I QUIT! 5 signs you’re ready to leave permanent employment for a career in contracting

Leaving permanent employment

According to a recent study conducted by Perkbox, 6.5 million workers in the UK are unhappy with their current job within the permanent employment sector.

 

With long hours, the feeling of being micro-managed, and toxic work cultures as the main culprits for unhappiness, it’s no surprise that so many people are looking elsewhere for alternative employment.

 

But what if you’ve had enough of working within the permanent sector and like the sound of being your own boss? In this blog we highlight the five signs that you’re ready to leave permanent behind and take the leap into contracting. You might just find your perfect career and never look back….

 

You feel shortchanged

If at the end of every month you feel like your pay doesn’t reflect your skills, experience or the amount of hours you’ve put in, then it’s time to consider your options.

 

With many Limited Company contractors charging day rates that clients who are willing to pay for their skills, they are able to get paid a wage which truly reflects their professional value. This is usually much higher than what their counterpart would get in a permanent position. Take a look at some contractor job boards to get a feel for what your contracting double could be earning.

 

Your work / life balance is off kilter

Ever feel that because you’re working so hard, you end up missing out on life? Do you use your weekends to recharge your batteries for the following week at work, rather than work charging your batteries for life?

 

Contractors can choose when, who for and for how long they work, so they are able to design their professional life around their personal, rather than the other way round.

 

Permanent employment is affecting your health

Consider how healthy your job is, for both your body and mind. If you’re constantly left feeling drained from long hours, low pay, and general unhappiness, then it’s time to make some changes.

 

By being your own boss you’re able to design your own working lifestyle, one which fits around your own personal needs and wellbeing. For example, you can work from home and create your own working environment, or decide how many months out of the year you want to take out from contracting to focus on other areas of your life, such as travelling, looking after your family or pursuing a passion. The world’s your oyster!

 

Your hard work goes unnoticed

We’ve all been there – either a colleague steals your thunder, or your efforts go completely unnoticed after you’ve worked your socks off. Both scenarios are unacceptable and can give your sense of wellbeing a real blow.

 

As a Limited Company contractor your professional accomplishments are what wins you contracts, so there’s no danger of your efforts going unnoticed. Your calibre is measured on your skills, experience and passion for what you do, so if this sounds like you then it’s time to get the recognition you deserve.

 

You feel constrained by the inflexibility of 9 to 5

Ever get the feeling you’re starring in Groundhog Day? You have the same daily routine, which yields the same results each month, with the same people. Whilst it offers stability and a guaranteed wage with employee benefits, for you personally it’s not enough.

 

When contracting you can choose when and where you work, meaning that no two working days would ever have to be the same! Whilst you’ll have to go out and win contracts, liaise with potential clients and always be on the lookout for your next gig, the thrill of the chase could be exactly what you need to reignite the passion you once had for your career.

 

Happiness at work can help you achieve great things

Life is way too short to be unhappy at work, so if you think the world of contracting might be for you, then you owe it to yourself to explore its possibilities.

 

For more information on how to get started, take a look at our free ebrief, or explore our resources section for everything you need to help make your decision. Alternatively why not discuss your options with our team of expert advisers? Call them today on 01202 901 385.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

How to set up your Limited Company

How to set up your Limited Company

If you’re ready for a change in the way you work, today is a good day to get started. Maybe you’ve been in permanent employment all your life and want to get more for your skills; or perhaps you’re already contracting but aren’t getting the most through your current arrangement via an Umbrella or agent. Or are you a student approaching graduation and prefer the idea of being your own boss instead of getting stuck into the 9-5 daily grind?

 

Why bother?

As a contractor you can:

  • keep more of your earnings
  • be your own boss
  • control how, when and where you work
  • decide who you work for and how

 

There are already 4.7 million self-employed workers in the UK right now. Everyone will have different motivations for going into contracting and for those looking on with envy, quite often the only thing stopping them is…themselves.

