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Tag Archives: freelancing

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to IT freelancing.

9 Struggles Only Freelancers Understand

This post was originally published July 28, 2015 on Levo’s article page by Meredith Lepore.

struggling at workWith more than 53 million Americans doing freelance work as of 2015, they now make up 34 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to a 2014 survey by Edelman Berland. So, there’s a chance you too may find yourself considering this career path. After all, the freelance life sounds pretty great: no more cubicles, no boss looking over your shoulder, pants aren’t a requirement if you are working from your bed. But before you go and quit your day job, make yourself aware of these common freelancer struggles (take it from someone who’s lived this life for more than two years already!):

  1. Your parents think you’re out of your mind.

Our parents are from a different generation, and when you say “freelance,” you may as well say “I’m selling friendship bracelets in Union Square.” Try to be patient with them—and assure them that you have a plan (offer to lay it out for ’em) and know what you’re doing.

  1. Your friends assume you wear your pajamas all day.

You will inevitably get a G-chat message from a friend asking you if you are out of your bed and have even gotten dressed today. Now yes, there are some days when no one will see you from the waist down, but inevitably most freelancers do get dressed (and yes, yoga pants do count as getting dressed).

  1. …and that you live paycheck to paycheck.

For people who have always worked for one company, it is very hard to imagine that you could work as an independent contractor, much less make a living at it. However, in many industries you can actually make more money as a freelancer than if you were working for one company. Still, some of your friends will assume you are one week away from selling fruit at a gas station.

  1. You have to deal with clients who don’t pay on time.

You do need to know that—unlike working for a salary, where you get a paycheck once or twice a month like clockwork—you have to hustle for your money in the freelance world. Sometimes you will have to harass people to pay you on time, and there may be weeks where no one pays you and then weeks where everyone pays you at the same time. You just have to be as financially organized as possible.

  1. Your friends also assume you do yoga for three hours day, in the middle of the day.

If you are going freelance, do get ready for people to ask you if you workout in the middle of the day or go to movies or sit on a bench and feed birds. Yes, making your own schedule is a perk of freelancing, and you may be able to do some things during the day that people in an office can’t, but it is probably because you started working earlier, or plan to work later, or on weekends.

  1. Your taxes are scary.

Be prepared to get professional help with your taxes—because they are going to be a tad complex, and you should not do them yourself. (I repeat, you should not do them yourself.) What you can do? Keep track of your expenses (especially if you work from home). It’ll help you big-time come April.

  1. A coffee shop will become your second home. 

Expect people to ask which trendy coffee shop you work in, and that they will often imagine you sitting there in a striped tee, sipping on a cappuccino, staring out a window (for some reason you are French in this fantasy). Yes, freelancers do work in coffee shops often, but they are usually the ones with their heads down, working tirelessly, and not staring out the window. (PS: According to The Economist, freelancers work longer hours than full-time employees—it comes out to around 6 percent more hours per week.)

  1. It can be a little lonely.

Though there are days when you don’t think you can stand being in an office full of coworkers, believe it or not, you do start to miss having people around. This will result in you chatting up baristas, store clerks, and dogs on the street more than you ever thought you would.

  1. You are your own boss.

This can sound great because, well, you’re your own boss. On the other hand, YOU ARE YOUR OWN BOSS. You are responsible for adhering to deadlines, the final product, any tools and resources you need, finding health insurance, and, you know, your income! That is a lot of pressure!

As with any job, there are pros and cons of going freelance—but anything rewarding usually involves some kind of risk. Just stay focusedconnected, and buckle up for an exciting ride!

Independent Contractor Myths & Realities in CANADA!

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
CEO at Eagle

stats-canada-quote-contentFrom time to time governments will decide that they need to crack down on independent contractors.  Typically the suggestion is that independent contractors are paying less in taxes than they should, or that they are really employees.  During the run up to the recent federal election Justin Trudeau made some references to small business owners avoiding taxes, and hopefully he does some research before he buys into a rhetoric that believes every worker should be an employee of a large entity.

Here are some things you might not have known about independent contractors in the professional space in Canada .  It is very important to remember that Canadian laws are different than US laws., because too often I see “experts” weighing in with advice, based on their US experience.

