Contracting: the key to a successful and family-friendly career
Over the last month, I have been exploring the subject of women in contracting in conjunction with IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (formerly PCG). The four-part series ran on the IPSE website and, I hope, has given a confidence boost to anyone considering making the leap into contracting.
I have long held the belief that women hold the key to a wealth of untapped potential in the contracting industries. From high-flyers in the IT sector taking advantage of a new recruitment focus on women, to the so-called ‘Mumpreneurs’ joining the 1.2 million self-employed women in Britain, it seems there’s never been a better time for women to start contracting.
For anyone who has not considered contracting before, or is unsure where to start, in the first of our ‘Women in Contracting’ series, I outline some of the potential benefits and key advantages, including:
- greater freedom and control over working conditions
- financially lucrative contracts
- flexibility and more work-life balance
- maximising take home pay through tax efficiencies
Of course, it’s important to do your homework. Anyone considering a move into contracting should first decide on a trading model. You may wish to remain employed and contract through an Umbrella company or set up a Limited Company and be employed by it. In both of these instances, you may still ‘feel’ as though you are self-employed even if you are not on paper. The alternative option is to go self-employed as a Sole Trader.
If you are unsure which is the right route for you, our popular guide Limited Company or Umbrella – which is the right choice for you? explores the different trading models available to you.
Life as a contractor can, at times, feel a bit remote. However, there are a large number of online business communities and support groups such as IPSE’s Women’s Freelance Network (WFN), set up to help, advise and encourage women contractors.
If you are thinking of starting a family, or are currently on maternity leave, contracting can be a great choice for your return to work.
In the second article in the series, I discuss some of the advantages to planning ahead. By starting your contracting career before you have a baby, you can build up contacts, get your financial systems set up and take advantage of the potential for a higher take home pay.
According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, around 54,000 new mothers are being forced out of their jobs in Britain each year. It’s perhaps no wonder then that the number of freelancing mothers is a growing UK trend, up 100,000 since 2008 according to IPSE research.
The key to juggling a contracting career with being a working parent is to find reliable support and put your business systems in place early on. Key considerations include:
- You’ll need flexible childcare due to the often ad hoc nature of contracting.
- A good contractor accountant will get you started off on the right foot financially, as well as helping to navigate the ins and outs of tax legislation.
- By joining a membership body such as IPSE, you can help protect yourself or your Limited Company as well as receiving additional support and expertise when you need it.
We are an IPSE accredited accountant and any Intouch client who wishes to start a new IPSE membership can benefit from a 10% discount.
Back to school
As children grow up, parents often find their career needs change again. In article three, I explore the challenges faced by contracting parents once their children start school.
In some ways older children are more independent and, if you work from home, it gets a bit easier to juggle. In other ways, however, there are new challenges to navigate, such as the school run and fitting in extra-curricular activities to an already stretched work-life balance. This is where a career in contracting or freelancing really comes into its own, as you can usually dictate your working hours and location, enabling you to work around the school pick up or other family needs.
I spoke to Hannah Martin, co-founder of the Talented Ladies Club – a website for working mums wanting to balance career with family and which now has 30,000 visitors monthly.
Hannah said: “Freelancing is a fantastic career option for mums. It enables you to use your skills and experience on your terms – choosing who you work for and when and where you work. You can slow work down in the school holidays if you wish, and take on more contracts in term times. I can’t think of a more perfect set-up.”
Reduce work-family conflict
In the final part of the series, I show how contracting can be a future-proof career choice, adapting through different life stages to reduce the work-family conflict often experienced by working parents.
This is not just an issue affecting mothers. A new study by the British Sociological Association found around 58% of male breadwinners – those who earned more than their partners – would like to work fewer hours and spend more time at home, even if it meant taking a pay cut.
Contracting can help both parents to improve their work-life balance, enabling more time to be spent with the children or even freeing up time to retrain for a career change.
Make the change
If you are considering a switch to contracting or are already contracting and want to find out how you can get the most benefit from it, give our experts a call on 01202 375 562 or email us.
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.