Friday, 8 June 2018

Goodbye Contracting, Hello...

In a series of short posts I've decided to 'come clean' about the last 10 years of contracting. Sharing some insights I don't often see are shared by other contractors and opening up about things I've not been able to talk about. I hope you enjoy these warts and all posts. They've been a long time coming.

A New Direction
Just over 10 years ago I started my own small consultancy and went feet-first into contracting. At the time I was working for BJSS, a great consultancy with an amazing team. Leaving was a hard choice and one that would play on my mind to the present day. More on that later.

My very first contract was as a Test Manager on a Government Gateway project. I still have the fleece they gave us to celebrate the successful launch. I remember being a bit irked by one of the team who would constantly text on their phone during the stand-up. I literally wanted to shout at him to get out of the room, but hey, first contract and all that so I behaved!

Doable, but not Plane Sailing
To anyone that's thinking of becoming a contractor and nervous about whether they will fit in, be able to deliver, be able to handle the pace and focus - I say go for it. You can always decide it's not for you and go back to working for the Man. There is a lot of set-up and things to learn, but it's a great mind-shift. More on that later too.

Along the way I've had some great engagements, with real kick-ass deliveries that have left the client's business and team changed for the good. There's also been a good number of glitches along the way too. Yes, some clients are a nightmare. Either because they pay late, demand the unreasonable or just decide you're making them look bad. While I won't name names, it's time to share those stories too.

Things Change
A lot has changed since those early days, both in terms of the contract market, the way the UK government deal with contractors and how I find and deliver work.

It's no secret the UK government, via HMRC (like the IRS), are absolutely hammering contractors. From the introduction of IR35 legislation, cracking down on Umbrella companies and Loan schemes to reducing allowable expenses and increasing the tax paid on dividends - to name just a few moves against contractors in the last few years. Despite all this, contracting remains viable if you have the skills and contacts to make it work. I'll share how some of these things have hit me personally and how I responded to them.

The Secret Sauce to Contracting
If I had to distil what the keys to success have been, I'd say the following:

  • Always, always respect your customer and over deliver in any way you can
  • Every single day learn something new, keep developing your skills
  • Build your network, it's where 90% of your contracts will come from
  • Never, ever get on the wrong side of or try to fiddle the tax man
I'll see what insights I can share around these.

Until next time,


PS... see that Mark J Diez, Hannover Game ad at the top right? That's me, I wrote that.
Click it and buy a copy.