Do some research into the level of demand for your skills and the day rate you can command and you may find the confidence you need to take the plunge.

 

It’s not what you make, it’s what you take

If you expect to earn at least £30,000 per annum and to be contracting for more than three months, working through your own Limited Company will mean you can enjoy more freedoms and maximise your take home pay. Our Ready, set, go…into contracting guide gives you more insight into what being a contractor entails.

 

The first step to setting up a Limited Company…

Know what you’re getting yourself into and understand the responsibilities you’ll have with your own Limited Company. But don’t be alarmed, just make sure you get to grips with what’s what.

We work with contractors every day, helping them run their Limited Company in the best way depending on their individual circumstances. We know exactly how to set up your Limited Company. We can help you incorporate your company within 24 hours and register you for VAT and PAYE. To fully appreciate your responsibilities as a Director, you can have a chat with our experts. You are ultimately responsible for your company throughout the year but we’ll help guide you through everything that needs doing.

 

Get yourself out there

With the freedom to work where you want, you are the master of your destiny so you need to be active in finding your next contract. Decide on a suitable company name and give yourself a visual identity that you are proud of. Check out our 10 tips to promoting brand: You, including tips for networking, and make sure you harness the power of social media, whether it’s a whole new world or you’re looking to get more out of it.

 

What else?

There’s lots to get your head around when you’re first setting up your company and working with a specialist contractor accountant from day one can help ensure you don’t miss anything. With Intouch, not only will you get help with everything you need to run your company throughout the year, we also have relationships in place so you can sort out your business insurance and banking without any fuss.

Whatever your motivation, there are so many great reasons to set up your Limited Company. Make the right choice for you.

 

Speak to our experts today about how to get started and they can set your Limited Company up for you within 24 hours…for FREE!

Redundancy can pave the way to more money, freedom and choice. How? We’ll tell you…

Redundancy is not the end!

Have you been made redundant or is redundancy on the cards? It’s not a disaster; in fact it could be just the incentive you need to unlock your hidden potential and achieve more than you thought possible, through a new beginning in contracting…

 

Advantages of contracting include:

 

  • Higher take home pay – even if they actually work less hours than before, contractors can still earn around 2.5 times the earnings of permanent employees.

 

  • Greater career choice and flexibility – You decide which contracts to take, when and for how long so you can have as much or as little variety in your career as you wish. There has been an increase of 7.7% year-on-year in available contract jobs, so you should have plenty of choice.

 

Remember! Contracting isn’t an easy option but it should make you stronger and more confident in controlling your own career. If you’re willing to put in the groundwork and time, contracting can reward you as much as the effort you put in.

 

  • Design your life around work, not the other way around  Once you discover you can earn the same amount working for fewer hours, you can decide whether to use the extra hours to earn more or to take advantage of time for family, hobbies, travel, volunteering, studying or pursuing other passions.

 

  • Work wherever you like  Few things are more soul destroying than a two-hour commute each day. Many contractors work from home. Imagine the bliss of getting up and having a one minute commute! You can even work in the garden, park or coffee shop, wherever suits you best.

 

  • Be your own boss  When you decide to go contracting, your professional development and career progression are completely up to you and you control your own destiny.

 

Read our blog “Five Reasons to be Your Own Boss in 2016” to see why now is the perfect time to start contracting.

 

  • Control when you work, for whom and for how long  If you only want to work certain hours or days, then you can! You could arrange your contracts so you’re free in term time or all summer, whatever suits you.

 

It’s also up to you how much time you can give to each contract and whether the work is suitable for you. If it doesn’t interest you, there’s always the option of turning it down!

 

This freedom empowers you to use your skills and experience on your terms to further your career aspirations and goals.

 

If you’re interested in contracting, why not speak to people who are already contracting and ask their opinions and advice? There’s lots of support for contractors via online business communities and support groups. Similarly, a good contractor accountant will take away any financial worries.

