If you want to make a success of contracting in the UK, you must PLAN FOR SUCCESS. This may sound obvious, but many people simply make the decision to contract and then expect the work to start flowing in. 1st Contact Accounting suggest that while you’re still earning a salary, you should plan exactly how you are going to go from employed to contractor, using these 10 steps as a guide:
1. Do your homework
So you’re thinking of going it alone? It could prove to be the most rewarding decision you make, but not being properly prepared can also make it a costly mistake. Our first tip: research, research, research! Find out just how saturated the market is and what opportunities actually exist within your particular field; talk to other contractors about their experiences; check job boards and industry-related forums to get an idea of what’s really happening “out there” in terms of opportunities, rates and trends.
Find out as much as you can, so that you are in a position to make a truly informed decision.
2. Decide on your services
This may seem easy enough – but have you explored all the possibilities? You may only have practical experience in your field, but your knowledge and personality might also be suited to consulting, for example. Make a list of all your skills, as well as all the experience you have. Then narrow your services down to the most lucrative, realistic and relevant.
3. Know who your market is
You might think it’s “anyone who needs a plumber” but the more specific you are about the business you want, the more likely you are to find it. Decide on the geographical area of business; think about the industries you’d like to target and the types of people you’d like to work with; establish if there are any gaps in the market, where you could slot in.
4. Establish your rates
Work out what your rates will be. Take into account the competitive environment, your particular skill set and experience, as well as the particular market you will be targeting.
5. Secure your start-up capital
You’re probably thinking you don’t need any start-up capital, as you don’t have any overheads… but are you sure? Will you need any additional tools or equipment when you go it alone? Will there be any additional expenses when you start working for yourself? Are you planning to create an identity and print business cards? Will you need to spend some money to market yourself effectively? Will you need some money in the bank to carry you through the first few weeks/months?
6. Set your financial goals
How much will you need to make in order to survive or better yet – improve your quality of life? How many projects / hours’ worth of work will you need each month? Does it seem realistic?
7. Write your marketing plan
How are you going to market yourself to your prospective clients? How can you stand out from the rest? What are the most cost-effective ways to reach the right people? How can you tap into your existing network and let it work for you? Will you find work through agents alone or would you rather make maximum profit by finding contracts for yourself? Ask yourself these and other questions and then establish exactly what your marketing strategy is going to be. Also consider how you are going to portray yourself and your services. What is your tone of voice; what are your values; how is your service different from that of the competition? Make sure you have an attractive, up-to-date, high impact CV in both printed and electronic format. This might be the only opportunity you have to make a good impression – so do ensure it represents you accurately.
8. Work out your timeline
Still feeling like this is a good idea? Great! Now it’s time to work out when you can – realistically – make your escape from the 9-5 world. Taking into account your financial needs, seasonal trends in your industry and any other influencing factors, decide on a date by which you will be a freelancer. Then work backwards and plan your resignation (if applicable), any savings you’ll need to put away and when you will need to start networking aggressively, print business cards, market your services, etc.
9. Get your admin in order
For legal and financial reasons, it’s important that you have your admin in order from the word go. Rather than sifting through reams of papers or surfing dozens of pages on the internet, why not contact a professional and make your life easier? 1st Contact Accounting specialises in helping contractors in the UK. Their services include Limited Company services, contractor payroll advice and services, as well as tax and accounting services for contractors. See http://www.1stcontact-accounting.com for more information.
10. Start visualising your success!
Once you have followed all the above steps and you really believe this is the way forward for you… keep your goals top of mind. Follow your timeline and adjust it where necessary. Stay positive and use all the resources available to you. As the big day draws nearer, you will be more and more ready for the change, because you will have spent the last few weeks (or months) preparing!