Tag Archive | "contractor"

Contractor Plans Legal Fight Against IR35 Reforms


An IT contractor has taken the bold step of planning to take on the government and their IR35 reforms in a legal battle.

As you can no doubt imagine, this type of thing isn’t going to be cheap and that is why he is looking for donations to make it all happen. The cost of full legal action is expected to be around £360,000. Not exactly small change is it.

I’ve reported before about these IR35 changes of course, which came into force during April for contractors within the public sector and has mostly been unpopular.

In fact, some IT divisions within the public sector have seen thousands of contractors walk out once their contract was up, with many more planning to do the same once they get the chance.

Would a U-turn by the government on IR35 change contractors minds? It very well could, but I think many are probably doing just fine out there away from the public sector, maybe even making more money.

As I’ve spoke about in another blog post, contractors and their skills are more in demand than ever before, with many companies willing to pay top cash for those who want to put in the hours.

I’m sure there would be some who might consider a return to the public sector though, because the work is quite steady and predictable, which gives a bit of reliable income.

This legal challenge has got to make it into a court of law, and with over quarter of a million pounds needing to be raised it does make me wonder if we are going to see anything happen? Let’s wait to find out.

You don’t need to send any donations just yet, as the IT contractor has mentioned that any potential supporters should email and say how much they could donate on a monthly basis. £20 a month has been talked about.

The one thing I do know is that the government very often do change their mind. Just take the “making tax digital” plans as an example, where for months it seemed to be at the top of their to do list.

It now appears the plans for making tax digital has been scrapped, after a lot of hard work and millions of pounds spent, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if one day some government official decided that IR35 should also be scrapped.

What can you do though? Most contractors will simply get on with their life and make the best of anything that comes their way. If the public sector is no longer viable then they look elsewhere, and if the public sector starts to seem more attractive again then I’m sure many will be back.

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Freelance Friendly Parties? The General Election Explained


It’s only 2 days until the UK General Election, and from what I’m hearing many freelancers and contractors are still undecided about who to vote for.

Many of the nearly 5 million self employed workers in the UK are wondering which party is concerned with the issues that affect many freelancers, contractors, gig workers, and small business owners.

Some pundits have said that a vote for the Tories might not be the best option, especially when you consider the recent tax grab they tried to get out of the self employed. Fortunately, people power won the day, and Mr Hammond backed down and decided to forget about more tax…for now.

I’m sure that many freelance professionals who normally vote Conservative might very well be thinking twice now, even to the point where they are going to vote for another party.

What are the other options though…Labour? According to some, they have been making the most “freelance friendly” noises during the campaign trail for the General Election, but if you ask me, it’s probably just a case of politicians making promises they wouldn’t keep if given the power.

One thing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has promised to do is keep National Insurance Contributions as they are…if the nation decides to elect him as Prime Minister.

Also, he has gone on record to say that Labour would be the voice of the small business owner around the country.

He would also scrap the Making Tax Digital plans, although if recent reports are to be trusted then it seems that it’s already been forgotten about.

Not only that, but Mr Corbyn has said that companies who pay freelancers late, or don’t pay at all, should be given tougher punishments. This is something I definitely agree with and an area where more needs to be done.

However, would the Labour leader follow through with his promises if given the keys to Number 10. Something tells me he wouldn’t…although something also tells me that he won’t be Prime Minister.

Who knows though? Most people were expecting a Hilary Clinton victory over Donald Trump and look what happened there…It’s now President Trump.

Also, who can forget the Brexit vote, with many so called “experts” predicting an easy victory for remaining in Europe…nobody really saw coming what did happen, and now as we speak Britain are negotiating an exit from the European Union.

Who knows? Maybe on Friday morning we will be waking up to a victory speech from Prime Minister Corbyn, and then freelancers and contractors around the country will wait to see if he delivers on his promises.

So who should you vote for on Thursday? That choice is yours, although if you really can’t decide then you might want to stay away and not vote at all this time around.

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New Figures Suggest 176,000 Self Employed People in Wales


Wales is quickly becoming the UK hub of self employment, with 176,000 now working for themselves. That is 32% of new jobs in the country.

Many of these people are no doubt contractors, freelancers, and gig workers, while others have taken the route of starting a small business in order to make their own income.

Take Tom Maunder for example, a car body repairer from Wales who had been made redundant 3 times. After getting his P45 for a third time he decided enough was enough, and instead of looking for another job went the self employment route instead.

