The insurance products no engineer can afford to forget

Engineering Insurance

We understand that when you’re freelancing, you want to focus on the job at hand and creating the best work possible. Sometimes, insurance products don’t come at the top of your to-do list and can seem like an unnecessary expense.

However, if you’re a freelance engineer, you occupy a unique and interesting position when it comes to insuring yourself. Your work is based on problem solving and solution finding, and more often than not, your work product will affect the public, not just your end client. It is for that reason that gaining access to adequate insurance cover should be at the very top of your to-do list!

What’s more, many (if not all) freelance contracts stipulate that a freelancer must be covered by a minimum amount of insurance, so your future contract jobs could depend on having access to quality insurance.

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A look ahead – what will the general election mean for freelancers and contractors?

General Election 2015

It pays for freelancers, contractors and the self-employed to pay attention to what is happening politically in the country.  Regardless of the outcome of any election, the independent professional community will be affected by policy making and the winning party’s stance on the self-employed and small businesses in general.

In research published last year, IPSE found that up to 90% of their freelance membership was likely to vote in the upcoming general election. Now, with just over a week to go until the day of reckoning, interest within the freelance community is at its highest.

With election fever well and truly in full swing we wanted to take a brief look at how each of the main parties proposes to support the UK’s freelance community and how independent professionals will fare depending on which party, or which coalition, assumes power on 7th May.

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Five resolutions every contractor should make for the new financial year

New Financial Year 2015

We all made our diet, fitness, productivity and anything-else-you-can-think-of resolutions in January, as the new calendar year rolled in. However, April brings us a new kind of New Year: the new financial year.

As we covered last month, the Chancellor has revealed his final Budget before the general election and the calendar has officially restarted on the fiscal year. So, what better time to look at some practices every contractor can assume for the benefit of their finances. Here are our five financial resolutions that every freelancer should think about implementing this financial year.

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A Contractor’s Guide to Public Liability Insurance

Public Liability Insurance

Whether you’re a career contractor or you’ve just dipped your toe in the world of professional freelancing, you’ll have likely heard about Public Liability insurance. And there’s a reason for this; it’s one of the most important types of business cover and it’s an absolute essential for any contractor.

Why is it so essential? Well, as we all know, accidents and mishaps can happen, but that doesn’t mean that you, or your business, need to be out of pocket as a result. Public Liability insurance protects you and your business in the event of an accident or damage being caused where you could be held liable.

If you don’t invest in Public Liability insurance, and someone is injured or property is damaged as a result of your actions, then you could become legally bound to pay them compensation. Simple mistakes can become expensive, fast!

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Health and Safety in the Oil and Gas Industry

Oil Gas Health Safety

It’s no secret that the petroleum industry is exposed to certain, very specific risks. If you’re a freelancer in the oil and gas industry then you will be more aware than most about the risks inherent in this line of work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in its Offshore Strategic Context report for 2014-2017, outlines their priority for the health and safety of the UK’s offshore industry is maintaining the integrity of the existing infrastructure that makes up approximately 50% of current offshore platforms. The main aim of this is to avoid a major incident that could result in the death of any offshore workers.

With health and safety such a critical issue within the industry, there are a number of principal risks that the HSE find must be eliminated in order to ensure the safety of the more than 32,000 workers in the petroleum industry.

Risk of fire and explosion

Any release of hydrocarbon carries the risk of ignition, fire and subsequent explosion. Hydrocarbon releases, or HCRs, can be caused either by the breakdown or erosion of a station’s assets (pipelines, pipeline risers or process plants) or by improper maintenance.

In its report, the HSE highlights that the industry has noticed the importance of reducing HCRs and that by April 2013 there was a near 50% reduction in releases, and a plan had been set out to achieve a further 50% reduction by 2016. However, by late in 2013 there had been a 30% rise in releases once more. It’s clear that this is a continuing issue for the industry and one that could have deadly consequences if not attended to.

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Budget 2015 – the Contractor Wish List

Budget 2015

With just two days to go until Chancellor George Osbourne delivers his final Budget before the 2015 General Election, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) have released a new report detailing a Budget wish list for contractors and freelancers, outlining some of the changes they would like to see from The Treasury on Wednesday 18th March.

Let’s take a look at what some of their main proposals are and how they stand to benefit the lives of independent professionals across the country.

Simplifying the tax system

At the top of IPSE’s list is a call for the Government to commit to extensive tax simplification measures. This is a perennial issue, especially for one person limited companies, for whom navigating complex tax legislation (notably IR35) is a time consuming and costly issue.

Interestingly, Derek Kelly, Managing Director of ClearSky Contractor Accounting, writes for Contractor UK that he predicts that the UK’s independent professionals would actually appreciate maintenance of the status quo when it comes to tax legislation. Specifically, he believes that effective enforcement of current IR35 legislation would receive a warmer welcome than more rules and excessive complications being put in place.

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What can contractors expect from 2015’s budget?

2015 Budget Contractors Freelancers

This year’s Budget statement from chancellor George Osborne is due to take place on 18th March. The lead up to the budget is always marked by endless predictions about what to expect from tax to duty and public spending. Rightly so, as there are very few people who will not feel the impact of the decisions that will be announced later this month, whether it’s how much tax you pay or the price you pay for everyday essentials.

