The countries with the highest unemployment rates showed the highest skills shortage, which suggests that there is a problem with educating and getting young workers involved in the industries suffering with shortages.

The report did show that the employers struggling did not engage enough with the education system and that those educating were wholly too optimistic of their students’ chances of finding work. For the shortages to cease there would have to be greater collaboration between educators, businesses and policymakers. A suggestion has been made to offer students’ financial support when studying for courses with a strong employment record and also for more businesses to sponsor students in their studies. As well as offering greater flexibility for those studying whilst working.

So there we have it a look at just some of the skills shortages around the world. With a push for greater links between the education and industry it is likely that the skills gap will begin to close. We’d love to hear your opinion, leave a comment below or tweet us @kingsbridgeprof.

Kingsbridge’s Oil And Gas Predictions For 2014

The UK:

2014 could be the year that the UK moves more towards shale gas with the British Government giving out the next round of exploration licenses this year, as well as being granted extra exploration licenses from Norway for oil in the North Sea.

The first nuclear power plant for 20 years is to be built, which also suggests a new period of growth, creating some 25,000 jobs and it should help to tackle the current engineering skills shortage.

More good news for those in the oil and gas sector as it is predicted that the boom in new jobs will also see a wage rise.  68% of oil and gas workers saw a pay rise in 2013, so it’s a positive feeling for the industry in terms of employment. Confidence in the oil and gas industry is strong and likely to increase; the majority of workers are confident that tax breaks will continue to boost investment and interest in the sector.

If Scotland were to claim Independence from the United Kingdom this year it would have a major effect on the North Sea Oil industry. Alex Salmond has increasingly focused his economic case for independence around the North Sea Oil reserves, telling Scots that the remaining reserves could be worth £300,000 per person. However the ‘black gold’ will be fiercely fought over by London and Edinburgh politicians, if it were split via the North Sea border then 90% of the revenues would go straight to Scotland. It is unlikely that England’s politicians would sit back and let this fly as revenues from the North Sea reserves are so high. It will certainly be worth keeping an eye on what the feeling is north of the border.

The US:

It’s likely that the US Shale gas revolution will continue strongly into 2014 and beyond. The US could even become energy self-sufficient by 2015 which could cause huge shifts in the global energy market.

We could also see an increase in development in the production of natural gas and oil. This will again increase chances to work in the sector and open up job opportunities throughout the coming year.

Worldwide:

Advances in technology and improvement in techniques for well-completion could mean steadily increasing recovery rates for shale oil and gas wells across the world in 2014. Those who believe in the Peak Oil theory will continue to ignore this. In the same vein ‘Peak Oil’ will not arrive in 2014.

Overall with an increase in interest and action with fracking it looks set to be a strong year for the oil and gas industries, especially as there will be an abundance of new jobs and investments within the sector. We’ll be keeping up to date with all the relevant oil and gas news throughout the year, so keep an eye on our Twitter account @KingsbridgeProf.

A Contractor’s Guide To Self-Assessment Tax Returns

As if you weren’t excited enough about Christmas, every freelancer and contractor’s favourite time of year is fast approaching too…..Tax Season!

Whether you’re a seasoned pro, or just starting out, self-assessment can be intimidating, particularly when the press is full of horror stories about fines, recent government policy changes and HMRC taking measures to answer to the recent criticisms they’ve been facing around avoidance. Hopefully we can help with our guide to self-assessment.

1 – First you’ll need to register with HMRC for self-assessment.

You can register online, by post or by phone; find more details here. To register for self-assessment you’ll need your National Insurance Number as well as all the details of your business and your personal details.  Registration (if you haven’t already done it) needs to be submitted by 5th October after the end of the tax year for which you need a return. If you are new to self-assessment you will receive a UTR (Unique Taxpayer Reference) which stays with you to keep you linked to your self-assessment records. If you aren’t new to this then you’ll need you reference number to hand to complete the forms.