Actually, he ended up buying the small company from where he had been given his walking papers before, thanks to a loan from his parents and a bit of savings.

This is the type of entrepreneurship I like to see among workers in the UK. Many people in Tom’s position could have simply given up and spent the next few years signing on down the local job centre, and this is what many people do.

However, Tom decided that if employers were not prepared to give him a chance then he might as well make his own opportunities, and that is why he has gone on to be a success, with help from his family along the way.

It just goes to show that self employment in Wales is still going strong, and as long as there are people like the Maunder family then I don’t think anything is going to change soon.

Around 1 in 5 new jobs in Wales are to do with self employment, whether it be contractors, freelance professionals, or small business owners, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if in 10 years time this figure is 2 in 5 jobs…or even 50% of all new jobs.

The new figures do show that the area in Wales does matter when it comes to self employment, with towns that have historically been involved with industry having the lowest rate of people working for themselves, while areas that are more known for farming have the most.

In Powys it is said that 1 in 3 people are self employed farmers. Also, many of these rural communities in Wales have other businesses such as cafes, restaurants, and hotels, where the self employed do a great trade year after year.

Away from the town and villages we have the cities of Cardiff and Swansea, which are quickly making a name for themselves as the place to be in the UK if you want to work in freelance industries.

The cost of living in these cities in Wales is significantly lower than places like London and Birmingham, which means many gig workers are thinking about relocating to Wales.

So self employment in Wales is looking good, and things are only going to get better if you ask me.

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Sky News Sued by Freelance Photographer


A freelance photographer by the name of Eddie Mitchell isn’t afraid to take on the Sky Broadcasting Corporation, after it was announced he was suing them.

Eddie had given permission to a firefighter to use a picture he took of a building fire in Bognor Regis. This picture was then published through the Midhurst Fire Service official Twitter page.

Not long after the Tweet was published, Sky News, the popular UK news channel and website embedded the tweet in a related story about Storm Angus, and of course, it seems that this also included the picture that was taken by Eddie Mitchell.

This wasn’t acceptable to Eddie, who said that Sky News never did contact him for permission to use the picture. Because of that, he decided to take the matter to court and sue Sky News.

Worthing County Court to be exact, where he said in a statement that he did give permission to the Firefighter and his station to use the picture, but NOT to Sky News.

A spokesperson for Sky News has gone on record to say that they have “very strict policies and always seek permission when necessary” when using pictures from social media sites such as Twitter.

The news story which contained the copyrighted picture from Eddie Mitchell has since been removed from the Sky News website.

Who knows exactly what happened here, and I’m sure that Worthing County Court will look at all of the evidence and come to a conclusion on what should happen next.

The one thing I do know is that we are going to be hearing a lot more about this type of thing, as freelancers and contractors believe their work has been used illegally and without their permission.

It’s not always exactly clear what is and what isn’t copyright infringement though, with many companies and news outlets arguing that embedding a link to a tweet, or using a screenshot of a tweet that contains a copyrighted picture should be fair use.

In my opinion, more needs to be done to clarify the law around the subject of copyright, especially when it comes to social media.

Sure, freelancers and contractors deserve recognition for their work, as well as being paid their dues, but at the same time, when sharing a Tweet or Instagram post is as simple as clicking a button on your phone, then maybe unintended copyright infringement is going to be almost inevitable

Ultimately though, Sky News are in the business of getting website traffic to their news stories and profiting from that, and any use of pictures or other third party content should potentially be compensated.

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27% Leave School With No Career Advice According to Study


Just over a quarter of Brits leave Secondary school without any kind of career advice…that is according to a new study of over 2000 adults.

This has led to a whole generation of school leavers who are unsure of the career path that is right for them, with many deciding to stay in higher education rather than joining the workforce.

It might also be part of the explanation why so many people are now joining the ranks of freelancers, gig workers and contractors, because instead of going right into a career, they now take the time to explore different options before finally deciding that working for themselves is the best way forward.

The study also went on to give us some more interesting statistics, such as:

29% of workers are considering a career change soon, with self employment being high on their list of options.

Only 10% of those surveyed believed the career advice they did get in school was impartial, with many having the opinion that teachers and other staff were biased towards certain professions.

30% did know the career they wanted to pursue when leaving school, although many do change their mind after a few years in the workforce…with freelancing and contracting being good alternatives once they become dissatisfied with their boss.

