Increase your productivity and make the most from 2017 with our top eight tips – part two

Make the most from 2017

In our last blog we reviewed the first four of eight top tips for increasing your productivity this New Year. From making the use of early morning peace and quiet to brain superfoods, we covered some fantastic ways in which you can make small changes that will have a positive effect on your productivity.


In this blog we take a look at the remaining four top tips, on how to win at your contracting productivity in 2017.


5. Task management

What do you need to achieve this week and today? Each week create three lists:


  • What needs to be done this week?
  • Which days do each task need to be completed by?
  • At which point in each day do the tasks need to be completed?


Not only will you structure each day to ensure maximum productivity, it’ll also keep you focused on the task at hand. You could take this a step further, by sharing your weekly plan with your client.  They will then know when to expect updates and completed work from you. It’s a win for both you and them!


6. Switch off sometimes 

How many times has a bolt of inspirational lightening hit you, right when you’re in the middle of completing the most mundane task?


By letting your mind rest and switch off from your day-to-day hustle and bustle, you’ll allow yourself to develop potential business ideas and areas for growth and development. Just make sure you have a pen and paper to hand!


7. Healthy body, healthy mind

The two are certainly connected, so ensure you look after your body just as much as you do your mind. The three ways to achieve this are:


Sleep – get the recommended seven to nine hours a night to ensure optimal functionality the following day.

Eat – you are what you eat, so ensure you put in what you want to get out.

Exercise – whether it’s 20 minutes of pilates, a short jog or even a class at your local sports centre, whatever you enjoy doing ensure you get moving.


8. It’s ok to say ‘no’

If you’re used to saying yes to everyone and everything, this can be a tough tip to master. Your professional working day is just that, yours, so ensure you don’t make room for anyone else during those hours where you need to focus.


Every task you let slip into your working day must take the place of one you’ve already allocated time to, so ensure you leave it until your ‘to-do’ list for that day is completed.


The same can be said for accepting every contract offer that comes your way, especially when you’re just starting out. Ask yourself which contracts and clients will help you achieve your professional goals (whatever these may be) the quickest, and then focus on those. Remember though to stay in touch with those you don’t accept straight away, as you never know when you may need them, or the opportunities they could go on to offer.


Take the Intouch New Year challenge!

How many of our top eight tips can you adopt into your new working year? Why not keep a rough record of how much time you save and let us know? We’d love to hear how much time you’ve been able to give to your own personal pursuits and whether they’ve helped you stay focused on the task at hand.


This January we’ve also created five nifty Contractor specific New Year’s Resolutions, to help you start your year off on the right foot. Check them out today and see how you could make the most from your contracting or freelancing career this New Year.


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 steps to take when defusing an unhappy client

Defusing an unhappy client

Quite possibly one of the worst parts of contracting or freelancing is when you’ve put your best into a contract, only for the client to be upset or dissatisfied with your work. Clearly at some point something has gone wrong and, whilst it may not be you that caused it, you’re left to pick up the pieces and salvage what’s left of the working relationship.


Hopefully you’ll never need this blog, but should you ever find yourself in this situation we’ve devised 5 steps to take, to help turn the situation around.


Step 1 – Keep calm and carry on

A tough step to begin with, especially when your talent and professionalism is being questioned, but one which you must start negotiations off with. Remember that as soon as you lose your temper you’ve also lost your ability to argue your case, so keep a level head when discussing the issue with your client.


Let them tell you how they’re feeling and take notes, as this will help you to understand what the issue is and how to prevent it from happening in the future. By remaining neutral during this time you’ll also be demonstrating to your client that you’re willing to hear their side of the story, that you’re able to listen, and that you’ve remained professional throughout.


Step 2 – What’s the problem?

Whatever the issue is, you must get to the root of why they are unhappy. In this industry reputations precede contractors, therefore if you wish to continue contracting in the future you must make amends with your current client before moving on. After all, you never know who they may know or what influence they could have on you in future.


At some point during the contract your expectations did not meet theirs, so ensure you identify when and why this happened, and who the blame lies with.


Step 3 – Is there a solution?

If you have fulfilled your side of the contract exactly as requested and have no reason to offer a solution, then you must let the client know this at this stage.


If you have made a mistake, as we all do from time to time, apologise and offer a solution. Whatever this may be (rectifying the issue or maybe offering a refund) consider what value the client holds to you professionally, your reputation and whether doing extra work is worth it in the end.


