Why I Work Outside IR35

Off-payroll working (IR35) helps me better showcase my skills to prospective clients and lets me work in the best possible way

Applying with a CV is truly broken

I paid £500 for a keyword optimised CV. A professional copywriting firm wrote it for me in the height of a terrible job market and it is tailored specifically to ATS (“applicant tracking system” — computer programmes recruiters use to search for candidates and track applications).

The CV deliberately presents a narrow view of myself to perform well in ATS keyword searches. It certainly does not include any details about the full breadth of my consultancy services, or me personally. That’s because recruitment processes generally frown on such details — the copywriter explained that by including them, my chance of being matched to a suitable job advert would be reduced. So unfortunately the CV makes me look like any other permanent employee looking for a new role.

Integrity comes from being independent

I definitely don’t work outside of IR35 for tax reasons. I work outside IR35 to remain genuinely independent of the client’s organisation. I deliberately maintain the freedom to work in the best way I see fit and to speak openly and honestly about anything I may find. I actively take the risk that comes with being a messenger, and once or twice an engagement ended prematurely because of this. However, almost always clients come to value the integrity that comes from being independent (which is often not forthcoming in their suppliers or employees).

When I directly bid for work, I use my company website and portfolio of work, not the CV. I feel these do a much better job of illustrating the full breadth of industry knowledge and varied skills I have acquired from 20 years of contracting. I take the messaging very seriously indeed and make full use of colours, images, photos and videos. The prospective client is fully aware of what Frank Ray & Associates can bring to an engagement; It’s evident that I’m self-employed and work “outside IR35”.

Embracing off-payroll working

In light of the UK private sector IR35 reforms, I’m calling on the recruitment industry to better support self-employed people like me who genuinely run single-person limited companies for reasons other than tax planning. It’s in everyone’s best interest, be that client or applicant or recruiter, to have an open and transparent recruitment process that allows the applicant’s true reasons for being in the marketplace to come through.

A bad solution would be simply adding more “IR35 friendly” terms in standard agency contracts, continuing with the underlying assumption that we want to be part and parcel of another shareholder’s organisation. A better solution would be to really embrace the freedom that comes from off-payroll working and make use of things like our company website, portfolio of work, GitHub repositories, client testimonials, project showcases and social media profiles when putting us forward to prospective clients.

Heed my plea and move away from the dreaded ATS optimised CV.


Frank Ray

Frank Ray & Associates is a software engineering consultancy that builds high quality software for businesses.

We develop new applications, automate manual processes, integrate vendor packages, replace Excel workarounds, fix unreliable applications, retire end of life software and remove dependence on poor value suppliers.

Get in touch if you need our help