Talent Development Centre

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The Talent Development Centre includes advice for independent contractors in IT from one of Canada’s top staffing and recruitment agencies. See all posts about taking the leap into independent contracting.

From Side Hustle to Full-Time Contractor

From Side Hustle to Full-Time ContractorThe term “side hustle” refers to “… any type of employment undertaken in addition to one’s full time job. A side hustle is generally freelance or piecework in nature, providing a supplemental income.” What the definition doesn’t tell you is how to find, create, and maintain a side hustle. This can be particularly advantageous for a full-time technology employee considering jumping into the Gig Economy as an IT contractor.  The internet and social media has hundreds of suggestions about this type of transition, but here are some general ideas to consider:

Picking the focus of your side hustle:

When it comes to picking a side hustle, a lot of people instantly search or try ones that will earn them the most money off the bat. However, this may not be the smartest move, as our friends at buffer mention in their article. To sum up arguably one of their most important facts, a successful side hustle brings your creativity or passion to life. Picking a side hustle based on these two factors has dual benefits as it increases your productivity at work and allows the other half of your brain to work on a daily/consistent basis. If you’re unsure about what the most creative/passionate fit for your side hustle might be, do not be afraid to try several small projects (consistently) to test them out. When looking at becoming a full-time IT contractor the same theory applies, but the application differs a little bit. If there is one, or two, IT roles that you prefer doing above everything else, get the certifications to ensure that you can apply for as many positions as possible, and begin taking on small side hustles that allow you to gain experience in that particular role.

End-Goals:

When picking the end goal of your side hustle it is important to remember that this is a 100% FLUID step. You could begin a side hustle and realize you want it to stay that way, or you could embark on this journey with the intent of turning it into a full-time occupation. Regardless of what you choose, you must start small. Pick one or two small contracts/projects that you can fit into your schedule easily and work your way up from there. As time goes on and you do more projects, you could very well feel that becoming a full-time IT contractor is what you want to do. If that is the case, start to slowly take on more projects with your side hustle, to create a stable income, and then bite the bullet and quit your 9-5 position; because sooner or later, you won’t be able to juggle both. There are hundreds of websites and articles that contradict each other on this point but remember, this side hustle is all about what YOU want to develop/encourage in your life.

Scheduling:

Perhaps one of the most daunting facets of beginning a side hustle is re-organizing your life to accommodate all the new items on your to-do list. When you’re at this phase, there are several things you must remember to succeed: the first is that there will be days where your iron-clad schedule will have to bend to meet life’s demands (i.e. appointments, unscheduled work days/extra shifts, your side hustle may need more time one week, etc.); second, pick one or two times a week that are just for your side hustle…start with an hour or two, and then increase it when your schedule allows or when you have to; and third, remember that a side hustle, like anything else, is a commitment. Therefore, you may have to forego some things to make it happen (i.e. that extra show on Netflix, time in the gym, your longer lunch breaks, etc.). This ties nicely into the first point of picking something that you’re passionate about, or love doing. If your side hustle is pleasurable to you (i.e. not a daily grind), then spending these extra hours or foregoing that extra gym night will not be a big deal. Remember that as you slowly transition into becoming an IT contractor, the strain of maintaining your full-time position and your side projects, will wear off once you’re at the stage where you’re comfortable to become a full-time contractor.

Priorities:

When thinking and beginning to plan your side hustle, remember that this should begin by working ON THE SIDE meaning that it should not be done at your work. This is stressed for several reasons. The first is that you still have an employer who hired you to be present AT your work for a certain time period, certain days of the week, until a certain date. Essentially, remember that while your project is exciting, and may have deadlines, your regular job comes first. If you don’t put it first, it could come back to haunt you through potential law suits, non-compete clauses, or even tax problems. The second reason, as previously hinted, is money and hours. Double billing clients for the same time-period is never a smart option, and it can get confusing around tax season. So, to keep life simple, try to do one thing at a time, no matter how tight your deadlines become.

As you transition from a full-time employee to a full-time contractor, your priorities should reflect that. But it’s important to also be respectful and mindful of your boss/workplace. If you’ve gotten to a point in time where your side contracts are bringing in enough income; do not hesitate (or wait), to cut the cord with your permanent employer. If you overload your schedule with side contracts, they will notice eventually. In these instances, it is best to leave with as much grace, dignity, and goodwill as possible.

Money:

Money is often the main reason people get side hustles. That extra income can add up after a while, and if it’s put straight into savings it’s amazing how you’re suddenly able to make that payment, afford that down-payment, afford that trip, etc. BUT there are two hitches: the first is budgeting and setting goals to see how many projects you need to take on to meet that goal; the second is figuring out how much you’re going to charge for your time. Let’s face it, you WILL be giving up parts of your life for this – none of us can do it all. So how much is it worth it to you? There is no harm in making sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth (but remember to be reasonable – experience will dictate how much you are worth to many people’s eyes). Additionally, paying attention to how many hours you take to earn a certain amount becomes paramount for transitioning into a full-time contractor position. In order to break down your daily/hourly rate and know what type of projects you want/need to sustain the lifestyle you want, you’ll have to look over your past records and do some serious time/math crunching. It is more than possible, but your due diligence along the way will make that initial decision/breakdown easier to create.

