“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Douglas Adams, author.
Douglas Adams would never have made it to the end of his first IT contract. If you walk into an office at 6pm any evening you’ll see contractors – the group who are updating their plans, writing up meeting notes or preparing a presentation after everyone else has gone home. Working as a contractor, you know you have to hit every deadline, every week and on occasion, that can be an unwelcome or even a tiresome challenge. You also know that you’re only as good as your last assignment and that mistakes or failure aren’t an option – not even once.
Plenty of studies show that the best people in any role spend more time communicating than their peers and there’s so much more to the job than simply being an ace administrator. It makes good business sense to focus on priority activities and let someone else pick up the low value tasks during busy periods. Simply getting an extra pair of hands to write up the whiteboard from your meeting or summarise a document into a presentation for you can make all the difference.
Experienced contractors know that running their business involves far more than a good network, solid skills and that extra portion of hard work every once in a while. It’s easy enough to get your accountant and insurance products in place and have your contracts independently checked. But there’s more to being in business on your own account than ticking those boxes, your normal working practices need to be appropriate too.
Experienced contractors also know that they are service providers and not employees in disguise. If you fall into the trap of “contracting at XYZ Ltd” instead of “providing professional services to XYZ Ltd” you might need to refocus. Complacency about how you do business, especially if you’ve been contracting for a while, can be costly.
There’s now additional pressure for public sector contractors, who need to provide evidence of IR35 status or engage with the dreaded business entity test before accepting a contract. Subcontracting some of your workload to an outside party gives you scalability and the flexibility to meet the demands of your service contract, whilst making it clear that you are operating a business. This can give you the confidence of knowing you’re a low risk for IR35.
There are two key factors to successful subcontracting. The first is to understand what’s important to your end client. You’ve worked hard to establish a good working relationship with them and they trust you to get the job done. Even though you have a substitution clause in your contract, many clients would not be thrilled at the prospect of an unknown person turning up to take your place, however good that person is. Subcontracting administration and some simple document production is often easier to agree with your client but the key here is good communication.
The second factor is finding the right subcontractor. Utilising friends or an informal network of colleagues with the right skill set can work, but there are some potential pitfalls. Some clients are uncomfortable with these types of informal arrangements and without a legal contract in place, your Professional Indemnity insurance may not cover any work done by subcontractors. Availability can pose problems and if any issues arise around the quality or delivery, having to ‘manage’ a friend can create more problems than you are solving
If you choose this route, remember that subcontracting is a business arrangement. Have a legal agreement in place between your companies, check your insurance policy wording and see proof of your colleague’s cover if needed. Keep a full audit trail of work done, payments made and deliverables received.
If you’re interested in subcontracting through a specialist company, sidekick gives IT contractors a simple way to subcontract those low value tasks. You can be subcontracting safely in minutes, using products designed by contractors for contractors. Whoosh over to www.sidekicking.co.uk to find out more. Register using the referral ‘Arthur Dent’ for a 20% discount during April.
Louise Nerberka, founder, sidekick.
Louise has worked extensively as an IT contractor, completing her first contract in 1994. She created sidekick to give contractors the power to outsource low value work simply and safely through well designed products.