Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: IT Contracting

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

The Top Tools to Host Meetings Online While Working from Home

The Top Tools to Host Meetings Online While Working from Home

COVID-19 has quickly forced many of us from full-access to our teams in-person to working by ourselves at home. Communication with the rest of the team is obviously still possible, but depending on your client’s set-up, productive communication and updates might not be as simple. Separate from your contract work, physical distancing also creates challenges in setting up interviews with recruiters, leading networking events with colleagues, or any other kind of gathering you’d typically have professionally or personally.

There are a number of solutions available to help set-up meetings and accomplish your objectives. The challenge is weeding through them all to find the one that’s right for you. We’ve looked into some of the most common ones and summarized what you need to know here:

Standard Social Media Chat Applications

Let’s get this out of the way first. Facebook Messenger, Facetime, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Google Hangouts all provide ways for you to connect with friends and family, whether by chat or by video. They’re completely free and generally simple to use, so at a first glance, these would look like a fantastic options, but they do have some drawbacks. First, as noted, these are typically used for friends and family and require you to connect your social media profiles. Maybe you’re ok with it, but others would prefer not to have their colleagues following them on Facebook. These applications are also not designed for the work environment and are limited in a number of meeting-related features available in the below solutions.

Zoom

Zoom is perhaps the most popular platform being used today. Sign-up is easy and the free version allows unlimited 1-on-1 meetings. You can schedule meetings or start it immediately, but either way, you’re provided a link to send meeting attendees, which they just click on. Attendees will be prompted to download some Zoom software, but the process is quick and easy. Once in the meeting, users can turn on video as well as share screens. The downside to the free version is that any meeting with more than 2 people is limited to 40 minutes in length.

The paid version of Zoom is still reasonable. The cost is $20/month or you can subscribe for an entire year for $200. This opens up a variety of new meeting features, including up to 24-hour maximum meeting duration. Only the host of a meeting is required to pay for the upgraded version of Zoom. All attendees can have a free account and still attend.

Zoom also has many extra features, including a filter tool that lets you touch up your appearance when you’re on video. This recent Inc. article summarizes 7 tips for using Zoom.

Join.me

Join.me is another popular meeting tool and has been around for years. It contains many of the same features as Zoom but does not have a free version available. The Lite version costs $13/month is limited to 5 participants per meeting and no webcam. There are no time limits or meeting limits, though, so if you’re looking to host small conference calls, this would be a great solution. The next level up is $24/month and allows for up to 10 webcam streams and up to 250 participants.

Google Hangouts Meet

Google’s Gsuite is a business solution that provides access to email hosting, storage and a number of other organizational tools, including Google Hangouts Meet. The cost is $7.80/user/month, so if you’re an independent contractor, that would be your only cost and you get the entire Gsuite package. This solution is especially great if you own your own domain and want to consolidate all of those services.

Similar to the other solutions, Hangouts Meet lets you setup a meeting and share a link, without worrying if other teammates also have accounts and plugins. With a fast, lightweight interface and smart participant management, multi-person video calls are a breeze. Hangouts Meet also integrates with Google Calendar for some extra features and is accessible on mobile.

Microsoft Teams (replaced Skype for Business)

There’s a chance you already have access to Microsoft Teams. It is primarily for collaboration and chats as part of Office 365, and also includes a great meetings feature, that replaced Skype for Business. If you don’t already have access, signing-up is free and just requires a Microsoft account, but there is an extra fee if you want access to the conferencing.

Similar to Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams comes as part of a full package of business services from Microsoft. This starts at $10.20/user/month that is an annual commitment, and also comes with storage and access to web applications.

GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting by LogMeIn is another one of the original services and scales up for very large organizations. Their basic Professional level starts at $19/month or $16.25/month billed annually. This package should give you everything you need, including HD video, screensharing, web audio, dial-in conference line, unlimited meetings or meeting lengths, up to 150 participants, plus much more.

Blue Jeans

Another industry leader, BlueJeans, offers many of the same features. Their standard package starts at $15.90/month and allows you to host up to 50 participants, with unlimited meetings with unlimited durations. A differentiator is their Smart Meetings Features which includes meeting highlights, action item tagging and intelligent meeting recaps. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, you can sign-up for a 7 day free trial to see how you like it.

There are tons of meeting tools available and the ones listed above are a selection of the popular ones we’ve come across or used in the past. While Eagle does not recommend any specific one, we do believe that each of these are worth looking at if you’re in the market for a new tool.

