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View Full Version : Hi, I just got offered my first contract. I'm scared



photomile
21st October 2011, 16:38
Hello!

Talk about last minute, I've always been a full time employee, never contracted and I got laid off a few months back. After putting the feelers out, I (Today!) got offered a two month contract starting on monday.

Despite the guides, I'm still sat here confused, and now signed up to an umbrella corporation (nasa consultancy) who will handle the tax, payroll, expenses and insurance side of things, at least, I think that's what they do.... yes, yes they do...

In short, I'm scared. I've never done this before, I'm confused as anything about this, but excited at the same time. Of course two months isn't that long, and I'm wondering how on earth I end up looking for roles at the end of it, what I can and can't claim for, etiquette, what to expect.... it's all a new and very confusing world right now, but any advice will be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

Zippy
21st October 2011, 18:21
First of all - congratulations :banana: :cheers:

I'm sure you are nervous, but please try not to worry. Think about walking in on Monday with a positive, can-do attitude. You are probably there to help them solve a problem, using your valuable (and hopefully expensive ;)) experience.

Try and get along with people and be friendly, don't discuss money and make sure you get your timesheet signed at the end of every week/month(check your payment schedule carefully to make sure you don't miss a deadline). Enter your timesheets with the umbrella co too.

You'll be able to claim travelling expenses via your umbrella co. Genuine expenses will be offset against tax. Check with them for frequency etc, but you'll have to supply receipts for rail travel, hotels or petrol etc., so make sure you keep them. You'll also be able to claim for some other stuff.

Don't worry about what happens at the end of the contract for now. Concentrate on playing yourself in to a new way of working and identifying upcoming work that they may want to keep you on for. Do be subtle about it though - I don't like the hard sell and some clients don't either. Make 'em like you first :D
About two or three weeks before the end update your cv and put it on Jobswerve/Monster etc etc. I've stopped putting on the name of the co and just put "current client" (or similar) to discourage agents from trying to sell in to your client's co.

I'm sure others will have other/differing advice but would like to wish you all the best in your new venture.

Z.

MarillionFan
21st October 2011, 22:22
Hello!

Talk about last minute, I've always been a full time employee, never contracted and I got laid off last month. After putting the feelers out, I (Today!) got offered a two month contract starting on monday.

Despite the guides, I'm still sat here confused, and now signed up to an umbrella corporation (nasa consultancy) who will handle the tax, payroll, expenses and insurance side of things, at least, I think that's what they do.... yes, yes they do...

In short, I'm scared. I've never done this before, I'm confused as anything about this, but excited at the same time. Of course two months isn't that long, and I'm wondering how on earth I end up looking for roles at the end of it, what I can and can't claim for, etiquette, what to expect.... it's all a new and very confusing world right now, but any advice will be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

Good luck.I still remember my first one. I bricked it.

Umbrella is the way to go. Play it by ear. Be has helpful as you can and try and become invaluable. You have nothing to lose.

It's the second one which is the challenge. As 1/2 of contractors fall into it because of lay off or walk out (see previous CUK polls for stats) it can be daunting and you can feel lucky that you got the first one (I remember I did). But skills, being helpful & professional, adding value & flexibility will stand you in good stead to secure a second, and as Zippy says, watch the likes of Jobserve.

keninparis
22nd October 2011, 07:28
In short, I'm scared.

I've only just joined this site and been contracting 7+ years and every contract brings new challenges and never stop learning. You'll find a wealth of excellent advice here. It's natural to be slightly anxious, however using the duck analogy if you're flapping inside don't show it on the outside (you'll be expected to hit the ground running) and IMO 'go with the flow' and don't upset the permies but don't be too friendly either (common sense I guess). Bon chance.
:ind

Wanderer
22nd October 2011, 08:17
Talk about last minute, I've always been a full time employee, never contracted and I got laid off last month. After putting the feelers out, I (Today!) got offered a two month contract starting on monday.

Go for it, you'll be fine. Be flexible and willing. Be prepared for a certain amount of discrimination against contractors, some places will treat you just like anyone else working on site, others will do little things that will annoy you like making you sign in at reception every day and wait till someone comes down to escort you.