 

Who wouldn’t want to wake up every workday full of energy and passion, knowing that you can go as far and as fast as your own efforts will take you?

 

If you are facing any stage of redundancy, we hope that by bringing them to your attention, we have given you insight into some of the advantages to be gained through contracting.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

5 tips for setting up a great home office workspace

5 tips for setting up a great home office workspace

Can you ensure maximum productivity when working from home? Or are you distracted by clutter, noise, household chores…or 100 other things?!

In the first of our two-part blog, we share our top tips to creating the ideal home workspace to ensure home and work life can run in harmony! If you’re working from home or are about to start, you need to consider the practicalities of setting up a workspace which is comfortable and efficient.

It’s possible to spend over £20,000 for a top of the range home office, but it makes more sense to start with something a little more economical. You don’t want to spend your profits before you’ve made them!

Follow these five tips to get started on creating the perfect home office workspace. We will reveal the following 5 in our next blog:

 

Planning is key in creating a great workspace:

1. Can home and work mix? Ideally, you will have a spare room, but many people use a corner in another room of the house.  Others fit an office under the stairs. It’s possible to convert your loft or build a garden office if money’s no object. Technology means workspaces can be much smaller than previously.

 

2. Silence is golden. Will other people be at home during your working hours?  If so, you need to be as far away from noise disturbance as possible. Young children don’t understand a “Do Not Disturb” notice. You should also consider privacy and client confidentiality if you share your home.

 

3. Simplicity is best. Aiming for a paperless office will mean more space for you and is better for the environment.

 

4. Ergonomics. Make efficiency and comfort your priority – consider lighting and whether backrests, footrests or wrist pads would be beneficial. Place your equipment where it will save bending. Spend as much as you can afford on a really comfortable chair – this should prevent any tendency to lie on the sofa with your laptop…

 

5. Furniture. You may already have suitable furniture or you could consider buying secondhand and repurposing it. You could try refurbished office furniture companies or retailers such as Ikea. For about £300 you can buy a workstation which very neatly looks like a cupboard when closed.

 

It’s almost time to sit back and enjoy your workspace and the exciting prospect of working from home.

 

In the second of our two-part blog we share five more tips to setting up the ideal home office, that includes how aesthetics can increase your productivity and what happens when you need to have a client meeting.

 

What works for you? We’d love to hear your tips so please leave us a comment.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Everything’s about to change for Umbrella workers – make sure you’re prepared

Calling all Umbrella workers

Are you currently contracting under an Umbrella? Have you considered how the changes coming in April will affect you?

 

Read on to know what’s coming, what you’ll be losing and what you can do to make the right choice for you.

 

Announcements made in the 2015 Budgets, the Autumn Statement and the draft Finance Bill shook the UK’s 200,000 Umbrella workers, as the feared changes were confirmed. Fundamentally, Umbrella workers’ take home pay is under threat from increased taxation. Come April 2016 strict new rules are to be imposed. How will they affect you?

 

Your professional life will change

In April this year:

  • Your tax relief on travel and subsistence expenses will be restricted, where you are subject to supervision, direction or control (SDC)
  • You’ll automatically be deemed as subject to SDC by HMRC and your Umbrella must determine otherwise with the help of the client
  • Greater compliance checks will be enforced
  • Other expenses you claim will be taxed under PAYE
  • By law you will have to submit a Self-Assessment Tax Return to obtain tax relief on other expenses
  • Umbrella charges may increase to pay for the additional compliance

 

So what are your options?

  • Be moved over into a Limited Company by your current Umbrella provider if (or when) they offer this service
  • Run the risk of other untested models designed to avoid the changes
  • Set up your own Limited Company
  • Return to permanent employment
  • Stay with your Umbrella and see if the model still works for you.

 

Many contractors work under an Umbrella because their services complement their professional requirements. But this is all about to change.

 

Umbrellas in their current form will need to implement major changes to the way they operate in preparation for April’s changes. What they will look like is as yet unknown, meaning they’ll be untested and unproven.

