Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Independent Contracting

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

Are You Awesome or Annoying? (Video)

If given the choice, we hope that you would prefer to be awesome rather than annoying, especially in the eyes of recruiters and clients when they’re interviewing you for a gig. Of course, we all think we’re awesome, but are you really that great… or are you kind of annoying?

Don’t stay up all night worrying about what recruiters think of you. Instead, have a look at this video we created with input from our recruiters and confirm if they think you’re awesome or annoying. If you fall in the annoying category, perhaps it’s time to change some habits.

This CRA Mobile App Will Help with Your 2017 Taxes

This CRA Mobile App Will Help with Your 2017 Taxes2017 is in full swing! Most people are back from holidays (if they were fortunate to take them), projects are moving again, recruiters are calling, and tax season is approaching. As you start to look at your 2016 books and consider working on your taxes, you may be realizing that you could have done a better job at staying organized in that area (and hopefully you are setting a goal to keep up-to-date in 2017). Vice-versa, you could be super stress-free right now because you were well prepared at this time last year.

Regardless of your situation, a new year means a fresh start to get organized. We can’t help you with your 2016 taxes, but we can give you a boost for this year. The CRA created a mobile app that lets independent contractors create custom reminders and alerts for key CRA due dates related to instalment payments, returns, and remittances. Download the iOS, Android, or BlackBerry version, or check out all of CRA’s mobile apps here.

2016 in Review: The Business of Independent Contracting

2016 in Review: The Business of Independent ContractingIt’s well-known that successful independent contractors are hard workers, experts in their field and know the best ways to keep a steady flow of work. Something often over-looked by an outsider is all of the extra work an independent contractor has to do just to manage their business. Since we know that IT contracting goes beyond searching for jobs and working on projects, the Talent Development Centre is filled with helpful business tips and contracting advice.

Just getting into contracting can be a scary endeavor, which is why we posted these articles to help IT professionals in that situation:

We also shared these posts to help manage the business once it’s moving:

One of the greatest benefits of the Talent Development Centre is the inside scoop we provide from our executives, who work closely with industry associations. As a result, 2016 also saw these policy-related articles:

What did we miss in 2016? Use the comments below to tell us what you want to learn more about next year.

Want to Start a Business While Working Full-Time? You Can — Just Keep These Tips in Mind

This post by Nellie Akalp first appeared on the Freshbooks Blog on October 20th, 2016

Want to Start a Business While Working Full-Time? You Can—Just Keep These Tips in MindWhether you’re about to venture out on your own as a solo professional or launch a new business, it’s often easier to lay the groundwork while still employed. The stability and steady paycheck associated with full-time employment comes in handy when you’ve got real-world responsibilities like a mortgage and student loans—or you just want to eat something other than ramen every day.

Working on a business or freelancing while still at a full-time job builds your experience, confidence and project pipeline. You get to explore the different aspects of solo work and see if you enjoy wearing all the hats that come along with business ownership. As they say, you need to learn to walk before you can run. And staying employed while you learn the ropes can help you do this.

Balancing a job and a budding business is possible, but it does take some careful consideration—including legal, personal and professional matters. If you’re thinking about starting a business while keeping your day job, here are 5 things to keep in mind.

  1. Check Your Employee Contract

Before you begin taking on side projects, you should become very familiar with your employee contract and/or handbook. Some companies include non-compete clauses, which can mean you aren’t allowed to accept work on the side. The strictest clauses are usually found in ad and creative agencies who don’t want their employees to poach company clients.

Poring over legal fine print is no one’s idea of a good time, but it is essential. If you’re caught breaking the terms of your contract, you can be fired—even sued. Fighting a lawsuit while unemployed isn’t the best way to help get your small business off the ground. So, read your employment agreements carefully. If the wording seems vague, you can decide for yourself whether you’d like to approach your boss or HR for clarification, or keep your plans to yourself.