Hopefully you are making enough money to be able to grin and bear it.

Read the umbrella's expenses guide from cover to cover and make sure you claim for everything you can.

I 2nd Zippy's comments about timesheets. It's vital that you do this or you won't get paid. For the first few it's worth calling up the umbrella company to make sure you've done it right and you're going to get paid as expected.

Think about how you will start saving some money to cover for unemployment, sickness, holiday etc. You will want to aim for at least 6 months of living expenses in the bank if you are going to stick with this contracting game.

Good luck!

photomile
22nd October 2011, 17:44
Thanks all for the kind words. I'm looking forward to it, although I'm still rather nervous.

There's a few things that confuse me of course, like my umbrella company seems to be a bit weird about submitting expense claims unless it's your second job, although there's some things in there that contradict that. Even they can't give me a straight answer (lessons for next time I guess) So I'll be turning up with my phone, and a screwdriver, noting every single thing I do.

The other thing that confuses me is references? How exactly could I get a reference? From the agency, the people I'm doing the job for... or the umbrella company that I'm now "employed" by?

More to that (We touched on it briefly earlier), CV's and LinkedIn... do I put my employer as the umbrella corp with contracts underneath? It's all rather confusing but I'm asking as I understand reputation does you far more favours than flat out experience, and at the end of the day, I'd like to keep contracting!

Hopefully during the last few weeks of the contract I'll be able to look for more work and, as said, fall into another contract (although, does that mean I have to leave the umbrella corporation until I do find another job? or do I only pay them when I have a contract?)

So confusing, it's probably already answered, but hopefully all will become clear!

Zippy
22nd October 2011, 18:16
You should be able to submit expenses from day 1 of your contract (I think umbrellas process them monthly though?). If in doubt call the brolly and ask them again (e.g. I spent £100 on train fares so how do I claim this on my expenses).. They may simply mean that you can't claim expenses until you have some income to offset them against.

References - you'll find a wealth of information on here, and I think it's fair to say that the consensus is that they are sales leads. I've found that half the time nobody cares. Not sure if your umbrella would provide them. Provide the details of HR dept of your last permie co and the hiring manager of your new co (if they agree - if not return here for advice).

Be careful with Linkedin. I'd just put some generic stuff about your experience and keep the details of current clientco confidential. Don't link to agents (you'll get lots of requests).
The umbrella may be your "employer" but they are not really, so I'd just put past client co names on there.

No, you don't have to leave the umbrella co when your contract finishes.

photomile
22nd October 2011, 18:24
Thanks, I'll give the umbrella company a quick call, a few things don't make sense on there about expenses, and they are one of these, 'pay by week' umbrella co's so I need to find out if I'm paying that fee even if there's no work. The frustrating thing is that the last company I was with, well let's just say we split on some very bad terms, it was a layoff, but the company didn't handle it very well! So it's a chief concern for me!

keninparis
23rd October 2011, 06:12
Thanks all for the kind words. I'm looking forward to it, although I'm still rather nervous.

There's a few things that confuse me of course, like my umbrella company seems to be a bit weird about submitting expense claims

This is utter nonsense re: expenses. IMO you need to get grips with this contracting game pretty sharpish. Bon chance.

keninparis
23rd October 2011, 06:18
I'll be turning up with my phone, and a screwdriver
What kind of gig is this?
Jez, I've had enough.

Wanderer
23rd October 2011, 09:01
There's a few things that confuse me of course, like my umbrella company seems to be a bit weird about submitting expense claims unless it's your second job

What they are saying is that if this is going to be the only job you do for them then you can't submit expense claims. Just assure you that you will be doing other contracts though the umbrella and you will be fine.



The other thing that confuses me is references? How exactly could I get a reference? From the agency, the people I'm doing the job for... or the umbrella company that I'm now "employed" by?

From the client generally, the agency and umbrella are just middle men, they don't count for anything. But read the sticky (http://forums.contractoruk.com/business-contracts/31505-i-just-need-get-two-references.html) before you go giving anyone's name as a reference.


More to that (We touched on it briefly earlier), CV's and LinkedIn... do I put my employer as the umbrella corp with contracts underneath? It's all rather confusing but I'm asking as I understand reputation does you far more favours than flat out experience, and at the end of the day, I'd like to keep contracting!

