June Contractor News Round Up

Your monthly round-up of June’s top contractor news.

 

Kingsbridge Professional Solutions launch a new BIBA scheme

KPSol have just launched professional indemnity scheme for freelance professionals with BIBA (British Insurance Brokers’ Association).

The scheme has been designed to allow other brokers access to a policy, specifically designed for freelancers and contractors or those who are working as sole traders.  It’s available exclusively to BIBA members.

With freelancing being the fastest growing sector of workers, (over 1.56 million working in 2012) the scheme caters specifically for their business needs and is available at an extremely competitive price.    Brokers can benefit from our experience in this rapidly growing sector and get access to a scheme which provides comprehensive cover and peace of mind for their client.  A white label solution is also available.  Visit our website for more details.

Boom in youth self employment

Britain is likely to see a boom in self-employment amongst the young workforce; currently only about 5% of the young population are already self-employed. This is all according to a report from the Prince’s Trust that shows a sizeable number of young adults aspire to follow that 5% into self-employment. A quarter of those surveyed said that with the job market becoming ever more competitive, they would rather work for themselves than search exhaustively for more traditional ‘employee’ role.

High youth unemployment rates between the ages of 16-30 are the reason behind the spike in young self-employed professionals.  Many are drawn to the appeal of self-employment because of the freedom that can accompany it especially as, with the development of on-line technology, work can be much more portable.   46% of young adults predicted that it will soon be possible to work at any location on the planet.

The research reveals an upturn in entrepreneurial moods from young adults and more and more are seeing self-employment as a way to break the cycle of joblessness.

Zero-hours contract workers earn £6 an hour less than colleagues

Another survey this month has revealed that contract workers on 0 hour contracts can earn up to £6 an hour less than colleagues.

Employers have been shown to exploit the flexible arrangements of contractors by paying them low wages, some employees on 0 hour contracts were paid £6 per hour less than those with set hours. The resolution foundation has warned the government that increasing implementation of these 0 hour contracts across public and private sectors is undermining basic employment rights and hitting younger workers especially hard.

Vince Cable has refused to ban the practice, but has hinted he may be willing to fight for stronger protections if employers are found to be abusing the system. The contracts mean that employers can adjust staff hours week to week with no set minimum wage for the week.

It was also admitted by The Resolution Foundation “…that the benefits these contracts provide for employers come at too high a price for the majority of those employed on them.”

Are you noticing an increase in young contractors and freelancers or have you lost out by signing a zero hours contract?  Tell us about your experiences by leaving a comment below.

 

 

Meet The Kingsbridge Team – Lauren Costello, Client Services Advisor

As promised, here’s the next installment in our ‘meet the Kingsbridge team’ series.  Our next victim participant is Lauren Costello, champion show-jumper and future zoo keeper.  Thanks for taking part Lauren.

Name: Lauren Costellolauren

Role:Client Services Advisor

How long have you been working with KPSOL?

Since November 2011

What does your job role include?

I speak with at least 50 people a day on the phone as well as responding to email enquiries.  Most of the conversations I have are with freelancers and contractors who are interested in the KPSol insurance package and either want to put a policy in place or have questions about the cover levels and whether it’s the right policy for them.

I also work with some of our business partners.   Often accountancy firms are keen to ensure their contractor and freelancer clients have the necessary insurance in place and many recruitment agencies insist on it before they’ll add them as candidates.  KPSol works closely with them to help them provide an end to end service.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

A famous show jumper, a vet or a zoo owner (I’d actually still like to own a zoo)

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Making a difference for a client is important to me and when I can do that I get a real buzz.  I also count myself as lucky to work with some brilliant people so just being in the office is enjoyable, even if I’m having a tough day.  We have a lot of fun.

What has been the highlight of your career?

Last year I went to the Gastech exhibition at ExCel in London.  One of our specialisations is in providing cover for Oil and Gas professionals and this is a huge, global event for the industry.  It hadn’t been held in the UK for 40 years (it’s in South Korea next year!) so I was really lucky to be able to attend and meet so many people in the industry.

