Reasons to celebrate being a freelancer

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Amidst the fast paced life of being a freelance contractor, it can be easy to forget that it’s actually a great way to work and earn your living. Wednesday 19th November sees the annual celebration of National Freelancers Day, an occasion that allows you not only to reflect on what makes freelancing a great career choice but also affords you the opportunity to look toward what the future might hold as the popularity of freelancing continues to rise.

With the 19th soon upon us, we’ve taken a look at some of the reasons to celebrate being able to strike out on your own. Here are a few points to savour:

1.       Flexibility

Being able to choose your own hours has its distinct benefits. Need to make a doctor’s appointment? No problem. Little one is ill and needs to stay at home? You can make that work. Not a morning person? You can work later in to the day. As a freelancer you get to set your own schedule (within reasonable limits) and that schedule can work around you and the realities of your life.

2.       Variety

As a freelancer you get to take on self-contained projects for a number of clients. Whether you are an engineer, or work in finance, or are a freelance writer, you will likely work across multiple industries. Variety is the spice of life, and boredom isn’t something you’ll often experience when you’re freelancing.

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3.       Escape from office politics

There are some distinct advantages to working in an office – warmth in the winter, a comfy chair, a constant supply of tea, and the prospect of enjoying a sociable alcoholic beverage at the end of the week. But how sweet it is to be set free from the fight for promotion, from playing favourites and from office gossip.  And if you have your own home office, you can decorate your desk however you like, or abandon desks altogether. Freedom!

4.       Travel

If you’re not an employee of a particular organisation then that means you’re not tied to the geographical location of their office. As a freelancer you can choose to work in a different town, city or even country. If you’re a digital nomad then all you need is a laptop and a broadband connection. If you need to be on site for all or part of your contracts then freelancing gives you the option to see a lot more of the world than a two week package holiday once a year would allow.

We know it isn’t always rosy and being a freelancer comes with many twists and turns, but we believe that freelancing is one of the most interesting ways to forge a career. To help celebrate your day in the spotlight, KPSol are going to be hosting a competition in aid of National Freelancers Day very shortly, so keep your eyes on your inbox over the next few days for more details.

In the meantime, we’d love to know what your favourite part of being a freelancer is – feel free to comment below.

Key players in the oil and gas industry

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There are few industries that wield more power than oil and gas. Not only does it dominate the financial pages and many a political agenda the world over, it also provides a vital resource to many other businesses as well as being responsible for millions and millions of jobs.

Industry growth shows little sign of abating, generating more jobs, more money, and more column inches than ever before. Here at Kingsbridge we’ve decided to take a closer look, delving into and breaking down some of the key players.

We’ve crunched the numbers on some of the biggest hitters – Saudi Aramco, Gazprom, and ExxonMobil, alongside a few of the industry’s key recruiters (namely Orion Group, Fircroft, and Primat Recruitment). Did you know, for example, that Aramco produces 12.7 million barrels of oil per day? Or that Gazprom represents an enormous 10% of Russia’s GDP? Fascinating stuff.

Click on the image above to take a closer look at our latest infographic.

A contractor’s guide to IR35 legislation

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The Intermediaries Legislation, or IR35 as it is more commonly known, has been the topic of conversation for many in the world of freelance contracting. With HMRC this year promising to reduce IR35 case investigation time, this key piece of legislation is now a topic that no contractor can afford to ignore.

What is it?

IR35 is a key piece of tax and National Insurance legislation that directly affects freelance contractors operating through a limited company. The aim of the legislation is to uncover what is known as ‘disguised employment.’

The legislation requires HMRC to create a ‘hypothetical contract’ between the end client and the individual undertaking the work by ‘removing’ the intermediaries of which the intermediary referenced in the legislation is the contractor’s limited company (often referred to as a ‘personal service company’ or PSC).

The reason the contract is hypothetical is that there are no contractual terms between the end client and the ‘worker’. The contractual chain is often End Client → Agency → PSC → Worker, but IR35 applies equally where there is no agency in the contractual chain because the PSC is the key intermediary.