All in all, turning a side hustle into a full-time career is a daunting task, but entirely doable if you’re up to the challenge. These five basic steps are the beginning of that journey but remember, transitioning from a side hustle to becoming a full-time contractor takes time, patience, and due-diligence. Neglecting it or your current 9-5 job is not the answer.

Job Search for the IT Contractor

Searching for an IT job in a competitive job market is never easy. You need to understand your target companies, including those that are looking for technology professionals, what skills they specifically need and their projects. You also need to ensure you have a solid understanding of yourself, what kind of work you want, and how that will affect your job search.

A common misconception among new IT contractors is that a job search is a job search. As long as you keep submitting your resume to different job postings and show up at interviews, you’ll eventually get a job. To an extent, that’s true. But when you go from being a permanent employee to an IT contractor working on your own, there are changes you can make to your job search process that will significantly improve your chances of keeping a steady stream of work. Specifically:

  1. The Places You Look for Jobs,
  2. The Way You Communicate; and,
  3. Your Business Mindset (because you’re now running a business)!

Check out this video for more details…

Contactor Quick Poll Results: Would you ever go back?

The life of an independent contractor is filled with ups and downs. It seems that every benefit of being a contractor comes with an extra stressor. Some IT professionals start contracting and later realize that they prefer the life of being an employee, where as others will get into the new lifestyle and never look back.

In last month’s Contractor Quick Poll, we were curious to learn how many of our readers want to return to the employee life versus how many love the contracting world. It turns out, that while few independent contractors want to get back into a permanent position as soon as possible, more than half said that if the right opportunity came along, they would consider ditching their current freelance career.

How likely are you to leave independent contracting for a permanent position as an employee?

10 Steps to Take Before Becoming an Independent Contractor

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

The shift into the “gig economy” in Canada is growing at a very quick rate, especially in the tech sector. More and more people are choosing to become independent contractors and for many good reasons.

  • You decide what you do
  • You decide who you will work for
  • You decide where you should work
  • Opportunity to gain exposure to new work environments with every new contract
  • Exposure to new technologies
  • Exposure to new ways of thinking
  • Freedom to take more time off
  • Opportunity to make a higher income
  • “Potentially” getting away from office politics

With so many people interested in getting on the bandwagon, I am often asked the question “Where do I start?”

The first piece of advice I give to “would be” contractors is to speak to contractors they already know.  Ask them what they like about being an independent contractor and to dig down into what worries them about being independent (ie: not finding a role, too much time off between positions, etc.).

10 Steps to Take Before Becoming an Independent Contractor

Here are 10 additional steps you can take before entering the world of independent contracting:

  1. Risk assessment
    • How long can you afford to be off for between landing gigs?
    • How flexible are you on your rate in order to land a new role and still be financially comfortable?
    • Are you comfortable with uncertainty?
  2. Update your resume – keep in mind you may have to have several different versions depending on the position you are going for.
  3. Set up your company.  While it’s recommended to work through this with an accountant, setting up a corporation is not too difficult.  There are many online guides to point you in the right direction, including a number of resources here on the Talent Development Centre. You’ll also need to get an HST/GST number and set up a corporate bank account.
  4. Consider getting corporate CGL and E&O insurance. You are a corporation and a professional. Not only will this insurance protect you liability-wise, but it can also contribute to proving your independence and help protect you when being audited by CRA.
  5. Set up a website that can act as a resume, complete with testimonials and samples of your work.
  6. Get business cards to market your business and help with networking.
  7. Update your LinkedIn profile and ensure it is tagged, notifying recruiters and would-be employers that you’re seeking new opportunities.
  8. Let your network know you are becoming a contractor and looking for new contract opportunities. Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool, including as an IT contractor.
  9. Align yourself with agencies and get to know them well. Keep them updated as to your status once you land a new role or are becoming available. Ensure you send them an updated resume after each project is completed.
  10. Start networking!! Take every opportunity to get out and meet people. You never know how you will land your next role.

This might seem like a lot to do but it is not. Many contractors have told me that they were reluctant to get into contracting as it seemed daunting to go through the above steps.  However, once they became a contractor and landed their first role, they comment that they should have done this sooner!!

There’s One Simple Way to Thrive as an Independent Contractor

There's One Simple Way to Thrive as an Independent ContractorWe repeatedly say throughout the Talent Development Center that “Independent contracting isn’t for everybody” and “There are things you should know before taking the leap.”  While it’s not intended, this can make new IT professionals nervous to making that leap, as it makes the change seem daunting and overwhelming.