What is your favourite thing about the company and what makes them different to work for?

The company has grown quickly over the last few years and it’s given opportunities to and invested in a young team (myself included) and it continues to do that.  Although traditionally the Client Services team would probably be referred to as a call centre, we’re encouraged not to be robotic, to build a real rapport with our clients.  We’re involved in planning and agreeing processes and we have regular communication from senior management around strategy and developments in the business.

What do you enjoy outside of work?

Horse riding and watching the rugby.  I’m also a cinema addict!

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself

When I was younger I won the regional Jump Cross event on my horse, it’s a mixture between show jumping and cross country.  I was also on a TV show with Eddie Izzard once, I can’t remember it though!

Any advice you could give to someone looking to get a job in a similar environment?

You need to be very proactive.  Although most of the enquiries the Client Services team deals with are inbound, we still have to actively build relationships with our clients and make sure we’re answering their questions quickly and accurately.  You need to have a passion for customer services and also a willingness to learn and develop a good understanding of your clients’ needs and the insurance industry in general.  It’s hard work, but really satisfying.

What do you think makes Kingsbridge stand out from other insurance providers?

We’re often able to cover people who haven’t been able to get insurance elsewhere, or who thought they would have to pay thousands to get cover.  The set package of insurance is designed so our clients have peace of mind that they have the right cover, without the time and confusion they can experience from sourcing separate policies from multiple providers.

Any advice you have for freelancers or contractors looking for insurance?  

It’s vital that you’re adequately protected and equally, that you’re protecting anyone who might be affected by the work you do.  Don’t assume that you are automatically covered by your agency, your accountant or your professional body.  This is not always the case and we have so many contractors getting in touch, panicking as they won’t get paid until they can provide proof of insurance.

 Where do you hope to be in a few years’ time?

The plan is to get more involved with the work that the team that manage our partnerships and affiliations do.  I’m training with them at the moment, working towards a role as an account manager. 

We’ll be featuring more Client Services profiles over the coming months.  If you need to talk to a member of the team for a business insurance quote you can call on             01242 808740 or send an email to enquiries@kpsol.co.uk.

 

Top Freelancing Tips To Help You Balance Your Lifestyle

Let’s face it,  maintaining the elusive work/life balance is a challenge for many professionals.  Those in permanent employment at least get to leave the office, switch on an out of office or take a break while a colleague keeps on top of any vital tasks.  All of which might seem like an unobtainable luxury to those who don’t have the safety net of an employer to rely on.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t freelance or contract while maintaining a personal life too.  We spoke with some of our clients and they all told us that, no matter how much they enjoy their work, reserving some time for themselves, friends and family is vital.  So, we’ve come up with our top Freelancing tips to help you balance your work and your lifestyle.

Don’t believe in ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities

Thinking you have to put something personal off or on hold because the work offer you just got is a ‘one time thing’, isn’t the best idea. Most of the time ‘unique’ opportunities will be presenting themselves more than once.

Few larger Jobs are better than lots of smaller ones

When you are taking on jobs, think about taking that large paying job rather than taking on a number of small jobs, it will benefit you in the long term and save you a lot of stress. They may be worth the same amount of money, but the focus on one project will save you the aggravation

Set appointments, don’t be on call

One of the top tips when creating a work/life balance is keep your phone in check, set hours to answer emails and phone calls in, and don’t waver from your schedule.  If you waiver even once, it could upset your schedule and therefore interrupt your social life.

Maintain Core Work Hours

Again, set up your schedule of work hours and stick to it. It is ideal to be working around 9-5 as that is when everyone else will be available on call and email. If something comes up, agree realistic working hours with the client and leave yourself enough time to rest and relax away from work.

Shut the Door

If you work from home, make sure you are away from distractions and in your own space. The best way to do this is to simply shut your office door. Keep this procedure in place and it should help keep you in a work mind set.

Maintain good client relationships

Keep in contact with clients during a job and make sure to send follow up emails to check they are happy with work. A simple follow up will be appreciated; don’t start emailing every day, hassling them for more work!

