Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Independent Contracting

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

10 Important Things to Remember Before Becoming a Travelling Freelancer

Eagle typically recruits independent contractors who work on technology projects at a client site, or at least in the same city as their home. Occasionally IT professionals will take a gig in another city and do some travel, and while this trend has picked up in the current economy, it’s still less frequent for us. As such, most of the posts in the Talent Development Centre are directed to IT contractors who work in their hometown.

There is another side of contracting and freelancing that we don’t touc10 Important Things to Remember Before Becoming a Travelling Freelancerh on much, but may pique the interest of technology professionals, depending on where they are in life. We brag about the freedoms that come with working for yourself, including the ability to take time off and travel, but what about the ability to travel while working? This is a common practice and, if you’ve been meaning to see the world, may be something for you to try for a year or two. Before quitting your job or deciding not to renew your current contract, consider some of these tips for working while travelling the world:

  1. Have a plan! This is common sense, but please do not pick up and leave with no plan. Know where you’re going to start, and more importantly, have a client or two lined up at your first stop.
  2. Know your worth. Understand how much you can charge in the city you’re working. Remember, markets are different so what you make in one place may not equate.
  3. Have an office. Doing contract work on a sidewalk or a coffee shop is going to get old. Do some research to share an office or workspace while you’re stationed in a city.
  4. You may not always want cash. Prepare to barter. Perhaps you can work for a place to stay, a workspace, or even food.
  5. Stay disciplined. Exploring new places and meeting new people makes it easy to get distracted from your work. Remember that your clients are the reason you’re affording to travel, so you must keep them satisfied and serve them first.
  6. Organization is key. With such little consistency in your life, you need some form of organization and routine if you want to ensure you’ll get things done.
  7. Pack light. Not just clothes, but you can’t be a technology diva either. It’s difficult to lug around a desktop computer and even some laptops may be excessive. Also keep in mind that everything you pack can be lost. Consider cloud storage and renting equipment with your office space.
  8. Research the legal side. How long are you allowed to stay in a specific country? What are the accounting implications of working abroad? Discuss your plans with an immigration lawyer and have a thorough understanding of what you can and can’t do in every location you visit.
  9. Find the right project and location is irrelevant. It goes without saying, but technology contractors especially rarely need to be in the same office as their client. If you plan right, you may be able to work on a single project from multiple cities.
  10. Don’t forget to take in the experience. We’re stressing the importance of working hard and serving your clients, but you’re also experiencing something few people will ever do. Remember to take a few days and enjoy savour the experience in every place you visit.

Countless people dream of travelling the world in their lifetime and never do it. If you share that dream, possess the skills, and are in a position in life to do it, then get out there and enjoy the experience. Before you do though, know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and how you’ll deal with all of the challenges. Have fun!

How the Government of Ontario is Proposing to Procure IT Resources

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

How the Government of Ontario is Proposing to Procure IT ResourcesIn what was considered a stunning development to Industry, the Ontario Government announced its intent to make drastic changes to the way it procures IT Resources going forward once it’s current (and long standing) Vendor of Record (VOR) method expires early this Fall.

The Vendor of Record is an inclusive list of approved suppliers who provide the Ontario Government resources under the Task Based I&IT Consulting Services VOR. Last Spring, the Government asked the Vendor Community for input in how best to structure its next generation of IT Consulting Services VOR. The questions in the survey and the feedback compiled by large Industry Associations like the NACCB in no way resemble the drastic proposed changes sent out in late May in an RFB. In fact, it is effectively counter to public sector procurement objectives and the spirit on which that procurement is normally based — part of which is to support and encourage thriving Canadian small and medium size businesses.

The new VOR, by virtue of its massive qualifying mandatory criteria, will see  likely over 300 of the current 317 vendors not qualify, as the intended vendor list will only be 10 going forward. The qualification criteria would suggest the 10 vendors can only be very large, likely multinational/foreign companies, of which many do not compete or provide for in a Task-Based resourcing environment. As such it’s expected few Canadian-based companies could qualify.