  1. Give 110% to Your Day Job

No matter how excited you are about your new venture, you’re still committed to your current job and company. It will be obvious relatively quickly if you aren’t holding your own in the workplace. This means staying on top of deadlines, getting to meetings on time, being enthusiastic—basically just doing your job as well as you always have. Underperforming at the office can hurt your professional reputation and long-term prospects.

There’s one important difference now. Since your new business is going to take up most of your spare time, you can’t stay late or work weekends for your “day job.” This means you need to make every minute in the office count. Master the arts of prioritization and delegation in order to get as much done as possible during your normal work hours. These are essential skills for being a freelancer and entrepreneur, anyways.

  1. Create a Disciplined and Regular Routine

There are only 24 hours in a day, so you’ll definitely be feeling a scheduling crunch when you first start out. Try to develop a steady rhythm for working on your new business, setting time aside in the evening, early in the morning and on your days off. Creating a regular schedule will help you stay disciplined. You need to make time to work on the business whether you have projects or not—there’s always important work to do such as creating your business’ website, networking or hustling for new business.

If you are struggling to find time to work on your business, take a careful look at the root cause. It could be circumstantial; for example, you’re just really busy right now for a major project at work, but things will quiet down soon. Self-employment requires a lot of discipline, self-direction and self-motivation. It’s very different than previous experiences with a boss or professor. This means it is important to identify early on if the solo work style is right for you.

  1. Treat Your New Venture as a Legitimate Business

You may still be a full-time employee, but the minute you accept money for your work, you’re also a business owner and entrepreneur. This means you need to treat your side work as a legit business—and learn all the responsibilities that come along with owning a business, including how to organize your finances, report your income and pay your taxes.

This would be a good time to meet with a CPA or tax advisor who is familiar with the needs of small business owners and freelancers. Setting up good practices early will help you scale later. One interesting point is that if you form a business and it takes a loss during the first year, you can actually deduct that loss to offset your income from your regular job (talk to a CPA/tax advisor for the details).

In addition, consider creating a formal business entity (such as a Limited Liability Company) to help lower your personal liability should your side business be sued or can’t pay its liabilities.

  1. Determine When You’ll Dive into Solo Work Full-Time

As your business grows, you’ll surely experience periods of intense work overload. At this point, you will need to decide if it is better to quit your job or turn down new client projects. How do you know if it’s time to start working on your own full time? It’s not an easy question to answer, but here are a few thoughts…

Unless you’re willing to blow through your savings or take out a line of credit, you shouldn’t consider leaving your job until your business can bring in as much income as your current job (or close to it or at least enough to meet your needs). That’s the practical consideration.

In addition, it may be time to rethink your situation if you find yourself so excited about your new business that it’s hard to muster any enthusiasm for your day job. This can drain you personally and professionally and you don’t want to just stick around until your employer kicks you out. If you’re having a hard time going to work each morning, then it’s time to accelerate your new business. Figure out how to build a runway of clients and have some cash flowing in—then take the jump.

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.

Here’s Why All Independent Contractors Need to Consider Volunteer Work

Here's Why All Independent Contractors Need to Consider Volunteer WorkGiving back to the community is an activity that every citizen should do, at whatever capacity they can. In some cases that involves donating money, but it should also include donating your time. In addition to the core functions of local community groups and charities, independent contractors and freelancers are sometimes asked to volunteer their own professional services. Regardless of what kind of work you do, just a few hours of free work can go a long way in helping a charity or non-profit organization get closer to accomplishing their goals. In addition, there are countless benefits and rewards that can come to you, both personally and professionally.

As selfish as it may feel, every volunteer gets personal gain from putting time into their community, whether or not they recognize it. For example:

  • Being involved and doing the right thing brings personal satisfaction.
  • Building a better community not only is great for your family but can raise the value of a home.
  • It’s an opportunity to meet the “who’s who” in your area, including business owners and politicians.
  • It brings new challenges when you feel life is getting dull.
  • The change in routine helps to get away from regular life stresses and recharge your batteries.
  • You can make new friends and improve your social life.
  • It provides an overall perspective on what you have in life, which can make you happier.