Replace some work goals with personal goals

If your work goals take priority over your life it’ll begin to take a toll on your mental well-being. Take some time to set some personal goals to achieve instead of focusing on just work-based ones. Some ideas could be, setting a goal of going to the gym a certain number of times a week or starting a new hobby.

Don’t forget you are your own boss

This is important, don’t forget it! The fact you are your own boss means you have the freedom to dictate what you do. If you don’t think you can meet that deadline, tell the client and figure out a new plan. If you feel like you need some time off, figure out a plan around your work and do it. If you woke up and you don’t quite feel up to working, go back to bed make sure you get the rest and let your clients know you’ll be a day behind. You have the freedom to do what is best for you, use it.

Do one thing at a time

Finally, although multi-tasking may feel like you’re getting a lot done, a lot of the time it is just spinning wheels. Multi-tasking can often lead to mistakes and extra stress in your work. The best way to keep you from falling into this trap is to make a list of all your tasks and finish each one before moving on.

We’d love to hear from you if you have any tips or advice of your own so please feel free to add a comment below.

 

What Is Contractor Insurance?

Working as a self-employed contractor may give you freedom to be your own boss, but it also means that you have to take on all responsibility for your actions. Taking out a dedicated Contractor Insurance policy ensures that you get support when you need it most.

Whether you work in Engineering, Finance or IT you are likely to need Professional Indemnity Insurance (also known as PI). In the event that a client is unsatisfied with the work you’ve carried out for them, due to a breach of professional duty. PI can help cover legal fees incurred if a claim is made against you.

It’s recommended that contractors keep Professional Indemnity Insurance continually, even though you may be between jobs or taking a short break from work – a past client could still bring up issues and, to be covered, you must have insurance in place at the time the claim is made against you.

Occupational Personal Accident cover is important if you encounter an accident at work which leaves you unable to carry out your job in the future.  An insurance policy should be able to give you weekly payments while you recover, or a lump sum if you find yourself unable to work in the long term.

If you work from a client’s premises, or anyone visits yours you have a duty to protect anyone who might be affected by your actions. Public Liability Insurance will help cover you if property is damaged or a third party is injured whilst you are carrying out your work.

The volume of polices available can be confusing, at Kingsbridge Professional Solutions our insurance package covers the above policies (as well as Employers’ Liability and Directors’ and Officers’ Liability) to make Contractors Insurance simple and affordable.

Making The Move To Freelancing?

If you’re considering making the move to a career in Freelancing – Here are some points to consider. 

There are many reasons why you might decide to go freelance, from commitments at home to being your own boss to wanting to earn some extra money alongside your current work. Whatever your reasons, here are a few things that are worth considering:

Do you want to be a Sole Trader or Limited company?

Before working you must decide whether you want to work for yourself or set up a company. It may be worth meeting up with an accountant to run through the pros and cons of each before you make a decision. You can register as self employed through the HMRC online.

How much will you charge for your services?

You will need to be earning enough to cover a number of things, your average cost of living, taxes, your monthly overhead (e.g. office supplies, admin, insurance or rent) as well as making a profit for future growth. Try using an hourly rate calculator, such as this one from Freelance Switch for a rough estimate.

How will you manage your finances? 

Going freelance means that you will need to keep a close eye on managing your finances. Not just for tax purposes, but this can help you track whether or not you are making any profit and if your business is growing. Opening up a business account can help you track all of your finances and make your self assessment easier at the end of the tax year. You may also want to hire an accountant to help you with this as well.

Have you got a back up plan?

Going freelance often means there is less support if something goes wrong. Whether it’s an accident at work or just a slow month for business, saving a percentage of your earnings each month can ensure you have some money to fall back on in case of emergencies. Investing in a freelance insurance package can also help save you money in the long term. Take a look at our website for more information about the types of cover available.

Here are some useful sites for advice when becoming freelance:

Freelancing – A Risky Business?

Any freelancer or contractor working through their own limited company will have experienced the complexity of purchasing business insurance products.  One of the most common questions we’re asked by contractors and freelancers is simply ‘what insurance do I actually need?’

