Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Independent Contracting

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Independent Contractors Should Have Business Cards

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

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

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

Quick Poll Results: Preferred Contract Length

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

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

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

Independent Contractors Must Understand Accounting

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

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

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

Accounting Cheat Sheet Infographic
Courtesy of: Bplans