Work it!

Work it!

Tips for contractors and freelancers on finding projects through their network.

We came across a question posted on a contractor forum asking “what is the best way to find your next project?” The majority of the replies stated, “Through their connections and network”.

The majority of us hate networking (I sure do), so we thought we would give you some tips on how to build up your connections through face to face and online networking. As the saying goes, ‘making small talk can mean big business’.

Face to face networking

Networking feels like the most unnatural thing in the world, but what is it really? It’s a group of people talking. So what is there to hate about it? Some people would say “lots”. Walking into a room full of people would do not know and having to start a conversation, is not easy.

The key to successful networking is to not have an objective. If you go into it thinking you are going to get contact details of everybody you talk to, it will be a failure.

The most successful networkers make it look like they are not networking at all. They are relaxed and are there to chat with people. If you meet somebody who you feel you want to keep in touch with, suggest swapping contact details to carry on the conversation at a later date by phone, skype or email.

Online networking

Online networking is a relatively new phrase, born out of the rise of social networks, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. It may seem logical, but in order to network online, you need to be present online, particularly LinkedIn. If you don’t have a profile on LinkedIn already, it is time to create one. It will take you less than 30 minutes. (Read last week’s article, for tips on how to create a ‘knockout’ LinkedIn profile). Being active online is also vital and joining groups is a great way to connect with people in your industry.

Love them or loathe them, having recruiters in your network is important. They have direct access to clients and jobs. Recruiters love LinkedIn and use it as a board to post their jobs. Choose recruiters who specialise in your chosen field and who come through a recommendation.

Are the details of all your contacts held in your email address book? It would be an arduous task to search for them individually online. An easier solution is to export your contacts into a CSV file and upload them (both LinkedIn and Facebook offer this), the system then does the searching and sends out an email inviting them to connect to you.

Working your network does take time but hopefully, it will pay off for you and help you to find your next project.

Do contractors need a LinkedIn profile?

Love it or loathe it, LinkedIn is the leading online networking site. And, it is only getting bigger.

If you don’t know much about it, here are some interesting facts about LinkedIn:

  • 21 million in the UK have a LinkedIn profile (that’s a 1/3 of the UK population)
  • LinkedIn is the largest social network site in the world
  • LinkedIn has 450 million users, globally
  • 2 new users register on LinkedIn every second
  • It has a presence in 200 countries
  • the most sought after skill on LinkedIn is ‘Data Mining’

LinkedIn is a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. It is well known that recruiters love LinkedIn, for them, it is a free source of potential candidates. On, the other hand, contractors and freelancers have mixed feelings about it. More often than not, they set up a profile years ago (because everyone was doing it), entered a few details and then left it to languish in LinkedIn middle-earth.

To answer the question that we proposed in the title ‘Do contractors need a LinkedIn profile?’. Our answer is ‘Yes’. LinkedIn is all about creating connections and increasing your network of referrers. A well written and professional looking profile could help you find your next contracting role.

So, the time has come for you to resurrect your LinkedIn profile and breathe some life into it. Our 8 tips can help you do this:

Show them who you are

Your profile image is your window to the world and you want it to look good. Research has shown that a profile with a professional profile image is 4 times more likely to get viewed than one without. Take heed, though, don’t rush off and upload your latest holiday snap. LinkedIn is a professional network and you only get one chance at making a first impression. So, preferably use a head shot that looks both smart and friendly. You want to encourage people to connect with you and not scare them off!

Inform not bore

The summary section that is situated at the top of your profile is the most important element of your profile. Unbelievably, a lot of people leave it blank!

People have short attention spans and they want to be able to find out as much information in the shortest time possible. If you think that you can leave the summary section blank, because people can read what you do in the job section. Well, they won’t. If they can’t find what they are looking for, they will click away.

Make it interesting and enticing and insert some personality into it. The aim is to get people to read on not put them to sleep.

