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Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Google+ - Get Involved!

Savvy freelancers and contractors should get involved in Google+ and seize the opportunity to market your products and your services in new and creative ways. You have a chance to carve out a niche before competition gets on board and look for avenues of opportunity to move in with a sales pitch. A presence on Google+ may well land you future IT contract jobs!
The more you engage with Google+, the more you will get out of it. No one can doubt the impact that social media has had upon business in the twenty first century and Google+ won’t be one to buck the trend. Adapting to a new platform of communication can be daunting at times, but there are a few steps you can take to make the adjustment a bit easier.
Google+ is a great way for IT contractors to meet others from their sector, and a great opportunity for networking. You can search for people by name, company, interest, location or topic - a handy tool for the freelancer. Circles plays up the idea that the information you share is not suitable for everyone, and offers you the opportunity to share different things with different people; create online circles to mirror your real life social groups, no matter how niche.  Google+ allows you to create targeted circles, so you can keep tabs on the issues that matter most to you and your business.
What’s great about circles is that it isn’t public. Adding someone to a circle isn’t like adding them as a friend on Facebook; instead, it personalizes the stream of information you receive so it fits your interests. Once you have ‘circled’ everyone you know to a circle, start adding people you don’t to widen your network.
Google+ is all about sharing what matters with the people who will appreciate it most. When you deem something to be of interest, you can give it a +1, which offers a signal to the creator that their post was of value. The +1 tool is a great way to meet people who share similar interests to yourself or work within the same field, from which you may just learn something from.
At the moment, Google+ is mainly inhabited by those who work in IT, technology and media so IT consultants and contractors are advised to get involved! The greater your presence on Google+, the easier it is for others to discover you and your services, and more interaction. This can only be a good thing for business! 

Monday, 8 August 2011

IT salaries on the increase – think about making the switch to freelancing!

Recent statistics show that employers have to pay big to get the right man on the job. In 2011, IT professionals are paid 7.5% more annually than the previous year, reaching an average wage of £46,000, up from £42,800 in 2010. If employers are willing to pay up to find suitably skilled staff, there is no reason why employers won’t consider IT contractors who demand higher pay and more challenging roles on account of their experience. All in all, good news for IT professionals and IT contractors looking for IT contract jobs!
The figures speak for themselves, but what’s more is the average bonus of 19% that was paid to 56% of IT professionals in 2011, accounting for a pay out of over £9.4 billion across the IT industry. IT managers and directors have clocked the dangers of an understaffed department and as Paul Winchester comments - “technology services were among the hardest hit during the recession but companies are now realising that unless these departments are properly staffed, they face expensive efficiency deficits, which hold back growth”. Now the economic climate is looking up, and small business are beginning to find their feet once again, employers are investing in their IT and technology systems to gain a competitive advantage and looking to employ specialist staff that they can rely on. The salary increases reflect the need to spend more money on experienced and talented staff rather than simply paying employees for working – which is where IT contractors step in!
A third of employees expect their company headcount to fall in the next twelve months, whilst 41% expect staff numbers to increase. Clearly then, despite the higher pay cheques professionals do not feel wholly comfortable in their current position and Paul Winchester offers a word of advice to IT professionals – “If you aren’t feeling confident about the future of your current role, it might pay big dividends to consider your options elsewhere”. Ever thought of applying your skills and experience to a challenging and exciting IT contract job? Given the current circumstances, and the trend of taking on IT contractors on account of their knowledge and expertise, it might be worth a thought!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Bankruptcies in Scotland reach an all-time high!

