Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Independent Contracting

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to independent contracting.

Why a Poor Offboarding Program Hurts Future IT Projects

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Why a Poor Offboarding Program Hurts Future IT ProjectsIn my last blog post, I spoke about the importance of companies on-boarding contractors properly and what contractors can do to ensure they are part of the process.  Along with a great on-boarding program, companies must invest time in off-boarding contractors.  As mentioned before, independent contractors, like employees, can have a significant impact on a company’s culture and brand.  They can either be a great advocate for the company or be a negative voice out in the marketplace.  With social media sites such as Glassdoor growing in popularity as a reference point on whether to join a company, it is vital that companies take the chance to fully understand what the contractors work experience was like during their contract.

As a staffing agency, we have the opportunity to work with many clients and contractors.  After recruiters speak with contractors about a new job opening, the contractor often checks their LinkedIn network to see if anyone they know has worked with the client, and even more precise, with the hiring manager.  They might also check Glassdoor to see how happy people are with the company.  We have had the unfortunate experience of having more than one contractor turn down a potentially great role due to a poor review.  Yes, a lot of times the poor feedback is warranted due to difficult projects.  But, a number of independent contractors have mentioned that they felt even though their contract was coming to a natural end, they were poorly exited.  Often times, contractors sight that the hiring managers were not even around on their last day and they did not know who to pass their technology/pass cards or project notes to!  It left many of the contractors feeling they had done bad job even though they met all the deliverables.

Here are some pointers for both client and contractors on how best to off-board a resource/project and maintain a great brand image:

  1. The independent contractor and client should work closely to capture all of the work that has been done during the contract and document important items for future reference.
  2. Communicate to the team that the contract has come to an end and a team member will be leaving.  The contractor should pass along contact details if the client needs to reach you for clarification questions.
  3. If the contractor has stakeholder relationships beyond the key team, ensure that the whole team knows of the upcoming departure.  Often, business clients are left out of the communication chain.
  4. Conduct an exit interview with the contractor to ensure feedback is received.  This exit interview should be done by the hiring manager or by a resource manager/HR.  Key questions to ask the contractor (or for the contractor to share) is did you like the work you were involved with and would you come back to work with the manager or the company.

A successful off-boarding program will add value to the company’s brand as well as help control any potential negative feelings being left unsaid and put out into the marketplace. Maintaining a great brand will help clients attract new contractors and more importantly entice past contractors to return.

You Can’t Win a Fight (or succeed at anything) without a Winning Team

Brendhan Malone By Brendhan Malone,
Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle

You Can't Win a Fight (or succeed at anything) without a Winning TeamThe video below introduces you to this year’s Fight Team in the annual Fight to End Cancer, taking place this year on May 27th in Toronto.  These are brave men and women who have stepped out of their homes and offices and into the boxing ring.  They are doing so to raise money for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the Fight to End Cancer.

I was fortunate enough to step in the ring myself a couple of years ago and I know the commitment required.  Eagle has been a proud sponsor and supporter of this event since its inception.  This event aligns perfectly with our core values of integrity, excellence and TEAM.

When a fighter prepares to step in the ring, they join a large team of coaches and sparring partners.  Everyone is working together, with different responsibilities but towards the same goal.    A fighter cannot do this on their own, no single person is a match for a good team.

Business and sports offer natural parallels, none more so than the concept of team.  As an independent contractor, one of the main parts of your job is to get up to speed with a new team.  Understanding what the team’s goals and overall objectives are can help you align yours the same way.  Just as a fight team prepares the fighter for the ring, an IT team prepares a product or service for launch day.  Independent contractors are often the newest members of a team that may have been together for a long time.  Ensuring you are quickly aligned with the team’s goals and overall objectives will result in quicker cohesion and earlier positive results.

I wrote in an earlier post that it is no longer possible for an independent contractor to live in a bubble.  You must be aligned and aware of the business objectives of any IT project.  Teams need to work together towards the same goal.  It may seem obvious… but every team member has to know what those goals are.

I wish all the fighters and their teams the best of luck as the big day approaches.  To all the independent contractors joining new teams, I hope you can align your efforts and objectives as quickly and effectively as possible with a common goal.

All Independent Contractors Should Have Business Cards

There are numerous ways independent contractors can improve their personal branding. In the Talent Development Centre, we’ve advocated ideas such as social media profiles, networking, personal websites and simply maintaining a strong work ethic. One other suggestion we’ve made is to create business cards to be left behind after meeting somebody.

