Sales & Network
One of the first things you could be doing is providing some free advice/ consultations to any previous clients. It could be framed as a general catch up and used as a way to share your thoughts on what’s going on in the industry and how you expect things to shape it. If they have any input that’s useful on a project they’re working then it’s a great opportunity to re-engage with an old client and possibly find avenues of opportunity.
To eliminate the back and forth of scheduling a meeting/ free consultation we’d recommend Meeting Bird which is completely free.
Create a Profile on Talmix
Talmix provides a range of global opportunities for consultants and specialists that can range for a day or two up to 12 month projects. With a network of more than 40,000 specialists, there are a range of opportunities.
The sign-up process is pretty straight forward and you can browse through projects right away.
Move Me On Profile
Move Me On have an impressive array of clients they can boast about from Amex, Nike, Shell, L.E.K and Hello Fresh, they offer roles that typically require quite a few years experience. The minimum role they hire for is a senior analyst for £400/day.
Create an expert profile on Catalant
Catalant work with 30% of the top Fortune 100 companies. It’s an interesting proposition that combines software with experts to ensure that strategy is executed.
Sign up to Toptal
Toptal’s claim is that they only hire the top 3% of all freelancers.
They have an impressive array of clients such as Airbnb, Shopify and Bridgestone and hire into Finance, Project Management, Product Managers, Developers and also build their own consulting teams.
You’ve probably heard of Upwork before. We’ve used it ourselves to hire a range of different talent and skill sets can vary quite considerably.
They have categories for Accounting & Consulting, Data Science & Analytics, Engineering & Architecture and IT & Networking to name a few.
Add your slide decks to online marketplaces
Feeling confident in your slide design?
There are a few online resources where people can download slide templates from and one of the best is Envato.
Create a SkillShare class
It seems like SkillShare advertises on every other YouTube video but what you can be sure of is that they drive a huge volume of traffic to their website and have a variety of learning categories that people can explore.
If you have a skill or interest that you feel comfortable to share then become a teacher on SkillShare. To set expectations, it’s unlikely that this will become a major income stream in the short term but it could turn into a good stream of side income.
Learn more about becoming a teacher.
Create an email newsletter
There are some really great newsletters out there and despite what some may say about email open rates. For example, Morning Brew made $13M last year through their newsletter alone. They made $3M the year before with only 10 staff.
With a free subscription to Mail Chimp it’s pretty simple to implement this strategy as a way to engage potential customers.
For reference some of our favourite newsletters (and ones that could provide some inspiration) are:
- Morning Brew - hilarious breakdowns of big investments and finance news [they made $13M in 2019 from just their newsletter]
- TL;DR - daily tech news
- CB Insights - great commentary on M&A and industry verticals
Create a Podcast
Podcasting revenue is likely to exceed $1bn in 2021.
Each week more and more specialist shows emerge and creating a Podcast can be a great way to rapidly build your network and connect with leading industry figures (if you manage to make it work).
Make a list of all the customers you want to target & research
Now is a good time to take a step back and put together some really specialised insights on your potential customer target market.
Reach out to recruiters & work together
Given the current circumstances, the recruitment industry (in most sectors) is likely to be under serious strain.
Reach out to any recruiters you’ve worked with in the past. Sure, see if they have any roles but you could offer to help them put together a project scope, provide any introductions to people you know or find a way that you can support them with some free consulting or advice.
It’s unlikely that you’ll generate any business in the short term but supporting recruiters during this time will ensure that you’re one of the key people they think about for future roles.
Reach out to Chambers of Commerce/ LEPs to offer support
This could be an opportunity for you to help support a struggling business within your community.
Add your business to Google My Business
Adding your consulting company to Google My Business is a great way to get your services seen in local searches.
Registration is simple. Add your business details and where you operate your business from and you’ll receive a postcard in a few working days with a code to confirm your account.
If you don’t have an office space that you can register from then you can use our address for only £12.50 a month for a limited time - find out more.