Put down the clients you have worked for, the umbrella or agent means nothing.


does that mean I have to leave the umbrella corporation until I do find another job? or do I only pay them when I have a contract?)

You need to ask them about this - they approach this in different ways. Don't go signing up to pay them even if you aren't working though.

photomile
23rd October 2011, 09:53
keninparis - There's no need to be rude. I was offered work and I took it, I literally got offered at 3pm on Friday, to start on Monday. I had two hours to discover what an umbrella company was, etc. I still don't have the TOC's of my contract, just an offer letter. I'm trying to learn what I can because there isn't too much information. Does asking questions not denote that I'm trying to get to grips with things ASAP? Also, I'm systems and support, I ALWAYS carry a small screwdriver, literally has saved my ass when trying to get into a case or remove a stubborn cable screw in front of a very irate client.

Wanderer - Thanks! I've had a chat with their payroll team who've answered a lot of questions, and I've been pulling as much research as I can over the weekend. Suffice to say it's clear I made a lot of mistakes with the recruitment agency and the umbrella co which, probably wouldn't have happened if I had more than two hours to decide if I was going to do contract work.

I wish I'd had more of a chance to decide to do contracting but... the more I read about it, the more I'm pleased about the idea. Just a pity I was pretty desperate for work!

I will also be having some strong words with the recruiter as I have no contract, just a site contact and an 'offer letter' as well. Like I said, this was last minute, and frankly when you've lost your home, pound signs start flashing up like neon lights

It's still nerve racking, but the more and more I read, means I'm looking forward to it even more. I had never really considered contracting before, so understood nothing. Such a shame it had to come in a baptism of fire. At least I don't need to go and buy a laptop, I'll use clientco's one or my own personal one. It's halfway to dead anyway

keninparis
23rd October 2011, 10:10
keninparis - There's no need to be rude.

No offence intended. Either your thread is a 'wind-up' (most likely), else best get your screwdriver dusted down for the morning.

If not a wind-up, IMO you need to get to grips with this contracting game pretty sharpish...

photomile
23rd October 2011, 10:22
Why on earth would it be a windup?

Like I said, I'm asking questions and researching as quickly and as best I can!

What exactly is your fixation with a screwdriver?! Clientco has contracted me to do a rollout, that means software installs and apparently a few machine replacements including upgrades for those that don't support it. I can envisage a few points where I would need a screwdriver there!

keninparis
23rd October 2011, 10:28
Why on earth would it be a windup?

Like I said, I'm asking questions and researching as quickly and as best I can!

What exactly is your fixation with a screwdriver?! Clientco has contracted me to do a rollout, that means software installs and apparently a few machine replacements including upgrades for those that don't support it. I can envisage a few points where I would need a screwdriver there!

Listen, I need to find a bar that's showing the manc derby and find out where ms. KP is and cover up winnings from the rugby.

If you're taking a screwdriver into work on Monday you're insane:tired

photomile
23rd October 2011, 10:33
Ok, well, I don't quite understand that it seems but ok.

Wanderer
23rd October 2011, 10:44
Ok, well, I don't quite understand that it seems but ok.

It seems that there is a reason why it says "keninparis is slower than a 486"....

photomile
23rd October 2011, 10:50
It seems that there is a reason why it says "keninparis is slower than a 486"....

LOL well... maybe that should be me as well because I'm still trying to understand why it's an issue for a rollout with hardware upgrade *shrug*

Thanks for your help Wanderer (Nope, I don't pay during contract downtime either btw) just have to fax everything possible to them and claim everything. I'll wait a bit before I can justify buying a 'business laptop'

keninparis
23rd October 2011, 10:55
LOL well... maybe that should be me as well because I'm still trying to understand why it's an issue for a rollout with hardware upgrade *shrug*

Thanks for your help Wanderer (Nope, I don't pay during contract downtime either btw) just have to fax everything possible to them and claim everything. I'll wait a bit before I can justify buying a 'business laptop'

It seems CUK needs to branch out. One portal for systems (those who get the best rates) and one for 'hardware' people (who take screwdrivers into work).