 

If contracting is a long term career choice, then it’s worth revisiting your options.

 

Tempted to go Limited?

If your current Umbrella provider is offering you their Limited Company services, it may be tempting (and seem easier) to stick with them. But you could end up paying more for a service that doesn’t meet your requirements. It’s worth checking out what specialist contractor accountants offer to make sure you’re getting the service you need to run your company smoothly and help you stay compliant.

 

We’ve compiled the essential checklist of what every Umbrella-to-Limited contractor should expect from their prospective service provider:

checklist

 

To help with your research why not download our essential checklist? You can do so by clicking on this link:  The essential checklist (102 downloads )

 

Final thoughts

Change is imminent, but it’s how you prepare yourself now that will put you in the best stead for April. Whatever decision you make, always ensure it’s the best one for you, both personally and professionally. Don’t be persuaded by your existing provider that their solution is your only choice.

Before you get caught up in your research, why not make use of our free take home pay calculator to give yourself an idea of how much you could be taking home as a Limited Company contractor.

 

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Five reasons to be your own boss in 2016

Be your own boss in 2016

With the recent announcements in this year’s Autumn Statement (or lack of them!), the future of contracting is appearing to be more attractive than ever.

 

So why should you consider contracting in 2016? Here we explore the professional and personal benefits you can gain by contracting with our top five reasons to contract in 2016 and beyond:

 

Career progression

career progression

If you’re in permanent employment there will often be a limit to the level of progression you can achieve. But as the boss of your own Limited Company the climb up the ladder of success is endless, as you control your own destiny.

Fancy branching out into a new field of expertise? Or are you seeing a trend for a specific type of contract within your field of profession? Your professional development and career progression is completely up to you, so why not go for it! Whilst the sky’s the limit, you’ll have to be driven enough to build up your network, promote yourself and have the determination to succeed.

 

 

Tailoring your skills

skills

Whilst contracting allows you the freedom to design your working life to your requirements, it also means that it’s completely up to you to do so! From scouting for contracts, creating and managing your business website to networking and managing your time, you’ll never stop learning. Permanent employment means you move to the beat of someone else’s drum, but as a Limited Company contractor you’ll need to find your own rhythm.

But don’t let being Limited limit you! There are so many tools out there to help you hone your skills and time management, without distracting you from your contract at hand.

 

Flexibility

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Tailoring your work life around your personal life (and not the other way around) is one of the major benefits of contracting. You make the rules, so if you only want to work certain hours or days to fit around your family life or favourite hobby, then you can!

 

It’s also completely up to you what time you feel you can give to certain contracts and when work is suitable for you. Fancy a break in the summer, or don’t want to work on your birthday? Choosing your contracts means you can decide when you work and for how long!

 

Remember! Being flexible in the early days of contracting means that you’ll build up your network and client list far quicker, allowing you to be more selective once you’ve established yourself. If previous clients know your calibre of work but are aware of an impending holiday, they’ll be more likely to hold off hiring anyone else until you’re back, especially if you’ve worked for them before and they’re keen to have you back.

 

Financial independence

Hand and money staircase isolated on white

Imagine a job where you can charge what you like for the work you do. Within reason, you can charge clients hourly or daily rates that just aren’t possible in permanent employment.

 

But whilst financial independence is probably one of the most popular goals for any professional worker, it’s worth bearing in mind that you’ll need support to ensure you get the most from your take home pay. This is where enlisting the services of a professional contractor accountant comes in, as they will be able to make sure you are taking advantage of all the taxable benefits available to you whilst maximising your take home pay.

 

New challenges

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You’ll face new challenges; from learning new skills and working patterns, to winning business and learning how to deal with gaps in contracts, every contract will teach you something new about the world of contracting.

 

But whilst there will be a few obstacles to overcome, the financial, professional and personal achievements from going Limited far outweigh those offered in permanent employment.