We could use this post to inundate you with the many arguments for creating your own business cards, as well as list tips for creating the best business cards, but today is Friday and nobody wants to read another list. Instead, here’s a quick video that sums up everything you need to know.

If you don’t have business cards yet, what are you waiting for?

Quick Poll Results: Preferred Contract Length

How long do IT contractors prefer their contracts to be? If you’ve been losing sleep over this, wondering if you’re on the same page as everyone else, then worry no more. Last month’s contractor quick poll asked that exact question and, as usual, we’re sharing the results.

Have a look at the chart below. If you have no preference, or prefer super short contracts, you just might be in luck as it should be easier to compete for work with those timeframes.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: What's your preferred contract length?

Independent Contractors Must Understand Accounting

Have you finished your taxes yet or are you waiting until the last-minute before starting? Accounting and taxes are one of the biggest headaches independent contractors report having to manage in their business. That’s why many hire out their bookkeeping. Still, other contractors prefer to manage accounting year-round and only go to an accountant occasionally when professional advice or revision is necessary.

Whether you do your own accounting or hire it out, every independent contractor still needs to understand the basics of the trade in order to properly analyze their business’s success and plan strategically for the following year. Without this knowledge, you’re likely to find yourself unpleasantly surprised due to decisions you made without the proper knowledge.

As usual, we strongly encourage you to consult with a professional accountant. However, if you’d like an overview of accounting basics, then this infographic from Bplans is a great start.

Accounting Cheat Sheet Infographic
Courtesy of: Bplans

Take a Break, Gain a New Perspective!

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Take a Break, Gain a New Perspective!When determining whether or not to go the consulting route (vs. finding a job as an employee), there is an old adage often used: Which fallacy do you prefer? The one that suggests employees have more job security or the one that suggests that consultants have more flexibility in choosing their own work hours?

Of course, there is some truth to both but anyone who has been a part of the IT industry for any length of time also knows that neither is always the case! As my blog entry today is aimed at contractors or aspiring contractors, I thought I would share a few thoughts on the topic of using some of your “flexibility” by building in some down time for yourself.

This, it turns out, is really quite hard to do. It takes planning and conviction; and potentially some negotiating as well. A common prairie saying is “Make hay while the sun shines“, meaning that while you’ve got the work, you should be doing it. Especially for those working here in Calgary, given the down-turn in the economy, it is really hard to set some time aside for yourself knowing that many others don’t have the work opportunity that you are enjoying. Additionally, as a contractor, if you’re not working you’re not billing, and that can be a powerful detractor as well.

That said, many contractors have been “running hot” for a long time. Burn-out is becoming more common place, as are mental health issues which can range from being slightly irritable to limitless issues that can be caused by working too hard for too long in a too stressful a situation. There are rare individuals who are truly (and healthily) motivated and invigorated by this lifestyle, but most people would benefit from some respite. Most companies demand that their employees use the vacation time given to them each year and, as an incorporated contractor, you are running your own business. Part of your responsibility as a business owner is to look after the health of your employee(s)… which in most cases is just you.

How would your client/agency like you to plan time off? The key is to begin discussing this early. It gives them a chance to work it into their schedules. Also, being as flexible as possible shows that you are intent on your project’s/work’s success and will make it easier to accommodate your absence. Finally, look at the milestones set for your project and speak with your management contact to decide where your absence might have the least negative impact. There will be times/projects/clients where they simply cannot accommodate an absence request for a certain period of time, but those are more rare and most people are quite reasonable… especially if they recognize that there is likely to be a productivity and/or quality boost to your work when you return fully recharged!

One of the aspects of taking a break from work that has made the biggest difference to me is that it helps to regain a sense of perspective. When you’ve been head down/tail up working for many weeks/months straight, one tends to lose a broader perspective or, rather, your perspective becomes fixed and rooted in the day-to-day problems and issues. Creativity suffers and you can quickly find yourself in a “rut”. Some ruts are straight-up bad while others can become “comfortable” and these are the ones that can last a long, long time. The daily grind becomes routine, you aren’t as bothered by your failures, and you can become numb and ambivalent to both your work and your life outside of work. A good break changes things up, it allows you to see the bigger picture and your role in it, and it both refreshes and regenerates. That way, when you return to your work, you do so with renewed enthusiasm and energy.