photomile
23rd October 2011, 10:57
Charming... To be honest, I'd take a screwdriver anywhere. I'm one of 'those' types that just always finds it handy to have. Even back when I was designing and implementing AD networks for clients when I was a permie, I always carried a small screwdriver. Never used it, but it was 'always there'

What a polite way of saying 'You're not welcome here' eh?

malvolio
23rd October 2011, 12:09
Not about being welcome... :wink

Anyway, go to www.pcg.org.uk (http://www.pcg.org.uk) and download their Guide to Freelancing. It will explain everything; it's even been updated to cover off the AWR (say what?). Anything you still don't understand (and there will be lots, believe me), come back and ask better questions.

And contractors - all 1.4 million of us - are anyone who don't want to work for an employer. There aren't any grades, despite what the cubicle dwellers may try and tell you. I usually need the h/w support and the service desk teams rather more than I need assorted coders, tbh...

photomile
23rd October 2011, 14:40
Not about being welcome... :wink
Indeed, perhaps the fact that I don't program means I'm not worth the time of some people.




Anyway, go to www.pcg.org.uk (http://www.pcg.org.uk) and download their Guide to Freelancing. It will explain everything; it's even been updated to cover off the AWR (say what?). Anything you still don't understand (and there will be lots, believe me), come back and ask better questions.

And contractors - all 1.4 million of us - are anyone who don't want to work for an employer. There aren't any grades, despite what the cubicle dwellers may try and tell you. I usually need the h/w support and the service desk teams rather more than I need assorted coders, tbh...

That is brilliant advice, thanks! Will formulate better questions, but more and more things are getting answered! That guide is brilliant, thank you. I don't think I would have found that otherwise!

Suffice to say, this initial contract was a complete mistake. The umbrella company seems great from what I'm digging up, however the companies involved are really doing a bad job of communicating.

All I'm going to do with this, is try and get a reference, and work every bloody hour possible, as well as some strong words on monday morning about why there still isn't a contract for me on the day I start.

Lesson learned, but hopefully I'm gathering enough information now to make sure that I'm doing all of the right things for my next contract

Wanderer
23rd October 2011, 14:49
I will also be having some strong words with the recruiter as I have no contract, just a site contact and an 'offer letter' as well.

The consensus here is that working without a signed contract is very dangerous. I presume your offer letter sets out the basics like your rate, payment terms, duration and notice period (although the latter seems to be meaningless most of the time so don't expect any notice period and don't come crying to us if they bin you without warning). :)

You should aim to have the contract emailed to you before the close of business on Monday. Take a bit of time to read the contract, they try to put some nasty stuff in there sometimes and feed you some line that "all our contractors accept this".

keninparis
23rd October 2011, 15:02
without a signed contract is very dangerous.

Don't have a problem without a signed contract but more concerning seems to be the lack of knowledge in the field. After Uni was perm for 10+ years (client facing CRM/SQL/Crystal etc) and took me 2 years to get a handle of the pros and cons of contracting; only after those 2 years research I made the move and never looked back since (7+ years in contracting). Not as many years as some of the vets on here but a wealth of experience.

photomile
23rd October 2011, 15:28
The consensus here is that working without a signed contract is very dangerous. I presume your offer letter sets out the basics like your rate, payment terms, duration and notice period (although the latter seems to be meaningless most of the time so don't expect any notice period and don't come crying to us if they bin you without warning). :)

You should aim to have the contract emailed to you before the close of business on Monday. Take a bit of time to read the contract, they try to put some nasty stuff in there sometimes and feed you some line that "all our contractors accept this".

agreed, there's a few things covered in there but I won't be starting unless I have something in writing!

Can you give me any examples of clauses to watch out for? Standard things I can work out but if there are specific things they like to put in to catch contractors out etc

keninparis - as already stated, pound signs were the motivation and yeah there's a lack of knowledge since within the space of a weekend I've had to make the decision to do a contract. I have already lost my home. I have been thrown in at the deep end and not necessarily out of choice however I'm making the best of this situation that I can

keninparis
23rd October 2011, 15:39
agreed, there's a few things covered in there but I won't be starting unless I have something in writing!