 

How Intouch Accounting can help

Whether you’re just starting out and wondering what contracting can offer you, or are a seasoned pro but feel you need more from your current accounting solution, Intouch can help you at every step of the way. From incorporating your Limited Company free of charge and explaining how it all works, to making sure you’re supported when it comes to key deadlines such as your Self Assessment Tax Return, your Personal Accountant is here to provide guidance and support, whenever you need it.

 

To find out more about the services Intouch provide, why not visit us, email us, or better still,  speak to one of our advisers on 01202 375 562.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

How often can a Limited Company director draw dividends?

Drawing Dividends

Contractors are increasingly turning to forming their own Limited Companies rather than operating as sole traders or under Umbrella companies. This is in part due to the tax efficiencies available as well as the additional security it offers.

 

Why go Limited?

Whilst the ‘sole trader vs Umbrella company vs Limited Company’ debate is one which has been going on for quite some time and will continue to do so, the bottom line is that for many contractors, going Limited is the best approach. Why? Just a few advantages include:

  • Higher take-home pay
  • The ability to claim on a wider range of expenses
  • Flat Rate VAT Scheme entitlement
  • Security of personal assets
  • Greater control (when compared to using an Umbrella Company)
  • Better credibility
  • Greater tax planning opportunities

 

How do you pay yourself?

As a sole trader, the business’s money and the contractor’s personal money are one and the same. However, once a Limited Company is formed, these become separate entities and the money of the company and the contractor are separate, providing additional financial security.

 

In order for the contractor to ‘pay’ themselves as tax efficiently as possible, it is generally the case that they are paid a mixture of salary and dividends (depending on their circumstances and IR35 status), both of which should always be discussed with an accountant.

 

For those unaware, dividends are payments made to the owners of the company, ‘the shareholders’, from the company profit. Company profit is not only income less expenses for the current year, but also takes into account the Corporation Tax that will be due. It also includes any retained profits or losses brought forward from prior years. In some respects, dividends can be complex, however as a general rule, so long as the company has the money to be able to make the dividend payment and cover any tax and VAT due, there won’t be any issues.

 

One question which many contractors ask time and time again, however is:

 

How often can you draw dividends?

There are two types of dividend – Interim and Final. Interim dividends are those paid throughout the year, with Final dividends paid once annual accounts have been completed. Within a small company, the accounts are rarely complex, which means Interim dividends can be paid throughout the financial year. It is worth noting here that dividends are received on the date they are declared and, as such, it is important to consider the declaration date when declaring dividends close to the end of the tax year, as it can be an incredibly useful tax planning tool.

 

To answer the question asked however, it is important to understand that the frequency with which dividends are declared is much less important than whether they are legal or not. An illegal dividend, as outlined in The Companies Act 2006, Section 830, states that, ‘a company may only make a distribution out of profits available for the purpose’.

 

This simply means, that as long as a company is in a position to cover the dividend as well as their tax liabilities, the dividend can be legally declared. If declaring the dividend would result in the inability to satisfy tax and VAT obligations, it would be illegal and may result in repayment demands from shareholders (the contractor).

 

For many contractors, drawing a regular dividend is a sound way of financial planning; ensuring that your earnings are as tax efficient as possible and that a regular income is received. So long as the dividend is legal, the frequency at which they are drawn is down to the individual contractor’s discretion; something which is great news to contractors worrying that a dividend could perhaps only be taken at the end of a financial year.

 

For further advice on drawing dividends from a Limited Company, why not see our full guide, or for full financial planning support, give us a call today on 01202 375 562 to discuss how Intouch Accounting’s team of expert Contractor Accountants could help you make the most of your Limited Company.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Intouch’s top tips for getting your Limited Company name just right

Getting your Limited Company name just right

So you’ve decided to form your own Limited Company, congratulations! Whilst it’s a fantastically exciting time full of new employment adventures and anticipation for your first few contracts, there are also a few things you’ll need to get in order before you can trade through your own company.

