There are significant advantages in becoming a contractor or freelance services provider for a client compared to being an employee and it is therefore not surprising that there has been an increase in the number of people taking up these types of roles. More flexibility and control over work/life balance, a likely increase in earnings and depending on where you work tax break benefits.
So there are considerable benefits of becoming a contractor and it’s clear why a significant proportion of the workforce have moved into the contracting sector. If you considering the move into contracting then here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Have you got the right to work in the chosen country?
Obviously, if you’re intending to contract your services in your home country then your right to work is a moot point, but one of the significant potential benefits of contracting is the possibility of working in a different country. However you need to make sure that you have permission to work in the country if you are looking to work overseas.
It’s important to do your research on the country that you’re intending to work in and what their work permit or visa requirements are. Depending on which country it is, this can be straightforward or a lengthy process.
This is where working with an agency can be helpful as they can give guidance on the likely requirements although usually the agency will require information from you to ascertain that you have permission to work in that country.
2. Solutions for getting paid
So how will you get paid? Obviously the important bit! The good news is that there are few different options for you in regards to getting paid as a contractor. There are advantages and disadvantages to each one and you need to make sure that you select the one that is most appropriate for you and your situation and most importantly ensure that you are compliant with any tax or payment laws:
Typically, there are four options for payment solutions that are compliant:
- An umbrella company – this is typically just an option for the UK. It’s a good option for new contractors as it gives you some flexibility and the umbrella company will handle the provision for your taxes
- A freelancer – this is another option that is popular with people who are new to contracting scene
- A limited company – Although it typically involves more administrative work than say working with an umbrella company, setting up as a limited company can also some good options for payment
- Management company – These companies support contractors with local requirements on tax and any necessary registration with authorities. These are typically utilised outside of the UK and can provide the contractor with in depth local knowledge and expertise in the job market
The right option for you will depend on your confidence to understand the tax regulations in the country that you will be working in. Make sure that you are compliant from the beginning of your contract and this will help you avoid any unwelcome charges later on.
3. Contractor administration
Moving into a interim professional or contractor role will definitely involve more administration work for you compared to permanent employment and therefore it is important for you to be prepared for this especially if being organised isn’t your strong suit.
The most common forms of administration involved in becoming a contractor are:
Right to work documents
This means making sure that you have the correct documentation to prove that you have the right to work in the country that the contract is in. This may mean making sure that your Passport is up to date as well as applying for visas if that’s appropriate. Other related documents that be required include other proof of identity as well as previous role references.
You’ll want to get paid for your work won’t you? Therefore having an appropriate business bank account set up is a fundamental admin task that you’ll need to get right. It may be appropriate for that bank account to be set up in the country that you are working in.
Timesheets and invoices
So you’ve got your bank account all set up, now is the time to make sure that you submit the necessary paperwork in order to get paid. Typically, it is expected for the interim professional or contractor to submit a timesheet which would detail the work and hours done in the previous week or month. These would be typically approved by a line manager or project manager.
Closely linked to the timesheets are the invoices. These will be generated from the details of the timesheets and will list the amount owed for the work and services performed. Be mindful that different companies may have different payment schedules to one another and therefore you need to make sure that your cash-flow can cope with different schedules.
Closely linked to the invoices administration is the expenses paperwork. You’ll need to be clear as to what you can and can’t claim as an expense for performing your services to the organisations. As a minimum though, you need to keep all your recipients for approval and payment.
You’ll need to make sure that you’re aware of the local requirements in the location you will be working in. The format and structure of the contract itself will depend on the role location as well as the payment solution that you decide on.
This is something that is often overlooked when someone considers setting up as a interim professional or contractor. For most roles, especially those in an engineering or technical sector role require some form of insurance to cover the duration of your contract or project. The usual requirement is known as Professional Indemnity Insurance and is available at different levels of cover depending on the scale of the role that you are undertaking.
Holiday Pay and sickness
The old adage is that you don’t get something for nothing and it is true when moving into contracting from a permanent employment role. In exchange for the better pay and increased flexibility when contracting, the downside is that you will typically not get paid for holiday leave or sick days. Therefore some of your extra pay will need to be set aside for these unless you plan never to take a day off or get sick…!
4. Expectations of your client
As a interim professional or contractor, there will be certain expectations from your end client in terms of the skills that you will need to display.
Quick and motivated self-starter
You will be expected to be able to do the task or project that you have been engaged on. This means that the end client will expect you to be able to start work immediately and require little guidance or training to complete the task.
With a contract role, you will need to demonstrate flexibility as you may be expected to work independently or as part of a team of other contractors or permanent employees or a mixture of both. How you fit in within the clients’ requirements is very important as you may need the client as a reference further on in your career.
By the very definition of an interim professional or contractor, you are a temporary resource for the client that you are working for. Therefore you may find that you are working for different clients or different parts of the clients’ business over a short period of time. Being able to adapt to different requirements, working practices, personalities is a key expectation of your client base.
It may be that you are working independently on a contract and therefore your client needs to be able to trust you that you can work to the required deadlines. This is especially true if you are working from home or another remote working area and therefore not directly visible to the line or project manager.
The final aspect is the situation with the taxation. Typically, the taxation is based around the country in which the contract or project will be based in regardless of your nationality. It is essential that you understand the different tax rules and regulations for the country that you are working in.
Most countries have different levels of taxation as well which adds further complications. The UK has up to 4 different types of taxation depending on how you work your payment solution.
There are some great resources out there to understand the tax requirements and your recruitment consultant should be able to give you some guidance on the most appropriate resources for your particular situation. However to save you an unwelcome and potentially costly charge further down the line, make sure that you do your homework on this topic.