The news of increased bankruptcies in Scotland may be of interest to those working in or looking for finance contract jobs - Scotland has certainly had better days. Reports have shown the biggest quarterly rise in the number of people going bust in Scotland since the recession began in 2008. According to the Accountant in Bankruptcies, personal insolvencies reached 5,319 between April and June, up from 4,262 in the previous three months and experts have suggested that this is only the start of a trend - Scotland is yet to feel the full force of the proposed spending cuts and public sector job cuts. It seems likely that the number of Scots becoming bankrupt will continue to increase; clearly, Scotland is still feeling the impact of the recession.
Figures show a 25% increase from the previous quarter and a 1% drop from this time last year. Fergus Ewing, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism is “encouraged that there has been a reduction on levels when compared to this time last year”. He goes on to explain the increase in individual bankruptcies as a direct result of the success of the Certificate for Sequestration that was introduced in November last year. This was introduced through the Home Owner and Debtor Protection Act to help those in need of debt relief who would not have qualified beforehand.
Iain Fraser, Scottish spokesman for R3, the insolvency professionals’ trade body reiterated the likelihood that insolvency numbers will continue to rise and noted the number of people seeking help through the Debt Payment Programmes awarded by the Debt Arrangement Scheme. 643 people joined the schemes in the first three months of 2011 as a way of avoiding bankruptcy, up 478 (35%) from the previous quarter and up 494 from this time last year. That is a 35% increase from the previous quarter – clearly debt management through this scheme has become a viable option to more Scots than ever!
The number of Scots going bust peaked in the first quarter 2009-2010 at 6,294. Until now, this figure has steadily dropped over recent years and contracting may well become a saviour to those who are currently struggling with their finances and there may be an increase in the number of freelancers looking for finance contract jobs and other UK contract jobs.
Sources claim that it is the better-off are being hit hardest. The recent changes to mortgage payment regulation have undoubtedly delayed the bankruptcies but it is now clear that they have simply been treading water. They have worked to maintain their debts but done little to reduce them, and the recent rise in energy bills and food has pushed many over the edge. Those currently working in or looking for finance contract jobs or other UK contract jobs should keep an eye on further developments – it has the potential to spark a lot of change within the freelancing and contracting industry!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Skill shortages bring good news to IT contractors

IT contracts are rapidly increasing thanks to skill shortages created by generous IT infrastructure budgets. With various businesses embracing new technology platforms, the cracks are beginning to show among IT workers that simply aren’t up to scratch.
Freelancers and contractors familiar with online and mobile phone systems are estimated to be the most sought after due to mobile phone apps and e-commerce becoming more evident within the retail sector in order to drive sales. Research carried out Forsee Results showed that 32% of all consumer respondents used mobile platforms for retail purposes while 32% confirmed that they plan to do their shopping using mobile apps in the future. These figures may mean that in the near future, over 75% of consumers in the UK will be relying on their smart phones for their weekly shop!
Media companies, in particular news outlets will also be seeking contractors skilled in online platforms to help satisfy the rising amount of individuals seeking online content. All major newspapers in the UK are offered in online formats and an increasing amount of magazines are shutting down print versions all together and setting up cam online, such as ‘Mothering’ magazine in February 2011 and former teen magazine Sugar.
The obvious benefits of online and mobile platforms, such as easier access and cost effectiveness, should be realised by IT contractors. No one wants to be left behind in the tech world, my only advice for contractors and freelance professionals is to get online and apps savvy while this trend is in full flow. 


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Know Your Contract

Though temporary workers may be recruited directly by a company – and are therefore answerable to the specific organisation and no one else – most are recruited via an agency. When taking on temporary employment in this fashion, it is important to understand the contract you are agreeing to upon signing. Vital statistics include length of contract, salary, holiday admissions, bonuses, benefits and crucially, whether or not there is an option installed into the contract stating that an employer might hold the right to terminate without any notice period or valid reason, i.e. the employee breaking the rules stated in their contract and/or abusing their company’s code of conduct, therefore causing a breach of contract and relinquishing any rights of employment. Consequently, it is important to you as a potential employee that you know what is expected of you and what you can expect from both the agency offering the terms of employment, and the company you will be working for.
In some cases, an employer will offer their temporary employee a permanent contract. Following such occasions, the terms of any original contract and all liability shifts completely from the recruitment agency initially responsible for the contact between company and employee – and who had previously been formally considered as said worker’s employer – to the company offering the position and a new contract. At this point, all agreed temporary worker bonuses and aids between themselves and their recruitment agency will be terminated (unless it is stated otherwise) and everything about the terms of employment is open to negotiation and change for any new terms, including added incentives that may not have been available to a temporary worker that had been to all staff in a permanent position.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Discipline in Freedom