A further 45% mentioned that teachers were often pushy towards getting students to go towards a career that required a university education, despite the fact that university fees have become way more expensive in recent years. This has led some people to wonder if teachers get a commission for recommending this path.

42% also said that parents were supportive of their career path, even if they decided to change course after a few years and go into something else like self employment.

My opinion on all of this is that career advice in schools is going to become less and less relevant, as students decide to educate themselves on what career path to pursue.

Thanks to the internet, it’s now possible to research potential careers and university courses by themselves, rather than having a teacher giving the information.

Also, I think we are going to be seeing more people wait longer until they make a decision about their career.

Years ago, you were expected to know exactly what path to take by the age of 18. These days, people are waiting longer, with many deciding to go travelling and experience the world before making a decision

It’s not uncommon for a 25 year old to still be considering career options, with freelancing, gig working, and contracting being popular options once they do decide to enter the workforce.

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40% of Brits will Never Retire According to Survey


In a brand new survey by experts, it was found that 40% of British people in the workforce believed they will never get to retire.

This isn’t because they don’t want to of course. No…it’s because they won’t have enough money to retire, which means they will be have to keep on working well beyond the retirement age into their 70’s and even 80’s.

In my opinion it isn’t just employed people that should be thinking about this, contractors and the self employed in general must also be planning for their retirement.

As I’ve talked about before on this blog, there are many contractors who simply don’t save any money for retirement and don’t put anything into a pension, instead, hoping to rely on the State Pension to take care of them when they get to 65.

Well, some news for anybody expecting to do this. For one, the eligible age for a State Pension is going up soon, to 67 I think, although many experts predict it could be 70 in the near future. If you still have 30 years to go until you are around retirement age where will it be then? It might very well be 80! That is if there is any such thing as a State Pension by that time.

Not only that, but a basic State Pension doesn’t provide you with much money on a weekly basis, and with everything getting more expensive it really is nothing more than spending money for most people.

That is why I am always telling contractors, gig workers, freelance professionals…whoever…you must be putting some money away into a pension or some kind of savings. If you don’t then you probably won’t ever retire, just like the 40% of people asked in the survey.

Interestingly, there was differences of opinion in the survey depending on where you lived. For example workers in London didn’t have much optimism about retiring, with 45% saying they will always be clocking in, while only 32% of people in Scotland agreed.

Maybe North of the border they know something that people in the capital don’t know? Or perhaps they are just more educated when it comes to saving money and being smart about pensions? I think that is probably right.

There are some contractors who don’t ever want to retire though, and in actual fact they would call themselves already retired.

These are the people that work from their laptop, working a few hours that suit them but using most of their time taking breaks to do things they enjoy. A good lifestyle if you can get it, but for most Britons this isn’t a reality.

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New Mortgages for Self Employed Launched


I’ve talked before on this blog about how difficult it can be for contractors to get a mortgage or any kind of loan. For many people it’s almost impossible.

It has just come to my attention that two companies are trying to change that, by launching a new range of mortgage products that are aimed at self employed people.

In other words, if you are a contractor or have an umbrella company and you want a mortgage, then it could just be the solution you have been looking for.

Paragon Mortgages and The Mortgage Lender are the two companies offering the new range of mortgages, with an emphasis by both of them on lending to people with “complicated sources of income.”

If you’ve applied for mortgages before, only to be told the only way to get accepted is to provide 10 years worth of wage slips or to have initial enthusiasm from a lender, but then to get declined when you tell them you are self employed…maybe this could be the answer? It is worth getting in contact with these companies if you ask me.

I’ve always got self employed people telling me they just can’t seem to get a mortgage, with the main reason being their income is not as easy to work out as someone who is employed in a job.

Not only that, but when you have only been self employed for a year or two, then mortgage companies are going to be a bit more hesitant in giving you the cash.

This isn’t the wild west days of lending that we witnessed a few years ago. We can be thankful for that of course, because if it continued then the UK economy was heading for disaster.

However, it is possible that lending has gone a bit too far the other way just recently, especially for self employed people, and I think that needs to change. Let’s wait to see if it does with these two new mortgage companies entering the scene.

A spokesperson for Paragon Mortgages said, “customers with complex incomes looking for a residential mortgage deserve access to a wider choice of mortgage products.”