The End Client and Agency are both engaging limited companies as it isn’t possible to ‘employ’ a limited company, and as such are off the hook as far as IR35 is concerned. The focus therefore falls upon the PSC which, in essence, will have failed to operate Pay As You Earn on its employee in respect of an engagement where HMRC can argue that IR35 applies. HMRC, in this situation, would be able to successfully argue that the hypothetical contract represents a contract of service (i.e. one that resembles an employment relationship).

What does this mean for the contractor?

When a contractor is trading through a limited company, the contractor can organise their remuneration in such a way that they receive a small salary and high dividends. The contractor therefore benefits from a slightly lower tax rate on the dividends, but the real saving comes from the fact that dividends do not attract employer or employee National Insurance Contributions (NIC). However, they should only do this for engagements that are deemed to be ‘outside of’ or ‘not caught by’ IR35.

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Why is it important?

As a contractor, if your engagements are caught by IR35 legislation as being ‘disguised employment’, then your company becomes liable for the tax and NIC that would be due plus interest on the amount and even a penalty if HMRC can argue that you have not undertaken any form of due diligence. This obviously places a huge financial burden on a contractor, the effects of which could last for years.

How is IR35 applied?

When considering any kind of employment status issue, the first question asked will always be: “Is there a contract of employment?” The reason is that there is no legal definition of a “contract for services” (self employment), but there is sufficient case law to be able to determine what constitutes a contract of employment. Logically, if there is not a contract of service, then there must be a business to business relationship.

There are three key tests of employment which are used to investigate individual engagements, and these help to determine whether or not a contractor’s engagement falls within or outside of IR35 legislation.

The wording of your contract is key here. A genuine freelance contract will be a contract ‘for services’, whereas an employee contract will be a contract ‘of services’. This distinction is hugely important in proving that you are in fact a genuine business, providing a service to another business. In this instance, it pays to be diligent and have an independent IR35 specialist assess your contract.

Another test used to establish if a contract is IR35 friendly is the issue of control. A genuine contractor should have full autonomy over how the work they are contracted for is completed. There are also subsidiary elements to control that can be considered. It is sometimes the case that the contractor will have a considerable input into what the engagement will be (although that is usually the client’s decision), but often the contractor can determine the location. Perhaps the client has multiple sites and the contractor will determine from where he/she operates, or the contractor can work from their own offices. If a contractor has control over where the work is undertaken, they are also likely to have control over when it is undertaken.

Nevertheless, just because the client has determined the project and requires that the engagement must be undertaken on their site (whether due to security reasons or because that is where the equipment/people are), and that the site can only be accessed during certain times, this does not mean that the client is exercising control. The key issue is whether the contractor has control over how the work is undertaken.

There are two further important areas that are considered when assessing the IR35 status of engagement. The first is a right of substitution clause. If a contractor has a clause written in to their contract that a similarly skilled worker can replace them on a contract, the contractor is not obliged to provide their personal service. Having to provide one’s personal service is a key indicator of an employment relationship; having the right to substitute denies personal service and therefore indicates a self employment relationship.

The second is what is known as Mutuality of Obligation (MoO). An employee in a typical employer-employee contract will be paid each month and, in return, will be expected to work across a range of tasks at the discretion of their employer.  An arrangement such as this does not exist for limited company contractors engaged in a contract for services. Instead, a contractor will be engaged for a limited and specific project and when that contract comes to an end they are not obliged to remain working for their client. Indeed, if mutuality is to be fully denied, there should be no expectation that the contractor will work for the client on any given day or even be obliged to see an engagement through to conclusion.

Of course, IR35 investigations vary on a case by case basis and no preventative measures will ever cover every eventuality. However, it remains advantageous for all contractors to take the threat posed by IR35 seriously and remain prudent in ensuring that they can confidently prove that they are in business on their own account.

Having Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance can significantly improve your IR35 profile. PI insurance is an all-important element of cover for businesses as it protects against any claims of professional negligence.