Step 4 – Find out what they’re thinking

If you do rectify the issue, ensure you ask your client whether you have satisfied their expectations as soon as you have completed the work.


We’re not suggesting you grovel to your client, but once they believe the contract has been completed it’s never a bad idea to apologise once more. After all, you’ve admitted your mistakes, rectified the issue and then apologised – there’s not much else you could have done!


Step 5 – Learn from the experience

Now that the issue is in the past, it’s time to consider what’s happened, what it has taught you and how to ensure it doesn’t happen again.


Even clients can get it wrong sometimes (although we doubt they’re more forthcoming when admitting their faults!) so it’s worth taking a step back to see how this experience has made you a better Limited Company contractor. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!


Have you dealt with an unhappy client before?

If the answer is ‘yes’, what tips do you have that helped defuse the situation? Share them with us, your contracting colleagues will thank you, especially if they ever have to use one!


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.

If you contract from home, you’ll want to read this…

6 ways to beat loneliness when working alone

Contracting from home can be great; you get to design your perfect working space, what radio station you listen to and enjoy endless cups of tea whilst wearing your slippers (should you wish to). But whilst it can sound like the perfect working environment for many, loneliness can creep in – especially if you have minimal client contact and few other contracting colleagues to talk to.


Even introverts can feel lonely, so if you enjoy working alone and think this blog isn’t for you – read on anyway. You might just discover a new tip that will improve your productivity when contracting from home.


1.What fuels your professional fire?

It could be an early morning 5K before breakfast, a lunchtime catch up with an old friend, or even jumping on the contracting forums to share your thoughts on what’s currently affecting the contracting community.


Whatever it may be, ensure you have a few options that you can call on when you feel your fire burning low. Your professional productivity will thank you!


2. Speak to your suppliers

Your Personal Accountant isn’t just there to answer your accountancy and tax questions, they can also give you advice on all the areas that surround self employment. The same can be said for your business insurance provider or financial adviser for example, should you enlist their services.


They speak to individuals just like you every day about a whole host of topics, so why not give them a call? Or better yet, schedule a monthly call with them to discuss your career and how they can help you achieve your goals for the month. They may have just launched a new product or service that could make your contracting life easier.


3. Ban your home office as your meeting location

It’s all too easy to update your client from the comfort of your home office, or liaise with prospective clients from behind your computer screen. But doing it too often can lead to feelings of isolation, which isn’t good for you or your client.


Remember the good old days when people actually enjoyed meeting face-to-face? Why not bring it back! The next time you have a planned meeting, go to your client or prospective client’s office and actually meet with them. Not only will they get to see who you are as an individual and get a taste for your personality, you’ll also have more of a sense of purpose by actually getting ready and leaving your home office.


And remember, as a Limited Company contractor you can claim your travel and subsistence expenses, so there really is no excuse not to!


4. The legend of the invisible contractor

As a group of professionals, the UK’s micro business community (those with 1-9 employees) currently stands at an impressive 5.25 million*, so as a Limited Company contractor you are certainly not alone.


Whilst you may feel as though your contribution to the UK’s economy as a one-person band is minimal, collectively you’re a force to be reckoned with! So why not reach out to your contracting colleagues to find out their thoughts on being a contractor, what trends they’re seeing for desirable skills or even if they have any contacts that could be of use to you? With such a large community, there’s no reason to feel alone.


5. Be strict with your time

As a contractor your time is just that, yours – so ensure your work does not encroach on your personal life. After a hard day of working it’s too easy to swap plans with friends or family for a quiet night in. Once in a while it is a great way to recharge your batteries, but do it too often and you’ll cut yourself off.


Set yourself a daily schedule, stick to it and don’t let work be the reason why your personal life is put on hold.


6. Get moving

A little exercise now and then is the perfect way to blast away any loneliness. Was there a sport you loved to do as a child that you’d like to try as an adult, or local sports team whose social events sound as much fun as the actual sport itself?


Healthy body = healthy mind, so get out there and start having some fun!


Final thoughts

It can be tempting and easy to fall into the trap of becoming a lone wolf, so ensure you have a personal plan that works for you to help banish those entrepreneur blues.


And remember, your career is something you love so tailor it to suit you. Don’t let loneliness stop you from reaching contracting greatness!


*The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy


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.


