Making the leap from permanent to contracting

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Moving from permanent employment to contracting is an increasingly popular career move for talented workers. The rewards are substantial, with more challenging job roles, higher rates of pay, independence, better work-life balance and more flexibility all attainable for those that make the leap. However, despite those benefits, actually leaving the security and comfort of a permanent role can be difficult.

Knowing the right time

Making the leap at the right time is vital, so make a checklist of goals to ensure that you are ready. Try to build a small war chest to cover leaner periods during the first six months, and outline a daily routine for your flexible working career. Arguably, the most difficult balancing act is knowing when to quit a permanent role. Lawdit Solicitors executive Michael Coyle says: “Best advice before you hand in your notice is to review your contract of employment and in particular the notice and termination clauses, as well as any restrictive covenants pre- and post-employment.”

Work out a timetable for leaving work, including any notice periods, so that you can complete a clean and professional departure. Many contract opportunities will require you to start immediately, so if you have everything in place and know how and where to source contracts, then you should finally be ready to embrace flexible work.

Strengths, skills and clients

Before handing in your notice, also make sure to assess your strengths and weaknesses in order to identify marketable skills and whether you would be suited to a particular sector or niche. Knowing these skills is important but being able pitch them to a prospective client is another, so work hard to build a CV and portfolio that show why third parties should invest in your skill set. This is your number one marketing resource, so keep it up to date with any developments in specialist areas.

Register with an umbrella company

Going it alone can initially feel like a daunting prospect, but flexible work doesn’t have to mean no access to the benefits and perks that you enjoyed during permanent employment. This is why registering with an umbrella company is an ideal solution.

Contractor pay and tax is often complex, but an umbrella company will reduce the stress and worry associated with financial management by taking care of all of these obligations for you. They will also provide help with IR35 and other legislation, and offer access to statutory benefits, insurance coverage and first-class customer support for any concerns, issues or queries that you have when “switching codes.”

First steps

Building a robust foundation during the first weeks following the move to flexible work will stand you in good stead for your contracting journey. You are unlikely to have access to a wealth of regular and loyal clients at first, so develop your networking skills by making connections on social sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter and visiting local events in your chosen industry. You will also need to decide on a standard rate of pay for your services, get to grips with paperwork and admin – though an umbrella company can ease the burden – and keep a track of all the tasks that you are asked to do by clients when you find work.