It remains a mystery to what constituency this serves in Ontario and is a perplexing direction from the Ontario Government for many reasons, here are just a few :

  • The new VOR will eliminate over 300 vendors, many of whom are thriving Canadian businesses. It may effectively kill them along with the well-paying jobs they provide in an economy where Canadian SMEs, as the government itself says, are “the backbone of the economy “.
  • These same businesses are effective components of the thriving Knowledge Economy and instrumental in the very critical Innovation Economy of tomorrow. This VOR will eliminate the innovation these small and medium sized IT companies provide.
  • Perhaps most perplexing is the idea that the Government hopes to reduce costs through a drastically pared down vendor list. As noted, the resulting winning bidders are very likely to be large, multinational technology companies who will be asked to operate in a Task-Based environment while having much higher overhead and costs. They do not operate on the lower margins of smaller, nimble companies in an open and competitive bidding process, so it is difficult to see how costs will be reduced

Given there has been a groundswell of opposition in Ontario to this initiative for these and many other reasons, we can only hope the feedback sought in this process is being heard and considered.

Contractor Quick Poll: Which soft skill in a team member is most important to you?

We want to work in a team full of competent IT professionals; it’s the most important factor in your project being completed successfully. But there are other elements that make a high performing team, especially their ability to work together.  Therefore, we must also consider the soft skills in team members.

Past Talent Development Centre posts defined the soft skills we believe are important. In this month’s Contractor Quick Poll, we want to know which one you believe is the most important when it comes to choosing your team.

5 Ways Independent Contractors Can Keep on Top of Expenses

Staying organized isn’t everybody’s forte. While some contractors will naturally go through life, somehow managing to keep everything perfectly arranged, others are more laid back and let some little items slide. Either is fine, depending on the situation, but when it comes to accounting, those extremely organized (sometimes annoying) people are going to have less stress.

There are different elements to accounting and all require some planning and processes. Expenses, for example, specifically need regular attention in order to ensure you’re keeping within your budget, but also to ease your life when it comes to closing your books and doing your taxes. Here are 5 tips that independent contractors, in technology or any other discipline, can use when managing their freelance business:

  1. Have a routine. Set a date to catch-up on all of your expenses and make sure you’re on track each week. This will stop you from falling behind.
  2. Know your predictable expenses. Understand what regularly happens and what you want to save. This will help with budgeting.
  3. Keep a separate bank account and/or credit card to easily separate personal and business expenses.
  4. Find a way to track expenses that works for you. Try any of these:
    • The old shoebox trick: Throw all of your receipts into it and you deal with them weekly or monthly
    • A spiral notebook: One step above the shoebox, here you tape the receipt to a page and add notes about what it was
    • Your cell phone: The more high tech version of the shoebox or notebook is to take a picture of every receipt, immediately after receiving it. There are apps you can download that will help you organize all of them too.
    • MS Excel: If you’re a spreadsheet geek, record everything in Excel. You can really get crazy staying organized and categorizing items with this.
    • Accounting software: This requires an investment, but the right accounting software makes a huge difference in staying organized.
  1. Get help. Specifically from an accountant, but also chat with other contractors in your field for ideas on how they’re organizing themselves.

Can you add any tips, based on your experience, that keep you organized in your technology consulting business? Please share them in the comments below!

How Will You Know When It’s Time to Incorporate?

This post first appeared on the CA4IT Insights blog on March 20, 2017

How Will You Know When It’s Time To IncorporateIn short, there’s no single milestone in a business’s maturity that dictates incorporation. It depends on a lot of variables, so it may require self-evaluations at multiple phases to determine when exactly the timing’s right for incorporating your small business.

When you’re conducting those evaluations, it’s important to create an accurate profile of your company and to give consideration to what it’ll look like as a corporation. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to the title.