Make sure that you are ticking an important business entity test off your list by ensuring that you are fully covered as a freelance contractor. At KPSol we have designed our core insurance package to cover the risks inherent in freelance contracting. This includes Professional Indemnity, Public Liability and Employers Liability cover; our product can help you avoid getting caught out by IR35.

If you wish to discuss your cover requirements then simply call our friendly, professional team at KPSol on 0124 236 2149 and we will be happy to discuss your needs with you. Alternatively, apply online to get cover instantly.

What the frack? The story of fracking in the UK

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There has been a slow-burning but very real concern rising in the UK due to the impending energy crisis. The threat of power cuts has been highlighted due to falling electricity margins, along with the need for the UK to pursue more renewable energy strategies. This has led to much ink being spilled in the British press on the issue of hydraulic fracturing – commonly known as fracking.

Fracking is the process of harvesting shale gas, deposits of which are found trapped in shale rock deep underground. A high pressure mix of water and chemicals is shot down specially drilled wells with the aim of releasing the gas.

There have been a great number of discussions about the safety of fracking; with some saying it poses a threat to the purity of drinking water, while others highlight fracking as the only real, actionable solution to Britain’s fuel shortage. Whatever the case, it’s fair to say that fracking has divided the opinion of the British public and is set to dominate the discussion around energy production for a significant amount of time.

We have decided to take a look at the story of fracking, and the pros and cons it offers the British energy industry by producing a scrolling infographic, taking in the past, present and future of fracking in the UK.

http://www.kpsol.co.uk/infographics/fracking/

The Best Food To Power Contractors Through A 12 Hour Shift

Can you hear that? It’s like, a low rumbling sound, it’s a bit off-putting. I wonder what it is…

That’s right! It’s the sound of your stomach, grumbling in hunger after a long, hard shift. Most contractors will have had experience, at one point or another in their careers, of working unsociable, long hours. Whether it’s pushing a tight deadline to the limit, or working a 12-hour day on a rig, one thing that unites us all is the almighty hunger that accompanies that long-awaited home time.

We wanted to reach out to you, the contractors, to ask what your favourite food is to power you through long shifts. Take a look at some of our suggestions below or let us know what your favourite dishes are in the comments below!

1.       The Anything and Everything

You get in, kick off your boots and reach for whatever edible substance is nearest. That may be 15 biscuits straight out of the packet, a handful of dry cereal or a delicious bowl of instant noodles – who needs to cook when you have a kettle?

2.       The Fast Food Warrior

You’re wiped out and require the most bang for your buck – that’s right, high calories and fast! Be that a burger and chips or a takeaway pizza, you need something hot in your belly and fast food is your favourite way to do it.

3.       The Home Cook

For you, there’s nothing better than a home cooked meal to get you through your day. Leftover cottage pie for lunch and coming home to a slow cooked casserole is your style; delicious, simple food, cooked with love that gives you a taste of home.

 4.       The Green Machine

Your body is a temple and you treat it as such, especially when you’re working unsociable hours and you need lasting fuel and mountains of energy. Colourful salads with the perfect amount of protein, green juices for a quick shot of vitamins and plenty of whole grains for slow-release energy is the perfect way to keep you pepped up for challenging shifts. You’re not afraid of a bit of kale and you don’t care who knows it!

So, which one are you? Are you the noble fast food warrior? Or maybe you’re more of a green machine? Do you think we’ve missed anything out – if you have a favourite food that gets you through the tougher shifts that we’ve left off the list then let us know in the comments below!

Four Things Every Contractor Knows To Be True

Life as an engineering contractor comes with its ups and downs. For every stretch away from your family there is a degree of flexibility and a sense of teamwork and camaraderie, all combining to make the life of a contractor particularly unique. It’s a rocky terrain, with many peaks and troughs that only fellow contractors can really understand.