Keyword research to understand your industry
You could use keyword research to understand search volumes and general interest in services in your industry/ consulting skills set.
The two best tools for this are:
- Google Trends - see how interests have changed over the last few months
- Uber Suggest - find keyword volumes
Reach out to more junior colleagues you’ve worked with
If you’ve worked in projects with more junior colleagues who were also working as contractors then reach out to them.
For one, it’s good to support more junior people during this time and secondly they may be working on other projects or know people in their network they could refer you to.
Join Industry Associations
There are a broad range of industry associations that are likely to cater to your industry. There may be free online events, discounted memberships available or ways for you to try and test a membership before joining.
British Services offers a comprehensive list to browse by location and activity.
Blogging on Medium (or others)
Starting a blog on Medium is really simple and also provides a great opportunity for it to rank well and even be picked up by other providers and shared widely. You could make it as niche as you want (i.e the Technical Limitations of .Net), create an industry focus (i.e. IT contractors guide to IT Contracting) or provide interesting research insights or anecdotes.
Another element of using Medium is that it has great Domain Authority which means that it could rank well on Google search results, so be sure to do your keyword research!
Hey, if it also took off, then you also could start earning a bit of side income through the platform.
Guest blog for other articles
There are a range of sites that may cater to your industry that could provide an opportunity for to share your insights with a similar audience to yourself or that hiring professionals may subscribe to.
For contactors there’s a range of useful resources like ITContracting.com, Contract Eye, Contractor UK (all run by the same team) and Contractor Weekly.
You’d be surprised how many websites have an inbox that you can message with a potential story or if you have ideas for articles, they’re usually receptive!
Create case studies of work you’ve completed
Creating compelling case studies of work you’ve done is a great way to bring your CV to life. You could put together a short powerpoint of a few of the projects you have worked on and highlight the challenges and ways that you overcame the obstacles.
For future client projects this could really set you apart from others.
Survey your network
How is COVID-19 impacting your network? How is impacting your industry? You can create a simple Google Form and reach out to your network to find out what they think is happening.
Share the insights with everyone and turn it into a blog post to share.
Survey prospective customers
In the same way that you could reach out to those in your network to get insights, reach out to prospective clients and ask them for their feedback.
Again, you can follow up with some clear insights on the industry that will be really valuable to them and could allow you to showcase your work.
Create an infographic
If you followed the above advice on doing some research, then you can pull this together in an infographic.
Create an online tool - Awesome Table
Do you have a bunch of resources that have helped you over the years? Do you want to track data on a map? Or show a gantt chart of work?
Awesome Table is a great tool that allows you to build some really unique online tools and resources.
Create a slideshare overview
Slideshare is a part of LinkedIn that allows you to share interesting presentations online.
Create a “jargon” buster for your industry
Do people understand what you do? Is your industry/ job littered with an absurd amount of alliteration?
You could create a simple “jargon” buster to share on your LinkedIn profile which will help others in your network understand what you do.
Create your company branding
Do you want to grow your contracting business in the future? Now may be a good time to start thinking about your brand or refining it if you already have one.
Do you have your own domain name? Use Google Domains [you can also setup an email easily]
Do you need a logo? Use Canva [it’s free]
Create a lunch and learn group
Create a group of people from your network where you can schedule a regular catch up.
You can take it a step further and create your own digital “lunch and learn” session.
Get people to share a topic they know a lot about or are interested in. It doesn’t have to be work related but it’s a good opportunity to learn something new and keep a social component you and others could be lacking.
Build a website
Remember our point about building out your brand? Setting up a website is insanely easy (and cheap) now. It’s a good idea to also have something like this setup *IF* IR35 comes into play in April 2021.
Create a Top 1% LinkedIn profile
Given that LinkedIn is a source of 80% of B2B leads, you need to set yourself up for success with a great LinkedIn profile.
There’s some quick wins to making a profile that stands out but we put together an exhaustive guide on how you can rank in the top 1% of LinkedIn for your industry.