Typically, with a bank or any kind of mainstream lending company, they will process your application using their automated technology As soon as it comes to the part where you are self employed, their system automatically declines your application.

With specialist companies such as Paragon Mortgages and The Mortgage Lender, they are more prepared to look at your situation and spend time going over the smaller details. That doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to get accepted, but at least you know you will get treated fairly.

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Guy Left Shocked After Boss Rewrites his Resignation Letter


Chester Ang is a call centre worker who decided it was time to become self employed, so he handed in his resignation letter.

You won’t believe what happened next…

His boss, who he’d worked for during the last two years, basically decided to rewrite the resignation letter so the main theme became a tribute to himself.

No doubt trying to gain favour with his superiors, but don’t you think it’s worrying that people are doing these kind of things? All the more reason to get out of being an employee, and move towards self employment…whether it’s running your own business or being a contractor.

What’s next…a boss rewrites a resignation letter so that it becomes a “I want to stay” letter? Or how about signing a contract on an employee’s behalf, giving them less pay with more hours? It’s quite amazing really how far some people will go.

Anyway back to the story…we have Chester who decided to quit so he could open his own pet shop. Nothing wrong there of course, as he gave the 1 weeks notice that was expected of him and then he was free to do whatever he wanted. It’s good to see someone willing to get out of the 9 to 5 routine and be prepared to go it alone.

He wrote a brief resignation letter basically saying “I quit and I give 1 weeks notice, Best Regards, Chester.” Again, nothing wrong there, as resignation letters don’t have to be worthy of a novel, just a simple thanks for the job and see you later is fine.

So you can imagine how shocked Chester was when he intercepted the letter before it was passed to the more senior bosses, only to find that his boss had added in praise about himself saying that he wanted to thank him for “mentorship and guidance” among other things.

Well, Chester didn’t agree with these extra comments, as well as the whole notion of his resignation letter being rewritten without his consent.

Who does this boss think he is, and why should he be allowed to get away with it? This is why Chester decided to get rid of the letter, write out a new one with his original comments, and then take it directly to the senior bosses himself.

The reason? Because if he’d wanted to give praise to the boss then he would have done so, but ultimately, he didn’t, so why should he put up with this guy changing the theme of the letter.

Much to Chester’s credit he decided not to make any complaints about the boss or mention the incident to the company, instead preferring to make a quiet departure so he can focus on his new business.

Good for him, and let’s hope that his new business is successful so he never has to go back to work for someone else.

It’s like what I keep telling people…if you want to become a contractor, freelancer, or start a new business then you should go for it.

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Research Suggests IT Contractors are Confused


We all know that IT contractors are in huge demand right now around the UK, but it seems that many of them may actually be confused.

How so? Well, new research has uncovered that many of these IT professionals are confused about the contracts they have with many of the leading tech firms.

As we all know, these umbrella contractors work on a temporary basis, many with contracts that range anywhere from a few days to a couple of months, although sometimes it can lead to a more permanent arrangement

The research suggests that 70% are confused about their contracts, with the majority of those surveyed admitting that they need help better understanding the written agreements they currently have.

To put it in plain English, a lot of these tech firms like to hide things away in the terms and conditions, and very often, this doesn’t work in the favour of IT contractors. It’s not uncommon to see contracts ended early or pay to be withheld, all because there is small print hidden away in the written agreement.

Let’s face it, the vast majority of umbrella contractors are not lawyers and do not have a law degree. This means they are often at a disadvantage when negotiating with these big firms and it is far too easy for them to get a deal that doesn’t benefit them.

I’ve been saying for years that umbrella contractors need more free support when it comes to negotiating their contracts, and it should be the government offering this kind of service.

Not only that, but watchdogs need to look more closely at the behaviour of some of these tech firms and their big powerful legal teams, who are usually more than happy to put the contracts completely in their favour, even if it means the IT professionals lose out.

Luckily, it appears that things are being done to help out those most in need. One example is a 3 part guide that has just been commissioned, which has the goal of solving many of the problems that umbrella contractors have when negotiating deals.

This is definitely a step in the right direction, and it just goes to show there are resources available for IT contractors, and any type of contractor, that wants to get more knowledge when it comes to the negotiating table.

Now of course, I’m not saying that everything should be in the contractors favour and that technology firms should just let them call all of the shots. It’s just that if the playing field is a bit more level then everything will become more fairer, which in the end should result in more productivity, which in turn is better for the economy.