If this last paragraph at all rings true for you, you may be overdue for a vacation. Instead of trying to decide whether you can afford to take a break, consider whether you can afford not to. There are plenty of benefits to taking a vacation, and this article perfectly summarizes 7 of them.

Summer is coming soon! What are your plans??!

3 Reasons Why You Need a Business Bank Account

This post by Nellie Akalp originally appeared on the Freshbooks Blog in February 2017

Keeping It Professional: 3 Reasons Why You Need a Business Bank AccountAs a small business owner or freelancer, you probably encounter a lot of overlap between your business finances and personal finances. On the surface, it seems simpler to just have one bank account—after all, it’s a centralized place to keep tabs on client payments that come in, and personal and business expenses that go out.

However, there are several reasons why you must separate your business finances from your personal finances. For one, having a business bank account will separate itself from your personal assets, while streamlining your tax records. But that’s not all. Below are the three reasons why opening a business bank account is crucial for your business and your financial sanity.

Reason #1: A Business Bank Account Keeps the “Corporate Veil” Intact to Protect Your Personal Assets

Many small business owners form a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation because it helps shield their personal assets from things that might happen in the business—for instance, if the business is sued or can’t pay its debts. This is known as a “corporate veil” since it forms some separation between the business owner and the business.

In order to keep that personal liability protection, you need to properly maintain your LLC or corporation. This includes drawing a clear line between your business finances and your personal finances. By creating a business bank account, you ensure that your business is its own entity and separate from you as an individual.

In addition, if your business is ever sued, the plaintiff may try to pierce your corporate veil by showing you haven’t maintained the corporation/LLC to the letter of the law. In this case, they can go after your personal assets. In instances like this, that’s why it’s absolutely critical for LLCs and corporations to keep business finances completely separated from personal finances.

Reason #2: A Business Bank Account Helps You Stay Organized Come Tax Time

Combining your personal account and business account is asking for more trouble that you’d think. Ultimately, combined accounts make it harder to stay on top of your books come tax time.

You may find yourself spending countless hours wading through the past year’s transactions—including personal trips to the grocery store—just to find business expenses to write off. Having separate accounts streamlines your recordkeeping which, at the end of the day, saves you time and ensures you won’t miss any legitimate deductions.

Reason #3: A Business Bank Account Gives You More Credibility to Your Paying Clients

When you’re running a business, it can look a tad unprofessional to pay your contractors with a personal check or have your clients write a check to you as an individual. Will this ever be a deal breaker? Probably not. But, having a dedicated business banking account can send the right signals as you scale your operations and evolve from freelancer to business owner.

As a side note, if you’re running your business as a sole proprietorship, you don’t legally need a separate bank account for your business, but it’s still a good idea for the second and third reasons. Having a business bank account can help make your case to the IRS that you are indeed running a business and are entitled to deduct your business expenses should you ever be audited.

You Ready? What You Need to Open Your First Business Bank Account

Opening a business bank account is a relatively simple process. To make things easier, you can open an account at the same bank where you already have a personal account, so you only have to deal with one institution. Alternatively, you may receive reduce banking rates if you belong to a professional group or organization—such as a group for writers, veterans or performers. Check if they offer access to business checking services through a specialized credit union. This can be a great option.

No matter where you choose to open your business account, you’ll need the following documentation:

  • Your company’s EIN (or Federal Tax ID number).If you don’t already have an EIN for your business, you’ll need to get one from the IRS. You shouldn’t use your personal social security number to open a business account.
  • Articles of Organization / Articles of Incorporation.If your business is structured as an LLC or Corporation, then you’ll most likely need your Articles of Organization/Articles of Incorporation that’s signed and stamped from the state. You may also need to show your Operating Agreement.
  • Certificate of Good Standing.In some cases, you may also need to get a certificate of good standing from the state. This documentation essentially says that your business is up to date on its state taxes and other requirements.
  • Tax ID, social security number, DBA.If your business is structured as a sole proprietorship, you’ll need less documentation, since sole proprietors are considered more like consumers than a business. In this case, you’ll most likely need a Tax ID, social security number, as well as a DBA (Doing Business As) registration if you’re using a business name that is different than your personal name.