Use words that count

As a contractor or freelancer, you have likely worked on lots of projects for different clients. Whilst, it is important to detail all these roles, it is more important to get your main responsibilities and achievements across to people quickly. This may sound tricky, but we have found an easier way to do this. Instead of putting it in words, use numbers instead. Information stands out better in numerical form. What looks better: “Through my stringent budgetary controls and precise time management I saved the client a substantial amount of money, or I saved the client £1,000,000?

Show you are superstar

You may, or, may not feel comfortable about blowing your own trumpet. If you do, go ahead, but remember rambling on about how great you are can sound condescending. To avoid this, and to add credibility to your profile, ask colleagues, clients, or friends to endorse your skills and to leave feedback about you. If you are shy about asking, don’t be. Say if they endorse you, in return, you will endorse them back.

Change it up

Does experience count more than education? Do want to highlight a certain project you have worked on? Did you know that you can change the order in your LinkedIn profile? No, not many people do. It is very simple to do, go to Profile, Edit Profile and click on the double ended arrow to drag and drop the section to the position you want it in.

Be found not find

If you have thought about setting up your blog, but don’t know where to start or if you don’t have the time to start one from scratch, LinkedIn Publisher is the perfect solution for you. It’s an incredibly simple platform to use, but one that many users overlook. By publishing your own thought pieces, articles and solutions to queries that are commonly asked in your line of work, you are showcasing your knowledge and expertise to your connections and public beyond this. Add attractive imagery or videos to make it really stand out.


We live in an interactive world, so it makes sense to make your profile so as well. To help your profile stand from the others, try adding images, videos, presentations and brochures. This more engaging than plain text and will encourage people to click, open and share.

Short and Snappy

As we mentioned earlier, people have a short attention span (have you forgotten that already?). Reading long paragraphs of text, particularly on an electronic device is very difficult. To stop people from getting bored and moving on, ditch the long paragraphs and instead use short snappy sentences. Include key phrases but leave out the word ‘motivated’, it is the most commonly used word on LinkedIn and the most irritating (apparently).

If you are a contractor that is starting out or one that this well experienced and you are looking for a proactive firm of accountants, give us a call today 020 8952 2234, or request a callback, and we will get in touch at a time that is convenient for you.

Do you know who you are?

Decoding a Personal Service Company 

IT contractors who operate via a Limited Company, might have heard the term ‘Personal Service Company’ (PSC) been used to describe them.

For those who are new to contracting, this could be a little confusing, and could leave you asking yourself “what personal service is my company providing?”

To make things a little clearer we look at what a Personal Service Company is and how it relates to you, as a IT contractor.

What is a Personal Service Company

Describing someone as a ‘Personal Service Company’ could conjure up thoughts of somebody working as a butler, or a personal assistant. But, that would be incorrect. The term ‘Personal Service Company’ is often used in HMRC guidelines, and it refers to contractors who operate through their own Limited Company.

It is no surprise that HMRC, do not give an exact definition of what a Personal Service Company is, many speculate that they have deliberately left it open to interpretation.

Should you operate via a Personal Service Company ( Limited Company)

So, in order to offer clarification, a Personal Service Company is comparable to a Limited Company.

As a  IT contractor, there are different options available to you. You could decide to work via an agency, through an umbrella company, or through your own Limited Company.

If you think that you will earn more than £25,000 a year (rates for IT contractors start at £380 per day, going up to £600+ depending on experience) then working via your own Limited Company is the better option. Reasons for this are:

  • your take home pay is greater than if you worked through an umbrella company (it can be as much as 75% of the contract value)
  • you can claim for a wider range of expenses, and have access to the Flat Rate Scheme (FRS)
  • could give you access to a greater choice of contracts (clients and recruitment agencies are increasingly asking their contractors to operate via a Limited Company, as it reduces the risk to themselves)
  • operating via a Limited Company reduces your own personal liability
  • it can help create a professional image for your company (in turn could help you attract more contracts)

There are a number of things to be aware of if you decide to set up your own Limited Company. Initially, you will have to spend some time filling in paperwork, opening a business bank account, registering the company name with Companies House (see our article on ‘Choosing a name for your limited company’) and registering for VAT. However, if you don’t fancy doing all this yourself, then an experienced firm of contractor accountants (such as ourselves) can do it for you.