Can you give me any examples of clauses to watch out for? Standard things I can work out but if there are specific things they like to put in to catch contractors out etc

keninparis - as already stated, pound signs were the motivation and yeah there's a lack of knowledge since within the space of a weekend I've had to make the decision to do a contract. I have already lost my home. I have been thrown in at the deep end and not necessarily out of choice however I'm making the best of this situation that I can

No offence intended; just trying to help - bon chance. Let me know how you get on.

photomile
23rd October 2011, 15:50
No offence intended; just trying to help - bon chance. Let me know how you get on.

Not to worry

Put it this way... It's now a personal challenge to do this as best as I can, so I will aim to do you proud (and myself)

keninparis
23rd October 2011, 15:59
Not to worry

Put it this way...


good luck buddy! (didn't realise I was your pimp)

photomile
23rd October 2011, 15:59
good luck buddy! (didn't realise I was your pimp)

What happens in Paris....

Zippy
23rd October 2011, 16:02
I wouldn't worry too much about a contract on the first day, as long as you have something in writing (or email) from the agent setting out the basic conditions and pay.
Two problems with not having a contract
- you won't be insured (so don't break/touch anything)
- you won't get paid

So keep harassing. Try to get the umbrella co to do the legwork - they won't get their fee if you don't get paid.

It gets easier ... trust me :)

photomile
23rd October 2011, 16:03
I wouldn't worry too much about a contract on the first day, as long as you have something in writing (or email) from the agent setting out the basic conditions and pay.
Two problems with not having a contract
- you won't be insured (so don't break/touch anything)
- you won't get paid

So keep harassing. Try to get the umbrella co to do the legwork - they won't get their fee if you don't get paid.

It gets easier ... trust me :)

Exactly as I thought!

keninparis
23rd October 2011, 16:08
What happens in Paris....
Hope day 1 goes well and all the best. Warm regards. KP.

Zippy
23rd October 2011, 16:09
@keninparis - we are usually politer to newbies than you have been. There is an exception - when they amble in to General and start stirring it or asking moronic questions.

keninparis
23rd October 2011, 16:15
@keninparis - we are usually politer to newbies than you have been. There is an exception - when they amble in to General and start stirring it or asking moronic questions.

Okay - point taken. I'll keep out of any new joiner threads, but initially as you'll see was trying to pass on a few tips.

keninparis
23rd October 2011, 16:20
Indeed, perhaps the fact that I don't program means I'm not worth the time of some people.



That is brilliant advice, thanks! Will formulate better questions, but more and more things are getting answered! That guide is brilliant, thank you. I don't think I would have found that otherwise!

Suffice to say, this initial contract was a complete mistake. The umbrella company seems great from what I'm digging up, however the companies involved are really doing a bad job of communicating.

All I'm going to do with this, is try and get a reference, and work every bloody hour possible, as well as some strong words on monday morning about why there still isn't a contract for me on the day I start.

Lesson learned, but hopefully I'm gathering enough information now to make sure that I'm doing all of the right things for my next contract

Apologies for my conduct on this thread. IT is a broad spectrum and we probably had cross-wires. All the best and good luck.

Wanderer
23rd October 2011, 18:12
Can you give me any examples of clauses to watch out for? Standard things I can work out but if there are specific things they like to put in to catch contractors out etc

Whatever your "notice period" is, it's likely that the agency will slip in a clause which says the client can dump you at any time for any reason which makes the notice period a bit of a nonsense. Don't worry too much about it but do be aware.

Agencies like to put in a restraint of trade clause that says you can only work for the client through the agency who introduced you and this may be for a period of 12 months after the end of the contract. They also like to give you rubbish payment terms like monthly invoicing and payment 30 days after that. Either negotiate it down or invoice them weekly.

They will also try to get you to sign away your legal rights by opting out of the Agency Conduct Regulations (http://forums.contractoruk.com/business-contracts/66965-opt-out-conduct-employment-agencies-2003-act.html). Since you are working through an umbrella, you can't opt out but they will try to make you think you can anyway. You should read the sticky and understand your rights under this legislation.