In the former column, you’ll have much greater flexibility with your taxes, including how you pay yourself—salary, dividends, bonus—or even if you pay yourself. A 15-percent preferred tax assessment on the first 500,000 of profit may prove to be all the incentive you need to leave your earnings in the company.

In the latter, incorporation isn’t inexpensive. And when you’re starting a business, expenses can already feel too numerous to track, let alone cover. Perhaps the only thing more precious than funding in those early days is time. Incorporation’s going to take a big bite out of that, too, because there’s more paperwork that’ll need to be filed—separate tax returns, notifications of share sales and directors’ actions.

If there is a brief answer to the question at the top, it’s this: Incorporating a business in Canada should not be entered into lightly. The more you understand, the more comfortable you’re likely to feel with your decision.

As one of the most respected accounting networks across Canada over the last quarter-century (and one of the few that’s ISO-registered), CA4IT specializes in business accounting services, including incorporation advising, for independent contractors, consultants and entrepreneurs. Click here for a free (no-obligation) consultation.

The Future is Yours!!

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

Why independent contractors in IT should always be on top of the latest tech trends

The Future is Yours!!When I first started in recruitment immediately following Y2K, the market was very slow. Seasoned professional contractors were having tremendous difficulty landing contracts. Unless of course you were a technical or functional consultant in the ERP world and your experience was in the right module, it was tough.

What is the point of my statement?

There are trends in the industry that are worth following. After the most recent economic crash in 2008, financial institutions were looking for any way possible to reduce risk. Consultants and contractors with risk system experience were in tremendous demand in a down market.

Which quickly brings us to today. Is it luck if your area of expertise becomes in high-demand? Sometimes I’m sure good fortune plays a role. I would argue, however, that being on the cutting edge of market trends can take some of the luck out of it. Asking yourself a few key questions in regards to where you see demand for your skills and area of expertise going forward should be a weekly exercise.

The key point to mention is that the current in-demand skills are often times no more difficult to obtain or develop an expertise in than those that are diminishing in demand.

Artificial Intelligence is a perfect example of the importance of identifying current and future demand for your skills. AI is not going anywhere and companies will be relying on it more and more every day. Can your skills be augmented to provide value to this emerging area?

Automation is coming and coming fast, particularity in administrative processes. How do your skills apply here and if they don’t, how can you obtain relevant skills to automation?

People are browsing, shopping, and purchasing on their mobile devices at staggering levels. Only a few years ago it was primarily a device for browsing. Those who had the foresight so obtain mobile development skills have reaped the rewards of this demand.

This may seem like obvious considerations but the difference between having in-demand skills and not can drastically affect your standard of living.

A contractor should be on the hunt to educate and further their own skills and knowledge. Make sure you are always evolving in your professional life and you won’t be left behind but will stay at the forefront of technology changes.

How Contractors Can Deal with a Technology Crisis

How Contractors Can Deal with a Technology CrisisThe best independent contractors are the ones who clients see as experts in their field and the truly dependable, go-to person. They develop the best plans, troubleshoot the hardest problems, and come up with the best solutions to the most complex requirements. Above all, the most reputable and trusted technology contractors are the ones who navigate a crisis so smoothly that, even if the end-results are far from ideal, the client still feels they were supported by the most capable IT professional.

For the sake of this post, we’re considering “crisis” to be a situation when a technology breaks or malfunctions to the point that your client’s day-to-date operations are in jeopardy, services are drastically impaired, and/or money is being lost. The way in which you handle such a crisis to bring operations back on track impacts your reputation as an independent contractor significantly. So, when faced with such adversity, it’s in your best interest to roll up your sleeves, step up to the plate, and lead your client and the entire team through the turmoil. Great… so how do you do that?