But contractors, freelancers and independent professionals occupy a unique position in relation to the Budget. The rise of freelancing in the last couple of years means that freelancers can contribute to the recovery of the UK economy as it continues the uphill climb to emerge out of the recession.  Freelancing helps to create jobs and promotes entrepreneurship so it is increasingly expected that the budget will include concessions toward protecting freelancers and making the option of contracting more attractive.

So what can independent professionals expect out of the budget this year? Well, to answer that question fully we would need a crystal ball or the ability to project ahead two weeks in time. In the absence of time travel, we can explore the impact of last year’s Budget and consider what changes are likely to happen that will affect the community of independent professionals across the UK.

Budget 2014 – what was in it for freelancers?

There has been some concern that, despite the Conservatives’ pledge of being ‘the party of small business’ they have actually made very few direct budget and policy adjustments to both protect and encourage freelancing in the UK.

Julie Stewart, Chairman of IPSE, commented after last year’s budget that there is an urgent need for measurements to be put into place to empower freelancers to tackle late payment, a problem that freelancers struggle with regardless of industry. She also highlighted the importance of making the communications infrastructure, including wider access to the 4G network, much more affordable for those that have to travel but remain contactable for their business.

IPSE’s blog took a detailed look at last year’s budget, closely examining elements of it that were likely to affect freelancers significantly and any specific nods made toward the independent professional  population. It’s well worth a read and will provide plenty of food for thought. Check it out here.

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Should I get my freelance contract reviewed for IR35 compliance?

IR35

IR35 is the legislation on everyone’s lips and it’s a subject that we have covered a number of times.  Since its passing into law in 2000, it’s been a priority for freelancers and contractors to make sure they don’t get caught in the IR35 net.

Some professional organisations now offer independent reviews of your contracts that check for IR35 compliance, giving you the peace of mind from the outset that you are not at risk of being caught out. This week, we’re going to investigate if these contract reviews are really worth it for independent professionals today.

IR35 – the risks

IR35 is aimed at uncovering ‘disguised employment’. This affects people that provide their services through a limited company, known as a personal services company. ‘Disguised employment’ is when a freelancer works on a contract through their limited company, but their working conditions and their contract indicates that they are working in the same way as a traditional employee.

If one of your contracts is caught by IR35 legislation i.e. – your work appears to be more like that of a traditional employee –  your income will then become subject to normal income tax and National Insurance contributions and you will lose the advantage of the low salary, high dividends tax arrangement that many freelancers benefit from.

IR35

The Assessment

If you are selected by HMRC to undergo an IR35 compliance investigation they will investigate both your contract and your working arrangements. That means that the way you work and the language of the contract you are working under need to be in agreement.

This is where the skills of a professional contract assessor really come to the rescue for a busy freelancer. Employment status experts will investigate the terms of your contract as well as delving into your working practices through the eyes of an HMRC investigator. That means that you have an objective onlooker examining your compliance for IR35 without you having to get bogged down in the finer details of this often very hard to understand legislation.

This way, you can be secure that both the wording of your contract, and the way in which you actually complete the work in the contract, are compliant with IR35, limiting your exposure to the risks of having an unexamined contract.

This, to us, is the biggest advantage of having an employment status professional review your contract and the way in which your services are delivered. It’s sure to give you peace of mind that a professional can help you prove to HMRC that you’ve taken reasonable steps to IR35-proof your contract.

When HMRC investigate the validity of your contract against the stipulations of IR35 legislation they carry out a series of Business Entity Tests.  These tests function as one of the ways to prove that your contract is at low, medium or high risk of being caught out by IR35.

Being covered by Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance can improve your IR35 stance and forms part of the Business Entity Test. That means that ensuring that you are fully covered as a freelance contractor is a vital step to cover yourself at every level. At Kingsbridge we have designed our core insurance package to cover the risks you’re exposed to as a freelance contractor. This includes Professional Indemnity, Public Liability and Employers’ Liability cover, all at levels that suit the needs of the modern freelancer.

If you wish to discuss your cover requirements then simply call our friendly, professional team at Kingsbridge on 01242 362160 and we will be happy to discuss your needs with you. Or, you can apply online to get access to cover almost instantly.

Five mistakes every freelancer makes and how to avoid them

Avoiding Mistakes

Whether you are new to freelancing or you’re a long-term independent professional, it’s fair to say that we all experience our fair share of mistakes. From missing out on a game-changing client to overworking yourself out of a combination of enthusiasm and deadline driven stress, it’s key to take note of these mistakes and stop them in their tracks before they become routine bad habits.

Read our list of five of the most common mistakes a freelancer makes and how to avoid them!

Setting your rates too low

Are you under-pricing yourself in a bid to remain competitive in the market? Worried that a cheaper option will always win the work? This is a common trap that many contractors fall into because many people simply fail to research typical prices in their industry, thinking that setting their prices low will win them business.

