Sophie Mason continues her look at the joys of self-employment, discovers a helpful handbook
Go Contracting in the UKby Eugenie Houston
This book is a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about contract working, whether you’re already freelancing or are thinking about leaving permanent work to become so. The author is a human resources consultant whose clients have included Morgan Stanley, UPS and BT subsidiary Esat Telecom. In this book, she distils not only everything she knows about human resources, but also everything she’s learned from being a contract worker herself.
The book starts before you take the plunge, with a series of questions that will help you decide if contracting is right for you, and if you’re right for contracting. These apply if your situation is that you have just been made redundant, or if you are thinking of leaving a permanent job of your own accord. In fact, there’s an entire chapter on dealing with redundancy, with sympathetic advice on everything from your legal position to dealing with your emotional reaction to the news.
Most of the book, though, is dedicated to what happens once you decide to go for contract working. It starts with the initial decisions that have to be made, such as whether you would be best off as a sole trader or whether you should set up a limited company, limited liability partnership or traditional partnership, as well as a description of what all these legal entities involve.
Then, there’s extensive advice on writing a business plan and practical tips on the day-to-day business of finding work. The author covers everything from marketing yourself and getting the price you want for your services, to identifying the company culture of the place you are working and adjusting your behaviour to fit in with it. There are also extensive lists of useful websites and contacts.
Finally, there are chapters on the less glamorous, but equally important, sides of contract working: your rights under UK and European Union employment law and how best to handle your record-keeping, accounts and pension. In fact, whatever your question is, it’s likely that the answer is in this book.
Available at www.workingandliving.com, £25
How to be resourceful
If you do decide to go down the self-employed route, here are some other useful resources to help you get started.
- The Inland Revenue offers practical advice on the tax matters that will affect you, such as record keeping and filling in your tax return. They‘ll even send someone from their business support team to see you for a free tutorial session. Call 08459-154515 or visit www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/bst/index.htm
- Alternatively, paying someone to do your accounts for you can save time that you can then spend earning money. Find an accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants’ directory at www.icaew.co.uk
- Most banks will have an independent financial advisory service, or you can ask your personal banker about the financial implications of becoming self-employed. They will offer general advice as well as tell you whether you need to set up a special business account.
- The RIBA publishes a useful booklet, Guide to Starting a Practice, which is aimed at architects but also includes more general advice and information. Get it from www.ribabookshops.com
- The DTI has general advice and resources for small businesses at www.businesslink.gov.uk
- If you are thinking of being a limited company, visit www.companies-house.gov.uk.