At the end of the day, in this post Brexit world we need to be supporting each other more than ever, so that our country can get the economy it deserves once again.

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Contractors More Important than ever Post-Brexit


Since Brexit, permanent placements are down to their lowest since the recession, which means the UK is relying on contractors to get back to a strong economy.

Who didn’t see this one coming though? It was pretty obvious that everything was going to take a big hit once we voted to come out of the European Union. First it was the currency, now it’s permanent employment. What’s next we all have to wonder.

While the UK might be on shaky ground right now, there is no denying that this does mean good news for umbrella contractors as they will be more in demand than ever before, to the point where I can see many contractors actually turning work away. Who would have thought that a few years ago? Strange but true.

Not only that, but I reckon this is a great time for people who have been thinking about making the jump into the contractor lifestyle to do it full force without looking back. Even if you only have half decent skills and a small amount of experience you should find yourself with plenty of work and a good opportunity to establish a presence in the marketplace.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) have been looking closely at the employment statistics for July and the results are clear…permanent UK jobs are becoming harder to find, with many businesses extremely cautious about taking on staff with the uncertain future we face as a nation. How did the millions of voters who wanted out of Europe not see this coming? It’s beyond me.

Maybe the UK can salvage something out of this Brexit mess, and start negotiations with our European cousins to try and smooth relations in order to stabilise the UK economy, and most importantly, the strength of the Pound against other currencies.

Whatever you think about Brexit and the UK leaving the European Union, one thing is for sure, umbrella contractors are in for a good few years across the board, with pay rates and benefits in the vast majority of industries expected to be very generous indeed.

Gone are the days of struggling to find even one contract for more than a few weeks and having to fill in the gaps with other kinds of jobs when there was no work to be found at all. It seems the good times are coming.

So get those contracts while you can, and work harder than you ever thought you would. The UK economy is now depending almost completely on you.

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Contractor demand continues unabated


New reports from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) say that demand for freelancers and contractors in the UK is still high.

File this one under “this isn’t surprising anyone,” APSCo says that UK vacancies have gone up by 2 per cent year on year, driven mostly by the skills shortage. What this means for both traditional employees and the self-employed alike is that there’s plenty of demand for skilled, experienced worker.

Of course the skills shortage means that despite these opportunities there just aren’t enough Brits seeking traditional employment to satisfy the demand of UK businesses. For freelancers, umbrella contractors, consultants, and other individuals going it alone, though, it’s a completely different story; with contract workers usually having the skills needed to satisfy these vacancies in ways that traditional workers simply can’t, it means that the employment landscape for freelancers is highly positive.

In fact, APSCo found that over the last 12 months, the financial services industry in particular saw an 85 per cent increase in opportunities for temporary workers. Of course that figure wasn’t standard across the entirety of the British economy – overall that figure was closer to 7 per cent, which is still mightily impressive.

So yes, freelancing and contracting is where it’s at, especially since demand is almost ludicrously high at the moment and is unlikely to fade any time soon. Of course this isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially in the long run. The problem is the skills shortage – ironically the same thing that is making freelancing such an excellent field at the moment. See, if this thing goes on for a considerable length of time, even the considerable forces of the UK’s 4.6 million contractors and freelance workers won’t be enough when it comes to the amount of staff needed to run the British economy. Eventually things could get so bad that firms won’t be able to keep up with demand for their own goods and services because of their diminished capacity to produce, and that could send the economy backsliding towards recession once again.

So while that particularly gruesome fate isn’t exactly around the corner, let’s hope the nation’s traditional workers start getting hired in greater numbers. Until then, our stalwart contractor population will do its best to stave off this terrible fate. It doesn’t hurt that they’ll be making shedloads of money at the same time. Keep the gears of the economy greased, lads – we’re all counting on you!

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Women benefit from contracting, study finds


A new study has found that women who adopt self-employment benefit greatly from working as a contractor or a freelancer.

Most people who work the old nine-to-five daily grind do so because they just think there’s no alternative. Even the idea of going it alone – becoming a sole trader like an umbrella company contractor, a freelancer, or a consultant – might be too intimidating for the average salaryman. In some circles, the nasty spectre of sexism has arisen as well, with the assumptions being women are much less likely to be successful when it comes to working as a contractor; however a new research study from a major accountancy firm certainly gives that the lie.

