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The number of self-employed individuals in the UK continues to grow as those who are permanently employed choose to strike out on their own and become contractors and freelancers. One specialist sector which has seen this rise is the veterinary field, as more and more vets opt for locum work instead of having a permanent job.

There are around 20,000 employed and self-employed vets in the UK and, as accountants for locum vets, we know that most are unsure whether they’re handling their finances correctly. We’re also aware that many individuals don’t even know where to start on their path to becoming a locum vet, so we aim to help here at Gorilla Accounting.

Why Should You Become a Locum Vet?

First of all, it’s important to figure out whether being a locum vet offers more advantages over traditional employment. In essence, why do people choose to go it alone?

Usually, the decision to go locum is tied to the desire for full control of your career, to have more flexibility, to improve your work-life balance and to develop your skills in diverse settings. By going locum, you can choose when you work and with whom and you also benefit from the experience of working in a variety of practices.

A major reason why many vets choose locum work is higher wages. Great locum vets are always in demand and can earn anything between £200 to £300 per day on average, with many earning even more than that.

Is Locuming for You?

It’s also important that you decide whether becoming a locum vet is actually for you. have you given it enough thought? Do you know what to expect and how much your professional life will change? Are you prepared for everything?

Locum vets need to be well-rounded when it comes to their skills, as well as confident that they can do anything, from routine procedures to emergency or urgent care. Often, you’ll have to work alone as well. Whether you have to be on-call or are covering a maternity leave, being able to adapt to different settings and circumstances is also a paramount characteristic of locum vets.

Locums tend to be hired to fill in a gap or need, which means you have to hit the ground running and do the jobs that clinics require of you. Of course, it’s a locum vet’s prerogative to only choose the work you want to do, which means that, if you don’t want to do nights, for instance, you can opt out of that contract.

Locum vets tend to have a lot of experience, so it may be more difficult to go locum if you’ve only been a vet for a few years – or if you haven’t developed a large range of skills yet.

In addition, another part of being a locum vet is being your own boss. While this offers many benefits, it also means that you’ll be the one responsible for paying your National Insurance contributions and to make sure that you’re paying the right amount of tax.

This is where Gorilla Accounting step in. Don’t let this admin work hold you back from doing what you love, and let us do what we do best – as contractor accountants, we provide accounting for veterinary practices, veterinary surgeons and locum vets operating through a limited company, which will leave you plenty of time to focus on your work instead.

Locum vets have many other responsibilities, including always providing a high standard of care while still complying with a clinic’s practices, quickly becoming up-to-speed with ongoing treatments, getting your own materials (like stethoscopes), taking care of your own travel and accommodation needs and getting insurance, just to mention a few.

There are a lot of things to consider before making the leap to locuming, but there is no denying that being a locum vet has a lot of advantages as well.

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What Type of Business Structure is Better for Locum Vets?

This is one of the most important decisions you have to make when you want to go down the locum route. Should you operate your business through an umbrella company or set up your own limited company?

If you choose umbrella services for contractors, you’ll be seen as an employee. You just have to submit timesheets and the umbrella company will deduct all taxes before paying you, so you don’t have to handle the financial side of your business.

However, many people prefer to create a limited company, which gives them control over every single aspect of their business. Doing this will also help you to balance salary and dividends, to claim business expenses and to separate your finances from your business’.

We’re also limited company accountants so, if you choose this option, we can certainly help you manage your accounts. Your taxes will be paid on time as well, so you’ll avoid expensive late fines, and we’ll offer you the opportunity to manage your finances on the move with FreeAgent.

Every business is different and comes with its own unique challenges, so you’ll benefit from having an experienced accountant who can understand the intricacies of your business and of your industry.

Register Your Company

Registering your business with Companies House is a key step in becoming a locum. You’ll need to pick a name for your company, provide an address, and name a director and any shareholders you may have.

Set up a business bank account as well, as you will be paid in your company’s name and will also invoice your clients through this account. Having this bank account has the advantage of keeping your personal and business finances separate, which will make your life easier when it comes to figuring out which expenses you can claim and deduct, for example.

All documents need to be accurate and filled out on time, so make sure there are no mistakes during the registration process. While you can do this yourself, you can also enlist the help of specialist accountants who will sort it all out for you.

Gorilla Accounting’s incorporation service is only £50 + VAT and will give you peace of mind, so you can rest assured that your paperwork, as well as your accounts, are being properly taken care of.

How Can Locum Vets Find Their First Client?