What online meeting tools do you use? Do you have a preference? Please share your recommendations in the comments below!

Contractor Quick Poll Results: Who Does Your Taxes

It’s every business owner and independent contractor’s favourite tax! That wonderful job of organizing your books, searching for receipts, and learning just how much you get to pay the Government! Add that fun task to your growing list of to-dos and you barely have time to eat or sleep, let alone see your friends and family.

While some IT professionals are confident and happy to do their taxes by themselves, others prefer to seek the help of a professional to oversee and guarantee they’re done flawlessly. In last month’s contractor quick poll, we asked our audience which route they typically take. By no surprise, most IT contractors hire an accountant to do the dirty work.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: Who Does Your Taxes

Free Webinar to Help You Ensure Client Security While Working from Home

The new normal of physical distancing is expected to be in place for a while yet, meaning working from your home office on a more permanent basis is now a reality. Fortunately, the nature of IT contracting allows for this fairly easily and there are few complications in serving clients and completing projects.

While clients are thrilled that work can still be completed and productivity can remain high, there are security concerns. More remote workers mean that more information may be stored offsite and clients put their trust in IT contractors to keep their systems secured. That means that on top of being productive for your client, you also need to be vigilant in security to protect their information.

Last Summer, we shared a post written by NPC, an organization that specializes in secure mobile solutions. As the article states, clients depend on you to protect their business interests and “The impact on a contractor from a lost, stolen or compromised device while in a contract can be devastating.” Their service is an as-a-service model that provides secure managed devices with back-up completed each day into a secure data centre.

Free Webinar: Office 365 Basics for Secure Work from Home

Free Webinar to Help You Ensure Client Security While Working from HomeOn top of working on a secure device, you want to know that you’re using the software as securely as possible. One of the most common suites of software is Office 365. NPC is hosting two webinars in the coming week with practical insights regarding Office 365 to ensure your productivity and security during this time of challenge.

This webinar is for anyone that would like to know what Office 365 can do for them to work remotely, or current remote users who would like to be sure they are working securely but may need some clarity on key features. Staying connected to your team is important, doing it securely is critical. In this free 60-minute webinar NPC will walk you through the minimums of what you will need to effectively work from home using Office 365, and how you can be productive using key applications like SharePoint and Teams.

The webinar is open to everyone and will cover topics including: The Importance of Secure Computing from Home at this Time, Specific Cyber Threats, The Essentials for Secure Computing in Your WFH Environment, Connecting to Your Data with SharePoint, and Connecting to People with Teams.

Use either of these links to sign-up for the webinars:

Practical Ways for IT Contractors to Use Free Time

Practical Ways for IT Contractors to Use Free Time

The COVID-19 outbreak is locking the world down inside their homes and many of us are already going stir-crazy. Evening extra-curricular activities have been cancelled, live sports are taking a hiatus, and we’re discouraged from going out unless it’s absolutely necessary. Even telecommuting, as convenient as it is, gives you an hour or two more at home… inside the house… bored.

As we noted in last week’s post, it becomes easy to create an unhealthy routine of rolling out of bed, doing your work, then watching Netflix, all while eating junk food throughout the day. That behaviour is acceptable over the Christmas holidays, but is not ideal. Instead, use your extra time to better yourself and plan some of these tasks into your daily routines:

Professional Development

How many times in the past couple years have you missed out on a gig or higher rate because you were lacking some specific training or certification. Did you tell yourself you’re going to get on it but life is too busy? Now is the time! There are plenty of ways you can expand your skills and learn right from your home. We recently updated this post that contains over 50 different online resources for building skills and earning certifications. Included in that list is ICTC’s newly launched ICTC Ditital Pulse Channel. It will include live virtual events via video conference and available on their Vimeo page.

Perhaps you just need to use some existing skills and develop tangible experience. In that case, try creating  a few made-up projects, similar to this video of Python projects that look good on a resume. Or, you can offer to help a friend or past client with a project at no charge, with the understanding that you are learning a new skill.