Four ways to get the day rate you deserve

Increase your day rate with our top tips

Your take home pay is (probably) a big part of your career as a Limited Company contractor, so it’s only natural to consider whether you’re getting the day rate you deserve for your skill set and experience.


In this blog we share with you the top four ways to negotiate the day rate you deserve and give you essential advice on how you can continue to steadily increase your take home pay as you progress through your career as a Limited Company contractor.


1. If people aren’t buying, then you shouldn’t be selling

Start by taking a look around your industry – who’s looking to hire people in a similar field to you and how much are they willing to pay? What skills are they demanding and if possible, are you able to see how many other people have applied for the same position?


Job boards, agencies and talking to similar contractors can give you a great insight into how healthy the hiring market is, at the point at which you decide to aim higher. If a previous client is requesting your services but is questioning your higher rates, ensure you are able to quote reference points throughout your industry research to demonstrate how you can justify your increase.


2. Test the waters with an agency

One of the most popular methods used to find contracts is through agencies, so why not speak to them first to see what the marketplace is like? They spend more time looking at day rates and how much clients are willing to pay, so liaise with them first.


Ask them if your day rate is on par with those similar to you and whether there are any clients who tend to value the level of contractor’s experience based on the day rate they charge. You could be missing out purely by charging too little!


If your agency acts on your behalf they will be able to negotiate with the client that you’re the right contractor for the job, rather than the day rate being right for you as an individual. They can also act as a buffer between you and the client, so should they react in a negative way then your professional working relationship is not directly affected.


3. Timing is everything

Are you half way through a contract and realising you’re charging too little? Unfortunately to remain professional there’s very little you can do when it comes to to negotiating a higher rate mid-way through something you’ve already agreed to.


However, should your contract’s conditions change or it’s extended, then this is when you’re able to consider introducing a higher daily rate. Any changes in your contract are an open invitation to negotiation on both sides, so use this to your advantage.


4. Show passion for what you do

For some clients it’s not just about whether you can complete the contract on time and to specification. Sometimes they’re looking for more and that’s why it’s equally as important to showcase your passions for contracting as well as their industry as a whole.


Show the client how much you enjoy contracting, what part of their contract excites you and your enthusiasm for their project. You can’t fake passion and clients knows this, so if you genuinely have a real connection with a certain contract or client then ensure you get this across.


It will also make negotiation for a higher rate much easier, as the client will know you’re the specific contractor they want and will be willing to pay.


Negotiation is key

So there you have it, our top four tips for getting the day rate you deserve. For many clients, dealing with a contractor that is low maintenance, highly skilled, that can easily form team relationships and understands they are replaceable is a rarity – so use this knowledge to your advantage when pitching for business.


Maintain your professional dignity, integrity and reputation and you’ll find it much easier to request an increase in remuneration.


Like this type of advice? Our resources section has lots of free blogs and guides, to help you on your way to contracting success. Alternatively you can speak to one of our team of expert advisers. We look forward to joining you on your journey to Limited Company contracting success!


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.

The top fourteen things successful people do every day – part 1

What successful people owe their success to


Are you a successful person? What does that even look like? How do you measure your victories and what do you do to ensure you remain successful? Whilst you may already have your own winning recipe, it’s always intriguing to know how other successful people measure their merit.


In a recent study by Kevin Kruse, 200 ultra-successful people (including seven billionaires and thirteen Olympians) were asked what their number one secret to success and productivity is. In this blog we explore the first seven of fourteen points, which they claim to owe their success…


1. Time travel

OK, so we’re not talking literally, but by understanding what to do now so that your future self will be a success is an art that very few have mastered, but all should try to come to grips with. So if you’re able to anticipate what skills and resources you’ll need before you actually do need them, you’re ready to make the most from the present with some past preparation.


(Pat on the back to past you!)


2. Eat dinner at home

How many times have you been working on a project and thought that you could just keep going and going and going? Even if the amount of work is limitless, that doesn’t mean your time should also be.


Understand what is important in life and ensure you give each area the same amount of attention. A clear mind and work / life balance can mean greater freedom to succeed. Even simple things like eating your dinner at home rather than at your desk can give you the balance you need to break the cycle.


3. Forget the to-do list

Some may find this one hard to do, but imagine binning your to-do list and scheduling tasks in your calendar instead.