So you’ve gotten to the stage where permanent work doesn’t offer that buzz you need to keep yourself motivated and making the money you need to pay the bills and have some fun;  what now? Give up, buy a bindle with your remaining pennies, adopt a scraggy dog and take up residence on the doorstep of what used to be your local? Well, not exactly. The alternate option is always out there if you look hard enough, and a contract or freelance position may be exactly what you need to refresh your professional mind-set and your entire life.
Of course, there will be those who relentlessly throw clichéd warnings at you from every angle – the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, better the devil you know and blah blah blah – but as any opportunist will tell you, a life lived by clichés is a life wasted.  If you feel ready to take the plunge into contract work and become more independent than ever – and make a lot of money too! – there are a few things you need to know.
Whether you decide to pursue a position based on site or at home you need a set plan of attack to ensure you maximise your skills and become an invaluable asset to any recruiter, which means following just a few rules on the path to as much flexibility as you desire.
First of all, it’s vital to make your CV specific to the industry you’re interested in. Basically that involves making work experience, qualifications and personal profile match up to your prospected roles. There are several articles out there on creating a contractor/freelancing specific CV, so get researching before tearing your résumé and all the achievements in it inside out!
Then comes the decision that irks at even the most avid contract professional at some stage; whether to work on site or from home. Of course there are situations where this may not be possible – for example in construction positions – but in industries such as IT, sales, telecoms and many others (that’s right, freelancing isn’t reserved just for photographers and writers) there are opportunities for you to start and end your day in the workplace that is the bedroom/office in the humble abode you know as home.
As in any situation there are different advantages in working in-office or in-house, a list of which you can find below, lucky you!
Pros for on-site work:
  • Networking: Getting your face around industry hotspots can be a great way to create working relationships that may prove to be priceless where furthering your career in the future, or just looking for that little bit of inside information no one else can touch. It’s also a great way to find new people to crash through to a pub lunch with!
  • Flexibility: In signing a contract to work with a company at the headquarters you aren’t restricting yourself in any way. You’re in control of however long that contract will last, how much you get paid, and pretty much the entire job that you do.
  • Travel: That which may not be ideal to some can be a breath of fresh air for another. Working a contract job makes getting out of the house and seeing a new place stay exciting, as it’s your decision as to how long you want to be there before a change of scenery is needed.
That’s all looking pretty good, so now let’s check the pros for home based work:
  • Cutting the Cost: In giving up the daily commute you’re losing all the costs that come with it, not to mention having whatever you want for lunch whenever you want it and even however many times you want it.
  • Total Flexibility: Have a piece of work due in tomorrow morning that’ll take around 2 hours? It’s up to you whether you want to finish it before breakfast, after dinner or at 3am. Just always remember to stay diligent and punctual with your deadlines; word gets around!
  • Keeping it in the Family: Whatever your responsibilities at home are it’s your prerogative to decide on priority. Some may find it ideal being home and available wherever they are needed, especially in young families or households where there may be a dependant disabled or disadvantaged person.
There you have it. Remember that on your next working venture, should you decide to take on a contract role give some real thought as to where you will be at your happiest and most productive. The responsibility lies with you in becoming unrestricted in your success, and though clichés may cloud our judgement on occasion they can be very apt, so remember, freedom isn’t free.

Monday, 11 July 2011

A Question of Technology

The never ceasing development of technology is inevitably going to affect contractors. Everyone has a computer, but too many of us are scared by the new computer systems that are bestowed upon us, even though they have to potential to make our lives a whole lot easier, especially for the freelancer on the go.
Although companies that employ contractors are more likely to supply laptops or desk tops, new trends in computer systems mean that between work and during contract projects, contractors and freelance professionals can get so much more out of their personal computers. According to IDC laptops, the desk top computer is a shadow of its former dominance in favour of its portable equivalent, with laptop sales increasing by 26% this year alone.
But even the seemingly non stoppable laptop is slowly but surely becoming ‘out-dated’ by the emergence of Tablet computing, undoubtedly led by the I pad. The obvious benefits of tablet devices would be that they are even more portable than laptops or notebooks and with the main focus being upon the screen, they offer the best quality high definition compared to any other computer system available. I am not completely convinced that tablet computer systems will take over laptops entirely, for the basic reason that sometimes, a key board is far more convenient. However, tablet computer systems hold all the answers for IT contractors on the move. The size and abilities of a tablet system, such as easily accessible internet use and built in satellite navigation, make it an understandably desirable gadget for travelling contractors and freelance professionals.
There is an alternative for those who require the best of both worlds. The Dell inspiron Duo is an impressive release which enables its user all the qualities of a notebook whilst offering the latest in tablet technology. The Inspiron duo flips from a traditional note book to a tablet in seconds with its convertible screen, making it the perfect choice for those of us not ready to put all of our hopes upon tablet computer systems. The system fits perfectly with your home comforts too with its docking station, perfect for watching films or listening to music. Think of it as a rather large mp3 player!
If you had to choose, why wouldn’t you go with the system that does it all?