It’s always best to consider your billable time alongside any purchases and materials you need to complete a job, your overhead and the profit you require to keep your business running. It does your clients and your business a greater service to charge for the true quality and value of your work and time. Sara Horowitz’s The Freelancer’s Bible has a great chapter on how to make sure you’re setting a fair rate for your work – a great place to start!

Not keeping your taxes organised

We’ve written about this before, but keeping organised ahead of your self-assessment tax deadline is key! Very often, those new to freelancing underestimate the amount of time it takes to properly fill out a tax return, so keeping track of receipts, jobs, outgoings and incomings from the very start is of vital importance. Failure to do this can land you with an automatic fine that will only keep increasing and nobody wants to be faced with that at the start of the year.

Networking

Not networking

The word ‘networking’ can strike fear into the shyer amongst us. We get it, sometimes it’s awkward and scary to walk into a room of complete strangers and try to sell yourself and your abilities. However, the simple truth is, networking is the lifeblood of making your freelance business work. Engaging with fellow contractors in the same field will have many benefits for your business; it can result in collaborative projects, potential leads, referrals and access to new resources.

Not learning how to manage time

We understand the desire to work every hour you’re not sleeping in order to make a good impression and race against burgeoning deadlines. However, this is not a healthy way to run a business or live your life. It doesn’t get your best work done and you will eventually burn out.

Head over to our infographic on time management to pick up some tips on how you can be more productive, carve out some time for yourself and work smarter, not harder!

Not investing in insurance

There is a lot to think about when you’re a freelancer; you have to keep many plates spinning all at once. As with keeping organised ahead of your tax return, sometimes details such as investing in comprehensive freelance insurance can easily pass you by. As almost all modern freelance contracts stipulate contractors be covered by their own freelance insurance it’s vital that you don’t forget this step!

With Kingsbridge, one thing you don’t have to worry about is having a fully comprehensive, freelance insurance policy. Our key insurance package includes Public Liability, Professional Indemnity and Employers Liability cover combined into one policy. Designed exclusively for the potential risks of freelance contracting, you can gain access to cover from us almost instantly online.

Call our friendly, professional team at Kingsbridge on 01242 362176 where we will be happy to discuss your requirements. Alternatively, apply for a quote online to gain access to cover instantly.

Five ways to reward yourself after avoiding the self-assessment late penalty

Tax Return UK

It’s the last day before the 31st January self-assessment deadline. That means, for many self-employed and freelance individuals, it’s the last lap before submission of your tax return and final payment of any tax that you owe for the previous financial year.

We’d hedge our bets and say that for many of you the 11:45pm scramble on 31st January is a familiar one as you race against time to get your return submitted and avoid the on the spot £100 fine that 12:00 midnight on 1st February brings.

To inspire you and get you through the last stages of the final slog toward self-assessment freedom, we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite things that you can spend a hard earned £100 on, simply by avoiding submitting your tax return late. After the effort that goes into keeping organised for January, you deserve it!

Headphones

If you’re someone that benefits from listening to music to aid concentration or to block out background noise while you’re working, a new pair of earphones is always a good investment, whether for business or pleasure.

We love these Skullcandy Crusher headphones, a snip at £89 and with a bass extension driver and built-in amplifier. Or, for a little extra pocket money you could invest in the ubiquitous Beats Solo HD headphones.

3D pen

Do you have latent artistic ability? Would you like to see your creative vision rendered in 3D? Or maybe you just like really cool gadgets that you get to play with. Either way, the 3D pen is a brilliant way to spend a little pocket money. The 3Doodler is the world’s first 3D printing pen that allows you to draw in 3D by projecting heated plastic that cools into a solid structure.

It’s a fun little gadget and could make for some exciting new additions to your desk space!

The iKettle

Do you ever get so busy that you can’t even find 5 minutes to pop the kettle on for a much needed cup of tea? Well, the struggle ends with the iKettle. The world’s first Wi-Fi kettle, you can control the iKettle with your smart phone. Struggling over an impending deadline, yet parched and in need of a cuppa? The iKettle has got your back. Inspired!

iKettle

Fitbit

If you’re like a large proportion of people, you’ll have resolved to get fitter for the New Year. The Fitbit is an integrated accelerometer. It keeps track of your activity levels, and lets you log fitness goals, calories burned and the hours you’ve slept. What’s more, it comes in a sleek and stylish wristband design. All you need to get your fitness on track for 2015.

Nike Free Runs

If you want to make sure you have something to enter in to your new Fitbit tracker, then you need to get your running shoes on! Why not invest in a treat for your feet with a new pair of Nike Free Run trainers.

Specially designed to adapt to the foot movement and stride of each individual runner, Nike Free Runs are the ultimate in supportive footwear. So, if you’re in need of clearing your head with a run, these are the shoes to carry you further.

 

Sometimes we all need a little inspiration to help get us through trying times, and the final push toward the self-assessment deadline is no different. Just remember that you don’t want to be hit with a £100 fine that you could be using to make your life a little easier with some of these handy gadgets.

How would you spend the £100 you get to keep by submitting your self-assessment return on time? Let us know in the comments below or get in touch with us on Twitter.