Does my Personal Service Company (Limited Company) have to use an accountant?

In short, no! But we strongly advise that you do. The UK tax system is extremely complicated and if you want to operate in the most tax efficient manner, only a qualified and experienced accountant can advise you how to do this. Additionally, trying to navigate the maze that is IR35 can be very tricky. It is much easier with the guidance of a knowledgeable accountant.

Our article ‘Choosing a contractor accountant’ gives you advice on how to find an accountant that is right for you.

Personal Service Company  (Limited Company) and IR35

The term ‘Personal Service Company’ came to fruition in 1999, when the then Chancellor (Gordon Brown) introduced the complex and controversial IR35 legislation.

IR35 is a type of tax avoidance legislation that was introduced in 2000. It is extremely complex, but we recommend that all contractors have at least a baseline understating of it. Basically, it was introduced to stop employees leaving their job and returning a few days later to the same role but as a contractor, operating via a personal service company (or limited company).

So if you are considering working  via a Personal Service Company (Limited Company) check your IR35 status with an experienced contractor accountant, first.

Our team is on hand to help you through this process. Give us a call on 020 8952 2234, or Request a Call Back.

What’s in a name?

Contractors and Freelancers: Choosing the right name for your Limited Company

Forming your own limited company is the start of something wonderful, you are stepping out and building your own business. Creating an identity for that business is important for its success.

Just as your own name is integral to your own identity, the name you chose for your limited company is integral to letting people know what it is and what service(s) it offers.

This week’s article looks at what you need to consider when choosing a name for your limited company.

Motorway or A road?

There are 2 routes you can take when registering your limited company with Companies House. You can decide to go the quicker route and purchase an ‘Off the Shelf, Ready Made’ limited company that is available for immediate use. Or, as most contractors and freelancers choose to do, you can set up your own limited company with a name chosen by yourself. This is option involves filling in more paperwork, but in the long run, it will be a company that represents who you are.

Not as simple as A,B,C

Picking your limited company name is not as easy as it sounds. There are certain rules that you need to follow. These are set out by Companies House and include:

  • the name has to be unique, it can not be the same or similar as another registered company
  • the name can not contain a ‘sensitive’ word
  • the name can not suggest a connection to the Government or a Local Authority
  • the name must not be offensive

More information is available in the document ‘Incorporation and names’ from Companies House.
We recommend reading through this document before you start the process of choosing your limited company name, so you are familiar with the legal requirements.

Crazy, Concise or Common Sense?

As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, a name is integral to creating a strong identity i.e. creating a strong brand. At the centre of any brand, is the brand name. It’s a calling card to the world!

There are different options you can take when choosing how to name your limited company, these include:

  • keeping it simple and incorporate your own name into the limited company name e.g. Frank Jones Limited
  • basing it on the services that the company offers e.g. F Jones IT Consultant Limited
  • or, you could choose to use something that is unrelated to what you and what the service the company offers. A well-known example here is Apple. What has an apple got to do with technology?

Whichever, option you decide to take, it is important to also consider:

  • is the name professional
  • is the name easy to remember (if it’s too wordy, people will have problems recalling it)
  • is the name easy to spell (complex spelling will lead it to been misspelt)
  • will the name still be relevant in years to come (your service offering may change over time, will the company name to be able to reflect this)
  • is the name marketable

Marketing should not be an after-thought for any business. Asking yourself “Will it be simple to market my company?” should be one of the questions you ask yourself during the naming process.

Before, registering your company name with Companies House, check out how web-friendly the name is. Look at sites such as 123.Reg or GoDaddy to see if it is available as a domain name. This is important if you choose to launch a website to support your Limited Company.

If you are thinking of launching your own Limited Company and require assistance with it, contact us today on 020 8952 2234 and we would be delighted to talk you through the process.