2 – You need to keep your records in order.

They key to submitting your assessment on time and correctly is in keeping accurate financial records.  Just some of the financial records you should have to hand when you are completing your self-assessment are:  your self-employment income, any dividends, any income that may have come from partnership and interest paid on things such as loans and credit cards. This only the basics so be prepared to also list any additional income or expenditures.

Don’t forget, you always have the option of speaking to a professional and having them help with your accounts and financial information.

3 – Timing is important

You may have already guessed that leaving your self-assessment to the day before its due is not the best idea.  The earliest you can realistically submit it is the beginning of the new tax year.  You do, however need to make sure you have all of your tax forms from the previous year, P60, P45 and P11D, for example, so whenever you have received those you can get cracking. The advantages to early filing are the fact you’ll know how much tax you owe so you can plan the rest of the year on the back of that, knowing in advance can also prepare you for any shocks and having to pay out of your own pocket!

4 – Completing your self-assessment

So, you’ve organised all your papers, you feel prepared and ready, next comes the task of actually filling out the assessment. You can now register online (if you haven’t done it before) and receive your UTR (which we mentioned earlier).  Next you’ll use that code activate your account online and you’re ready to go. You can check this HMRC guide if you’re stuck at this point. If you’ve filed a return online before you’ll have an Id and password and you can get started straight away.

If you’re already prepped it’s an easier task of simply copying data from your records and documents into HMRC’s system. It’s simply form filling. Keep all of all your forms in front of you and once one form has had its data inputted online put it to one side, once all the forms are aside, you’re done!

The great thing is that the online system saves your progress so you don’t have to complete the assessment in one sitting and if there are things you need to double check you can always go back before you decide to submit it. Once you’ve double-checked everything and are happy that you’ve completed the forms you can submit.

5 – Finally, don’t miss the deadline of January 31st.

If you let the deadline go by you’ll be hit with an on the spot £100 fine and be given an extra three months to work through the online forms. If you miss the second deadline the fine will then go up to an additional £300, or a 5% fine of the tax you owe, whichever is greater. So it pays to be prepared for your self-assessment.

Oil And Gas News Resources For Contractors

We work with many Oil and Gas contractors and it’s important for us to keep up to date with the industry news.  This week, we thought we’d share our favourite Oil and Gas news resources.

BBC

The BBC regularly covers worldwide Oil and Gas issues, especially the North Sea and Scotland’s industry. They also have some great informative sections on this page, the future fuel section gives and in-depth look at what the future may hold for the energy generation, including fracking, alternative and nuclear.

Oil and Gas People

Oil and Gas People isn’t just a jobsite.  Their news section is regularly updated with summaries of the latest industry headlines.  They also partner with other industry specialists to provide a range of relevant services designed for the industry and are particularly active on social media channels, making it easy to keep up to date without needing to trawl the papers every morning.

Offshore Technology

This site will give you more technological news and info about the Oil and Gas sector, with the latest press releases and information on suppliers, products and services.  It’s particularly helpful if you’re looking for regular offshore news and information.

Your North Sea Oil News

This site is part of a larger worldwide Oil and Gas news website, but this section is relevant for those in (or interested in) the North Sea industry. The articles are updated regularly, as the news happens, so you’re likely to find a new story each day. If you are interested in the industry news in other geographical areas, such as Norway and Gulf of Mexico, there are also links for these.

Rigzone

This is another great source for North Sea Oil and Gas industry news, with similar articles to the above site. You can find extra information on this site about the world’s Oil and Gas companies as well as there being a job board.

Oil and Gas UK

The news here is about the trade association itself, with news about upcoming events and how the organisation is helping the industry as well as any information about government relations.

The Telegraph

The Telegraph is another regular news site which features great articles on Oil and Gas and the whole energy sector. They have regular industry updates, with historic articles also available. Most articles naturally focus on the UK’s industry but the most significant worldwide Oil and Gas stories feature too.