One of those things is to think about your company name. This blog sets out to look at all the rules and regulations surrounding registering your Limited Company name, how you go about doing it, what’s required of you, and how to check if it’s even available!

 

Limited or Ltd – which one to choose?

When forming a Limited Company you must either have ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’ at the end of your company name.

Beware! If you register with ‘Limited’ you can use ‘Ltd’, but if you register with ‘Ltd’ you cannot use ‘Limited’. Make sure you choose the right option for you.

 

Can you reserve a company name?

Whilst you might know what name you’d like to use, you may not quite be ready to register your Limited Company. So what do you do? Unfortunately you cannot reserve your company name, but you can set up your Limited Company in a ‘dormant’ state, thus safeguarding your company name. For more information, visit the Companies House website.

Beware! Even though the company is dormant, your legal responsibilities as a Director are still active. Make sure you’re aware of what’s required of you whilst your company is dormant.

 

What are the rules surrounding certain names?

To have the freedom to choose whatever name you wish would be a contractor’s dream! But there are a few rules and considerations every contractor must abide by:

  • The name cannot be the same (or too similar) to an existing name from the Companies House index of names. With expressed permission from the other name owner you can get around this, but this is based on exceptional circumstances only. To check if it has already been taken, visit the Companies House website
  • Your company name cannot include a ‘sensitive’ word or expression. The name cannot imply business superiority, a particular status or specific function. For example, you cannot use the word ‘bank’, as this would need to be approved by the Financial Conduct Authority
  • National words such as ‘British’, ‘Great British’, ‘Great Britain’, ‘United Kingdom’ or ‘International’ are strictly controlled. Only Companies House will allow these based on exceptional circumstances
  • The name cannot have nor indicate any connections with the Government or local authorities
  • Be creative – but not rude! Any offensive names are not permitted
  • Characters, symbols and punctuation can also be restricted

 

Beware! You may wish to throw caution to the wind and call your company whatever you like. But whilst you’re flying high, remember that Companies House has the power to reject any name they feel which does not comply with points 1 to 6 above. So save yourself some time, effort (and potentially money) and make sure you comply to get it right first time.

 

How do you choose the right name for you and your company?

How do you go about creating the perfect company name so that your prospective clients know what you do and that you mean business? This is a tough one to answer, as what you want your company name to portray may not be what another contractor considers important.

So here are a few things to think about when choosing your name:

  • What industry are you in, and can your company name reflect this? Ie if you’re an IT contractor, which words can portray what you do straight away to your prospective clients
  • How creative do you want to be? Do you want to have a more serious company name, or do you want to stand out with something a bit more unique? Using made up words or acronyms can give a very individual feel to your company name.
  • Will your personal name feature in the company name? ie Joe Bloggs IT Contracting Limited
  • How will your company name sit alongside your personal marketing strategy (if you decide to have one)?
  • Will your name reflect you as an individual, or your company?

 

Beware! Deciding what your personal and / or company image is will probably be the most difficult part of thinking about a name. Write a list, jot a few names down and get an idea for what feels right to you.

Another tip would be to look at your direct competitors’ names – what do you like / don’t like about them? How will you stand out against them to your prospective client base?

 

Can you change it further down the line?

The answer is yes, but there are a few hoops you’ll have to jump through in order to do so. Speak to your personal contractor accountant to find out how you’d go about doing so.

Beware! Changing your company name through Companies House isn’t the only place you’ll have to do so. If you have social media platforms, stationery, or other mediums which carry your old name, these will all have to be changed, which can get costly. Our advice – make sure you like your name before you register it!

 

Finally! As part of Intouch’s monthly fixed fee company incorporation is included. Our specialist team are on hand Monday to Friday, 9am – 5:30pm to offer advice and guidance throughout every step of the way, meaning if you need help with choosing your company name then they can assist.

To speak to an adviser today call 01202 901501, or email us.