Check out our guide on how to rank in the top 1% on LinkedIn.
Join groups on Social Media
Use it or lose it. LinkedIn and Facebook groups can definitely be hit and miss but you’re missing an opportunity by not engaging in them.
Whether it’s asking for advice, finding others in similar roles to yourself or just keeping your finger on the pulse, these groups can be a great source of connections and advice.
Create a LinkedIn or Facebook group
Can’t find a particular category for your industry or interest niche? Create your own.
Before starting, you should think about who you want to attract to your group and the types of content that you want to see shared. Is it related to a particular technology, particular roles or industry?
What would these people be interested in? Pull together a few different resources and start posting them into the group so that when people join they’ll see something of value as soon as they join and hopefully engage.
Once you’ve posted your content, start inviting people from your network.
Write referrals for others on LinkedIn
Not many people actively ask for LinkedIn referrals but they’re hugely valuable to someone’s profile.
Wouldn’t you value it if someone wrote a referral for you? Absolutely.
It doesn’t take long to write someone a referral and will help them build clout with others.
A secondary benefit is that it will highlight yourself on their profile, so you could have the opportunity to be found by their connections too. It’s a win-win.
Create your LinkedIn company page
Create a company page for your business on LinkedIn.
This will enhance the look of your profile but also provides a good opportunity for you to add content within this feed such as documents (we’re thinking previous case studies) or any industry insights you’ve put together.
Further to some of the previous strategies we’ve suggested, then you can link this to your website and add your branding.
Refine your Twitter account
Maybe you’re an active tweeter or maybe you set it up once and then forgot about it and left it to collect dust and spam followers.
Build your Twitter network
You should probably ensure that you’ve followed the above step before engaging on this one.
Twitter can provide a good avenue to find influencers in your industry and connect with them.
Automate your social media accounts
Work some web magic and automate your online activity.
If This Then That (IFTTT)bis a great free tool that lets you automate a range of different things. From adding money to a Monzo “holiday fund” whenever it rains to Logging outgoing calls to Google Calendar it’s amazing the things you can do.
There are some great ones for social media which include:
- Say thanks to a new follower
- Tweet YouTube videos you like
- Tweet from an RSS news feed - we’ll get into setting up a custom feed later
- Add new LinkedIn contacts to a spreadsheet
- Post tweets to a company LinkedIn page
Again, it’s FREE.
Answer Quora questions
Quora is an amazing fountain of knowledge and you’d be surprised by the level of detail some answers go into.
If you can find a particular question that is niche to your industry then you should put together a comprehensive response. Quora has grown so much due to the fact that a lot of questions end up at the top of Google search results.
If a prospective client is looking for a specialist or has a key question about their business then this is a great opportunity to showcase your knowledge and they’re likely to check your profile out in more detail.
Meetup is a great resource to find local events and others within your industry or who share the same interests as you.
Once you’re in a group (and depending on what controls the admin has put in place) then you can post in the discussions and message members.
Create a Meetup Group
Can’t find a Meetup group that fits you? Great!
You can start a meetup group for a relatively low cost of c. £30 for 6 months. Whilst the meetup model has pivoted to more “digital” meetups now, it’s still a great way to network and quickly find others with similar interests.
Create an Eventbrite Online Event
Like Meetup, Eventbrite has also had to pivot to offering online events.
It’s free to set up an event and you will organically pick up leads and interested customers through the Eventbrite network.
Your event could be something like a free business consultation or an industry webinar. With both of these types of events you can limit the number of reservations and get people to book particular time slots.
Review Month to Month versus full year software costs - save 10 - 50%
If you have software that you genuinely need to operate your business and you feel comfortable with your cashflow then you should definitely think about upgrading a month to month agreement to annual. Generally the minimum saving is around 10% but often providers will look at up to 50% discounts.
Downgrade software to more basic versions
Do you need all the features of the Pro and Premium account? Maybe not.