Once you have decided you want to become a locum vet, you will have to start looking for clients. Getting that first contract is crucial to give you the self-confidence you need to carry on working as a locum – and to get your foot in the door of your new career path.

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You can go through a recruitment agency, who will work with you to help you find the right job. You can also use job boards, search for opportunities on platforms such as LinkedIn and even attend networking events with other professionals.

There is no right or wrong way to get that all-important first client, but one thing is certain: word of mouth will be important. Your reputation will precede you so, if you do your job well, there is no reason why you wouldn’t get fantastic recommendations afterwards – you may even have the same client calling you again for another contract.

It’s also important that you have a great CV (if you want to learn more about this, check out our article on how to write a killer contractor CV), in which you showcase your skills and the work you’ve done. Don’t remain stagnant either; developing your skills and learning new things is very much key to being a locum, since it will allow you to have a wider choice of jobs available and it can make you more attractive to clients.

How Can Locum Vets Market Their Business?

So, you’ve finally become a locum vet; now, you need to think about how you will promote yourself and your locum business.

With 4.39 billion internet users, you’d be missing out on connecting with potential clients if you ignored the importance of an online presence. By creating a website, you can advertise your services and showcase your skills.

And, at the start of the year, there were 3.48 billion active social media users worldwide, so you also need to make the most of your social media. You don’t need to create accounts across all social sites; just choose the one that will best work for you. LinkedIn is a professional network, so it’s likely you’ll find potential clients – as well as other professionals – there. Talk to people, build relationships, advertise your work, and more; social platforms can be excellent for engaging with potential customers.

Dealing with IR35

Contractors and locums are probably already tired of talking about IR35, but this is a key piece of legislation that can have a serious impact on your business. While not all businesses will be within IR35, you need to know if you are considered a ‘disguised employee’ or not.

If you were, this would mean that you say you are a locum vet but, in reality, you are an employee receiving benefits (including tax benefits). If caught within the legislation, you’d have to pay fines as well as back taxes.

This is why HMRC wants to ensure that locum vets are not in ‘disguised employment’. There are many ways to reach this conclusion, although HMRC focus on three main points:

  • Control – If you’re responsible for your case management and don’t need to be supervised – and if you don’t receive any benefits at all, including pension and holiday pay – then you’re not an employee of the company.
  • Mutuality of Obligations – When you are permanently employed, you have to do the work assigned to you; however, as a locum vet, you’re not obligated to accept work that your client offers, as you’re free to make business decisions.
  • Right of Substitution – Can you supply another equally qualified vet to take your place should you need be to be replaced? If so, then you’re not providing a personal service and, therefore, you’re not considered an employee. If you can’t be replaced, then you can’t send a substitute in your place, which likely helps you to be seen as an employee.

Tax and National Insurance as a Locum Vet

Tax and National Insurance are taken care of when you’re employed, since your income is processed via PAYE and the NI contributions are deducted automatically. As a locum, however, you will be responsible for handling these yourself.

As we mentioned above, if you opt to work through an umbrella company, you won’t have to worry about tax or National Insurance, since you are considered an employee of the company and, therefore, everything will be done for you.

This isn’t the same when you’re the director of your own limited company. You’re still seen as an employee of your company –  therefore you may still have to pay NI contributions but  the company will also have to pay corporation tax, something you don’t have to think about when you’re employed.

Choosing Accountants for Locum Vets

Many individuals choose locum work because they want to be in control of everything. While we completely understand that here at Gorilla Accounting, we also know how difficult it is to have so many responsibilities – and how challenging it can be to keep focused on growing your business while also juggling social media, job hunting, networking and accounting.

Being your own boss means delegating as well, so why not entrust the financial side of your business to a reliable accountant who is up to date with the latest changes in legislation and who understands your industry?

At Gorilla, you get your very own dedicated accountant who will always be there when you need to talk to them; if you contact us before 3pm, we can also guarantee a same-day reply. This is especially important if you need advice or an answer to an urgent query.

 

As a locum vet, it can be daunting to keep up with your day-to-day job as well as a mountain of paperwork. However, Gorilla Accounting can help. When you choose us, you don’t have to keep worrying about submitting your tax returns accurately and on time or ensuring you’ve registered correctly with HMRC.

We’ll handle everything for you. In addition to accounting for vets, we also provide services that include a contractor tax calculator (to help you to figure out your take-home pay) and help with contractors insurance, so you pick the option that will best work for you.

Get in touch to learn more.

 

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