 

Considering joining Intouch Accounting? Contact us to find out just how much our all-inclusive monthly fixed fee includes.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Do you look like you mean business?

Do you look like you mean business?

It sounds obvious but your website is your shop window to the world. Yet so many contractors don’t have one, perhaps because they think they’re too small or it’s just another thing to do. Or, they may have set one up once upon a time and haven’t touched it since.

This could be costing you business.

 

We’ve just launched our new site and we’re pretty pleased with how it’s looking (but I might be biased, so let us know what you think of it!). We’ve put together six top tips on how to tackle your company website – whether you’re starting from scratch or need to breath new life into your existing one.

DIY or use a web service company?

How you set up and run your site is your choice. You can build a website yourself using one of the many platforms readily available – systems such as WordPress are fairly intuitive to use and are mobile-friendly (more on that later). You will need to do your own reading around what you should be doing but there are plenty of useful resources online and you can ask for advice from others in the same boat as you, through forums such as Contractor UK.

You may opt to outsource your business website development to a web service company. There are plenty to choose from and you should be able to negotiate the service level you engage them on. As well as saving you time, a big advantage of using a third party is that they should know all the latest trends and Google algorithms to make sure your site performs well. Work with them to define the scope of the project before they start so you are really focused on what you want and they can best advise you (and agree a price).

Remember, whichever route you opt for, you can claim the costs back through your Limited Company.

Make your website user-focused

User experience is key so create a site that gives users what they need and want; not what you want them to have!

When building your contractor website it’s very tempting to tell your visitor everything you do, how you do it, and anything else you know about your specialist field! Before you start building, make a cup of tea, sit back, look around other sites that you like and think about why they work – chances are their messaging is clear and focused and you were easily able to do what you needed to do on the site without having to work too hard. Think about what will make your website unique, valuable, or engaging so you stand out from all the rest in your field.

And don’t bloat the site with content. After all, you still want something to talk to the prospect about when they contact you!

Clear calls to action

What do you want your website visitors to do…and when? Remember different people like to communicate in different ways – some will want to pick up the phone and talk to you, others might only be able to email or Live Chat so make sure you let them know all the different ways they can get in touch with you.

Make sure there are clear calls to action throughout your site (this could be to encourage visitors to contact you or download a paper, for example). You need to get the balance right – too many can be confusing and they won’t know where to look. Not enough and they may simply leave your site feeling frustrated and ready to look elsewhere.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

It’s essential to make sure your website content is working hard for you.

In our time-pressured lives we want information now and search engines help us out by guessing what we want before we’ve even finished typing it in the search box! You want to make sure you feature high up in search results and this is influenced by the content on your site.

Over the past three years Google has clamped down tightly on those deemed to be spamming their websites to get to the top of Google’s rankings. You need to make sure your pages are primarily for your users, not for search engines. Google will reward you for providing useful information in a helpful way.

When it comes to SEO, there’s a lot to talk about (too much for this blog). Do take time to check out Google’s Webmaster Guidelines documenting SEO basics – but just be aware that this only outlines key points and won’t give you strategic direction.

Some other resources worth looking at:

http://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-guide/

http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.co.uk/en/uk/webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf

Make sure your site is mobile responsive

As a contractor you’re probably on the move a lot and need to be able to access the internet through a range of devices. Your future clients are no different so make sure they can see what’s on offer!

Probably the best route for you to take is ensuring you have a ‘mobile-responsive’ design route so that your website resizes and adapts for the device it’s being viewed on to ensure an optimal user experience. Unless you require your site to have specific, complex functionality or a lot of integration with back office functions then the mobile responsive route should be sufficient.

Don’t let your site fail the Google mobile-friendliness test. If it does, your search rankings will suffer as Google will simply push those that are mobile-friendly higher up in the search results.