Update Your Resume

We see thousands of resumes. Few of them are perfect. Can yours use some polishing? Here’s a checklist of things worth reviewing:

  1. Experience: Review it and ensure you list all technologies and skills you used, in each project description. If you know you will be responding to public sector bids in the future, check out this past post about building a resume for a government matrix. Remember, when you’re in a crunch to get a resume to a recruiter, it will be easier to cut information out of a detailed resume than to write new information to put into it.
  2. Wording: You have the meat, now make sure you’re selling yourself! Check out this post that helps you write the perfect profile summary. It will hook a recruiter into wanting to read more of your resume, then you can sell them on your experience. This infographic contains powerful action verbs to incorporate into project descriptions.
  3. Formatting: It’s amazing how many great resumes are destroyed because the formatting is awful. The biggest letdown is when a candidate gets too fancy and designs a beautiful resume that staffing agencies’ Applicant Tracking Systems can’t read. Then all that work becomes pointless. Even when it gets through the system, some IT contractors still fail to catch a recruiter’s attention. A few years ago, we asked recruiters what IT contractors can do better when formatting their resume, here’s their responses. Does your resume have any of these mishaps? If you’re spicing up your resume, also check out the video series we did a few years ago that gives tips for formatting your resume in MS Word.
  4. Match it to LinkedIn: It is no secret that all recruiters leverage LinkedIn to build their network. You need to have an updated profile to be found by the industry’s top recruiters. You also need to confirm it matches your resume which is one of the top things recruiters look for in a great LinkedIn profile. Use your downtime to update your LinkedIn profile, complete with a great profile photo.

Organize Your Business

Keeping your business running smoothly requires extra time to organize, and frankly, few IT contractors have time for that… until now! Here are a few past posts that will help:

Take Care of Yourself

If all else fails and you don’t want to think about work, use your time to take care of yourself.

  • Add Exercise into Your Daily Routine. It can be as simple as a few push-ups and crunches throughout the day, taking a walk around the block during your lunch break, or finding online workouts to follow along with. Many gyms are offering free live sessions to help cope with quarantines, you just need to search for them.
  • Practice Mindfulness. Especially during uncertain times where stress and anxiety are high, this is a good opportunity learn more about mindfulness. Explore and practice meditation in a quiet area to help focus your attention on the present moment and accept it without judgement. Some forms of yoga can have similar results, and also accomplish that exercise goal!
  • Enjoy Time with Others. Enjoy board games and activities with kids and spouses. Then, when fights inevitably break-out, call old friends and relatives who you’ve lost touch with.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging time for the world and it’s a test for all of us. How we react and move forward will determine who will come out on top when this is all over. These are just a few ways you can take advantage of your downtime to better yourself. What else are you doing to keep busy while stuck at home?

COVID-19 Government Support for Canadian IT Contractors

Last Update: April 2, 2020

The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak is causing drastic amounts of stress and uncertainty for everyone. We recently shared a post with ideas and resources to help deal with the anxiety, but there are many other concerns Canadian IT contractors are dealing with every day.

The Federal Government and various Provincial Governments are all taking measures and implementing programs to help Canadians through difficult times. We’re collecting these updates as they’re announced and posting them to this page.

Feel free to bookmark this page and check back often. If you have any questions, require more information, or have a lead on some support that we missed, please leave them in the comments below.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

If you have lost income because of COVID-19, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will provide you with $500 a week for up to 16 weeks.

Are you Eligible for the CERB?

To be eligible, you must:

  • Be residing in Canada
  • Be at least 15 years old
  • Stopped working as a result of reasons related to COVID-19 (if you are looking for a job but haven’t stopped working because of COVID-19, you are not eligible for the Benefit) or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits
  • Have had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of application. That income may be from any or a combination of the following sources: employment; self-employment; maternity and parental benefits and/or similar benefits paid in Quebec.
  • Be, or expect to be, without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period.

How to Apply for the CERB

You can apply for the CERB here.

Applications for the CERB will be accepted starting April 6th and you will require a CRA My Account. The link above includes resources for setting up your account, including retriving your password, setting up an account through your My Service Canada account or setting one up from scratch. To help manage the demand, applications are being accepted based on your month of birth:

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Contacting Service Canada

Service Canada is temporarily closing in-person Service Canada Centres to allow them to better prioritize capacity and to ensure critical service delivery to vulnerable clients. You can apply for critical services online and Citizen Service Officers will be providing personalized service support for EI and pensions applications through an e-service available online and on mobile phone. To support access to critical programs and services for clients without access to technology, Service Canada Community Outreach and Liaison Service staff are contacting communities to offer alternate service delivery methods that will continue to support accessing critical programs, services and benefits. Service Canada is also warning that call volumes are expected to be high for the foreseeable future. Please visit Canada.ca for information. If you have difficultly getting through, please try again later

Emergency Isolation Support (Alberta)

Eligible working Albertans can receive a one-time emergency isolation support payment of $1,146 if they are required to self-isolate or are the sole caregiver of someone in self-isolation and they have no other source of pay or compensation. This is a temporary program to bridge the gap until the Federal Emergency Care Benefit is available in April. If you are eligible for federal Employment Insurance benefits, you are strongly encouraged to apply immediately.

