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Moving from permanent to contracting - case study 2

Leaving permanent employment

Twelve months ago I heard those immortal words from my employer, “I don’t know how we’re going to get on without you but starting Monday we’ll try.”

In my industry seasonal employment is a vocational hazard, but having been at my last employer for 6 years I thought I’d cracked the problem. It seemed not.

The Job Centre and Business Link

In the Job centre I filled out the relevant forms, and was offered information about self employment which was something I’d done briefly 10 years ago.

Being in a specialised segment of IT, the Job centre was unlikely to help me find work and I’d have to do this myself. However, they pointed me to the very useful and FREE government backed initiative Business Link who help start up businesses.

They hold weekly seminars covering all aspects of starting up a business from book-keeping to marketing. Not only were the seminars excellent, it was also useful meeting others deciding to go into business.

There was also a business advisor available by appointment who advised me that I’d have more chance securing contracting work, rather than further permanent work.

The idea of contract work was appealing, but I was a little apprehensive of leaping into it. I wasn't sure really sure I had the necessary traits to succeed - one being comfortable with the whole aspect of 'selling myself'.

Seeking work

I continued looking for “permanent” employment while researching contracting and learning new skills. This included talking to contacts who were IT contractors and reading information on websites.

After finding some short term work via contacts I was convinced there was perhaps a future for me in contracting. I was still wary though of where the contracting work was going to come from.

The decision to go contract

After updating my CV it was sent to a number of employers in response to advertisements.

There were no responses over too many weeks from dozens of applications. The silence was all the more infuriating since I felt confident I could do the jobs being advertised.

After a small false start at a permanent position I decided to go contracting if only I could sort out where was the work going to come from.

Evaluating my skills

Contracting was going to involve a slight career shift. I’d arrived at a position of responsibility with a fairly wide skill set and my main talents had developed down a narrow path determined by my last employer. And it was all on-the-job-no-certification-can-you-prove-it?

In addition my skill set on paper was less than cutting edge which presented a big problem.

Sorting out the CV

Having missed the seasonal boat in my own industry I sat down to evaluate the reasons.

It was clear my CV was in desperate need of help – it was out dated and worse than useless.

Reading the articles about CV writing on ContractorCalculator marked a major turn-around in fortunes. With some help and mentoring from the site owner it was revised until it finally hit the right buttons.

The first attempt with the new and improved beast got a response 15 minutes after sending it to the agent! I didn’t get the contract but that hardly mattered at the time.

Getting the first contract

Some further short term work appeared via some contacts and things were looking up! Several CV rewrites later (thanks Dave) the CV hit the buttons with a different agency and a contract appeared. Success!!

Having got the contract, a number of decisions then became pressing.

Umbrella or Limited Company

The starting point became a decision to work via an umbrella company or form a limited company. After reading advice on the web and taking recommendations I decided to go down the limited company path and it only took about one week to get incorporated.

Business link go over these options, as well as others, in one of their seminars.

After choosing an accountant and some other smaller details the only item not dealt with was IR35.

IR35

This has the potential to be a major pain but then there does seem to be help around for us innocents. In particular, I was directed to the Professional Contractors Group by one of the agencies. They provide a measure of legal help with IR35 amongst other things

Professional Insurances

Many companies provide contractor insurances, including the PCG. I also found another offering insurance on a week by week basis. It was all a matter of digging around on the web.

The best deal seems to be getting life insurance, because this can be paid for by your own company using a relevant life policy.

Looking to the future

My first contract starts in a few days time. There is some paperwork to finish and things to organise, but I've gathered up a small “support group” to help my conversion to contracting.

The security blanket of permanent employment has been difficult to cast aside, although it had been almost entirely an illusion during my career so far.

The challenge is something to look forward to in addition to being my own boss. Better still is the knowledge that I am unlikely ever to sack myself and hearing variations of that “immortal phrase” is a thing of the past.

Tips for other first timers

For other first timers thinking of going contracting, my top tips would be:

  1. Find the local Business Link office, perhaps via the Job Centre, and attend ALL the seminars.
  2. Get your CV sorted out. It makes a HUGE difference.
  3. Make use of contacts for advice and potential work. Build a support group.
  4. Live on the web: Opportunities change so quickly.
  5. Be prepared to for a bit of a frustrating time getting everything sorted.
  6. Chat with the family. It isn't going to work if it disrupts family life.

Updated: 29 October 2016

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