Cancel software and test others with 30 day free trials
It’s astounding how quickly new features and other providers are creating software.
A lot of software providers are providing discounted contracts or free trials to new businesses during COVID-19. To find other software providers there are a few simple ways:
- G2 - provides in depth comparisons of software
- Product Hunt - offers new and Beta versions of products
- Google Search - just put in your software providers name and often Google will suggest similar providers
Switch insurance providers
Now is the time to compare insurance providers. I actually found I was paying 50% more than others when I asked some colleagues how much they were paying - unfortunately I was also locked into an annual agreement!
One of the easiest ways to compare is to use Simply Business which compares a lot of mainstream providers. We also highly recommend Digital Risks who have an amazing online tool, great user experience and very competitive rates for insurance for contractors.
Cancel insurance if you’re no longer actively advising
If you’re not currently working and don’t expect to be working anytime soon then you could cancel your insurance policy to save on your costs.
Switch Banking Provider
Have you had your business account longer than 18 months? If you’re with a big high street bank then you’re probably getting charged around £5+ a month.
A lot of newer providers offer incentives to join - Tide currently offer £50 to anyone that signs up and you can also get a free grow account with Revolut.
Switch to a Virtual Office
Are you paying for access to a coworking space or an office? It’s unclear when/ if we’ll be able to return to the old “norm” a few months ago and the future of office space may look very differently.
A Virtual Office is a great opportunity to massively reduce costs (from £199 to £12.50) which can provide you with a professional address for your website, business cards, registered company address (increasing privacy) and invoices.
We decided to reduce our Virtual Office rates for a limited time to only £12.50 until the end of the year - find out more here.
Use our COVID-19 Eligibility Calculator
We have pulled together a calculator that takes about 2 minutes to complete and will provide you with an indication of all the support programmes you may be entitled to.
Claim Sick pay
As a PAYE employee, you could claim 2 weeks of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you become sick or are required to self-isolate if others in your household develop COVID-19 symptoms. Read More
You can defer your VAT payments for the period 20th March to 30th June until the end of the tax year. There is no penalty for this. Read More
Income Tax Deferral
If you were due to make a Self-assessment income tax payment on 31st of July you can defer this until 31st January 2021. Read More
HMRC Time to Pay Service
If you have other tax that is due (i.e. Corporation Tax) then you may be able to negotiate some time before you make repayments which will help with your cash flow.
You can use the HMRC Time to Pay service if you have concerns about paying your business tax on time. Read More
Self Employment Income Protection Scheme
For the far majority of contractors this is not going to be something that applies to you but if you earn under £50,000 a year, don’t take dividends out of your company, completed a self assessment tax return for 2018/2019 then you could be eligible for support.
You could be eligible to receive up to 80% of your monthly self-employed income up to a maximum cap of £2,500. This is based on the last 3 years of your annual profits. Read More
3 Month Mortgage Break
You could be eligible for a 3 month mortgage repayment holiday. You will have to talk to your mortgage provider directly to claim this.
Business Bounce Back Loan
On 27th April, the Chancellor announced a new loan scheme which is more focused on smaller businesses compared to the CBILS scheme. The key features of this scheme are:
- 100% backed by the Government - improving approval speeds by reducing bank exposure
- Capped at £50,000 or 25% of annual turnover, whichever is lower and the minimum loan starts at £2,000.
- No repayments for 12 months: fees + interest are paid by the Government
- Simpler application process (no forecasting/ commentary needed)
- Loans should arrive within 24 hours of approval
- Available to Limited Companies, Partnerships & Sole Traders
- Businesses classed as an “undertaking in difficulty” on 31 December 2019 will not be eligible, though at this stage the criteria for this is unknown
Applications open on Monday May 4th.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) was one of the first schemes announced by the chancellor.
After the last few weeks, the application process appears to be pretty cumbersome and you’ll likely need a long trading history and forecasts for the business.