By leaving incomplete items on your to-do list you’re effectively causing yourself undue stress and anxiety (and who needs that?!), as they will also remain on your mind. By actioning tasks on the day you’ve set to complete them, your mind will never be over cluttered with work that isn’t due for completion there and then.


4. Say ‘no’ to almost everything

Unless saying ‘yes’ is going to have a positive impact on your day, say ‘no’. This is going to take guts the first few times you do it, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it your day will only be filled with positive and rewarding tasks.


The same can be said for those pesky ‘extras’ that clients try to sneak into your daily tasks, which do not feature in your contract. It’s ok to say ‘no’, unless you’re willing to take them on, (with some contract negotiation).


5. Forget meetings

As a contractor, your time is just that, yours – unless of course the client is paying for it. If they try to squeeze in a meeting after hours, or ask you to arrange one which is outside of your contract’s remit – it’s just not cricket.


6. Check your email a couple times a day

Forget checking your emails every time one pings in, as successful people find it beneficial to check their emails only once or twice a day. If you react to every single email as soon as it arrives in your inbox, you’ll be distracted from the task at hand.


So unless you need an email to complete what you’re currently working on, leave checking your inbox until your allocated time.


7. Make the minutes count and not the hours

How many times a day do you consider when things are done? For example, maybe breakfast is at 7am, lunch at 1pm, home by 6pm then bed by 10:30pm. Now consider how much time you waste between those hours?


As the old saying goes, time is money – so don’t let wasting it cost you. With 1,440 minutes in the day, make sure that when the metre is running you’re making the most from the minutes you have and not just the hours.


Final thoughts – for now

Changing behaviour can be challenging, but if the rewards are great then it’s worth taking the time to adapt. Why not try a couple this week to see how they could increase your professional success?


If understanding how 20 percent of effort can produce 80 percent of productivity intrigues you, then make sure you catch our next blog that covers this, plus so much more.


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.

Contractor Toolbox: Don’t let Limited limit your success

3 resources for Limited Company contractors

Going it alone working as a contractor and setting up a Limited Company can be a daunting prospect, particularly for those new to contracting or freelancing. With so much legislation and admin to contend with when you register as a Limited Company, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees – disrupting your focus on the work you’re being paid for.

Unfortunately, the perception of how overwhelming going Limited can seem can put people off taking this potentially profitable path – where a higher take-home pay is just one of the many advantages of a Limited Company. However, being registered as a Limited Company doesn’t have to mean going it alone. With a plethora of resources and support available, there’s always a helping hand on offer. As long as you have the right tools in your toolbox, and know where to look for them if you don’t, you can reap the rewards of your trade – focusing on the contracted work at hand.

It’s essential that as a contractor or freelancer you not only recognise the tools and resources at your disposal, but utilise them to full effect. This is especially important in a time of transition, such as registering as a Limited Company – where your own resource may become stretched as you take on the responsibilities of managing your business as a separate entity. If you’re still debating the pros and cons of which trading model is best for you, see our breakdown: Sole Trader vs Limited Company vs Umbrella.

  1. Networking tools

networking tools

Whether you’re well established as a contractor in your industry or new to the game, actively maintaining your network of business contacts is essential to success. Not only can contacts provide a valuable source of referral work for new contracts and jobs, they can provide a support network on a personal level. Rather than viewing your peers as competitors, view them as the resources that they are. Whether it’s for business advice or guidance on a specific project, utilising your network to its full extent provides some welcome support.

Networking events

Word of mouth remains the most powerful marketing tool there is, and showing your face at industry events is key in connecting with potential clients – keeping contract work flowing your way. You can action this by looking up local networking events in your sector and setting aside time each month to attend. Not only are networking events a great source of referral work, they’re an opportunity for you to network with other contractors who can be an invaluable resource for advice and guidance on everything from choosing a trading model to increasing your rate. Successful networking is about keeping the conversation going – so whether it’s an old colleague, an existing client or a friend, find a reason to get in touch with them on a regular basis.

Networking online

LinkedIn dominates the world of online networking, and you should dedicate time every day to checking your LinkedIn account and news feed. By building a list of relevant and engaged connections on LinkedIn, your profile (and services) will become visible to more new people – and you never know who could potentially send work your way, or provide a solution for a specific problem. LinkedIn groups specific to contractors are also a great place for finding referrals or discussing issues and concerns with your peers – acting as contractor community noticeboards. For more advice on getting the most out of online networking for contractors, read our blog post on the benefits of LinkedIn.