Are there any other sites you know of you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments section or via Twitter.

Top Ten Freelancing Misconceptions

Making the decision to begin freelancing is definitely not one to be taken lightly. However, there are certainly a lot of misconceptions that come with the territory. We’ve taken ten of the most common presumptions and blasted them wide open, for a happy, successful freelancing career.

1 – Freelancing gives you a lot more free time

When you announce that you’ve made the decision to go freelance, you’ll undoubtedly be met with ‘supportive’ soon-to-be-ex colleagues gushing about the fact that ‘at least you won’t have any more early mornings!’.

Sadly, that’s not necessarily the case. Whilst some days you might be able to sneak in an extra half hour in bed, if you want to keep on top of things, you should be working the same office hours as everyone else. This is mainly so that clients can get hold of you, but it also gives you some structure to your day and keeps you in the habit of working 9 to 5.

2 – Being a freelancer makes you loads of money

We’ve yet to meet a freelancer who cashed in during their first few weeks of leaving their office job, so you will probably have to stick at it for a good while before you can afford that second home in the Caribbean.

Whilst some people do charge quite a high hourly rate, the reality is that you’re not working every hour of every day, so it’s a bit of a moot point. There’s also only a certain amount of work/clients that you can service on your own, so it’s important to take it just one step at a time.

 3 – Freelancing means you don’t have a boss

You may be glad to get rid of that stuffy CEO who is stifling your creative flow, but just because you’re a freelancer doesn’t mean that you don’t have anyone to report to.

Clients and others who are paying for your time are expecting a return on investment for their cash, so not doing the work you have agreed means that you’ll certainly have someone to answer to.

Not meeting deadlines is frustrating for those who are expecting a finished product, and it will also earn you a less than desirable reputation. Treat those who you are doing work for as if they are your boss, and it should help to keep you on track.

4 – Freelancing is much less stressful

Another regular misconception that a lot of people have is that freelancing is far less stressful than ‘regular’ employment. We hate to break it to you, but this one isn’t true either.

Your schedule hours are a lot more flexible, and you do have a certain amount of freedom, but these do not necessarily a walk in the park make.

Not only do you have to be constantly on the look out for new work, you also have to structure your own time, organise your workload and then find the time to do all that work… by yourself. There’s little delegation in the freelance world!

5 – Being a freelancer means you’re lonely

A life without colleagues isn’t the be all and end all, and freelancing doesn’t necessarily have to be a lonely profession.

Not having the constraints of office life means you can arrange to meet clients and other business contacts for lunch and coffee, getting you out of your homemade office.

Thanks to the wonders of social media, there are thousands of meet-ups around the country, so why not investigating what networking events and meet-ups are going on in your area? It’s a great way to meet new people, make friends and try and snare some new business!

6 – You have to take any work you can get

No-one wants to turn away business, but just because you’re a freelancer doesn’t mean that you have to accept that job for your Aunty Jackie’s sister’s brother’s new plumbing venture.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s lovely when people think you’re worthy enough of supporting their business, but just because you’re not based in a regular office job doesn’t mean that you have to take it.

We all like doing a couple of feel-good jobs for free to help out friends and family, but sticking to your professional network will probably mean more success on the new business side of things.

7 – Anyone can do it

Similar to the assumption that freelancing is easy, a lot of people think that it’s possible for anyone to be a freelancer. However, we’d have to disagree.

You need a variety of skills to be a freelancer, just as you need a variety of skill in any other job. Good time management and organisation skills are key, and you have to be confident in what you do and how well you’re doing it in order to win new business.

Freelancing isn’t just a job that you can fall back on, and if you don’t put in a considerable amount of effort, then it’s unlikely you will succeed.

8 – You don’t have to pay taxes

Getting yourself an accountant is one of the first things you should do when you become a freelancer, as registering as self-employed with HMRC can be confusing to say the least.

You need to take responsibility for both income and tax and National Insurance, which are calculated by reference to your profits as a stand-alone business.