You can apply for an interest free loan for 12 months through your bank or 40 different finance providers. The Government will guarantee 80% on the loan. Read More
Sign Petition for Support
If you feel that there hasn’t been enough support for contractors and small limited company directors then there are petitions available here:
- Change.org - almost 350,000 signatures at the time of writing
- Petition.Parliament.UK - just over 50,000 signatures (100,000 need to open it up for debate)
Become a Furloughed Worker
One of your last resorts to claim is becoming a Furloughed Worker of your company. This will severely limit any kind of business development you’re able to do as there are strict conditions on what you can/ can’t do.
We also expect that a majority of company Directors are paying themselves a tax efficient salary of just over £700 a month and given that claims are for 80% of salary, you’re unlikely to claim much from your company.
You would be required to make yourself a 'furloughed worker' to claim this. Read More
Tax & Accounting
Review your allowable expenses
Bought a coffee a few months ago that you didn’t claim? There are a wide variety of expenses from. We have an extensive guide on Limited Company expenses but here’s a few key categories:
- Use of home office: If you use your home as an office, you can claim a rate of ¬£4 per week as allowable business expenses. HMRC doesn't require you to keep receipt for this. Additionally, this isn't considered a benefit in kind, so you don't have to pay tax on the amount.
- Apportionment of bills: Alternatively, can claim a proportion of household costs used by the business. The allowable expenses you can claim for will vary depending on the situation, but you can typically claim for utilities and other household expenses (but only for mortgage and council tax if you are self-employed).
- General office costs: did you have to buy a range of equipment to enable you to work from home? From stationery, postage and computer equipment - you’re entitled to claim a range of these expenses.
- Health care expenses: you could claim for health insurance, medical check ups or a health screening.
- Bad Debts: had a client who couldn’t pay due to C-19? To claim bad debts as a business expense, the value of the transaction needs to be included in your company's turnover, and you must be sure that the debts will not be recovered from your customer.
- Web expenses: you can claim the cost of your website/ web hosting back.
- Software: if you’re using software for your business then you can claim for this.
- Professional Organisations: if you’re a member if a professional organisation/ industry association then you can claim the cost of membership back. HMRC provide a full list here.
File self assessment early (payment still won’t be due until Jan)
You can get ahead of your accounting early and file your Self Assessment for 2019/2020 which can be filed from April 6th 2020 and you’ll have until January 31st 2021 to file and, importantly, pay this.
Catch up on your accounting
Now is a great time to catch up on uploading receipts or even understanding some accounting terms more in depth which could help you save time and money in future.
Utilise your Directors Loan account
A Director’s loan can be used when you need to access the money in your limited company, other than what you take out as salary, dividend or business expense repayments. This is the form of an interest free loan for an amount under £10,000 and is a useful way to bridge the gap in your personal finances until your company can pay out dividends/ salary to you.
Consolidate Your Expenses
If you’ve got a range of debit and credit cards then using a service like Yolt makes it really easy to integrate all your accounts into one place so you can easily identify expenses which may have fallen through the cracks.
Create automatic savings pots
Most bank accounts, even from larger providers, now have automatic round ups available to put additional funds into a savings account. Monzo has a great savings pot
Money Box can also automatically add your rounds ups into an investment account (you can start with £1) and they have a range of different investment strategies available (from adventurous to cautious).
Switch accountants or pay annual fee
Now is a good time to consider switching accountants.
There are a range of contractor accountants available and services, features and price can vary quite considerably.
To help contractors during COVID-19 we have provided a 50% discount for the whole of 2020 (an 8 month discount). This means you’ll get accounting software, all HMRC, tax and companies house filings and a dedicated accountant for only £47.50 (+ VAT) which will saved you a minimum of £300 and closer to £500 for the rest of the year.
You could complete a SWOT analysis of yourself/ your business.
Have you lost out on roles in the past? Is there a particular technology that is taking off in your field?
Taking a step back, even if it was a quick 30 minute exercise, you could get a clearer picture of:
- Strengths & Weaknesses are largely going to come down to experience, certifications, industry specialisms, technology and interpersonal skills.