The truth is, becoming an independent contractor does require extra work but it does not have to be scary. There is one very simple way to ensure you are successful: Don’t do it alone. Of course, that encompasses many small items like engaging a lawyer and accountant, working closely with recruiters, and attending learning from experienced contractors who have already been through the hurdles.

We recently came across this article that Melissa Thompson, an accomplished entrepreneur, wrote for Inc. about freelancing. In it, she provides advice based on her experience to help contractors get hired. She lists four specific tips:

  1. Freelancers need to take initiative
  2. Networking is still important
  3. Build an outstanding profile
  4. Be prepared for variable income

You can read the article here for all of the details on the advice. Or, if you’re already an experienced and successful freelancer, could you add anything else? If so, please share it in the comments below.

Do You Have these Traits of a Great Freelancer? Take the Quiz!

Do You Have these Traits of a Great Freelancer? Take the Quiz!There are certain jobs that are more active in the gig economy. Obviously technology contractors form a big part of it, and so do writers, graphic designers and carpenters. It is a massive trend beneficial for many; however, freelancing and independent contracting is not for everyone. In many ways, it requires a person with strengths in various areas.

According to this article from moneyguru, there are 10 traits every great freelancer has:

  1. Time Management
  2. Sociability
  3. Skin like a rhinoceros
  4. Little need for sleep
  5. A headful of ideas
  6. Adaptability
  7. Marketing savvy
  8. Patience
  9. Time alone
  10. Multitasking

Based on past articles published to the Talent Development Centre, it is clear that we agree with each of these traits, and we believe some are more important than others depending on the industry, role and client.

In addition to explaining the traits further, moneyguru’s article also provides a fun quiz you can take to see if you possess the right mix of what it takes to be a freelancer. You can take the quiz here. We don’t recommend taking the results to seriously, but it’s a nice starting point to understand your personal situation.

Applying for a Contract Job vs a Permanent Position

How to Adjust the Way You Search for Jobs When Looking for IT Contract Work

Applying for a Contract Job vs a Permanent PositionSwitching from being a full-time employee to an independent contractor comes with many changes. Everything from your lifestyle to how you get paid to where you go to work will suddenly be different. One change often overlooked by new IT contractors is the way they search for new work.

The first step in understanding how to look for work as a contractor is to know how and why hiring managers are seeking contractors. When dealing with permanent employees, HR departments search for long-term team members who will be a fit with the organization. They want a professional who will be there long-term to grow with the company. When contractors are the preferred choice, it’s often for a specific project and the hiring process is often managed through a separate department such as Procurement. The manager is primarily seeking somebody who has the skills to complete the job at the right price — personality and cultural fit is important, but rarely the top priority. Essentially, it becomes a business-to-business relationship.

Where Should You Look for IT Contracts?

Like any other job search, job boards and social networks are a good start for finding IT contracts. As well, there are websites such as Upwork and Freelancer that are designed specifically for connecting freelancers with companies looking for projects.

Don’t ignore the power a recruitment agency can have in finding you contract work. Staffing agencies will have multiple contracts available for you and the great ones will help you throughout your career. Building valuable relationships with the right recruiters could mean you’ll never have to search for work again. Instead, work will find you.

Finally, keep networking. Not just with Recruiters, but every professional you meet. As your network and reputation as a quality IT contractor grows, the effort you need to put into finding work will shrink.

Change the Way You Communicate

We can’t say it enough — being a contractor is completely different than being an employee and companies want to know that you understand that difference to protect them from certain risks. Demonstrate that you are in the correct mindset by adjusting your communication in resumes, interviews and on the job.

  • Ditch the cover letter. This traditional standard is in the process of phasing out for full-time jobs, but in contracting, it’s nearly useless. If anything, a summary in an introductory email will suffice.
  • Within your resume, eliminate any personal hobbies or career goals that employers typically look at to understand if you’re a fit in their organization and make sure you include a Profile Summary which outlines your key skills and experience.
  • Your interview will be more skills-based with questions targeted at learning how you will complete a specific project. While preparing for it, focus at answering questions related to the environment rather than where you see yourself in five years.
  • Keep in mind specific vocabulary that needs to change. For example as a contractor, you should talk about “rate” and rather than “salary”.

Before You Start Applying to IT Contracts

Prepare yourself before you start applying to these contract roles by understanding everything that comes with being a contractor. This includes a thorough comprehension of the business risks, knowing how accounting and taxes will be managed, finding a suitable insurance package and properly budgeting for the fact that paid vacation days and benefits are a thing of the past. We also strongly recommend incorporating your independent contracting business, as it will come with long-term tax benefits and make you more attractive to future clients. Finally, conduct extensive research to understand your rate as an independent contractor. Without this, you will either get stuck working for much less than you’re worth or not working at all due to a rate demand that’s out-of-sync with the current market.

Switching to independent contracting is an exciting. By understanding the application process and leveraging the tools available, you can cross “finding work” off of your list of stressors.

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…

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.