Beyond the personal benefits of volunteering is the professional value that can also come with it. Independent contractors can gain significant traction for their business, by simply finding a cause they love and putting in a few extra hours.

  • Networking: Industry events get bland and you start to only see the same people. Volunteering opens you up to a whole new set of professionals from different backgrounds and industries.
  • References: Speaking of the people you meet, some of them will make valuable character references and, in some circumstances, can speak to your technical skills as well.
  • Maintain Unused Skills: You know that old technology that you barely use anymore because all of your clients have moved on? A charity or non-profit may still be using it. When you volunteer to help with that piece, you keep yourself fresh in case it ever comes up again with clients.
  • Work on New Skills Too: The organization where you give time may also be using a tool you haven’t yet tried or one for which you need to build experience before you can sell it. This provides a win-win scenario for both of you!
  • Explore Something New: Perhaps you’ve been considering a career change or thinking of changing industries all together. Volunteering is a simple way to test the waters while helping others at the same time.

From helping the less fortunate to caring for animals, everybody can find an organization that speaks to them. As an added bonus to contributions you make in your community, you will improve your life, both personally and professionally. If you’re not volunteering yet, what are you waiting for?

Accounting Basics for the Independent Contractor (Video)

Independent contractors are essentially a small business with one employee – yourself. For that reason, you need to follow all of the same accounting principles as any other small business. The good news is: it also means that any accounting tips and tricks for “small businesses” can be applied to your independent contracting business.

Especially if you’re just starting out as a freelance IT professional in the gig economy, the accounting side of the business can be intimidating. To help ease the stress, check out this video from Patriot Software that runs through some basic accounting tips for small businesses.

If you’re still unsure about these tasks, we strongly recommend you engage a professional accountant. Avoiding tax complications and properly planning your finances will be well worth the money you pay.

Does Calling Yourself a ‘Freelancer’ Hold You Back?

This post by Susan Johnston Taylor first appeared on the Freshbooks Blog on September 28th, 2016

Does Calling Yourself a ‘Freelancer’ Hold You Back? One of the perks of freelancing is choosing your own title. So, what exactly should you call yourself? A freelancer, an entrepreneur, a small business-owner, something else?

In my experience, solopreneurs who choose not to self-identify as freelancers tend to fall into one of two main camps. The first camp chooses some other title to post on social media, print on their business cards and use in their elevator pitch (for instance, “independent web developer,” “creative director for hire” or “entrepreneurial journalist”).

Or they set up a business (for instance, “Sam Smith Media, LLC” or “The Red Pen Unlimited”) officially or unofficially that de-emphasizes their solo status and allows them to call themselves the owner, CEO or similar. In that case, maybe they plan on eventually scaling up to include others or they want to give the impression of being a larger company so they can attract bigger clients.

Here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of calling yourself a freelancer.

Advantages of the ‘Freelancer’ Title

Clarity

In certain circles, people will know immediately what you’re all about if you call yourself a freelance web designer or a freelance copywriter. They may not understand what you mean by a “web design ninja” or an “independent content marketing strategist.” That’s especially true of LinkedIn profiles. No client or employer searches LinkedIn for people with cutesy or creative titles like “copywriting maven” or “SEO guru,” so in that context, you’d want more a straightforward professional title that makes it clear what you do.

Camaraderie

Freelancers are a pretty rad tribe of free-thinking, creative people. Self-identifying as a freelancer means you’re part of that community and gives you the ability to tap into the collective wisdom of the tribe through online forums, in-person events and the like. Of course there are also forums and networking events for people who self-identify as solopreneurs or small business-owners, but freelancers tend to share some similarities that they may not share with the broader community of small business-owners who have brick and mortar locations or employees to manage.

Disadvantages of the ‘Freelancer’ Title

Lack of Respect

Alas, some clients just don’t respect freelancers. They may pay their freelancers late (or not at all) or email them at all hours of the day or night assuming the freelancer must have nothing better to do than wait at the client’s beck and call. Calling yourself something other than a freelancer could help establish yourself as a legitimate business entity deserving of greater respect.