Firstly, when freelancing, you need to establish the risks your business faces and your legal obligations.  But let’s also consider your clients, the assumptions they make and the (often standardised) contracts they will expect you to comply with.

  • Professional Indemnity insurance is vital if any errors you make or negligent advice you give leads to financial loss or damages the reputation of those relying on your expertise.  Including legal defence costs and any damages awarded to the claimant it’s a crucial insurance to hold when expertise is what your clients are paying you for.
  • Whether you work from a client’s premises or have visitors to your own place of work, you have a duty to protect anyone who might be affected by your activities.  Public Liability insurance would provide cover if someone was injured or property was damaged as a result of your actions in carrying out your duties.
  • Employers’ Liability insurance is compulsory for almost all UK businesses with limited exceptions. Freelancers and contractors who don’t employ anyone are exempt,  however, many clients’ standard contracts are drawn up without consideration for the specific legal requirements which apply and will simply insist upon this type of cover.
  • Occupational Personal Accident insurance protects you financially if you become unable to work due to injury as a result of an accident at work.  As a freelancer you will likely have very limited financial support available while you are unable to work.  By paying a weekly benefit while you recover, or a lump sum if you are permanently unable to work, Personal Accident cover is highly recommended for freelancers and contractors.
  • Directors’ and Officers’ Liability insurance gives you financial protection as a company director where you could be held personally liable if you fail in any of the numerous responsibilities you accept to run and represent a company in an appropriate manner.  Situations where a claim can arise range from financial misrepresentation to alleged legislative breaches.

By understanding your main exposures and contractual obligations we’ve created a package of business insurance designed specifically for freelancers and contractors.  For further information visit www.kpsol.co.uk

Controlling Persons Legislation Abandoned

The Chancellor finally brought the speculation around the government’s proposed Controlling Persons legislation to a close when he delivered his autumn statement to Commons yesterday.

“The Government has decided not to proceed with the proposal to tax those who meet the definition of a controlling person at source. This is because HMRC’s new approach to policing IR35, along with the measures introduced in the public sector this year, are sufficient to prevent the loss through disguised employment in this way”

It would, however, be naïve to assume that the spotlight which has been so frequently turned to the tax arrangements of freelancers and contractors is finally seeking a new target.  The chancellor finished by stating that “The Government will keep this area under review.”

Whether the new approach to the policing of IR35 relates to the recent administrative reforms by HMRC (in May), or a new statutory amendment, is unclear and a point on which an HMRC representative requested further clarification from the Treasury, which declined to comment.

Regardless, it’s clear that the legislation is here to stay, along with the recent reforms which are still officially being implemented on a ‘trial’ basis.

It seems that the debate in respect of taxation reforms is far from over for Freelancers and Contractors but the abandonment of the proposed Controlling persons’ legislation  is welcome and positive news which comes at a time when Freelancers and Contractors are already facing increasing burdens brought about by legislative changes.

How Do Freelancers And Contractors Keep In Touch?

Kingsbridge MD, Steve Wynne, tests his reactions at Gastech

It’s been a busy few weeks for KPSol, both in and out of the office.

We’ve been raising money for Breast Cancer Awareness, attending exhibitions and strategy planning for fast approaching 2013.

All of this activity means we’ve been connecting with colleagues, partners and clients more than ever and I’ve been thinking about our Freelancer and Contractor clients who don’t always have the luxury of someone sitting across a desk from them.

So how do Freelancers and Contractors connect with one another?

One sector that appears to be actively encouraging networking amongst its peers is that of the Oil and Gas sector.  What would outwardly appear to be an insular career path is just not so when it comes to Oil and Gas Freelancers and Contractors.  KPSol are regularly invited to attend conferences, events and trade shows within this industry and we were delighted when, on the 8th October, Gastech returned to London after 40 years.

Our stand proved to be a popular installation with the inclusion of a reaction testing machine, used by Formula One teams for driver training.  It wasn’t easy to resist the challenge, as you’ll see from the image of our very own Managing Director, Steve Wynne.

