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
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
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'.
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
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
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
In addition my skill set on paper was less than cutting edge which presented a
Sorting out the CV
Having missed the seasonal boat in my own industry I sat down to evaluate the
It was clear my CV was in desperate need of help – it was out dated and worse
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
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
Business link go over these options, as well as others, in one of their
After choosing an accountant and some other smaller details the only item not
dealt with was 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
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:
- Find the local Business Link office, perhaps via the Job Centre, and attend ALL the seminars.
- Get your CV sorted out. It makes a HUGE difference.
- Make use of contacts for advice and potential work. Build a support group.
- Live on the web: Opportunities change so quickly.
- Be prepared to for a bit of a frustrating time getting everything sorted.
- Chat with the family. It isn't going to work if it disrupts family life.