Temporary Aid for Workers Program (Quebec)

This program, offered by the Gouvernement du Québec in partnership with the Red Cross, offers financial assistance to meet the needs of workers who, because they are in isolation to counter the propagation of the COVID-19 virus, cannot earn all of their work income and are not eligible for another financial assistance program, including EI. The lump-sum amount granted to an eligible person is $573 per week, for a period of 14 days of isolation. If justified by your state of health, the coverage period for an eligible person could be extended to a maximum of 28 days. Workers can start by filling out the application form here.

British Columbia Emergency Benefit for Workers

The B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers will provide a one-time $1,000 payment to people who lost income because of COVID-19. Applications for the one-time payment will open soon.

Deferred Due Date for Taxes

Canada Revenue Agency is deferring the filing due date for individuals until June 1st. Furthermore, the CRA will allow all taxpayers to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing right now and before September 2020.

Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers

This is a three-month measure that will allow eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deductions required to be remitted to the CRA. Incorporated independent contractors who pay themselves a salary may qualify for this. The subsidy is equal to 75% of the remuneration you pay, retroactive to March 15, 2020, up to $847 per employee per week. To qualify, employers will have to show that their revenues have fallen by at least 30 per cent due to COVID-19. The Prime Minister did warn that companies that can pay their employees without federal help should do so or else serious consequences will follow.

Once you have calculated your subsidy, you can reduce your current remittance of federal, provincial, or territorial income tax that you send to the CRA by the amount of the subsidy. You cannot reduce your remittance of CPP contributions or EI premiums. This does not apply to remittances made to Revenu Québec. Eagle recommends discussing this option with your accountant.

Mortgage and Credit Relief at Banks

Banks in Canada have affirmed their commitment to working with customers to provide flexible solutions, on a case-by-case basis. This includes up to a 6-month payment deferral for mortgages and opportunity for relief on other credit products. Contact your local bank branch if you require any assistance.

Job Protected Leave

Most provinces have implemented protected leave for workers who need to take time off to due to quarantines or COVID-19 illnesses. In Alberta, this does not require a doctor’s note nor is there a requirement to have worked for an employer for 90 days. The leave covers the 14-day self-isolation period recommended by Alberta’s chief medical officer and may be extended if the advice of the chief medical officer changes. Similarly, in Ontario, employees are not be required to provide a medical note if they take the leave and the measures would be retroactive to January 25, 2020. In BC, the COVID-19 leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in British Columbia. During this public health emergency, employees can take this job-protected leave for the reasons above as long as they need it, without putting their job at risk.

Childcare

The Government is proposing to increase the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment amounts, only for the 2019-20 benefit year, by $300 per child. The overall increase for families receiving CCB will be approximately $550 on average; these families will receive an extra $300 per child as part of their May payment.

In the Province of Ontario, the government is providing a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, and $250 for those with special needs, including children enrolled in private schools.

Ontario Renewal Extensions

The province of Ontario is providing extensions for driver licences, licence plate validation, Ontario Photo Cards, and Commercial Vehicle Operator Registration certificates, among others. In addition, expiring and expired health cards will continue to provide access to health services.

This extension will be in place until such time that, based on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and public health officials, the current situation improves.

Alberta Utility Payment Holidays

In Alberta, residential customers can defer electricity and natural gas bill payments for the next 90 days to ensure no one will be cut off, regardless of the service provider.

Relief from the Ontario Energy Board

The OEB extended the winter ban on electricity disconnections for non-payment for all residential customers to July 31, 2020. Low-volume, small business customers will now also be protected by the ban. In addition, the OEB is calling on distributors to be more flexible on arrears payment arrangements. The Ontario Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines is looking at programs and policies to support electricity customers during the COVID-19 pandemic and information should be coming shortly.