The survey, which took the temperature of 750 microbusiness owners in the UK, took careful note of women in particular. The results, which were published in conjunction with International Women’s Day, revealed that the female entrepreneurs and sole traders were riding high on the flexibility of freelancing – especially when it came to finding that perfect work/life balance.

How good do women have it in the contracting workforce? Well, a full 51 per cent reported that their stress levels have dropped by at least a moderate amount. Additionally, just over 1 in 5 – or 21 per cent – found that their stress actually worsened. Not a bad ratio, if you ask me; in fact, the figures for male contractors from the survey were skewed about 10 percentage points towards the negative, with 31 per cent more stressed and only 40 per cent less anxious.

So maybe the narrative needs to change. We need to stop looking at women as shrinking violets when it comes to business and start realising that all that “weaker sex” talk is absolute rubbish. Not only that, but we can’t keep thinking that men are the ultimate masters of business, not when they’re obviously much less well-equipped to deal with the vicissitudes of being a freelancer or a contractor – at least when it comes to this study anyway.

Yes, I know what you’re going to say: one single study isn’t exactly definitive for the entire British freelancing community. Well, maybe not, but it’s definitive for these 750 contract workers. You can extrapolate outwards if you like, or you can dispute it – but whatever you do, it’s obvious that there are at least a few female contractors out there that are putting the lads to shame with their business aplomb, or don’t you agree?

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Short on skills, long on pay: contractors could see a raise


The Recruitment and Employment Confederation has announced that the skills shortage gripping British employment could lead to raises for contractors.

For what it’s worth, I happen to like the REC quite a bit. It’s a solid organisation and it publishes its newest jobs report, like clockwork, every month; for the most part I feel like its data can be trusted. That makes it an interesting case that the trade industry body says in its December 2015 report that the skills shortage, which has become quite pronounced at this point, could spell better pay packets for freelancers and umbrella company contractors.

Sure, a skills gap can wreak havoc on employment in the long run, as business owners might find it impossible to meet demand or exhibit any kinds of growth if they can’t find permanent employees with the skills needed to contribute to long-term growth. Meanwhile, with the UK’s strong contracting presence picking up the slack for the time being, the best and brightest freelancers – the ones with the skills these business owners need – are going to be in such high demand that employers will have to become rather competitive on how much they’re willing to pay for the services of these self-employed Brits.

The REC jobs report reinforces this idea, as the industry body’s accumulated data has shown a consistent downturn for contractor availability. This means that there are fewer contract workers free to take these crucial roles – and it’s likely because they’re already busy working their little bums to the bone on the projects they’re already working. With more temporary roles standing vacant and a dearth of freelancers to fill these roles, contractors are only going to get out of bed, so to speak, for the most lucrative projects going.

So yes, that means you’re likely to see better-paying temporary jobs out there for freelancers going forward, at least for the immediate future. If demand settles down or more contractors flood into the workforce this should normalise, but if current market conditions continue there’s always the possibility that we’ll hit some tipping point where employers simply can’t afford to hire on freelancers at exorbitant rates and still remain profitable.

Will this result in the entire economy coming crashing down around our ears? Well I’m not Sean Connery, but I’ll still caution you to never say never again. More likely though is that things won’t ever get to that point. So don’t worry – the sky’s not falling just yet.

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Contractor figures bounce back in UK


For the first time in seven long months, the number of contractors in the UK has begun to increase once again according to new data from ONS.

The Office for National Statistics hasn’t exactly been the bearer of good news over the last few months, what with the slow but inexorable slide downwards in how many freelancers and umbrella company contractors were working in the UK. However, figures for the third quarter of this year recently released by the ONS indicate that there are 30,000 additional self-employed Brits than there were in Q3 2014 – raising the overall number of self-employed in the UK to a round five million.

This is obviously music to the ears of every freelancer and contract worker out there, as it’s proof positive that their chosen method of employment is alive and strong even in the wake of a slow seven-month slide. The decline had been generating more than a little concern, as there were fears that it was an early indicator that the economic recovery might be flagging. However, that’s happily not the case – and ONS says there’s even more cause to celebrate as employment rates overall rose by 0.3 percent in Q3 2015 among the 16 to 64 year old age bracket. In fact, employment rates within that demographic are now 73.3 per cent.