Even beginning to think about tacking taxes by yourself can end up leaving you a bit frazzled, so we’d definitely recommend getting a professional in to help, at least while you’re finding your feet.

9 – Freelancing limits future career opportunities

A number of people worry about life after freelancing, but moving into self-employment doesn’t mean that you have to stay there for the rest of your life.

Being able to be successful as a freelancer shows a lot of skills, many of which will impress a potential future manager. Many freelancers also see job opportunities with people that they’ve worked for on a freelance basis, so often you don’t even have to go through the tedious application stage.

Depending on the length of your freelance career, you should have a number of happy clients who are willing to give you an excellent reference.

10 – Get as many clients as possible on your first day

Don’t worry if you haven’t filled your books on your first day. You need to make sure you’re dedicating time to nurturing your business, as well as finding new clients.

Taking a few hours to make your website look top notch, spending a little bit extra on the design for some business cards that are going to make you really memorable and writing up a business plan are all things that will benefit in the long run, and mean that you can continue to grow your business.

Creating A Home Office On A Budget

As a freelancer or contractor there’s a good chance you’ll need to work from home at least occasionally.  We all know how tempting it can be to just plonk yourself down on the sofa in front of the TV with your laptop but we also know that’s probably not going to lead to your most productive day!

Having an environment at home that you reserve purely for work will make a big difference to how effectively you can work from home.  I’m not talking about loft conversions or new structures in your back garden (I’ll get on to that later) but there are a few things you can do to create yourself a home office or work area without breaking the bank.

Space – Clearly you’re going to need to find or make space.  A spare room is perfect if you can make use of one but, if not, finding a crook or alcove within your home is the best idea, so you in some ways feel sectioned off from the rest of the house.

 

chair

 

Plan – It’s a good idea to make a plan of where you want things to go, measure out proportions and check where radiators and windows are. You don’t want to buy/move all your furniture before you’ve decided on a layout; you’ll be doubling the time you spend on setting it up!

Furniture – You’re going to need a chair and a desk – might sound like stating the obvious but choosing the right furniture is paramount for your occupational health.  Ikea do a great range in ‘office’ furniture if you want to buy new but you’ll almost certainly get better quality if you opt for something used.

Get organised – invest in or reallocate some storage.  A bookcase, filing boxes, wall mounted shelves – whatever works best in your space.  Anything to keep files and paperwork away from your ‘home’ environment or off the floor!

Lighting – Don’t overlook the importance of lighting.  Natural light during the day would be perfect, but not always possible.  You can find daylight bulbs in most DIY stores and a well-positioned lamp will help if you need a break from overhead glare.

Stay connected – Another obvious statement, but you’ll need an internet connection and either a land-line nearby or a good mobile reception.  All names have been changed, but ‘Robert’ could tell you a tale about the very smart log cabin type affair he constructed (at no small cost) at the end of his garden to be used as his home office.  Central heating, running water, no internet connection, no mobile coverage.  Lesson learned I think!

Personalise – Finally, make your space your own.  One of the key benefits to working from home is the level of control you have over your own environment.  We suggest you do more than the bare minimum to make the space habitable.  Even if it’s a particular photo or picture on a wall, personalising your space will definitely help you stay focused and inspired.

 

Time Saving Tips For Your Work Day

As a Freelancer or contractor you may find there just aren’t enough hours in the day. You probably have to multitask much of the day to get work completed on time. Here are some simple time saving tips to help you with the smaller tasks in your day.

Plan, plan, plan.

It instantly helps your work flow if you have a plan in place for your working day.  Various research shows that people are most productive during the first two hours of their working day so it’s a good idea to write your to do list the night before.  That way you can focus on ticking tasks off your list as soon as you start work.  Clearly your list is going to change almost hourly, but simply writing each item down will allow you to stay on track.