Additional Resources

Implementing a Business Continuity Plan That Includes Working from Home

Implementing a Business Continuity Plan That Includes Working from Home

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

When disaster strikes (not too hard to imagine these days), most people enter “fire-fighting” mode, change their priorities and deal with it. As a contractor you are a business owner. And businesses require a bit more pre-planning than that. Sure, your business may have only a single employee but that makes this employee pretty important to the company! Even small businesses have suppliers, customers and partners that count on them. A Business Continuity Plan ensures that you know what to do in what order should something unforeseen come up.

Elements of a good BCP vary upon which source you check. In general, they contain these main components:

  • Understanding what is critical to your business’ operations
  • Determining the most important functions within your business
  • Identifying how long these functions can continue to operate during an emergency situation
  • Assigning some measure of risks to each based on your analysis
  • Coming up with a plan that addresses these risks (heavy emphasis on open and timely communications with your stakeholders)
  • Some suggest a final point – Testing the plan. But, depending on your situation, this may not be possible.

There is no shortage of advice online about how to tackle this business planning.

A big part of Eagle’s business continuity plan is how we leverage technology. It’s been over 10 years now, that we adopted technology that fully enabled our workers to work remotely should it come to that. In 2013, the Calgary flood closed the downtown core for many days. No one was allowed in or out and many businesses ground to a halt. Eagle’s BCP kicked in and we continued to service our clients and work with our contractor partners without any significant impact. Key aspects to our technology included cloud-based ERP/CRM, Digital Communications (VoIP, etc.), internal messaging systems and ensuring that all employees have a proper workspace and equipment to be able to be productive and effective from home.

Best Practices for Working from Home

Today, more and more of our clients are directing their staff to work remotely to encourage “social distancing”. As a contractor, this would be required of you as well. Besides the security concerns that would need to be arranged with the client, working from home requires some best practices/skills in addition to having the technology in place that would allow your work to continue when clients shut off access to their offices. Here are some links to past Talent Development Centre posts that share ideas with respect to telecommuting, or as we call it at Eagle, WORKshifting (working wherever you are most productive):

These are strange times and uncharted waters! Hopefully, you have a BCP and are implementing it now. And, if not… well, as the old saying goes… “The best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago. The second best time is today.” All the best to you as the world works through these health challenges! Take care – stay safe.

Protect You and Your Clients from Ransomware (plus an invitation to a free webinar)

Protect You and Your Clients from Ransomware  (plus an invitation to a free webinar)

According to Cybersecurity Ventures’ 2019 Official Annual Cybercrime Report, cybercrime is expected to cost the world more than $6 trillion by 2021, $20 billion in damages due to Ransomware. Attacks are not limited to certain industries or stealing data either. This article from OHS Canada gives an example of an ethical hacker in Italy who successfully took over a tower crane’s radio frequency controller. That can be disastrous!

With these stats, combined with endless stories of the past few years, it’s safe to say that no organization is safe from ransomware and we all need to be diligent. Depending on your contract, some clients allow, and even require, you to provide your own computer to perform work. Others strictly prohibit it. Regardless, you always need to be aware of these threats to protect your client, whether you’re connected to their network or just storing some data on your own machine.

A recent article written by Jason Hardy of Racksquared Data Centers, and published on The Business Journals provides three tips to protect business from ransomware:

  1. Implement a 3-2-1 backup strategy. That includes having three copies of data, on two different types of media, and one of those copies are offsite.
  2. Stay current on security patches. This is one of the simplest, but can also be overlooked due to time or expenses when you don’t have a dedicated team to patches. You may consider outsourcing this to ensure it gets done.
  3. Educate employees on security best practices. As noted above, there are no limits to who and what can get hacked, so do what you can to spread best practices and keep everyone within your team informed about how to stay safe.

Free Webinar to Protect Your Business from Ransomware Attacks

If you’re interested in learning more about Ransomware and how you can protect yourself and your client, NPC is hosting a free webinar offering best practices and defence strategies. They’ll discuss what ransomware is, how it works and how it has evolved, followed by what you can do about it.

The webinar takes place Tuesday, March 10th at 1:00pm EST. You can get more details and register for the webinar here.

NPC provides secure managed laptops, desktops and tablets for professionals who need reliable, secure computing with comprehensive support services. The devices are already sourced, configured, and secured with industry leading backup and security tools. From there, their support technicians continue to monitor and manage encryption and backup compliance, policy enforcement of biometric and strong password access, and overall system performance. If you’re interested in trying NPC’s service, Eagle contractors can get an exclusive offer here.

