The biggest issue “outside IR35” contractors are facing

I think the biggest issue “outside IR35” contractors are now facing, is how best to language, package and sell their existing ‘time and material’ skills; rather than continuing to ‘work for the man’ and solely rely on something like IR35 insurance to protect them from the HMRC.

When I first started contracting in the UK, I was recommended to create my own business cards and website as “proof” that I was self-employed (nb. as if that would really stop the HMRC looking through into the actual situation). I’ve also worked alongside contractors who have literally spent 10 years on a single client site. Their accountant’s advice – put money aside in case of penalties.

Switching mindsets into something more akin to ‘product and service thinking’ should be a really simple thing to do, but I found it really really hard to do. Unfortunately the day rate contracting and the contractors around me who never took a single day off in a billable year had pretty much institutionalised my thinking (one individual actually went on an around the world cruise as a honeymoon so that he could use the WiFi and bill from the ship…)

It can be difficult to know what you uniquely have to offer, who is looking for it and who is also willing to pay the right price, along with ensuring that you both have enough compatibility over working styles and values such things work out. I tried all sorts of help over the years when setting up my consultancy, from branding agents to career counsellors, career coaching, peers in the consultancy industry, following the 4 hour work week by Timothy Ferriss etc. Man it was hard work and fraught with doubt.

But it is possible to set out a “different stall” from day rate contracting and embrace more of the gig economy in how you work in this day and age, many of our colleagues on LinkedIn have done so (some under the forced pressure of burnout or health issues). Seek and ask for help where and when you can, there may be no silver bullets but each conversation helps you correct course and head in the right direction.

Frank Ray

Ask any project manager about the key to their success, and they will say that delivering a project is often more like a "dark art" or by chance, than a predictable science.

They may also say that a project going 'off the rails' was one of the most stressful things they have professionally experienced. And unfortunately, it’s all too common.

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