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Getting Started as a Contractor or Freelancer

Everything you need to know to get started

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Thinking of becoming 
a contractor?

If you’re thinking of becoming a contractor, your first step will be to establish a business from which you can sell your skills and get paid. This means choosing an operating structure.

There are two common operating structures typically used by contractors – a Limited Company or Umbrella Company.

Limited Company

As the director of a Limited Company, you will be responsible for managing the day-to-day running of the business and submitting the necessary financial paperwork. These documents include, Self-Assessment Tax Return, Corporation Tax Return, Company Accounts, Quarterly VAT Returns and Payroll.

You will also be legally responsible for any debt that lies with the company, but this will be limited to the amount of capital invested in the limited company.

This structure allows control over financial affairs and requires more management than working through an Umbrella company. As the director, you will oversee the distribution of funds, issue invoices, submit expenses, and on the whole, take care of the business.

For more information on how a Limited Company works, read our extensive ‘Limited Company Guide for Contractors’ page.

Umbrella Company

Working through an Umbrella company usually means outsourcing the financial and management duties. If you prefer a larger stake in managing these elements of the business, operating through a Limited Company may be the preferred option for you.

If you’re working on a longer-term contract, it’s typically more financially efficient to work through a limited company as you will be able to pay yourself by taking both dividends and a salary. The Flat Rate VAT scheme will also allow you to claim a range of expenses.

As a Contractor, unplanned and unexpected contracts could mean that at some point, it could be more financially efficient to operate through an Umbrella. Read ahead to find out about SwiftSwitch.

What’s Swift Switch?

It’s possible that during the financial year, you could be making a switch from Limited to Umbrella to best suit your contract. At Gorilla Accounting, we’ve developed a new complimentary offering which allows limited company clients to take advantage of our Umbrella service.

SwiftSwitch allows you to seamlessly switch between operating structures – from our Limited Company to Umbrella – Gorilla Payroll. As a Contractor, unplanned and unexpected contracts could mean that at some point, it could be more financially efficient to operate through an Umbrella. Your solution is Gorilla ‘SwiftSwitch.’ To get started, simply complete our short online application form and a member of the New Business team will be in contact.

Operating through an Umbrella Company

If you decide to run your contract through an Umbrella company, you will become an employee of the payroll company as you will be paid through their payroll.

The Umbrella company will take off your National Insurance Contributions, Income Tax, and provide Employment Rights and Insurance Protection.

The structure is easy to use as the paperwork will be taken care of. You will only have to submit time sheets to account for your time.

In most cases, if you’re working on a shorter-term contract, working through an Umbrella company will typically be the easier and more financially efficient option. If you get in touch with a member of our New Business team, they will help determine the best-operating structure for you.

Operating through a Limited Company

If you’re looking to begin Limited Company contracting, the first step is to form your Limited Company.

Choose a Shareholder and Director

You need to choose a Shareholder and a Director. These can be different people or these can be the same.


A Shareholder will own the company. This can be in part or whole.

The percentage they own is represented by the number of shares they hold in the company.


A Director will manage the day-to-day running of the Limited Company and they will be legally responsible for submitting the necessary financial paperwork.

Choose Registered Office

When forming your Limited Company, you will need to decide on a Registered Office address. Official documents will be sent to this address such as those sent by HMRC.

You can register your own address, your accountant's, or sign up for a registered office service.

FAQ: Should I use my personal address?

Some contractors decide to use an address other than their own as this information will be publicly displayed on Companies House. By doing this, it draws a line between your working life and personal life.

Choosing a registered office address can be beneficial if your rental agreement doesn’t allow you to use the landlord’s address as a registered office.

If you decide to use your personal address, but then decide against this in later life, it will be difficult to claw back this information as it will already be in the public domain.

If you use the address of your accountancy firm, this will mean that your accountant will have instant access to your financial documents. This will allow your financial affairs to be dealt with promptly, saving you time and money, rather than posting them separately to your accountant or scanning them over.

An external registered office service can be used for an additional cost.

Appoint a specialist accountant

If you appoint a specialist contractor accountant, they will take care of forming your Limited Company. If you decide to elect the long-term services of an accountant, they will handle your tax affairs for the financial year.

At Gorilla Accounting, as part of our all-inclusive package for just £89 + vat per month, we offer the following:

  • Preparation of Self-Assessment Tax Return
  • 24/7 access to online accounting software, FreeAgent
  • Your own dedicated accountant
  • Unlimited support including meetings, emails, telephone and Skype
  • Preparation of Company Accounts and Corporation Tax Return
  • Preparation & Submission of quarterly VAT Returns
  • Preparation of Payroll (for up to 2 employees)
  • Customer Service Guarantee
  • Complimentary access to SwiftSwitch

Typically, your next steps will be, opening a business bank account and taking out business insurance.

Open Business Bank Account

As the business is a separate legal entity to you, you will be required to open a separate business bank account from which you will get paid – as the director. You will receive money from your clients through this bank account.

At Gorilla Accounting, we work with specialist insurance providers that we can introduce to you.

Take out Business Insurance

There are three common insurance policies taken out by contractors:

  • Professional Indemnity: If you deliver wrong advice or make a mistake, this will cover any legal defence costs you incur and damages awarded against you for the errors made in your work.
  • Public Liability: This will cover legal defence costs and compensation if your actions result in damage or injury to a third party, or property.
  • Employer’s Liability: This is usually required as part of a contract. This covers your limited company for any employees making a claim against you.

We work with specialist insurance providers that we can introduce to you.

Ready to talk?

If you’re ready to take the next step and form your limited company, get in touch with a member of our New Business Team by calling

0330 024 0406 or 
email info@gorillaaccounting.com.


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