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Back to the drawing board with the electric pencil again

Back to the drawing board with the electric pencil again

Start the year as you mean to go on. Not a bad maxim, of course. Except that I’m starting with the prospect of being out of work at the end of the month. Not, I hasten to add, that I hadn’t seen it coming; the current gig is to fill in for a full time guy who’s been off on a specific project that he has now completed and is returning to business as usual. So no hard feelings. Honest…

Obviously I’m not all that worried; if you want to be a freelance you know that you’re going to finish contracts and you plan for it. There’s money in the corporate war chest so just focus on finding the next exciting opportunity and move on.

Except for an awful lot of contractors, it’s not that easy. These are the ones that don’t understand the risks of IR35 properly, or who have always worked in a world where IR35 is hanging over their heads. Quite rightly they take the low risk option and either declare themselves inside IR35 or work through an umbrella (or, if you’re a real hero, one of the strange offshore things…). That means you take out all, or almost all, your income as taxed earnings and leaves you with no reserves in the company to tide you over. And that is one of the hidden but very real negative impacts of the IR35 legislation; Cameron wants a vibrant, flexible economy but insists on cutting off its base material at the knees.

Then again, I am slightly appalled at the number of contractors who blithely accept they are IR35 caught in the first place, usually quoting conditions that we disposed of years ago. It’s not like there isn’t a huge amount of material out there but too many seem happy to roll over and pay taxes they probably don’t owe in the interests of a quiet life.

Their decision, obviously. But it does irritate.

The other side effect of finishing the gig is that I’ve had to take notice of the recruitment trade again. Never something I enjoy. The first step is to dust off the CV of course. I’ve already seen a couple of roles that I know are within my range and experience so a quick cover letter and attach the latest edition and sit back and wait for the phone to ring.

Which it hasn’t. Bugger…

So back to the CV with a more critical eye. It’s not a bad one in terms of things achieved, though I say so myself, but I re-read it properly and I have to say it needs a bit of work. It’s kept up with the recent contracts I’ve done, but I have been lazy and not re-engineered the whole thing, simply adding on the last contract each time. As a result, it’s all got a bit unfocussed and a couple of years too long. So this weekend it’s back to the drawing board with the electric pencil and re-write the thing to tell the world how good I really am.

Let’s face it; there aren’t that many roles out there at my kind of level that are close enough to home to make them feasible, and there are an awful lot of good people on the market. So the CV has to fill two completely different roles in one document; tick all the boxes that the “recruitment consultant” (for which read ex-sporting goods salesman turned sales researcher) thinks I can do all those funny things that the client absolutely has to have while being literate enough to persuade someone who does know what they’re doing that I know what I’m doing. But hey, I write stuff for a living, ranging from complex technical analyses to fully architected service designs to this blog, so how hard can it be? Well, actually, pretty damned hard. Wish me luck!

About the author: Alan Watts

Alan has worked in IT for most of the last 35 years, and first went freelance in 1996. He has been a PCG member from its start and has been spreading the message that freelancing is a professional career choice for many years. Alan also runs Malvolio’s Blog, a personal but highly informative take on the life of the modern freelance.

Alan Watts, Principal Consultant, LPW Computer Services

© 2012 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Image: Voting Screen – Cartoon by DonkeyHotey

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