Professor Brian Cox OBE, Research Fellow, Author, Broadcaster, CERN Project & BBC Television had this to say about the conference and exhibition;

“To be able to talk to the people at the cutting edge, you know, you’ve got your people here who are important, influential and employers of people that I and my colleagues in the university sector educate, so for me, that’s a real value.”

However, not all industries hold regular events and what of Freelancers and Contractors working offshore, overseas or those who simply can’t afford to take the time away from their businesses.

Social media is one option but it’s also a hotly debated communication method amongst the business community and this includes Freelancers and Contractors.  One school of thought and the generic advice has been to only connect with those companies that could offer you a contract immediately.  The thinking is that if you are using social media as a marketing tool, then you should only target potential clients and that other connections won’t lead to paid work.

But who knows where your Freelance and Contractor connections could lead?  Today’s entrepreneur may well be the next Steve Jobs or your Freelancer contacts may make the move back into a traditional environment and a position that could provide you with future contracts.

Freelancers have many and varied skills which often complement each other.  Knowing someone you can team up with could make the difference between you winning a contract or not.  Knowing your industry and your peers and keeping a regular dialogue with them also means that you’re first in line when it comes to work referrals.

Of course, like any networking method, relationships take time to develop and if you view social media purely as a method of generating new business you’re likely to become disillusioned fairly rapidly.  But if you’re looking for a way to stay connected to your peers, industry news and for a method of getting a quick and candid opinion, it could well a medium worth exploring.

UK Business News Dominated By Contractor Debate

Debates around Freelancing and Contracting have been headlining in the UK business news over the past fortnight with tensions running high and independent research showing that many Freelancers and Contractors are fast losing confidence in the current government and their seeming lack of support for those working for themselves.

The proposed Controlling Person’s Legislation I mentioned in the 25th September blog entry is causing unease amongst Media and Public Sector Contractors and Freelancers and this seems to have dominated the front pages of the broadsheets this month.

Matchtech, the number one engineering and recruitment company in the UK, have also released the results of a new Confidence Index and it seems that UK engineers are now losing confidence in the government and their policy on engineering.  More than half of those surveyed stated that they’re not confident that their businesses will continue to invest locally and two in five are seriously considering electively working abroad in the next five years.

It’s not easy to see how this debate will be resolved unless there is a dramatic shift in the government’s attitudes towards the Freelancing Community.  The consensus amongst Freelancers and Contractors is that without such a shift we risk seriously damaging this vital sector of UK commerce and industry.

Prompt Payment Code to Benefit Contractors

 

Prompt Payment Code set to improve cash flow for small businesses and contractors;

Are your clients keeping a vice-like grip on your finances?

In tough financial times, cash flow is key and never more so than for freelancers, consultants and contractors.  No matter how successful your business is, the risk of your clients failing to settle invoices on time is ever present.  However, last week, the Forum of Private Business voiced their support for a significant new government scheme which is hosted and administered by the Institute Of Credit Management and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.  The Prompt Payment Code is a voluntary code of conduct to which large companies are being encouraged to sign up.  The pledges are simple and to the point and the code is being heralded as the first concrete proposal to tackle this issue in decades.

But what of the other risks to your livelihood?  Could you afford to pay the legal costs, compensation and even medical bills resulting from a client making a claim against you?  Whether for injury, damage to goods or property or even loss of revenue due to advice and recommendations you have made or actions you have taken, your business and personal finances could be at risk should you be found answerable.

Thankfully it’s not all doom and gloom.  KPSol have worked with our clients and government legislation to tailor a complete and affordable package of insurance to protect you and your livelihood and to put you one step ahead of your competition.  By holding our Freelancer Insurance you’re covered.  With one simple policy you’re protected by a comprehensive range of cover, from Professional Indemnity, right down to Personal Accident.  It’s affordable and you can even pay monthly meaning you needn’t skimp on cover, even if your clients haven’t signed up to the Prompt Payment Code Yet.