Tips for Contractors and the Self-Employed

If you’re a contractor or self-employed, you’ll be familiar with the many benefits and advantages of this type of work. You work independently only answering to yourself with full autonomy over your career and your business. The earning potential is of course high, there’s scope to leverage significant tax-efficiencies and control over your hours means you can achieve a great work/life balance.

Self-employment does, however, present some unique challenges so read on for a selection of tips that will help you stay on the path to success.

Have a Business Plan

Without a solid and comprehensive business plan, it’s much harder to be successful. Whether you’ve been contracting for a long time or are just starting out, it’s beneficial to determine what your business goals are and plan how you will achieve them. Assess who your target market is and the services you offer as well as your USP’s, any competitive advantages you have as well as potential problems, pitfalls and challenges and plan out the steps needed to navigate your way to achieving your business goals.

Regulatory obligations and the business landscape are ever-changing and contractors and self-employed people must be adaptable to be successful, and your business plan can be fluid to reflect this. Regularly consider and review both your business performance and strategies and adjust your plan accordingly. Working to a business plan will facilitate steady and measured progression enabling you to maintain focus as well as making rational and informed decisions, and ultimately increase your chances of long-term success and profitability.

Manage your Time Effectively

Time is something that can be in short supply when you’re self-employed so it’s crucial that you manage yours effectively. You have many challenges to meet including client deadlines, delivering accurate, quality and timely work all while ensuring that you balance your work commitments with personal and family life.

Having an effective and realistic time-management strategy is crucial to finding this balance. Utilising time or project management software can help you stay on track as well as prioritising your tasks. Taking a pragmatic and disciplined approach is key so that you can get more accomplished in less time.

Price Your Services Appropriately

Finding the right balance with your pricing is key to both operating a profitable business and being competitive in the marketplace. You should research what your competitors are charging and also consider other factors including your level of expertise and how many years’ experience you have. Your business overheads should also be taken into consideration.

If you overcharge for your services, you’ll struggle to win contracts. If you undercharge, you may struggle to win the type of work you want and risk your business becoming unprofitable. You should also consider whether you charge by the hour, by the day or a fixed fee per contract as well as regularly reviewing your pricing.

An hourly rate is generally more suitable for contracts that have an uncertain scope or timeline. It provides flexibility and transparent pricing for your clients. Charging a day rate gives simplicity in terms of cost for your clients and is suitable for ongoing contracts with work that you’re familiar with. Charging a fixed price is best for contracts that are rigidly defined and offers scope for maximising earnings if the work can be completed quickly.

Embrace Marketing and Networking

A challenge that contractors and self-employed people face is to win work and this can be especially onerous for those with little or no marketing knowledge. But effective marketing and networking are key to success. Be sure to build a strong online presence by leveraging tools such as LinkedIn as well as social media groups and online forums to get your name out there with minimal effort. Building a website to showcase your skills, experience and portfolio is also important.

Attending networking and industry events will help you reach potential clients as well as your contemporaries and joining professional associations is useful to build your network of contacts and to add credibility to your business. Referral incentives can also play a big part in encouraging your clients to spread the word about you.

Account for Seasonal Variation

When you’re self-employed you don’t have the security and certainty of a monthly salary from an employer. Your workload, and therefore your income, can fluctuate. Depending on the sector you work in, this can be exacerbated by seasonal variations.

It’s crucial therefore to prepare yourself for quiet periods through effective budgeting and by having the safety net of an emergency fund to tide you over if needed. Seasonal promotions can mitigate the impact of these variations as well as diversifying your services or client base to cater to different markets throughout the year to keep your workflow more consistent.

Invest in Yourself

Putting some time aside for professional development and learning can help ensure that you deliver a quality service to your clients and stay a step ahead of the competition. Enhancing and building your skillset can also help you to diversify your offering and win new contracts, as well as increasing your value to existing clients.

The pace of change can be fast so attending courses and webinars to build your knowledge and skills as well as staying up-to-date with the latest industry news and trends can only be of benefit.

Nurture your Client Relationships

Put simply, without clients it’s not possible to be a contractor or be self-employed. It’s crucial therefore that you build and nurture strong relationships with your clients. Fully understanding their requirements, meeting and exceeding their expectations, communicating promptly and effectively and being proactive and responsive will all help to develop these relationships as well as giving you a leg up on your competition.

Happy and satisfied clients means repeat business and word of mouth recommendation as they’re more likely to endorse your services when speaking to others, all of which will help to grow your business.

Work With An Accountant

Solid and robust financial management is the foundation for any successful business and appointing Gorilla will ensure you have the foundations to build from.

Gorilla Accounting are expert accountants for contractors and the self-employed and our dedicated Limited Company Contractor Accounting package is only £110 + VAT per month with no hidden surprises. All your accounting needs will be expertly handled by your own dedicated accountant and they will be on hand to offer you unlimited support and advice to help grow your business and maximise your profits.

If you’ve struggled with slow response times with another accountant, that will never be an issue with Gorilla. Our Client Service Guarantee means that you’ll receive a same day response to any query submitted to us before 3pm on any working day or we’ll issue you with a £50 payment.

At Gorilla, we’re huge advocates of utilising the latest tech for the benefit of both our clients and ourselves. This is why all our clients receive full access to the industry-standard cloud-based accounting software, FreeAgent, included at no extra cost in our fixed monthly fees. FreeAgent is simple and intuitive to use and its comprehensive automation can save you a significant amount of time giving you the freedom to focus on core activities.

If you have any queries about our service or would like to appoint Gorilla, please request a call back or call 0330 024 0406 to speak to an accountant.