  1. Stay in the Right Frame of Mind: Before you even talk to people or start tackling issues, the first step when entering “crisis mode” is to be in the proper frame of mind. That means taking a step back to remain calm and positive, without letting emotion get in the way.
  2. Evaluate the Situation: You still aren’t physically doing anything. Now that your head is in the right state of mind, you need to carefully evaluate everything that’s happened and is still happening. Know clearly which stakeholders are being affected, what’s needed to fix the problem, and who will need to be involved. It should be noted that these first two steps need to be completed as quickly as possible. Time is always a factor and it goes by quickly in a crisis, so you need to act quickly so things don’t spin further out of control.
  3. Take Control: People act differently in a crisis. Some will do absolutely nothing except panic. Others will do far worse — they’ll do absolutely everything (usually unhelpful things). Your job is to take control to ensure people are doing what they need to be doing to get through the crisis — nothing more and nothing less. Show your understanding of the situation, explain your plan, and exude confidence so that people want to follow you.
  4. Start Delegating: Assuming you’re in an environment where you’re the most senior person with the most knowledge of the affected technologies, doing all the work means others are sitting on their hands. You may feel like you’re not contributing, but organizing different people and coordinating outcomes is the task a leader needs to focus on.
  5. Stay Realistic: If you’ve properly evaluated the situation, then you should know what the best outcome is going to be. The crisis will end in a worst situation than when you started, so prepare for that and don’t try to fix everything perfectly quite yet. At this stage, you’re still trying to stop the bleeding, regain control, and get everything working well enough so daily tasks can resume.
  6. Evaluate the Situation: We loved Step 2 so much that we’re bringing it back. Once the problem is solved and business is back on track, it’s time to evaluate the situation. What went wrong? What’s still wrong? What was the impact? Who needs to be informed? These are all important questions to discuss with your client to ensure that the crisis is over and that it doesn’t happen again.

Sometimes, your job as an IT contractor in a crisis situation is to follow the delegated person on the client site. In these cases, follow protocol; the organizational structure of your client site will dictate if you’re the right person to lead or not. If you are required to step up, how you react in a crisis will have a direct effect on how those around you also deal with the situation. By leading calmly and rationally, people (especially those who are panicking) will want to follow you. When you maintain a level head and follow the steps above, your followers will too, resulting in a successful end to the crisis, so you can start putting pieces back together and move your project back on track.

Are “Good Politics, Not Good Policy” Driving Ontario’s Labour Laws?

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

Ontario’s “Changing Workplace Review” is Complete — Here’s How It Could Affect Independent Contractors and Temporary Workers

Ontario FlagThe long awaited Changing Workplaces Review, initiated by the Ontario Government over two years ago to review the employment Standards Act, has unveiled its recommendations and Ontario business are braced for the government to adopt changes that many are concerned are based on “good politics, not good policy “.

The expected changes to Ontario’s Labour laws have the potential to be sweeping, wide in scope with 173 recommendations that include everything from minimum sick days, increased annual paid vacation, and workplace unionization. Although there were a number of presentations that proposed potential restrictions around the use of independent contractors, the final recommendations around contract labour were wisely few. Additionally, although not part of the changing Workplace Review, it’s expected the government will piggy back an increase to Ontario’s minimum wage on the proposed legislative changes adopted from the Review either this June before break or this September.

Many employer organizations worked with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to ensure that there was a focus on the potential economic impact on these policy changes proposed and, although we are not sure what the Government will adopt, there is still uncertainty as to the veracity and thoroughness of what the real effect on Ontario’s economy will be.

We can recall several presentations to the Special Advisers that were focused on the use and definition of temporary labour; however, there was a definite slant towards an interpretation that temporary workers were deemed precarious or at risk workers and were in need of additional legislative protections. Central to this argument were some highly visible cases of situations involving temp workers in general staffing environments being wrongly taken advantage of. Athough a very tiny portion of a large and thriving industry we do have appropriate legislative corrective measures that should be enforced to combat this potential.

To combine the general staffing world with professional or knowledge workers was a dot that the Special Advisers were wisely never able to connect. Many in the Knowledge Worker world make a well thought out career choice to contract and there are many advantages associated with contracting in a necessary and thriving industry. Some of the measures presented and promoted in the 2 year review included limiting contracts to a maximum of 6 months in length, a % limit on the use of contingent labour, and a reverse onus on employee status such that all contract workers were deemed employees unless otherwise proven. These were all solutions for a problem that did not exist. It is very much welcome news that the Special Advisers recognized this and did not move forward with these restrictions.