Negative Associations

The term can have negative stereotypes for those who assume that a freelancer is someone who couldn’t hack it in the corporate world or who loafs around in pajamas watching daytime soap operas. For most freelancers that isn’t the case, but using a term other than freelancer could help bypass some of these misperceptions and position yourself as a bona fide professional.

Self-Perception

Aside from how others treat you, calling yourself a small business-owner or a solopreneur could also shape the way you think about your own work. If you view freelancing as a casual thing you do in between full-time jobs, you may not behave like a business or charge what you’re worth. But if you think of yourself as a business, then you’re more apt to get agreements in writing, send professional-looking invoices and take other steps that establish you as a business.

Possible Limitations

Some creative professionals grow from freelancing on their own to subcontracting work to others or even creating a virtual digital agency with multiple contractors or employees. If you see yourself as a digital agency of one, then that could create a smoother transition into a larger business in the future. Branding yourself as something other than a freelancer means you won’t have to rebrand when you decide to expand or change how you think about and describe your work. Of course, scaling up isn’t for everyone. Some freelancers are happy to remain a company of one.

Distancing Yourself from Your Work

Some solopreneurs choose to incorporate as a business to provide an extra layer of protection in case there’s a legal dispute around their work. Also, some freelancers define themselves by the success or failure of their work (an unhealthy, but all too common mindset). Using a business name other than your own name could also have the psychological benefit of reminding you that you are not interchangeable with your work.

In my case, I vary my word choice depending on the context. If I meet fellow freelancer, I’m apt to self-identify as a freelancer as well so that we can find common ground. If I’m hobnobbing with other solopreneurs, I might self-identify with that group. Ultimately, I think behaving like a business-owner is more important than what you call yourself.

About the Author: Freelance journalist Susan Johnston Taylor covers entrepreneurship, small business and lifestyle for publications including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and FastCompany.com. Follow her on Twitter @UrbanMuseWriter.

 

The Dreaded Project Gap—How Your Contracting Business Can Plan for Continued Financial Health

This post first appeared on the CA4IT Blog on February 16, 2016

The Dreaded Project Gap—How Your Contracting Business Can Plan for Continued Financial HealthAs an independent contractor, you know that your business relies on a consistent project load to maintain profitability. However, at some point, you may face a gap between projects. This situation creates many concerns, but with careful financial planning, these rare occurrences should have little, if any impact on your bottom line. By utilizing some commonsense tips, you can safeguard against any effects from project gaps or other unforeseen disruptions.

Tips for Minimizing the Impact of a Gap Between Projects

  • First and foremost, you should always have a plan in place for project gaps. If you are just starting your small business, you need professional accounting advice as to how to plan for downtime not just between contracts, but for all unexpected events that could disrupt your business, such as illness. Remember, your business relies on your ability to perform, so if you suddenly cannot work for any reason, you need a financial back-up plan. This can include a focused savings plan or an emergency plan to liquidate assets or scale down expenses.
  • Stay on top of every expense and think ahead for tax deductions. Tools like cloud-based accounting for small businesses let you keep track of every income and expense in real time so that you always know how you’re doing. The most powerful tool you have is information, and when you can see your business’s financial picture on demand, you gain the power to manage it proactively.
  • Use downtime wisely. Whether your gap lasts a few days or a couple of weeks, never look at this as vacation time. Brush up on your continuing education, or go after than certification you need. View every day as an opportunity to grow and refine your business.

As a business accounting service specializing in independent contractors, CA4IT believes that you need careful, conscious preparation for changes in your workload. We can help you plan for any scenario and fro continued financial stability. Turn to us for all of your accounting needs so that you always feel confident about your financial outlook. To learn more, contact a CA4IT representative for the best accounting help in your community.

