Technology is drastically changing the way we work, especially if you’re a contractor. You can work from home and still be able to easily communicate with your customers, while also being able to access a wealth of information with only a touch of a button. As contractor accountants, we also use the best accounting and bookkeeping software on the market, so you can have your business admin in order at all times.
Because technology is increasingly important in the contracting world, it’s crucial that you know how to use it to your advantage if you want to succeed now and in the future. Are you making the most of technology? Take stock of how you utilise it in your business and consider whether you could be doing more.
Contractors and Technology
The number of self-employed workers in the UK has been consistently rising since 2001 and currently account for approximately 15% of the working population. 1.77 million people work as full-time contractors in the UK and the economic contribution of freelancers and contractors to the country is approximately £119 billion.
Self-employment has thrived due to the rise of technology, from Wi-Fi and cloud-sharing services to video call apps. The Policy development manager at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, Jordan Marshal, believes that ‘technology has made this all so much easier, whether finding work through online platforms or even being a “digital nomad” – travelling the world while doing remote freelance work.’
Leave the Office Behind, Work Anywhere
As a contractor, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll want to rent office space. Everything and everyone is connected through the Internet nowadays, so you don’t have to travel to a specific location to do your job or to give important documents to someone. You can interact with anyone, no matter where you (or they) are in the country or the world.
Technologies that allow video conferencing, such as Skype, have become crucial in today’s workplace. It helps you to communicate more efficiently with clients, vendors and suppliers. Email is also one of the primary methods of communicating with people as a contractor. Because of these and other technologies, communication has become more frequent and efficient.
In addition, flexible working will save you rent and commuting money and allow you to work in an environment where you and your projects can flourish.
Improve Communication with Supply Chain
Technology makes it easier to communicate with clients as well as with your supply chain. Contractors can make the most of technology by using it to optimise business processes, create better visibility within the supply chain, reduce operating costs and improve control over inventory.
Many supply chain technologies offer real-time data that is accurate and easy to access from anywhere, allowing you to make business decisions swiftly and decisively. Utilising technology instead of relying on pen-and-paper methods also ensures error-free shipping, accurate inventory and timely deliveries. This will not only improve your business’s reputation but will help you to expand it.
Streamline Your Business’s Operations
Technology makes contracting a lot easier and helps to streamline your operations. For instance, getting paid is so much easier and quicker when you rely on technology; applications such as PayPal mean you can send and receive money swiftly, even if you’re abroad at the moment of transfer. These types of technologies tend to be fast, reliable and safe, since both your personal and bank information are encrypted.
Furthermore, some business operations can be time-consuming and performed on a regular basis. You can consolidate these tasks into a single system and benefit from an automated – and much more efficient – way of working. This can range from workflows that automate processes to automatic billing email reminders to your customers.
Your customers will benefit from this, too. They’ll enjoy faster deliveries, more options and more competitive prices, as well as better services.
Avoid Paperwork By Going Digital
Another way that contractors are making the most of technology is by avoiding paperwork. Not only is this important in an increasingly eco-conscious society, but it can also help you to improve your business. Paperwork accumulates quickly and, unless you have an excellent filing and organising system, it can quickly get very confusing. This is especially true if you’re working on several different contracts at once.
Ask yourself if you really need the paperwork, what information you take from documents in hard copy format, or why they’re important for your job. If you believe you don’t actually benefit from paperwork, look at how you can have the same information in digital form. Document management solutions help contractors to operate in a more efficient manner by ensuring everything is in the same place – and within easy access.
And, of course, if you’re working from home, filing cabinets can actually take up valuable space. Going digital ensures that you don’t have to give up what little room you have to an ever-growing pile of paperwork.
Keep Track of Records and Documents
By having all of your important business information on a digital platform, such as a cloud-based service, you also ensure that you never lose anything. You’ll know where the contracts you signed with your clients are, as well as billing information and documents vital to do your job. Your documents will all be in the same place but, more than that, they’ll also be safe. From disaster recovery to encryption, cloud storage offers great data security powered by up-to-the-minute technology that doesn’t typically become obsolete.
Greatly Improve Your Productivity
Technology helps contractors to stay ahead of the competition. From improving data capture and slashing turnaround times to reducing the need for manual processes and making information accessible to everyone, technology helps to increase the efficiency of your business.
This in turn will make you more profitable.