As your business grows, it’s crucial to build a proper legal and financial foundation. Opening a separate bank account is one small step in that direction, and will help keep your books organized, as well as ensure your business and personal lives remain separated. In addition, opening a bank account will help form your business’ credit history—a big milestone should you ever want to take out a business loan or line of credit in the future.

About the Author: Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, small business expert, professional speaker, author and mother of four. She is the Founder and CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service and recognized Inc.5000 company. At CorpNet, Nellie assists entrepreneurs across all 50 states to start a businessincorporateform an LLC, and apply for trademarks. She also offers free business compliance tools for any entrepreneur to utilize. Connect with Nellie on LinkedIn.

Is Your Contractor Onboarding Process Hurting Your Projects’ Success?

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Is Your Contractor Onboarding Process Hurting Your Projects' Success?One of the biggest complaints I hear from contractors starting a new contract with a client is the poor onboarding process.  Far too often, a contractor’s first day of work, and even sometimes their entire first work week, is spent chasing down access to technology, security passes, and access to critical documents that enable them to understand the project and their role.

Onboarding processes in many organizations are geared towards full-time hires and many of those components are transferable to contract hires.  Like a full-time hire, contract hires want to feel that the organization they are working with are happy to have them on board, are organized with their internal processes to make the transition into the organization quick and smooth, and most importantly, welcomed into the work and team environment.

Onboarding goes beyond just passing along security cards, access to technology and showing a person where they sit.  Key components of a contractor onboarding program should include:

  • An overview of company culture;
  • A review of corporate policies (security, HR policies, etc…);
  • A personal introduction to members of the team;
  • The project’s goals and the current state of the project;
  • A review of the contractor’s role on the team – setting expectations of deliverables; and,
  • Who they can go to ask questions/support.

Starting any new role, whether you are a full-time employee or a contractor, can be daunting.  The easiest way to set a new person up for success is to spend the time doing a proper, thorough onboarding.

This article from HRPS shows that people make a decision to stay with a company rather quickly and often, the onboarding process is the basis for part of their decision.

  • 4 percent of employees quit after a bad first day (Bersin by Deloitte)
  • 22 percent of turnover occurs in the first 45 days (The Wynhurst Group)
  • 90 percent of employees decide to stay at a company within the first six months (Aberdeen Group)
  • 31 percent of people have quit a job within the first six months, with half of those coming in the first 3 months. (BambooHR)

Technology talent is becoming harder to find every day.  It is critical that clients spend the time up front with hires to ensure they are properly onboarded and see how they fit into the team and the organization.  The cost of replacing talent is huge – whether contract or full time.  Resources that depart an organization months or even weeks after starting have a devastating negative impact on the team – financially and emotionally.

It is important that companies take the time to develop a solid on-boarding process for employees as well as contractors.  Of course, coupled with a great on-boarding process, is a thorough off-boarding process, which I will expand on in a future post.

How IT Contractors Can Avoid Cognitive Biases

Psychology is fascinating. Despite the uniqueness of all humans, it’s interesting to know that we all share similar ways of thinking and can fall into the same traps, all because of human nature. One such trap is cognitive biases which create flaws in logical thinking and lead to making bad decisions.

Independent contractors make a variety of decisions throughout their work. If any of them are made with bias, a technology professional can miss out on new opportunities, harm relationships, or misguide an IT project. For example:

  • If you’ve heard one negative comment about a recruitment agency, the Anchoring Bias can cause you not to consider working with them, without properly evaluating them yourself.
  • The Blind Spot Bias could cause you to ignore your own downfalls.
  • The Outcome Bias may cause you to give bad advice to a client when deciding which direction to go with a project.

The most effective way to prevent a bias is to understand its existence. To be more aware of 12 common cognitive biases, check out this video from Practical Psychology which explains them in very simple terms.

What Rate Should IT Contractors Charge?

Taking the leap from being a permanent employee to an independent contractor has a significant impact on your lifestyle. Technology professionals who have already made the transition are well aware of this and know that there are endless considerations before, during and after making the decision. One such consideration is the rate you will charge to clients for your services.

Choosing the right rate as an independent contractor isn’t as simple as using your salary from your full-time job. There are many costs that factor into your new rate and we’ve discussed what to charge as an independent contractor before in the Talent Development Centre.

If you don’t feel like reading the entire post, take a look at this video that quickly summarizes all of the key takeaways.