Intouch Accounting has set-up an exclusive networking group specifically for our contractor clients, providing access to valuable contacts and information exchange. Click here to request access to this group.

  1. Technology tools
technology tools

Due to the nature of contract or freelance work, organisation is essential – especially when travelling. Tracking work and time is vital for accurate invoicing and contractors need to be able to record this information on the go and keep it at their fingertips. Technology is a wonderful thing, and with a wide range of software and apps for business available, you can maximise your profitability by maximising your efficiency on the go.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage systems like DropBox and Google Docs allow you to store, share, access and edit your documents easily on the go. This is essential if you’re travelling, however, they also give you peace of mind as a backup option for important documents and client work. Accessible via laptop or smartphones, Cloud systems can be a lifesaver when working on the go.

Time tracking and invoicing

For freelancers in particular, charging an hourly or daily rate is common practice – especially if your typical week involves working on multiple projects for multiple clients. It’s essential that these type of workers are able to accurately track their time in order to produce accurate invoices to clients, evidencing the time spent on particular accounts or projects. Time tracking software and apps like Toggl allow you to easily track your day – down to the second – segmenting clients into smaller projects including activities like client communications or meetings, as well as actually producing the work. Toggl allows you to access up to date time reports over any date range and publish the results as a PDF or .CSV file – making them email and Cloud friendly for sharing with your clients.

Another popular piece of software, featured in our article ‘Top 10 technology tools for contractors’, is Harvest – combining time tracking with the ability to generate custom branded invoices and even log expenses digitally. Having access to features like this can save significant time on paperwork for contractors on the go.


With a wide range of software and apps for business focused on productivity, your smartphone’s app store could have the solution you’ve been looking for to a particular project management problem. Tools like Evernote function as the modern day digital planner, allowing you to take notes on the go, plan projects, collaborate and share your workings. Software like this can significantly streamline project management and account admin duties for contractors and freelancers working on multiple projects.

  1. Professional tools

professional tools

Industry bodies and resources

If you do want to take a more hands on approach, there are numerous professional resources available for contractors and freelancers, providing information on everything from setting up your business to tax and IR35 legislation.

A contractor accountant can take care of all of this for you – leaving you to focus on developing your skills, taking on new work and increasing your rates. However, if you want to do your preliminary research, respected industry information sources such as Contractor Calculator and Contractor Weekly provide comprehensive and indepth information on the logistics of contracting as well as contractor news and much more.

On top of this, as a contractor you have to self motivate in order to stay on top of the latest news, developments and techniques being employed in your industry. This is particularly true if you’re self-employed in fast moving industries such as IT. Making sure you’re up to date on the latest technology trends in your sector and possess the right qualifications and training means you’ll not only win more work, but you can charge a higher rate. There are numerous respected contractor sites focused on the IT industry – providing an essential source of reliable information if you work in this sector:

Contractor UK

IT Contractor

IT Pro

IT Contractors UK

The UK Government website also provides a black and white resource, filled with essential information on legislation surrounding the various trading models common amongst contractors and freelancers. Here you will also find information specific to setting up a Limited Company – guiding you through the steps which you or your accountant must take in order to go Limited.

Your accountant

However, if you want to save yourself a headache – utilise your accountant! As a Limited Company contractor, your accountant is a lifeline for navigating the complex jungle of legal and financial rules and regulations put in place by the Government. Handling the transition to a Limited Company can be a lonely path – and one which, if you choose to pursue, can be extremely time consuming. Your accountant should be your first port of call for helping you take the leap into contracting or make the transition to a Limited Company.

If you feel your accountant could be doing more for you, contact the contractor accounting experts at Intouch Accounting. This is what we do best, and our fully comprehensive service means that you can focus on your contracted work, while we take care of the rest.

Beyond Limited Company formation (and the associated administration), a skilled accountant can help contractors and freelancers maximise their take home pay by ensuring they’re taxed correctly – while also providing sound business advice and support.

Intouch Accounting can help you

If the prospect of becoming a Limited Company is still daunting, or you’re not sure how to make the transition, give us a call on 01202 375491. Our friendly team of expert Contractor Accountants are happy to answer any questions and discuss your situation and options. We are renowned with our existing clients for our dedicated service and account management – and we’re happy to take your call and assist you on this exciting new venture!


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.