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Agency Worker Regulations

Agency Worker Regulation will be coming into effect on the 1st of October this year. The regulation aims to allow temporary and freelance workers who have been hired through an agency or are with an umbrella company the same rights as permanent workers. This has caused some confusion in relation to who is actually covered by the system and possible negative outcomes contractors and freelancers could face under AWR. The likelihood of AWR’s conditions changing prior to October 1st is quite high due to the uncertainty surrounding it. Until then, here are the main points to consider when looking at Agency Worker Regulation:
  • AWR’s main principle is to support lower paid agency workers who are more likely to face un-equal pay compared to permanent workers.
  • If a contractor or freelancer initially receives more pay than permanent employees, their pay will not have to be reduced to the amount received by a permanent employee within the same company.
  • The regulation is only implemented to temporary workers who have been working at a company for 12 weeks.  After this time period they are eligible to:
    • Annual leave
    • Rest periods,
    • Equal pay to that of permanent employees,
    • Staff facilities such as health care, transport, use of staff conteen.
  • AWR does not cover pensions, redundancy cover, long-term service awards and sick pay.
  • AWR does not cover individuals who are:- self-employed, contractors who work through managed service contracts or those who operate through their own private limited company

From the outset, AWR will be beneficial to lower paid temporary workers. However, this in turn may affect higher paid contractors. If the conditions are to stay the same or similar to how they stand at the moment then there is a possibility that the amount of contractors working through private limited companies will increase substantially, which will mean that IR35 will be more widely used, subjecting more contractors to tax investigations. Moreover, AWR conditions will mean that there will be extra admin to be taken care of by agencies. This may result in lower contractor rates in order to stay within budget. Furthermore, this may unfairly cause employers to create contracts that are under 12 weeks long so they are not obliged to comply with increased employee rights.

It is vital to keep up to date with AWR, as although the conditions may not directly affect the majority of contractors, the knock on effects may reach higher paid contractors and freelancers who are outside of AWR, meaning some major changes in the contractor market.   

Monday, 4 July 2011

Contracting-The Flexible way to change your career

When it comes to employment, we are being saturated with information that we simply do not want to hear. From the seemingly never-ending recession to excessive job cuts, it’s high time for a fresh perspective on employment. It’s worth noting that contract employment isn’t totally new, but with its growing appeal from potential employees and varied sectors, contract and freelance work alike could not only speed up your job search but also fast track you to your desired career change.

You would probably be forgiven if the word ‘contractor’ conjures up images of construction work and manual labour related regeneration; however, contract and freelance work could most probably be applicable to every trade and skill that is in demand right now. Whilst skilled trade contract work is still going from strength to strength according to recent statistics, contract positions within the private sector such as transport and IT are steadily increasing.

It is vital to mention that being a contractor does not automatically mean that your new job will be short lived. Even if a contract is limited by its time period, any opportunity to add to your CV was worth doing. This is not to say that contractors are doomed to a life of job hopping, in fact in many cases, a contract job is just a permanent as a ‘regular’ one with the added exception of a contract agency. At a glance this could appear to be an un- wanted added extra, but with a third party supplying all the information that you need, from who’s hiring to application tips, the middle man has never been so useful.

Contract and freelance jobs offer flexibility to potential proprietors and recruiters in every sense of the word. Whether you refuse to settle in one career path or need to fill the gaps in your fast paced company, contract jobs and freelancing is a sure fire way to free yourself from the tedious traditional means of employment.

As mentioned, with the recession in everyone’s shadow, it is hard to feel positive about employment, but with the first quarter of 2011 seeing a growth in the British economy of 0.5%, it is strongly evident that contract work is growing with it. With a hasty approach to spending, employers are looking to contractors before looking to permanent employees when hiring, meaning that the demand won’t be ceasing anytime soon.

Freelance and contract work could also be a stepping stone into your next permanent job role. In accordance with the Department for Work and Pensions over a third of all individuals who took up contract employment in February 2011 were offered permanent positions in the same role.

So with the steady much needed improvement in British economy, contract agencies, contractors and recruiters are equally expanding with it. Amongst the negativity in the work place it is refreshing to know that there is a new flexible approach to employment that instead of slowing down is expanding to accommodate everyone’s skills and availability.