May is one of our favourite months here at Kingsbridge. It’s not just the blossom falling from the trees, that first smouldering barbecue of the year, or the thrill of needing to get the suncream out again. There’s also the fact that May treats us to not one but two Bank Holiday Mondays. Of course, for busy contractors and freelancers, sometimes taking a four-day week seems like a luxury only available to those in a steady 9 to 5. However, the chat around the idea of a four-day working week as standard has been hotting up lately. Since its annual conference last September, the TUC (Trades Union Congress) has been consistently calling for a four-day week as a way for employees to share in the benefits of the tech revolution. And research foundation the Wellcome Trust recently announced – and then spectacularly abandoned – a plan to trial a four-day week among its 800 head office staff. All of which got us wondering: is the four-day week a good idea? And could it work for contractors and freelancers? After all, freedom to set your own hours and work flexibly is a major draw to the contractor life for many people.
Self-employment as a contractor can seem like an easy way to keep your costs down: low overheads, no wage bill, perhaps a home office to save on commuting costs. However, the reality is that even experienced contractors can get caught out by all sorts of unexpected expenses. Here’s our list of the top unanticipated spends that contractors and freelancers face – and some tips on how to prepare for them.
We can’t imagine a job at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is always a barrel of laughs, but we’re sure that these outlandish expenses claims must have raised a few smiles around the office when they came in. Although the new tax year is now in full swing, it’s always a good idea to take a look back through some of the weird, hilarious and just downright cheeky expenses claims that self-employed workers have tried to sneak through the tax system over the past few years.
“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business” Steve Forbes, editor of Forbes business magazine
“Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” – Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO Amazon
You might think that brand identity is a concern only for big companies, or that, as a small business, you can’t afford to spend a lot of money on flashy marketing. But building a brand identity is all about communicating a consistent message about who you are and what you do, and it needn’t cost any money at all. This blog explores the basics of brand identity for contractors and freelancers and offers some simple principles for building a unified brand around your core asset: you!
As the quotes above tell us, branding isn’t a one-time marketing exercise. Rather, every encounter that a client or potential client has with your business should be considered part of your branding. Every interaction is an opportunity to build a positive relationship, and to communicate your story, values and benefits.
On 15th and 16th May the Kingsbridge Group will be entering a team into the 2019 BIBA Hackathon. Featuring Nathan Halsey, Stuart Bell and Simon Wilkinson from Kingsbridge Contractor Insurance, John Clarke from Kingsbridge Insurance Brokers, Ed Woodcock from Dinghy and Matt Tyler from Larsen Howie, the team will join seven other groups from a variety of insurance and tech backgrounds to tackle challenges and work collaboratively in order to come up with some ground breaking innovations.
Everything is starting to feel a bit fresher and warmer. But sometimes the signs of spring can make going into the office every day feel like more of a slog. April is a great time to consider your position and decide whether you are ready for your next challenge. Many contractors held “normal” jobs for years before they decided to go it alone and take advantage of the freedom, flexibility, and financial advantages that can come with being self-employed. But how do you know when you’re ready to take the plunge, leave the 9-to-5 and take the reins of your own company? Here are five signs that it might be time for you to go self-employed:
Your reputation precedes you
If you are fighting off calls from headhunters, or if clients, customers or partners of your current employment keep trying to twist your arm into doing some extra bits for them “on the side”, then you should definitely consider giving contracting a go. Your expertise and experience are clearly visible to others and therefore should be easy to market, and you have a pre-existing group of potential clients to target for those precious first few contracts.
Off-Payroll working – what is it?
Most contractors probably already have a basic understanding of IR35 legislation: HMRC’s framework to try and weed out “disguised employees” – people who are claiming to be self-employed but whose work operates along lines they deem closer to an employer-employee relationship (if you’ve never heard of it, check out our previous guide here). It’s also commonly referred to using HMRC’s terminology of “off-payroll working”.
What some may not be aware of is that IR35 regulations have already undergone reform recently in the public sector, with the changes due to be extended to the private sector from April 2020. There is a consultation open at the moment which purports to inform the Government’s implementation of the new rules, but many contractors are sceptical that their voices will be taken into account.
HMRC’s most recent defeat by the queen of daytime TV, Lorraine Kelly, has thrust IR35 regulations in the spotlight once again. But how can contractors be assured that they won’t fall foul of HMRC’s crackdown on “disguised employment”? Much of the press coverage focused on the judgement that Kelly does not appear on television as herself, but rather performs the chatty persona “Lorraine Kelly”. Although you might not be able to get away with arguing that you perform your freelance duties as a more entertaining version of yourself, there were many other aspects of Kelly’s successful defence that can serve as useful guidance for contractors with regard to the various indicators of “genuine self-employment” as outlined in IR35 legislation. The judge for Kelly’s trial declared that they “did not consider this a borderline case” as they dismissed the £1.2million bill for tax and national insurance that had been claimed against her.
IT is still one of the biggest-expanding sectors in the UK economy. There are over 1.5 million jobs in the UK digital sector and 2.2 million in the wider digital economy. A recent study by recruitment body APSCo found that IT professionals were the most sought-after workers in 2018, with demand for these roles increasing 28% year-on-year. With specialist IT skills highly sought-after across a range of sectors, a good geographical spread of jobs, and digitisation and digital security becoming a priority for all types of business, it’s no wonder that so many IT professionals are choosing to become contractors and freelancers. Here we take a look at the skills that are most in demand from IT freelancers this year. If you have expertise in one of these areas, this could be the ideal time to go it alone.
Every contractor wants to keep their business outgoings to a minimum. When you’re looking to reduce your business spending, it can be tempting to cut away at expenses that seem extraneous to your requirements: a business telephone contract that you’ve never used, expensive professional software licences when a free program works just as well, memberships of professional bodies where you don’t use any of the benefits. But there’s one contractor cost that should never be cut – business insurance.
It’s true that you may never claim on your insurance. But there are many risks to operating without proper business insurance in place, from the small to the serious. Even without the need to make a claim, insurance is working for you every day, helping you to secure clients, meet the requirements of contracts and as an IR35 indicator. In the event that things go wrong in the course of business, or you encounter an unhappy client or third party, insurance becomes even more crucial to protect your livelihood, mental health and even your home. This blog looks at the escalating risks of not having proper business insurance in place if you are working as a contractor.