In honour of that most special of bonds, we’ve compiled a list of the 4 things every contractor knows to be true

1.       Everyone thinks you have just LOADS of free time

Okay, so you may not necessarily work 9 to 5 and maybe you get two weeks of rest time if you’re working on a rig, and that certainly has its bonuses.  That’s what the majority of non-contractors focus on all the time, but it isn’t where the story ends.

Anyone who has worked on an oil and gas rig or on a major construction site knows what a 12 hour shift feels like, or the tedium of not seeing your friends and family for a number of weeks at a time. So yeah, a longer run of time off has its distinct benefits, but hard work and long hours pay for that flexibility.

2.       Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork

And what do people imagine you’re doing with all that fictional free time you have on your hands? Relaxing with a spot of gardening? Cracking in to that book you’ve been dying to read? Yeah, maybe not. Try a stack of paperwork instead!

If you’re a freelancer you’ll know that there is always paperwork in which significant time must be invested. Whether it’s at the start of a new project, or some nice tax forms to sift through, there are always contracts to be reviewed and assessed.  Who would have thought the difference between ‘of services’ and ‘for services’ would become such a key preoccupation?

3.       Friends are the family you choose

The experience of freelancing or working as a contractor has the benefit of being able to meet and work with lots of people. The bonus of project based work is the camaraderie that is often established when a group of different personalities are thrown together with one common goal.

If you’re working away on a project, it’s likely you’re going to spend the best part of 24 hours a day, every day, for 2-3 weeks at a time with the same group of people. Meal times, time spent working and leisure time – you’re going to get to know the people around you pretty fast.  Sometimes this can highlight annoying habits, but it can also lead to a bond of shared experience that’s hard to break.

4.       There’s nothing like a pint at the end of a tough shift

When it comes to the crunch and there’s a looming deadline, a tight turnaround or an emergency task, noses get to the grindstone and the work gets done. That’s what contractors are hired for, to bring their expert skills and specialist knowledge to tough and demanding work.

But one thing all contractors know is that a crisp, cool pint after the hard work is over, whether you’re coming back onshore or you’ve put the finishing touches to a construction job, is a fine reward. There really is nothing like a pint at the end of a tough shift.

Do you agree with our list of list of contracting truths? What parts of your life as a contractor do you absolutely love? And what do you find is often misunderstood? Tell us in the comments below!

One thing you don’t have to worry about as a contractor is having a fully comprehensive, freelance insurance policy that includes Professional Indemnity, Public Liability and Employers Liability cover. We have designed our core insurance product exclusively for the potential risks of freelance contracting. Five different covers are all combined in to one policy and covered by our price promise. Call our friendly, professional team at KPSol on 0124 236 2149 and we will be happy to discuss your requirements. Alternatively, apply online to get cover instantly.

Five Dangerous Places to Work In The Oil and Gas Industry

Without a doubt, the oil and gas industry is one of the most important and lucrative industries in the world. It is a commodity we all rely on, and securing the production and global transportation of oil is never far from the top of the international diplomatic agenda.

It is precisely the level of importance that we place on gas and oil that makes the industry one fraught with tension and inherent risk. From unstable political environments, declining economies and kidnap risks, we took a look at five of the most dangerous places to work in oil and gas.

1.       Iraq

Oil rich and politically volatile, even over ten years since the US invasion Iraq presents danger to oil and gas industry workers. Kidnapping is a real threat in Iraq, with the country’s own Deputy Oil Minister having been kidnapped in 2007. With the rise of jihadist group ISIS in recent months, there seems to be little indication that tensions in the region are dissipating.

2.       Colombia

Colombia became an oil exporter in the 1980s, but has been subject to right-wing paramilitary group abuses for a number of decades. Controlling most of the illegal cocaine trade throughout the country, paramilitary forces are reported to be responsible for massacres, rapes and kidnappings throughout the country.

3.       Tanzania

The east African nation has significantly developed its oil and gas exploration efforts in the natural reserves off the country’s south coast. However, piracy has become a significant issue in the area, with Somali pirate activity on the increase in the country’s waters over the last five years, some of which has directly targeted petroleum exploration efforts.