It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in either; you can certainly use technology to your advantage in one way or another. If you’re in construction, you may find drones or augmented reality incredibly useful, as well as safe and efficient; IT contractors are likely to benefit from mobile messaging apps to talk to clients; and locum vets can quickly check out the online job boards for a specific area by browsing the Internet on their mobile.
Technology plays an important role in reducing costs and time, so you’ll want to make sure you’re taking full advantage of it; project management tools, for instance, can help you to stay on track and organise your workload. Another example is if you have to travel to a client’s site; technology can help you to get there in the most efficient way by giving you the best driving routes and an estimate of the time that will take to reach your destination.
Learn More About Your Clients
Technology allows you to know more about your customers. Things like making the most of social media can give you a unique insight into your industry and your clients, which can then be used to make business decisions.
If you’re still not taking full advantage of the technology around you, you may want to consider starting now. Instead of guessing what your clients want, which is little more than just a hunch and can easily backfire, study analytical data and use it to drive your business. For example, by researching your industry or analysing monthly visits to your website, you can learn which products or services are most in demand, making it easier for you to give your clients what they want.
In addition, if you’re targeting a particular demographic, you can quickly find out more about what makes people tick by researching them online, from their tastes to their lifestyles.
Easily Find New Jobs
As a contractor, you understand just how important it is to expand your client list, so that you don’t find yourself without any other prospects. Technology will help you to do this, since the way contractors search for jobs and are hired has changed immensely. You can search for a new contracting job by using your mobile phone, which was unthinkable just a decade ago. With countless job boards and job search apps literally at your fingertips, it’s easier than ever to connect contractors to recruiters or businesses.
LinkedIn is another extremely useful platform that all contractors should be aware of. This professional social network plays a major role in job searching and, with a strong profile, your next job could come to you without much effort on your part. LinkedIn allows you to keep an eye on what is happening in your sector at the moment, as well; every contractor knows it’s important to stay informed and relevant, so this ability to gain industry insights is absolutely crucial. With this platform, you can also get your CV seen by the right people and easily vet potential jobs and work environments.
Many job seekers, including contractors, want to be unique in order to stand out from the candidate pool. Technology allows you to be as creative as you wish, such as the ability to create your CV in different formats other than Word or PDF. In addition, technologies such as video allow you to interview for a job without having to leave the comfort of your home, which is especially useful if the potential client works very far away. This also means you can find a job in another country, if you so wish.
You Can Market Your Business with Technology
Businesses, even if a one-man-band, need a strong digital presence. While this used to be optional, it is now essential for success, especially when it comes to promoting yourself. The sky is the limit; create professional, eye-catching websites, use social media channels (like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn) or blog about your latest news or showcase special offers. You can also run email marketing campaigns or do pay-per-click advertising, which will help you to reach a wider audience, generate leads and build long-lasting relationships with customers.
Make sure you have a digital marketing strategy in place, so that you can measure your performance against the goals you want to achieve. Otherwise, you risk missing out on big opportunities or wasting resources.
Handle Your Accounts Online
Without technology, you’d have to do everything manually, including your taxes. That wouldn’t be a very efficient way of conducting business, especially because you’d have more chances of making mistakes – and being fined by HMRC as a result. The current focus in the accounting world is therefore shifting towards widespread automation, which makes processes faster, more affordable and error-free. You can even quickly and accurately calculate your take-home pay by using our simple contractor tax calculator.
Everyone here at Gorilla Accounting understands that, as a contractor, you want to spend your time and effort on running your business instead of on bookkeeping tasks. Furthermore, if accountancy isn’t part of your current skills base, you’d have to learn all about it while trying to grow your business – not a sustainable strategy.
This is why automation is key. Simply choose accounting software that accurately does all of the repetitive tasks you don’t want to do. We use FreeAgent bookkeeping software at Gorilla Accounting, which has always served us and our clients well.
With FreeAgent, you can keep on top of everything; manage your cash flow, send invoices, get bookkeeping reports, check your expenses, plan for tax season, prepare your self-assessment tax return, submit your VAT returns, and more. Being financially organised has never been easier with this cloud-based service, which has been voted the UK’s number one accounting software for small businesses. Used by contractors and freelancers alike, FreeAgent will let you run your business no matter where you are.
Almost every business requires the use of technology in one way or another, including contractor work. Whether you’re setting up a payment method or doing your taxes online, most contractors are dependant on technology to provide better products and solutions.
Talk to us to learn more about how our technology-driven services can make your day-to-day that much simpler and help you to grow as a contractor.