If you stick with contracting and you are making over ~ 30k/year then you should consider switching to LTD company and you can avoid a lot of tax but there is a bit of research to be done especially regarding IR35 once you are ready to go that direction.

There are great guides on this site - follow the CUK Navigation links on the right. Consider joining the PCG, especially if you go LTD.

There is a fair amount to learn and a lot of it is not intuitive. If you have questions about contracting then read the guides here and at PCG first and then tell us what part you are unclear on and you will (possibly) get a useful answer. If you just ask basic questions outright then people here will get grumpy with you.

photomile
23rd October 2011, 20:27
Many thanks again, I think I'm slowly coming up to speed on everything. Again, that document helps.

I fully appreciate what you say about simple questions, and I'm rarely the type to not do a tonne of research into something but, pound signs, desperation, last minute contract... I'm slowly finding things out, and hopefully yeah, I'll be up and at them tomorrow and onto more and more contracts!

keninparis
23rd October 2011, 20:41
Many thanks again, I think I'm slowly coming up to speed on everything. Again, that document helps.

I fully appreciate what you say about simple questions, and I'm rarely the type to not do a tonne of research into something but, pound signs, desperation, last minute contract... I'm slowly finding things out, and hopefully yeah, I'll be up and at them tomorrow and onto more and more contracts!

I've missed the flight back from Paris (ms. KP's fault) so unfortunately have to email (can't bear to speak to him/her) my agency (pimp) to let the client know I'm unavailable tomorrow so feel free to drop me a line tomorrow if you require any advise (non screwdriver related) as probably will be killing time in a bar.

photomile
23rd October 2011, 20:43
I've missed the flight back from Paris (ms. KP's fault) so unfortunately have to email (can't bear to speak to him/her) my agency (pimp) to let the client know I'm unavailable tomorrow so feel free to drop me a line tomorrow if you require any advise (non screwdriver related) as probably will be killing time in a bar.

Thank you, much appreciated!

photomile
24th October 2011, 17:18
Thank you, much appreciated!

Well, day one was interesting enough, I certainly see why you guys do it, so I'm billing my hours, milage to and from the office, and Nasa allow me to claim up to £5 un-receipted lunch allowance. Sadly the agency is still causing problems.

Despite calls from my self, Nasa Consultancy and a nudge from the client, I still don't have a contract, no electronic contract or otherwise, so in my eyes, I cannot continue working until I can sign off and get insured for the day at least!

I have however, been able to learn a hell of a lot about contracting since one or two seemed to try and 'take me under their wing'. The mindset is totally different to perms, and frankly it seems great.

The recruitment agency, not so much, since it's a very very serious issue I am led to believe, and not just for insurance purposes and them paying you!

The happy news is the contract could well over-run, the bad news is that wonderful offer of overtime the recruitment consultancy made? Yeah, that was a lie. SO I think some extremely harsh words tomorrow morning.

Anything else to add? not insured, won't get paid etc, no confirmation of rates.... I'm sure there's something illegal about this as well...

Wanderer
25th October 2011, 07:45
Despite calls from my self, Nasa Consultancy and a nudge from the client, I still don't have a contract, no electronic contract or otherwise, so in my eyes, I cannot continue working until I can sign off and get insured for the day at least!

Phone up the agency and ask what the hell is going on. Tell them that you are going to have a chat with the client about it unless they can pull their finger out. The agency won't like looking stupid/incompetent in front of the client so that should spur them on. Telling the client you have no contract could get you marched off site though so be careful.


The happy news is the contract could well over-run, the bad news is that wonderful offer of overtime the recruitment consultancy made? Yeah, that was a lie. SO I think some extremely harsh words tomorrow morning.

They lie through their teeth, that's their way of doing business. If it's not in writing then it doesn't exist. Even if it is in writing then it may or may not eventuate.

photomile
25th October 2011, 19:49
I finally have a contract, and all seems.... okay.... although they've lumped in my stuff and the stuff for nasa consultancy so it's a bit confusing what I do and don't need to send. So.. yeah interesting. Very confusing. Otherwise it looks all ok, no pressure to even opt out either!

I'll go through the contract stuff and return 'my bits' so to speak. Thanks for the help all!

More and more learned every day, dear god I see why you do it now!