Keep Cash Flowing: Avoid Invoicing Mistakes That Keep You From Getting Paid

This post by Janet Berry-Johnson first appeared on the FreshBooks Blog on August 30th, 2016

Keep Cash Flowing: Avoid Invoicing Mistakes That Keep You from Getting PaidRunning a business is a balancing act. You’re focused on providing top-notch services, keeping clients happy, paying the bills, preparing for tax time and juggling a million other demands to keep your business moving. As if that wasn’t enough, you also need to keep up with invoicing to make sure you get paid. We agree—billing is a time-consuming chore but it’s one of the most crucial functions of any business. If you neglect to do it right, it will affect your cash flow.

Invoicing isn’t just a matter of catching typos and ensuring it’s sent to the right client. A mere error on your invoice can result in delayed payments, miscommunication and loss of client satisfaction. Communicating the terms and promptly sending invoices are some obvious ways to ensure your billing is accurate and complete. Here are a few other invoicing mistakes you perhaps haven’t considered.

You Didn’t Upload a Logo (Or Don’t Have One)

If you don’t include your logo on each and every invoice you send, you’re missing out on a simple branding opportunity. We live in a visual world. Even down to the minute details—like invoicing—there’s no exception. Many people spend hours of their days on website design and business cards, but spend very little time thinking about how their invoices represent their brand.

Consider this: your invoice is potentially your last contact with your client, so it should reflect the same branding and attention-to-detail as your website and printed materials. Take the time to create a beautiful, clear invoice—your clients will appreciate it!

You Forgot to Add a Due Date

Many invoicing templates include the generic wording “Payment due in 30 days” or “net 30.” Those phrases seem simple enough: if the invoice is issued on July 30th, payment is due on August 30th—right? Actually, to ensure you’re actually getting paid on time, consider communicating the due date a little clearer.

Consider the situation from an accounts-payable perspective. First, your client has to locate a date on the invoice. They probably receive many invoices each month. After they’ve located the due date, they need to establish the payment terms, which may or may not be located near the invoice date. Maybe the payment terms aren’t included on the invoice at all. Then, the client has to calculate the due date based on these two pieces of information.

When you consider how many invoices an accounts payable department processes every day, it’s easy to see how a wrong due date may be entered. To make matters worse, many accounts payable systems default to the current date as the invoice date. The current date will always be later than the actual invoice date, so unless your client takes the time to enter the information correctly, your invoice will be paid late.

The solution? Make it as easy as possible for your client by providing a clear due date on each invoice. Consider writing the due date clearly at the top, and including additional payment terms below.

Adding this information in a prominent location will make it less likely that your client will enter inaccurate information in their accounts payable software.

You Sent Your Client a “Surprise” Invoice

Some people love a surprise, while others not-so-much. But no one enjoys a surprise invoice—rather, a charge they didn’t expect.

If your client is asking for additional work or it’s taking longer than originally planned, notify them immediately. Never send a surprise invoice without informing your client ahead of time. Perhaps your client expected to pay for your time, but didn’t know you’d be billing for expenses. Or, maybe you initially thought the project would take five hours, but it took 10 instead. Whatever the issue may be, don’t keep your client in the dark. Contact your client, outline the changes and have a conversation. Chances are they’ll appreciate you were forthcoming and explained the billing charges to your invoice. Remember: transparency is key.

You Failed to Follow Up

Ask most entrepreneurs what their least favorite task of their business is and most will say “collections.” Following up on accounts receivable is an odious chore, yet one that is absolutely crucial to the health of your business.

No matter how accurate and detailed your invoices are, you will occasionally encounter a client who doesn’t pay on time. Once a payment is past due, you have to choose between getting paid or potentially irritating the client and damaging your relationship.

That’s why it’s important to have a procedure in place for following up on late payments and to adhere to that procedure consistently.

Some business owners prefer to call the client  with a friendly reminder, others wait a week or two past the deadline. Either way, your initial contact should be a friendly reminder. In most cases, this reminder is all it takes to have your invoice paid promptly. Perhaps your invoice was lost in the mail or was redirected to your client’s spam filter. The customer reads your email or takes your phone call, is apologetic and sends the payment that day.