Quick Poll Results: Do you swear at work?

Workplaces are trending to be more casual environments. Employers are more lean on dresscodes, lounges are popping up in offices, and a number of other progressive perks are bringing a more laid-back feeling to workplaces across all industries. With that mind, we set-out last month to learn if a more casual language is also working its way into the office.

The January Contractor Quick Poll asked our readers, comprised mostly of IT contractors, if they swear in the workplace. The results are clear that the  majority remain professional and are not bringing foul language into work.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: Do you swear at work?

Making Work-Life Balance as an Independent Contractor

Making Work-Life Balance as an Independent Contractor

From the outside looking in, working for oneself as an independent contractor is a dream come true. You get to set your own hours, you have no boss, you only work on what you enjoy… ha! Experienced IT contractors know that for all of the benefits of being in business on your own, there are a number of extra stressors.

A common struggle felt by independent contractors is work-life balance. For sure, employees feel pressure from their managers to work extra hours and get work done, but independent contractors feel a different kind of pressure, and it isn’t as easy to manage. Employees have the benefits of set workdays, guaranteed salaries, and paid time-off. Contractors face a reality that if a job isn’t done, and isn’t done with quality, they may not get a paid. With that narrative always pestering you, it’s no wonder work-life balance doesn’t come as easily in the gig economy.

Lack of work-life balance hurts relationships, takes a toll on your health, and will compromise the quality of work you deliver to clients. If you have a goal to improve your wellbeing, here are a few tips to consider:

Set Boundaries

The first step to work/life balance is to consciously plan for it by setting specific boundaries between the two. Physical boundaries are easier to set if all of your work is done at the client site, but if you work from a home office, this becomes more difficult. Your home office should be only for work with no distractions. If possible, have a completely different space and computer for personal tasks and gaming.

Time boundaries are also important. Just as a company employee has set office hours, do the same for yourself so you know when to call it a day. This includes turning off notifications on your phone after a certain time and eliminating all distractions.

Manage Your Time

Being organized and making the best use of your time is another strategy to ensure work isn’t creeping into your personal life. Use a calendar to plan out your days, weeks and months, as well as to organize to-do lists. You’ll gain an understanding of your hard deadlines, scheduled meetings, and personal events, making it easier to juggle more flexible tasks and ensure everything fits.

Control the Work You Take On

Remain in control of the work you take on to prevent it from getting out of hand and remember that just because work is available, you do not have to take it. If you already have a lot on your plate, tell your client thanks but no thanks, or offer to do it at a later date. When you know a prospective client has a tendency of letting projects get out of control and demanding more than you’d like to give, pass on that work as well. And if your existing client is a headache and is already hindering your work/life balance, think twice before renewing that contract.

Build a Support Network of Like-Minded Independent Contractors

More than just a group of professionals to bounce ideas off of and to provide moral support, a group of professionals in your field will help you manage your workload. Further to the previous point, nobody likes giving up work and letting a client down. If you keep a trustworthy network of IT contractors with similar skillsets, you can hand them contract opportunities that you don’t have time to handle yourself. In return, you may get extra work from them when your well is running dry.

Plan to Take Vacation

Vacation and time away are mandatory for everyone to maintain their sanity, but it’s easy to get stuck in a loop of contracts and never make time for yourself. Plan to take time off, either between contracts or at a specific time of year. Then purchase tickets so you’re financially committed to the plan, making it harder for “Future You” to back-out of that planned vacation.

Independent contractors are also known to avoid vacation because, contrary to employees, time-off means not getting paid. Budget time-off when planning your year and set money aside so you still get a “paid” vacation.

Without a solid plan for work/life balance, any IT contractor is doomed to overwork themselves, burn out, and cause damage to their business and personal relationships. If you’re prioritizing this, we strongly recommend you come up with a plan that works for you today. If you are happy with your existing work/life balance, please share your strategies in the comments below.

Contractor Quick Poll: Who Does Your Taxes?

For many of us, taxes are a confusing headache, like trying to win a scavenger hunt created by the government. Succeed at solving their riddles and providing the right information, and you get to continue with business as usual. Mess it up, though, and you’re into a whole new set of headaches.

A couple years ago we asked our readers who manages their general bookkeeping and accounting. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re asking independent contractors how you specifically approach tax season. Do you take advantage of online tools and services to file it all on your own, or do you hire the help of a professional to take care of it for you?