Google mobile-friendly pages achieve that label if they meet the following standards:

  •         Avoids software that isn’t common on mobile devices, such as Flash
  •        Text can be read without the user needing to zoom
  •         Content is resized to fit the user’s screen so they don’t have to scroll around all over the place
  •         Links are placed far enough apart so that the user can easily tap on the one they want.

 

Check out googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk to test your pages as if you were a mobile user.

Don’t leave your site to stagnate

To help improve your rankings, you need to keep content fresh – this doesn’t mean you need to re-write your entire site every week, but do keep a keen eye on providing relevant content on a regular basis – you could do this in the form of a weekly blog (and that gives you great material to push out through your social media channels) and you could talk about recent work you have undertaken to boost your profile, showcase your skills and demonstrate how you might be able to help your visitor.

Also, be mindful of things that could quickly make your site look out of date. For example, if you include customer testimonials, think carefully before you add dates (and also make sure you get their permission to use their name and quote on your site!)

What sites do you like?

We know contractors like to help each other out so let us know which sites you like and why, or any platforms you are familiar with that other contractors could make use of.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Moving from a permanent role to contracting

Moving from a permanent role to contracting

If you’re thinking of moving to contracting there are a number of practical factors to consider before making the move from a permanent role. Considering these points will help make your transition to contracting life easier and smoother from the start.

Leaving your current organisation

Make sure you confirm the notice period with your current organisation. In some cases this can be months, or there may be a stipulation that the individual cannot work for similar companies for a specified time.  Knowing these details helps avoid contractual issues with leaving your current employer. The majority of contract work requires the contractor to be available to take up their position within a few days of interview or a couple of weeks at most. This means you’ll need to make sure that you can be available at short notice before applying for contracting roles.

Choosing to set up as a Limited Company or using an Umbrella

You will need to decide whether you want to set up your own contractor Limited Company or to get paid using an Umbrella company.  This is an important consideration as there are several tax differences between these options which directly affect your net take home pay.

At its simplest the key difference between the two is in the amount of tax you pay on your contractor income. If you use an Umbrella company you are effectively an employee of the Umbrella with National Insurance Contributions being payable on your entire contractor pay. If you set up as a Limited Company contractor you can choose to reduce the amount of taxable salary you pay yourself and take the majority of your remuneration as dividends from your company. The overall result is that your post-tax take home pay will usually be higher. To give you an idea of the tax savings you might make as a Limited Company contractor take a look at the Intouch Contractor Take Home Pay Calculator tool.

If you decide initially to use an Umbrella company then change your mind, the Intouch team can help you easily and smoothly make the switch to becoming a Limited Company contractor.

Finding contracting work

Initially, registering with relevant contracting agencies, uploading your CV onto CV databases for recruiters to find, searching job boards and mining your contacts are good ways to find opportunities and keep up with what’s available.

As a contractor this is an on-going process. Over time you’ll build relationships with job agencies, clients and individuals which will make this easier.

Checking your IR35 status on contracts

Usually the aim is to have a contract which puts you outside IR35, meaning you’re operating ‘in business on your own account’ while working for the client. If your status is seen to be inside IR35 you are considered by HMRC to be a disguised employee of your client. This means you will have to pay more tax on the income.

Have every contract checked by your contractor accountants or lawyer before signing.  It’s better to be safe than get into difficulties with HMRC at a later stage. Find out more about IR35 by reading our frequently asked questions.

Networking and marketing yourself

Professional looking business cards are a start, but it’s helpful to be a proactive networker to keep your contacts growing and your portfolio on show. There are many groups and organisations which hold regular face-to-face networking events. Keeping your online profiles on LinkedIn and niche online communities active will also help to maintain your success.

If you decide to make the move you’ll be joining thousands who enjoy their contracting life with the variety and interesting challenges it can bring.  Our New to contracting guide will help you every step of the way or you can contact us to discuss your options.

If you’re considering moving from a permanent position over to contracting and thinking about work, take a look at our latest blog on How To Find Contract Work, where we list the top 5 tips on how to find contractor work.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.