Whether you’ve started your own contracting agency, or you’re working solo as a freelancer, there are a few simple ways to make landing jobs a much smoother experience all around. 

In this guide, we’ll be covering:

  • Marketing tips for contractors
  • How to invoice clients
  • Guidance on IR35
  • How to manage your finances

Marketing tips for contractors

The trickiest part of contract work is finding a steady flow of income. The right marketing strategy will ensure a consistent stream of clients interested in your service. 

Try some, or all, of the following tactics:

  • Digital marketing
  • Traditional marketing
  • Branding

Digital marketing

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all great places to advertise yourself. You can join dedicated groups and connect with millions of people. 

Posting regularly is the best way to gain some traction, and there’s nothing wrong with getting friends and family to share your posts to get the ball rolling. 

You should also sign up for online job sites that specialise in freelance work. They’re basically huge search engines that the public can use to find freelance contractors. Some of the more popular freelance sites are:

Traditional marketing

Alongside digital marketing, some more traditional forms of marketing can also be effective. You should consider:

  • making business cards to hand out.
  • printing flyers and posting them locally.
  • networking with other contractors online and in your local area.

Branding

You’ll want to think about the name of your service and if you want to include any unique branding with a logo or slogan. 

As a contractor, there’s nothing wrong with just using your name, but creating your own “business name” will help you stand out from the competition. It also gives you the option to expand in the future, hiring other contractors and working together as a larger agency. 

You’ll need to register your logo as a trademark with HMRC to prevent others from using it and to make sure you’re not using one that already exists. 

You don’t have to register your name unless you’re a limited company, but it’s a good idea to check it’s not already being used to avoid confusion amongst customers. 

Trademarking can be an expensive process and involves a few steps, so read our guide for more information. 

How to invoice clients

Invoicing is one of the more tedious parts of contracting. It’s time-consuming, requires attention to detail, and just adds another layer of complication to your financial bookkeeping. 

To keep you right, here’s a checklist of everything you need to include for a professional invoice.

  • A unique invoice number. They need to be different for each client. For example, John Smith’s invoices could be numbered JS1, JS2, JS3 etc.
  • Invoice Date.
  • Company or business name.
  • Limited Company Registration Number.
  • VAT Registration Number.
  • Limited Company Address.
  • Contact details – email, address, and phone number.
  • Client or agency’s name and address.
  • Description of the services you’re providing to the agency/client.
  • A breakdown of hours and rates. For example, 35 hours at £40 per hour.
  • Date when the services were supplied.
  • Amount charged for services.
  • VAT charged (at 20%).
  • The total amount charged (including VAT)
  • Your business bank account details (sort code and account number).
  • A client reference number or Purchase Order (PO) number are typically required.

Many contractors also include their payment terms on all invoices, including late payment information.

Small businesses typically provide 30-day payment terms, but it’s entirely up to you. Just make sure you invoice as soon as possible so you get your payments on time. 

Since invoicing can be a pain, try downloading accounting software. It’ll automatically record all your transactions and help you create professional invoices for all your clients. 

IR35 Guidance

As a contractor, you’ll often be employed by umbrella companies – companies that employ workers on a freelance, contract basis. Those umbrella companies need to pay income tax and national insurance contributions on behalf of the contractors they employ. They do this because of IR35 legislation. 

Previously, contractors and business owners could pay themselves a lower salary, avoiding higher income tax and national insurance contributions, then pay themselves dividends instead. 

This was seen as a form of tax avoidance by HMRC. So, they introduced IR35 to prevent this kind of behaviour by introducing harsher scrutiny for “off payroll-workers” who would previously have taken advantage of the tax loophole. 

Because of IR35, working for an umbrella company that operates outside IR35 could get you into trouble with HMRC. 

To avoid getting into trouble, check umbrella companies for accreditations like:

  • FCSA (Freelancer and Contractor Services Accreditation) – the industry’s compliance gold standard. awarded to umbrella employers, limited company advisors, and self-employed/CIS contractor providers who demonstrate the highest industry standards
  • ASPCo (Association of Professional Staffing Companies) accreditation – an organisation dedicated to a strict code of conduct and professional compliance. They specialise in sectors that often need higher levels of protection, like umbrella companies.

If you’re looking into an umbrella company and they describe your earnings as “tax-free”, or “non-taxable”, this is a huge red flag and a sign they’re involving you in a tax avoidance scheme.

Manage your income with a simple app

Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Find out more here.