- Opportunities: where you skills could be applied in other industries if it seems like your current industry could be affected for some time due to COVID-19.
- Threats: C-19, IR35, cash flow in your business, recession.
Create an Email Address for your company
This will help enhance your professional image and let's be clear, we’re not talking about firstname.lastname@example.org
You could either setup a redirect to your personal email (but when you respond it will be from your personal account) or you can setup a proper managed inbox for your email address.
If you use Google Domains to register your business then it’s really simple to setup a redirect to your personal email and if you upgrade to a G-Suite account (about £4 a month) then this will provide you with an email address you can use.
Sorting and filing your documents and spreadsheets
Is your desktop a mess? Pulling all your documents together in some order that will help you easily find them in the future.
This will also free up space on your computer if you have multiple downloads of the same documents and spreadsheets.
Here’s a quick guide for optimising storage for Mac users.
Store Documents in the Cloud
It’s a great idea to ensure that all your work is secure online in case anything happens to your computer. From Dropbox, Box, iCloud, Google Drive and OneDrive, there are a huge variety of options and ways to automatically sync your documents.
Sorting out your email inbox & bulk unsubscribing
I surprise myself with the volume of random tools or services I have signed up to. It continually leads to my inbox getting cluttered with a significant amount of newsletters.
An amazing tool is Unroll.me which can bulk unsubscribe from emails and add newsletters that you still want to receive into a daily round up.
You will be asked if you’re in the EU when using this tool (due to GDPR) and you’ll have to click no if you want to use this. This is due to how they can use your data to provide ads in your round up emails. Personally I’m happy for them to advertise to me in this way as they’re providing a convenient free service.
Add signatures to your emails
It is a small change but it can instantly add a lot more credibility to your emails. Even if you’re using your personal email to talk to recruiters or clients that you know well, adding a few more details about yourself, your company, LinkedIn or links to your blog or case studies can lead to new opportunities.
Improve your PowerPoint templates
We referenced it earlier but a great source of PowerPoint inspiration is Envato.
Upload Business Cards
If you have a stack of business cards from events you’ve gone to that are sitting in a drawer then you can create contracts from these quickly using a business card scanner app.
Here’s a list of the top 6 business card scanner apps.
Putting Together Proposal Templates
If you have to submit proposals and scoping documents for your projects then you should consider refining the design of these documents.
Start using the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is a great way to build a routine and eliminate distractions in your day.
The technique focuses on 25 minute increments of highly focused work followed by a 5 minute break. After completing 4 of these then you can give yourself a 15 minute break.
A useful app for this is “Get Focused” which is available on iPhone and Mac which lets you track tasks and sets the timer for you. The free version is pretty good and the pro version is super cheap.
Integrate all your tools with Station
Station is hands down the best tool I’ve used to increase my productivity.
It integrates hundreds of apps into one consolidated application on your desktop and means that you can easily switch between multiple inboxes, toggle between tabs and mute notifications when you need to focus. Again, this is free!
Update your CV
You should focus on the design and content of your CV.
A great tool to design your CV or get inspiration from is resume.io which offers a free account or upgrade for c. £3 to download your complete CV.
Refine your Microsoft office shortcut knowledge
There are hundreds of shortcuts you can use on Microsoft Office apps and whilst you’re bound to know some of the main ones you’d be surprised how much time you could be wasting on functions that have convenient shortcuts.
IFTTT operational elements
Earlier on I mentioned the amazing tool called IFTTT and now it’s time to cover some of the time savers. Following on from this, here are a few things you could automate:
If you haven’t made the switch from writing meeting notes in a notebook or emails then it’s time to consider Evernote.
The free account should cover the basic functionality you need but the ability to create templates, add screenshots and search through your notes will save you a huge amount of time.
Test out Project Management Tools
If you’re still using a notepad to track your tasks then it may be time to test out some new project management tools.
The best three tools that we’ve tested for project management are:
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