So yes, that’s some excellent news coming out of ONS this week, and it’s certainly allaying the fears of individuals and organisations alike that were concerned that the freelancer population was undergoing a decline for economic reasons. Truth be told, there have always been individuals who didn’t jump into contracting in as much that they were pushed into it – during the global economic downturn, many who were made redundant and who couldn’t find a new permanent position had no choice but to strike out on their own to survive. Now that the economy has recovered, those same Brits – who might not have been particularly happy with the arrangement – are ostensibly returning to traditional employment. How much of this behaviour could have accounted for the seven-month slump in freelancer population figures is unknown – for what it’s worth, your guess is as good as mine – but if this was having an influence on the contractor economy it seems to have abated.

In all honesty, I wasn’t particularly worried. These things tend to ebb and flow like the tides, and while seven months was bordering on quite a long time it just shows that there’s plenty of life left in the self-employment sector. That much is absolutely obvious, especially when you’ve got 5 million Brits working for themselves instead of on behalf of an employer.

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FSB warns contractors to wear their wellies


You’re going to need your wellies this winter, according to the Federation of Small Businesses, as it predicts an especially nasty winter.

Hang on a tick – since when did a small business trade industry body decide to move into the realm of weather forecasting and meteorology? I know it sounds a bit mad, but it’s actually a fair warning. Yes, I know you’re looking at me a bit askance right now as well, but the FSB – an organisation that sticks up for small firm owners like contractors and other sole traders – pointed out that this year was the wettest one on record and that there was more where that came from. In other words, you’d be daft not to put some kind of plan together to deal with flooding or any other extreme weather situations.

The FSB isn’t just mucking about, either. It surveyed the nearly 1,200 members that comprise the trade industry body, discovering that some 59 per cent of SMEs don’t have even the barest beginnings of a plan in place. Meanwhile, 66 per cent of these same FSB members said that thy ended up having to deal with snow, floods, or drought in some form or another for the last three years. You would think that after all this time there would be more of an urgency behind getting all their ducks in a row but apparently the nation’s small business owners enjoy gambling against the future.

The truth is that you don’t need a bloody crystal ball to know that the weather is getting increasingly rough every year. I don’t care if you’re one of those few madmen who don’t believe in climate change or global warming; you can’t argue with scientific figures, and they all say the Earth’s weather patterns are getting more and more erratic. You’ve simply no choice but to take precautions against damage caused by flooding or any other so-called “Act of God” that could hammer the UK anytime between now and, well pretty much until the end of time, with our luck.

So do yourself a favour and take at least rudimentary precautions. If that means spending a few quid on some cut-rate flood insurance, so what? Would you rather have it and not need it… or need it and not have it?

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Contractors: the Treasury wants your opinion this autumn!


I never thought this day would come but it’s here: the Treasury wants the input of freelancers and umbrella company contractors ahead of the Autumn Statement.

I swear I’m not pulling your leg on this one. It’s bona fide and true – the Treasury is soliciting policy ideas from now until 17 October, and freelance personnel are invited to take part in this new programme. The best of the best of these suggestions may end up playing a crucial role in chancellor George Osborne’s 3 December Autumn Statement delivery.

Now I know what some of you more cynical blokes are thinking right now, and that’s that the chancellor of the exchequer has finally given up trying to even maintain the slightest pretense of competency and is instead just farming out the job of managing the British economy to anyone with the time and inclination to write a few emails. Well while it may seem easy enough to simply dismiss this new open-door policy as an inability for the Treasury to think up solutions on its own I’d like to err on the side of optimism here and say that this is just the first step in incorporating more transparency and increasing access to policy decisions for the general public, especially for people who traditionally haven’t had a voice in government such as freelance workers and contractors.

In other words, this is your chance to finally be heard when it comes to the Government and its sometimes completely inscrutable and plainly maddening decisions and its regulatory behaviour. I don’t know if this is going to be a constant thing going forward, this invitation to actually be part of the policymaking process, but it’s one that’s too good to pass up. Normally this kind of thing is only reserved for high-powered multinationals that can pay to have a few ministers or MPs in their back pockets, but with this new initiative finally perhaps there can be some egalitarianism coming back into the entire process.

Or I could be completely and totally wrong and this could just be a bit of a red herring, some smoke and mirrors to placate people into thinking the Treasury actually cares about the little guy. I suppose that’s just my own paranoia though. Well, hope for the best and prepare for the worst, that’s what my mum always told me!

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