  1. Taxation … contractors pay the same amount in taxes as everyone else.

An independent contractor in Canada is typically a one person corporation.  Her corporation gets paid for the work done and the contractor either (a) takes a dividend from the corporation as opposed to a salary, or (b) pays themselves a salary.  The dividend route only provide a small tax advantage (by way of deferring taxes) IF she leaves some of the earnings in the company.  If, like 99% of Canadians she spends what she earns then she pays the same amount of tax as everyone else, or possibly more because tax “integration” is not perfect!  (Business tax plus dividend tax = equivalent to income tax+)

  1. Expenses … yes the independent contractor gets to write off SOME business expenses.

These are typically minimal, AND if they worked for “big company” then it would be “big company” writing off the expenses.  So, the write offs would have occurred anyway. These are the expenses associated with taking responsibility for a business … marketing, technology, professional services and other necessary business costs.  All of these costs go back into our economy supporting other businesses. and creating jobs.

  1. Risk … independent contractors accept some risks, like any business.

An independent contractor is a business, and as such accepts some risks as it is a lifestyle they choose.  They have no guarantees of long term work they are responsible for finding every gig themselves, in strong or weak economies.  They can be let go at a moment’s notice, with no severance.  If their work is not accepted they don’t get paid.   They need to carry business insurance because they can be sued by their client.  They accept the risk of their and their family’s health, with no big company benefits.  They don’t get paid for time off, vacations, sick days or training time.

  1. Value to the economy … they are a big boon to Canada’s economy.

Having a flexible workforce is HUGE for all companies to some degree.  Special projects, seasonal demands or the ability to pilot new ideas without committing to long term employment contracts are essential for these companies.  Having rare expertise available to many companies, rather than just one employer, is a big advantage to Canada’s economy and the average self-employed individual is very motivated to be productive … their continued contract depends on it.

It is worth noting that some percentage of independent contractors have aspirations for a bigger corporate entity.  They might be developing a product on the side, or they might band together with a few others to create a company.  There are many success stories where one or a few contractors formed a company that became a household name.  Some names that come to mind might include CGI, Calian and Cognos but I’m sure there are many.  Entrepreneurs will often start small and go on to bigger things.

  1. The New Way of Work … this is a growing trend in society today

Whether to become self-employed has always been a personal choice.  It offers the individual more control over their career, the ability to earn a good income without having to move into management when they are more interested in a specialised career.  It allows for freedom to take time off for whatever reason.  These people choose to manage their own retirement plans.  They have to find their own benefits and accept the responsibility of  business ownership.

I guess Ronald Reagan might have been right when he said, “You can’t be for big government, big taxes, and big bureaucracy and still be for the little guy.”

It would be my wish that all elected officials understand the realities of employment today and understand the value of these small business owners.  These are valuable contributors to Canada’s economy and messing with that is not going to help anyone!  It certainly won’t put more tax dollars into the coffers!

“Every government interference in the economy consists of giving an unearned benefit, extorted by force, to some men at the expense of others. ”  Ayn Rand

Beginner’s Guide to Independent Contracting

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

Contracting: Getting Started, Keeping It Going and Finding Help

Contracting: Getting Started, Keeping It Going and Finding HelpAs a Staffing Agency, Eagle is often asked to help guide independent contractors to assist them with everything from start-up advice to the best tax structures to setting up insurance. These are all great questions and deserve great answers.  In our 19+ year history, Eagle has pretty much seen it all.  That is, as an organization, we’ve seen it all… but people come and go and, depending on who you speak with, their personal experience may differ and any answer is likely to be incomplete.  Advising incorporated contractors and sole proprietors is not our business. For these reasons, it is our company’s policy not to provide any specific advice.

So where does one go to collect the needed guidance?  Eagle recommends that contractors speak with industry professionals – Lawyers, Accountants, Insurance Companies. We also suggest that they search out professionals that specialize in working with independent contractors – they should be able to provide references and testimonials to demonstrate this niche knowledge. Also, choose a specialist that has a proven track record supporting contractors in your province/jurisdiction.  These professionals focus on the needs of contract resources in your area and will know the answers inside and out.

That said, sometimes you don’t necessarily need a formal consultation or you may simply want to keep up on issues relevant to your business.  There are some great websites available that cater to these topics and, of course, the gov’t of Canada or provincial websites can be helpful as well despite their content being a little more static.

Regardless of where one receives their information, it is important that they have a proper business plan that includes legal, financial and risk mitigation components.  Great industry help can either be “for free” or “for fee”… any costs are tax deductible for incorporated contractors and the difference between doing it right and “almost right” can really be worth the investment!

Some websites that might get you going are:

You Can Say “No” and Still Be Successful!

