With HMRC and other parts of government on a crusade to abolish entrepreneurialism and have us all working for big businesses, Contractors are under the microscope more than ever before.
As an SME business owner, I too have felt the inconvenience of regulatory and policy changes – it wasn’t too long ago we had the whole VAT MOSS mess which effectively threw a major spanner in the works for anyone selling digital products – then we had GDPR, which as well intentioned as it was, caused huge disruption to businesses – and now we have the off payroll issue hanging over the heads of both Independent Professionals and those who might engage their services.
As a company that uses the services of Independent Professionals, as well as providing services directly to them, the subject is very close to my heart. With that in mind, I thought I would write a short piece on the shift in mindset that I believe is required by Contractors to stay on the right side of IR35.
The question asked in the title of this article should be easy to answer, but many Contractors take a job seeker’s approach to winning work. Here are some glaring faux pas as well as some suggestions on how to operate as a business rather than a pseudo job seeker.
The obvious pick and possibly the most important is your CV, but many Contractors write their CV in a way that would raise serious eye brows within HMRC towers; for example, how many Contractor have an Employment History? Employment? I hope not!
Then you have LinkedIn, where Recruiters and decision makers are looking for Contractors, but writing your LinkedIn profile like a CV (or even copying and pasting your CV in its entirety) isn’t going to make you look like a business, it’s going to make you look like a job seeker. There is a certain style of writing that is required which focuses on what you are, who you help, what you do and how it benefits your clients.
It’s a well established theory that having a website is good idea. Being seen as an entity that markets its services on the open market (as most businesses do) is essential, and having a professional website clearly helps this cause.
Most businesses also invest in marketing their services. HMRC might not be logging into CV Library to check your CV, but they most certainly see your accounts; having money coming in and zero money going out is not typical. Most businesses would invest money in both marketing collateral and subsequent marketing activity. You have probably invested in some professionally created business cards, but your money might be better invested in your CV, LinkedIn profile and website – not only will this better support your business status, but it will also generate you more business. Imagine any other business going to market with home-made marketing collateral!
Let’s move on to how you seek work. There are an awful lot of Contractors whose sole source of work is recruitment agencies. Now there’s nothing wrong with recruiter-found contracts, but if you’re not finding work through other avenues then you’re giving all the wrong signals to the folks down at HMRC. Think about other marketing tactics such as thought leadership, LinkedIn outreach, networking and CRM / email marketing.
Diversification may also be a solid strategy for justifying your business status; selling your expertise through information products, coaching programmes and special interest groups is not only great for proving that you’re a true business, but also highly lucrative if executed properly.
If staying in the good grace of the tax man and growing your business is on your agenda, you might be interested to know that Contractor Weekly are running a webinar on April 24th at 7.15pm that my team and I will be presenting; we’ll be covering these topics and more including:
- Is your CV promoting an Inside-IR35 status?
- Tweaks you can make to your CV today that highlight your true Contractor status
- Why you should (and how to) add examples of substituting
- Is your LinkedIn profile raising an IR35 red flag?
- How to use LinkedIn to win work in a ‘true’ B2B manner
- How to drive direct engagements and less recruiter-found contracts
- The small investments that can promote an Outside-IR35 status
You can register for free here.
You can also take advantage of a free, personalised and 1-2-1 CV appraisal here.