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5 mistakes to avoid when looking for your next contract

Paystream News

Kerry Hull

Friday 19th Aug, 2016

When limited company contractors, freelancers and other self-employed workers are searching for their next role, it can be tempting to jump straight in introducing yourself to a prospective client without properly researching the company or making sure the contract falls outside the remit of IR35.

However, it's important to make sure you're portraying the most professional image possible during your contract search, and it's vital to ensure that you can indeed add value to the organisation in question, as well as your own future career, by taking on that job.

With this in mind, here are five common mistakes for contractors to avoid when looking for their next role.

1. Always going in with the same approach

It's important to make sure that you always tailor your introductory approach to the different clients that you're interested in working with. Write a unique cover letter and tweak your CV each time depending on the specific skills and experience that the business is looking for to highlight your credentials and show how you can add value to the company.

This helps to keep your professional image fresh, while also showing that you care about what each business wants from you as you've taken the time to make sure you're the best fit for their requirements.

2. Not doing your research

Failing to research a client and their values is another common pitfall for contractors. Getting to choose who you work with and when is one of the main perks of working for yourself, so it's essential to do your research and find out as much as you can about a company before pursuing a contract opportunity, even if it is just for the short term.

After all, it's likely that you started contracting so you could leave working for an organisation you didn't feel comfortable with behind, so make sure you agree with a firm's ethics and values before approaching it about a contract.

3. Having an unprofessional social media presence

It is now increasingly common for clients and employers to search for contractors and prospective job candidates on social media sites before agreeing to work with them, so it is of prime importance that you make sure there is no inappropriate or unprofessional content on your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profile.

In fact, a recent survey carried out by employment law specialist Thomas Mansfield led to the discovery that more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of UK workers have drunk photos of themselves available for all to see on social media, while 14 per cent can be seen taking drugs on their profiles.

Concerningly, one-quarter (24 per cent) of workers said they didn't see a problem with this, but it is vital for regular employees and contractors alike to appear as professional as possible online so as not to hinder their chances of being selected for their next work opportunity.

4. Don't underestimate how much you're worth

Getting the chance to set your own pay rates is another perk of contracting, so it's important to ensure that you never underestimate how much you're worth and don't undersell your services.

With many businesses throughout the UK continuing to be affected by the ongoing skills shortage, some firms are willing to pay a higher rate for access to coveted expertise, so make sure you're getting paid what you deserve in this challenging climate.

5. Failing to make sure the contract falls outside of IR35

At PayStream, we can also help you to work out whether or not a contract falls inside or outside of the IR35 legislation. Contractors working through a limited company need to ensure their contracts fall outside of IR35 otherwise they could find themselves on the wrong side of HMRC which would result in penalties and a bill for unpaid tax liabilities. However if during your time as a limited company contractor, one of your contracts fell inside IR35 you could continue to work through your limited company but it would need to be based on a deemed payment basis.

We know that the rules surrounding IR35 can be complex to understand, which is why our My PSC service provides free IR35 reviews for your initial and ongoing contracts. If you're not currently a My PSC contractor, our IR35 review service can help you to make sure that you're operating compliantly and in line with IR35.

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