You Can Say "No" and Still Be Successful!There’s a lot of advice out there (this blog included) that seems to tell independent contractors what they have to do if they want to be successful. In reality, if you followed all of the advice you receive, you’d be swamped with work and never have a personal life — that’s not the definition of success for many people! Paul Jarvis recently wrote a great article on The Muse around this topic and we wanted to share a few of his key points here:

You have the choice to say yes. You also have the choice to say no if it doesn’t serve your goals. What does this mean?

  • You don’t have to attend that networking event or conference—even if you think your whole industry will be in attendance.
  • You don’t have to accept every project that comes your way. Especially if it’s a client who doesn’t seem like a good fit. Or worse, seems like he or she would be awful.
  • You don’t have to take interviews or calls if you’d rather be in a heads-down work mode.
  • You don’t have to use a social network just because other people use it.

Now, before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about choice versus responsibility. Sometimes we don’t have the choice to stop doing something we don’t like. Rent needs to be paid, food needs to be eaten—and often there are people depending on us. So, we have to drum up meh gigs, or work with difficult clients, or do another completely undesirable job that we’d honestly rather not do. Choice is what we’re talking about now. Specifically, having two options, and picking one over the other simply because someone else told you that’s the way that it is.

Too often, well-meaning experts give us all advice on what we should do and how we should do it—all in the name of getting ahead. Advice is great when you need to learn a new skill for the first time, but the problem is when it comes to running a business, or marketing, or dealing with clients, there are endless ways of going about it.

So, it’s not enough to be blindly led by the advice and best practices of those who’ve made it in your field. There needs to be a further step taken where you ask yourself some tough questions:

  • Do I truly care about this?
  • Does this conflict with my values, personality, or style?
  • Will this make me happy and keep me excited?
  • Is this something I need in my life right now?
  • Why is this important to me?
  • If someone hadn’t given me this advice, is this how I would do it?

Now, if you feel scared or unsure about doing something, don’t just take it off your list and say, “Paul said I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.” Instead, take a moment to consider why that is. If it’s a fear of trying something new or something that could push your limits—that’s a bad reason to not try something. (Typically it’s those things that lead to the most growth.) But if the reason is simply a lack of interest, or that it doesn’t align with your values, or that it won’t further your goals in any way, then you can just say no.

Take control of how you work, so you can enjoy it more. After all, working for yourself isn’t just about the money and success. It’s also about having the ability to craft a life for yourself that you love. Because when you’re your own boss, you don’t just get to pick what you want to do, you also get to take control of how you do it. So take advantage and learn that there’s always a choice.

4 Key Steps to Decide on Accounting Software

As an independent contractor, it’s as important for you to manage your accounting as it is for any other business, and the right accounting software is a crucial factor in doing so.  It can be a large investment and there are a great number of options, so how do you select the software that fits your needs and matches your budget? If accounting is far from your Contractor stressed over accountingspecialty, deciding on the right one may come as an even bigger challenge.

FreshBooks recently published a blog post by guest author Adam Bluemmer, the Managing Editor for Find Accounting Software.  Withn it, Bluemmer describes four key steps to help you weigh your options.  We found the process so helpful, we decided to share it with our readers:

Step 1: define your requirements

It’s easy to be overly influenced by an immediate issue when seeking new software.  Pause for a moment to consider other issues that may have arisen since the last time you bought software.  Making a great software decision depends on factoring in these considerations.

To expand the scope of your needs, try brainstorming lists and sketching out simple process maps. These are time-tested project management techniques that can help you easily outline your requirements without the input of numerous people.

Step 2: identify your options

Once you’ve developed a solid set of requirements for your business, you’re ready to begin researching software. Here are 3 research techniques, each with their own pros and cons:

Recommendations from colleagues and family

  • Pro: a recommendation from a close source increases the chances that you are going to get an unbiased, accurate opinion
  • Con: the source may have limited product knowledge and thus, is unable to assess whether or not a software suits your needs
  • Best practice: try to find someone who works at a business with needs similar to yours.

Independent online research

  • Pro: searching reviews, product sites and user forums will provide you with many software options
  • Con: online research can be tedious. It’s easy to spend a lot of time reviewing software, only to find it doesn’t meet your fundamental requirements
  • Best practice:  once you’ve located the websites of a few products you’re interested in, use a search engine like Google to refine your key needs.

Third party software matching services

  • Pro: using a third party matching service, which offers recommendations of software to businesses, provides a quick and accurate match for your needs
  • Con: some services have costs or obligations
  • Best practice: when talking to someone from the service, verify that you can choose the number of product referrals and ask specifically how recommendations are determined.