4.       Venezuela

Venezuela has one of largest proven oil reserves in the world and is one of the major exporters of oil, travelling as far and wide as China and India.  Violence is rife in Venezuela, with carjacking, kidnapping and armed robberies occurring with alarming regularity. Venezuela also sees a high amount of drug trafficking activity, with much of neighbouring Colombia’s illegal cocaine trade passing through the country.

5.       Libya

Having the largest oil reserves in Africa, Libya is an attractive proposition due to its proximity to Europe. However, escalating violence throughout the country following the 2011 civil war that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, including the attack on the US embassy in 2012 and the recent unrest that saw armed groups try to seize control of the country’s airports; Libya appears to be rife with conflict.

Do you have any experience as a contractor travelling to any of these, or other, high risk locations?  How do you prepare and do you have any advice or tips for other contractors who may be considering taking on contracts in dangerous locations?

Tell us about your experiences via the comments box.

 

If an engineer ruled the world…

Humans. We’re logical creatures, aren’t we? Think of how far we have advanced past our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. We’ve built sprawling metropolises, plunged to the depths of the ocean, and we’ve even put a man on the moon.

But that’s only half the story, isn’t it? We’re not the rational, logical beings we often believe ourselves to be. How do we account for butter that won’t spread, toast that burns on one side and the ends of sellotape sticking together? So much of the world is irrationally thought out, rushed and well, mildly irritating. This got us wondering exactly what kind of utopia of efficiency and design we would live in if an engineer was running the show.

1.       If you’re not part of the solution…

From engineering tube trains to space stations, from wireless communication to sleek smart phones that house a whole building’s worth of capabilities, engineers are solution-focused individuals. Finding elegance in the mix of design and functionality, an engineer who ruled the world would never settle for ‘good enough’.

2.       The light bulb that never breaks

Let’s face it, no engineer on the face of the planet would design and create something so necessary to modern life that breaks every few months. The urge to create and perfect would lead to a revolution in how we see everyday commodities. Rather than creating goods that break in order to increase demand, an engineer would focus on creating the perfect, elegantly designed version of – well, pretty much anything.

3.       ROBOTS!

You can’t look me in the eye and say that robots wouldn’t be advancing in every corner of this earth if an engineer was in charge. The World Cup? Forget about it, International Robot Wars would be what we tune in to every four years… and how much more exciting would that be?!?

4.       Lots of bridges – just because!

If you could build a bridge, you would, right? From the Romans and their aqueducts right through to the sleek modernity of The Millennium Bridge, everyone loves a good bridge and nobody more so that the people with the ability to create them – engineers!

5.       Curiosity thrilled the cat

The world is still so full of mystery, with so much left still to discover, if an engineer ran the world we’re sure that curiosity would be the highest praised quality anyone could have – the desire to continuously learn, push limits and expand horizons would be a cultural norm. Smart really would be the new sexy! Let’s be honest, if Steve Wozniak hadn’t been a little curious about this computer fad in a California garage in the mid-70’s, Apples would just be another fruit.

Don’t let worries about having the right level of freelance contractor insurance get in the way of your engineering prowess help make the world a better place! Here at KPSol we have created a unique, comprehensive freelance contractor insurance policy that contains five key elements of cover, including Public Liability, Professional Indemnity and Employers’ Liability cover.

If you want access to one of the most comprehensive, single policy contractor insurance then apply online now to purchase cover immediately. If you wish to speak with one of our highly trained team to further discuss your requirements then do not hesitate to call us on 01242 362 149 where one of our customer advisors will be on hand to help.

Five Of The Best LinkedIn Groups For Engineering Contractors

LinkedIn is an indispensable tool for any professional, giving you the ability to introduce your CV and career goals to the world of social media. This is especially true for freelance engineers, as LinkedIn can provide a space in the vast world of social media for a contractor to advertise their skills when looking for freelance opportunities.