If you have customers who are chronic late payers, perhaps they need a little financial motivation to pay on time. In that case, you can set up Late Payment Fees to charge after it is past due. You can even enable or disable late fees for specific clients if you’d rather not apply the policy to everyone.

If you do choose to initiate late fees, clearly communicate it immediately. Remember, as we explained above, surprises are never a good thing when it comes to invoicing! Ultimately, billing is about getting paid and nothing is more important to optimizing your company’s cash flow than your invoicing process. Good invoicing practices keep revenue flowing into your business. No matter how many you issue, if those invoices are not getting paid, you won’t have the cash you need to pay your employees or purchase the products and services your business needs to keep going.

About the Author

Janet Berry-Johnson is a CPA and a freelance writer with a background in accounting and insurance. Her writing has appeared in Forbes, Parachute by Mapquest, Capitalist Review, Guyvorce, BonBon Break and Kard Talk. Janet lives in Arizona with her husband and son and their rescue dog, Dexter. Outside of work and family time, she enjoys cooking, reading historical fiction, and binge-watching Real Housewives.

Plane Lands Safely at Airport!

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Plane Lands Safely at Airport! The complex IT projects we don't always hear aboutBoth the IT community and the Federal Government often bemoan the fact that newspapers and media, in general, feast on failed technology programs and projects as their headline stories, while the successful projects are all but ignored. It is why the politicians and senior government executives have a long standing fear and largely prefer blind ignorance to the role technology can play in transforming and increasing productivity while they know it to be a truism. It’s why the Harper government, and frankly every government, effectively slows down or stops all IT projects in the months and sometimes year or two before elections to avoid potential embarrassments. We’re equally confident that although the media doesn’t report “Plane Lands Safely at Airport,” failed or over budget IT programs in the Federal Government tend to grab the headlines.

One needs only look at the incredible visibility the Phoenix pay system has garnered due to its glorious “failure”. This, of course, is the system that has resulted in 80,000 of 300,000 public servants not being paid correctly or in many cases at all. While it’s not ours to assign who, what or where all is to blame or at fault, let’s look at just some of the moving parts and complicating factors that have resulted in the new government fully engulfed in an IT Project mess that dominates the headlines. Unfortunately, many of these are characteristic and common to many projects and what therefore tend make it far more complicated than just the technology.

Processes. A long and convoluted procurement process that started in 2009 was awarded in 2011, and has now spanned two distinctly different governments. These procurements, although complex, tend to never envision total scope, underlying fundamental complexities already embedded, or difficulty to implement without a huge change management piece. For example, in this case, during the course of the software development work, it became clear that the myriad of union contracts in the Feds were being interpreted vastly differently by payroll specialists in the various regions and departments; furthermore, contract terms weren’t even clear. Re-configuring and “customizing” off-the-shelf software to handle many of the 80,000 pay rules and rates of the Feds is hopeful at best.

People. As always there is/was a huge people piece. The Phoenix implementation involved a government initiative that saw the Feds centralize and move its pay centre and all its pay specialists to Miramachi, New Brunswick; however, as is often the case, many of the experienced and tenured specialists chose not to move and a lot of knowledge capital went out the door (many have since been rehired and are located in Gatineau now). There has been a steep learning curve for many of the new hires as a result that resulted in a huge backlog of case files. Training and specifically training users was, and is, a vastly underestimated component

Specifications. It is now apparent that architects on the Feds initially vastly underestimated both data volumes and users for the new system, resulting in poor and sluggish performance of the system. Vendors and clients can certainly attest to so called post award “‘surprises” after what may have been a seemingly thorough RFI or RFP process. Who is to blame is always contentious but it is almost always real.

Finally there is always the unexpected, (somehow one thinks this should have been anticipated); however, in this case, the curve was the location of the Miramichi Pay Centre evidently had insufficient Internet bandwidth to handle the system load!

All to say that just as we know the hundreds of truly successful, on time and under budget IT projects will never be the lead story on the nightly news, we have to always remember every project is a complex amalgam of people, process, “stuff” and finally at the end, technology.