Step 3: evaluate your choices

Evaluate your choices by asking each potential software provider how their program meets your needs.  This should immediately disqualify a number of options. Once you’ve narrowed your pool down to 2-3 choices, you should then:

  • Demo the software before investing or signing any contracts
  • Use social media and online forums to find product reviews, if you haven’t already

Step 4: make a cost-conscious decision

This means you should be conscious of all the costs, rather than just the purchase price. Potential software costs to consider include:

  • Licensing
  • Support
  • Version updates
  • Hosting

With many software solutions, especially SaaS or “software as a service” choices, these costs are bundled together. Cost savings need to be considered, as well.

Which accounting software are you using to manage your business?  Are you even using one?  Share your own thoughts and recommendations with our readers in the comments below.


 

FreshBooks_logo[1]FreshBooks is the #1 cloud accounting solution designed for small business owners. They help everyone from the most fragile of businesses (many of them one person, first time owners) to the most vibrant businesses, collecting billions of dollars. FreshBooks is designed for service-based businesses. They uphold a longstanding tradition of providing extraordinary customer service and building a product that helps save customers time, pursue their passion and serve their customers.

The Highest Paying Jobs for Contractors

If you’re considering upgrading your skills, or learning a new one altogether, you may be in the process of doing some research into which ones will have the highest return on investment.  Check out the infographic below from Business Insider. Using data collected from Elance.com and oDesk.com, they compiled the top 20 highest paying freelance skills by the hour.  While the rates may not be completely accurate as they are in US dollars and are now 8 months old, you can be sure the ranking of skills is still a good indicator of what the market looks like in Canada today. 

Infographic: 20 Highest-Paying Freelance Skills by the Hour from Business Insider

How to Tell if You’re Ready for a Career as a Freelancer

By Karen Geier at Workopolis
This article originally appeared in the Workopolis Career Resources Blog

Everyone has days at work where they imagine how different their life would be if they worked for themselves. There is a rightful allure to Freelancing: there is a certain freedom to how and when you complete projects, you can work around your other life commitments, and you don’t have to request vacation days. Yet, there are realities to the Freelance lifestyle that temper these advantages. If you’re considering Freelancing, it is important to ask yourself whether you’re truly ready to adopt a Freelance lifestyle.

Here are a few things to consider before heading out on your own:

Can You Afford To Quit?

Look back at the last 12 months of your spending and figure out what is the bare minimum for you to make every month to be able to continue your lifestyle, or a simplified version of it. This is important so you can plan out your time and make sure you can cover your expenses. If you can’t right away, you might consider ways you can work your Freelance around your current role until the opportunities for you are better.

Can You Afford An Interruption In Your Income?

It’s important to be realistic about one of the key aspects of Freelancing: you don’t get paidFreelancer regularly, every two weeks. Some companies employing contractors or freelancers pay at or even after 60 days from receiving invoices. This means you need a runway of at least 2 months’ expenses in order to not have an interruption. It’s not impossible. You just need to plan ahead. Remember that this adds up, too. If you’re only getting paid every 30-60 days and in varying amounts, you’ll need a contingency fund, or a lenient banker.

Do You Have Clients to Start With?

This might seem like a strange consideration, but it’s important to make the distinction between people who have “expressed interest” in hiring you freelance, and people who have signed contracts with you. Make sure you have firm commitments, or offers in your hand before you hand in your notice. You need to make sure you have enough clients committed from day one to ensure you can make a go of it.

Are You Prepared For an Unstructured Work Schedule and Environment?

Being a Freelancer means that you don’t have to clock in at 9 and out at 5. It also means that sometimes, you will be working from 7-7 in order to get a project to bed, or have a 4 hour window in the middle of your day on the other side of town. Freelancing often means having to work around clients, and in this day and age, those clients are in different timezones, are Freelancers themselves, or have flexible hours, and children who keep them up all night. If you’re not a person who is comfortable working around the demands of others, you might need to rethink Freelancing.

Are You Ready to be the Secretary, the Accountant, and the Salesperson?

A good rule of thumb is to take whatever you are thinking of charging hourly and divide that number in 3 to see what your actual “take home” from jobs is. This is because at in-house roles, someone manages your schedule, workload, pay periods, and brings business in the door. As a Freelancer, these jobs fall to you. When you’re quoting your rate, don’t undercut yourself. Try to find comparable jobs online to inform you on what hourly rates would be. Resist the urge to be “cheaper than the competition.” You might find out the effort isn’t worth the low rate you quoted.

Being a Freelancer can be very rewarding, and potentially very lucrative. It’s important to plan properly, and make sure you can live comfortably to spur you on to gaining more business.