Take advantage of Voicemail and out of office

It’s not an easy discipline to adopt, but you’ll soon find that if you can allow voicemail to take the strain when you’re up against it you’ll be much more efficient.  Similarly, by logging out of email for an hour or two, you’ll be able to focus on completing tasks without the constant interruption of email alerts and the temptation to deal with them as soon as they drop into your inbox. Simply removing as many potential distractions as possible for set periods of time during your day will improve concentration and output.

Mobiles and tablets

If your contracts mean you need to travel a lot take advantage of (public) travelling times and waiting rooms. Even five minutes on a mobile device will mean one less email to respond to when you get back to the office.

Pick the right jobs

It’s sometimes tempting to take on jobs that don’t closely match your area expertise, particularly when you feel you could competently take them on.  Once these projects start you may find that you need to pick up extra skills or do more research to complete them. Stick to your area and you’ll complete work quicker and keep your clients happier.

Use productivity tools

You can download or use an online productivity tool to keep you on track.  They’ll help you to stay focused by limiting the amount of time you spend on ‘time-wasting’ websites. You can also use online time-tracking tools which will give the feeling of being monitored making it more likely for you to stay on track.

Don’t multitask

We’ve mentioned this before in our ‘managing multiple clients’ post, but as well as helping in that respect it will save you many wasted hours. Doing more than one thing at a time has been proven to be counter-productive , it can slow you down from distraction as well as making you more likely to make a mistake.

Marketing For Contractors On A Limited Budget

We know that marketing for contractors can be tough if you’re trying to pull together interest on your own. This list is full of recommendations to help sell yourself and your business and hopefully retain and gain new clients and contracts on a tight budget.

Customer recommendations, friends and family

The best way and the cheapest way to get your name out there is via recommendations from clients to their peers.  Word of mouth is the most reliable and trustworthy way for customers to find a business they’d be happy working with. Favourable words from a family member or friend will also usually ensure that a potential customer will at least check you out, whether or not they decide hire you for the job.   Incentive schemes for clients that refer you are a great way of increasing recommendations, while rewarding your clients in the process.

Testimonials

Along the same lines, testimonials are free and tremendously powerful.  Very few of us would make a significant investment on a product, book a hotel or holiday or even read a book without reading a few reviews first.  You can display testimonials on any marketing materials you produce, business cards and websites.

Website/blog

If you need to market your business, having a website and/or a blog is crucial.  Aside from recommendations, most new business relationships now begin via an online search of some kind.  Simply put, a website is how people will find you.  Having an internet base for your business can also act as a host for portfolios and/or testimonials.  Hosting a website and a domain can cost from as little as £30 a year.

Social Media

Social Media is rapidly taking over as the new home of marketing and advertising, with big brands and corporations investing heavily in advertising and generating a following. Social Media can also work well on a smaller, more targeted scale.  If you are just beginning on Social Media it’s good to start by setting up a Facebook and Twitter page, inviting clients and friends to like or follow the accounts to get you started. The bonus with Social Networks is that they are all completely free. Once you’ve got the hang of tweeting, it’s a good idea to look into getting involved with local business hashtags to create discussions and recommendations.

Local events

Talking of local business, you’ll find there are a multitude of local networking events around the UK which will allow you get to know valuable people who can pass on knowledge of your skills to potential clients as well as giving you leads on others who they suspect may need your business. These networking events are usually only £10-£20 per event so you could dip in and out when you feel they are or aren’t working for you.

Seasonal greetings

Keeping in contact with clients and leads is a great way of marketing yourself. Send out seasonal messages and show an interest in keeping in contact with your client as well as reminding them of your services. Seasonal discounts and promotions also work well to secure new customers.

Focus on your niche

Being a contractor or freelancer means it can be hard to stand out amongst the bigger players. It’s a good idea to carve out a niche and focus on that in all of your marketing promotions. Having a niche as a smaller business is a great way to gain local supporters and wider appeal. Use this to help brand yourself and use that brand whenever you market yourself.