However, the importance of LinkedIn has come to be about far more than having just a personal page. Focusing on the networking aspect of this professional social media platform is how you can use LinkedIn to stand out. Participation in LinkedIn groups is the perfect way for freelance engineers to showcase their skill set, participate in industry discussions and catch the attention of potential recruiters.

In view of this, we’ve collected a list of the best LinkedIn groups for engineers to join, to give you a headstart on the path to becoming a savvy LinkedIn user and learning how to leverage its inherent opportunities.

1.       Oil & Gas People

With over 300,000 members, this international group is set up for anyone working in the oil and gas industry. Featuring discussions on the latest news and trends in the industry as well as highlighted job opportunities, this LinkedIn group is a great resource for any contractor working in the oil and gas industry.

2.       Freelance Engineers UK

A great general group for freelance engineers in almost any discipline, including civil, structural, marine or geotechnical, this group provides a place for freelancers to find job opportunities and to discuss issues affecting freelancers such as interview tips and expenses.

3.       Engineering Jobs Worldwide

With close to 400,000 members, this is the LinkedIn group for nearly any engineer looking for jobs on an international scale. From mechanical, electronic and chemical to marine, environmental and civil anyone in the world of engineering would benefit from investigating the opportunities present in this group.

4.       Network Engineer Professionals

This group is one for all of the IT professionals. Whether you’re a professional network engineer or work in IT support this is the group for you. Very active and with over 48,000 members this is a great source of information for fellow IT and communication engineer professionals.

5.       The UK Construction & Civil Engineering Group

Designed as a forum in which civil engineering professionals can discuss the latest advancements and changes to the industry, this group features discussions on best practice, invitations to bid on upcoming projects and international industry news.

Have you used LinkedIn, or other social media platforms, to any great success in securing freelance job opportunities, or connecting with other professionals? Let us know in the comments below.

Ensure you’re not worrying about your freelance contractor insurance while networking like a social media superstar with KPSol’s core insurance product. Designed specifically for freelance contractors in mind, the combined policy features five areas of cover, including Professional Indemnity, Public Liability and Employers’ Liability cover, all for one competitive price.

If you choose KPSol as your insurance broker you will benefit from an A-rated insurer, a combined policy with few exclusions and instant access to your documents. If you’re interested in getting a quote then apply online now or call our friendly, UK based team to further discuss your requirements on 0124 362 149.

News Round Up: the latest contracting news from around the web

See below for our latest round up of contracting news from all over the internet.

Report finds majority of contractors want to work abroad

Energy Global reports this week that over three quarters of contractors surveyed by international recruiter Procorre said that they would like to work abroad. Higher take home pay and a better work-life balance were revealed as the main reasons why 77% contractors wish to relocate for work. However, high levels of red tape, such as acquiring work permits and security concerns over dangerous locations were cited as the main blocks to actually making the move.

Read more…

New network established to attract women to oil and gas industry

Senior figures in the oil and gas industry have formed a new network aimed at persuading a greater number of women to establish their careers in the industry. Herald Scotland writes that the new initiative, named the AXIS Network, aims to raise awareness of blocks to women entering the industry and to address how women can help solve the impending skills shortage currently threatening the industry.

Read more…

Rebrand for Professional Contractors Group

Freelancer membership organisation Professional Contractors Group (PCG) has announced it is rebranding in to the Association of Independent Professionals and Self-Employed (IPSE). Contractor Calculator reports that the move is intended broaden the scope of the organisation’s membership to include a greater number of self-employed and sole traders as part of their community.

Read more…

Report claims up to £1 trillion in oil and gas in Scotland’s water

The Scotsman reported this week that a study, conducted by oil and gas recruitment specialist oilandgaspeople.com, found that there could be up to a trillion pounds of oil and gas reserves still left in Scotland’s water. Industry experts have disputed this number, saying geological conditions make these reserved harder to extract. The question lingers as to whether oil and gas reserves could be an independent Scotland’s economic saviour.

Read more…