We do know that legislative attempts making it harder for employers to access workers and workforce options are not a route to increased prosperity or productivity. We have certainly seen in both the UK and undoubtedly Southern Europe (while most of Northern Europe does the opposite and is in much better economic shape) where restrictions in flexibility in labour markets hurts one very important stakeholder: workers.

In a dynamic and highly competitive global market the ability to change, adapt and be flexible are all key components of a growing and prosperous economy. As the world transitions in to a new way of working, efforts to reverse that through policies deemed to appease in an election atmosphere for a tired government will no doubt back fire by making it more difficult for employers to access workers. Organizations will adjust to restrictions by ultimately hiring fewer, automating more or offshoring or expanding in other more competitive markets. The government really needs to understand the economic impact that potential job killing measures may have.

While we don’t know which of the measures will be adopted and ultimately put forward as legislation and no doubt campaign narratives, we do know that without a thorough understanding of labour market competitiveness we, are doomed to repeat mistakes we can’t afford in Ontario. One need look no further than the Governments “fix ” in Energy of the 2000’s and the upside down and and befuddled energy market and extreme costs Ontarioans business and personal are stuck with today.

Permanent Employment vs. Contracting: A Fine Line with No Clear “Right” Answer

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

As a tech professional, whether you prefer being an employee or an independent contractor, it’s best to take a focused approach.

Contractor Making a DecisionContractors (or rather those considering becoming a contractor) frequently ask me whether being a permanent employee or a contractor is the best way to go.  There’s no correct answer to this question.

Certainly, the world is heading towards what many are calling the “Gig Economy” and this means that not only will contingent workers be more in demand, people will begin differentiating themselves from their industry peers by marketing themselves as professional contractors.  Eagle has witnessed fantastically talented people who, having been an employee for many years with the same company, struggle to find work as their “loyalty” is actually viewed as a detriment to their resume – how different the world is from that in the ‘70s and ‘80s when longevity at a single company was a filter companies used to identify good “company” men and women.

That said, companies often do show more loyalty and will make greater investments into the skills of their employees.  Contract professionals are expected to keep themselves up on the latest technologies, approaches, etc. and it is expected that they come to a new position ready to go and able to deliver.  Even so, job security for employees is not what it once was and, when times are tough, they can see themselves between jobs just as easily as contactors.

Many people are trying to sell themselves as interested in both – employee positions and temporary contracts.  But there is a drawback to this as well.  Prospective employers may be concerned that a person’s interest in one or the other is only temporary and they may fear that you will not be as committed to this course as others might be.  We have seen over the past 5+ years that specialization, especially within the IT industry, has trumped generalization.  Eagle used to track which people were specialists in a certain area or areas and which people had more of a generalist capability.  The companies that Eagle works with have almost exclusively moved to a “specialist-only” mentality when it comes to hiring contract workers; and there has been a noticeable trend toward this for full-time permanent employment positions as well.  We now focus only on what applicants are best at and we market this to our clients.  Hiring managers want to know what people stand for, where their interests lie and what they are good at. So, saying you are interested in both contract and permanent opportunities in equal measure no longer makes you a match for either.

The key to making the right choice (for you!) in this matter is to “Know Thyself”.  Know what you really want from work and your career; and design your education and your work experience to reflect your goals.  That way your personal branding can be clear and on-point. If you are clear on what you want and build your resume accordingly, companies will see that you know where you are heading and you will set yourself apart from these other “lost souls” that try to sell themselves as a jack of all trades. Whichever direction you choose to go, do so with a plan and arm yourself with the knowledge and expectations needed to fit in and be successful.

Here are some links to articles on the web that can help inform you so that you may chart your course…

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.