Contract work in London

    View of City, the heart of business UK

    Before moving on to a contract, I worked as a permanent employee in a small company (700 servers / 8 colleagues) in London. My specialization is Wintel engineer, that is, I can work in support as well as in technical support of projects. Everything related to Microsoft products. I was thinking about leaving my full-time job, but by the will of fate I had to leave completely unprepared. This is where my story about UK contractors begins.

    To say that “quitting nowhere” was scary for me - it means to say nothing. No, of course, I knew that in the future I would go on a contract and of course I would be well prepared for this ... However, the future from a foggy and distant one suddenly became clear and very frightening. I was in a foreign country, with my family, without work, and there was money for six weeks. It was necessary to act quickly.

    The second, rather unpleasant moment was my previous experience in finding work in Britain. Within two months I sent out several hundred applications, but was invited to only 4 interviews. This clearly indicated that I had some serious resume problems. However, after the work I found, I scored on the optimization thereof and now this task has risen in front of me in full growth.

    Who is a contractor?
    An IT contractor in London is a consultant who is hired on a temporary basis based on an agreement between a client company and a consultant company. Formally, a contractor in London is a freelancer, but outwardly his day differs little from the day of permanent office employees. Most contracts here imply a regular 8 hour day during normal business hours. The contract search process, despite being similar to the permanent job search process, is much more dynamic.


    When I started, my CV was a 5-page towel with a description of what and how I had been doing the last few years, with a brief summary of what I taught in the courses I attended and for what reason I received a certificate. After reading a dozen sites with recommendations, I took some standard template in Word and rewrote everything again. The task was to lay everything on 2 A4 pages.
    I had to sacrifice almost all my education, reduce the description of all jobs, and mention languages ​​briefly. As a result, my resume consisted of 4 parts in this order: contacts, professional goals, work experience, education, where work experience was 80%. All these are necessary parts that should be in every resume. Having spent several hours on the main resume, I made a few additional ones in which I emphasized different technologies and types of work. For example, one thing turned out that I had a lot of experience as an integrator, and on the other, that I worked all my life in the field of administration. In one I was an MS Exchange admin, and from the other it was possible to read that I constantly work with Citrix. Fortunately, there was enough experience, and optimization mainly consisted in suppressing the "excess" experience. It was practically not necessary to resort to direct lies.
    The London market, especially its contract part, is characterized by great intensity. Many job postings expire in an hour or two. Therefore, for a full-fledged job search, it is necessary to send a resume to the agent in the first 10-15 minutes after the announcement.
    How agents work
    The task of the agent who has just received a new position is to send the client several resumes of candidates most suitable for the profile. First, he searches the agency’s internal database and calls up suitable candidates. If he manages to find the required number of free specialists, the position does not fall into the open market at all. Further, if there are few candidates, the position is published and the agent begins to receive a resume. This is where speed is important, because the agent immediately calls up with the first candidates and, if they are suitable, sends everything to the client and forgets about this vacancy until the client answers which candidates he wants to see in the interview. Agencies receive a fixed amount for each day worked by a contractor from a client. This can be as a percentage of his daily earnings, or simply an attached amount to nothing.

    On Monday morning, I froze at a low start, lifting my finger over the left mouse button.

    At that moment, I was most interested in the number of calls for each submitted application. The fact was that in the previous search it was less than 10%, that is, for every 10 applications submitted, I received a maximum of 1 call from the agent. Despite the fact that the agent’s call is almost not the first step in finding a job - it was very small. I decided so far to concentrate on this small task and increase the number of calls to 50% of the submitted applications.

    At that time, about 500-600 new contracts a day appeared on the open market (London + 50 miles around), of which 20 corresponded well with my profile and another 10 corresponded worse. I began to send out my freshly made resumes as new proposals arrived, campaigning to “finish off” them with the inclusion of the details indicated in the announcements. According to the results of the first day, and this turned out to be a full 10 hour working day, I summed up the results. The number of calls rose sharply to 25% percent, which indicated the correctness of the direction for working with the resume, but it was necessary to continue to improve it.

    Throughout the week, I spent hours reading articles on optimizing resumes, my own rules, sending, again rules and reading again. On the fourth day, I finally thought of adding a set of technologies to the very top and reached the very same 50% percent. During the campaign process, the resume has acquired those necessary traits that successfully sell any candidate.
    Summary Conclusions
    Ultimately, there are 5 parts left in my resume (top to bottom):
    1. Contacts and date of the possible start of the contract (a very important detail);
    2. Career goals - often a piece of autobiography is written there, this should not be done - only a career;
    3. List of technologies and products the candidate worked with. Section for agents. Based on this section, the agent decides to call the candidate. Later, I found that if you use the bold technology that is required for the vacancy, the percentage of calls grows to 70% - 80%, which suggests that the decision is often made only on the basis of this section. In general, the first three parts must fit on the first sheet in order to immediately get into the agent's field of vision;
    4. Work experience - this section should occupy 70-80% of the resume. It is he who is interested in the client;
    5. Education. Sadly, throughout my career, neither my professional nor higher education has been of interest to anyone. Some certifications are of little interest, and even then only for some employers. This section can be safely sacrificed for the sake of the size of the resume.

    A very accurate article on the topic of the resume was recently on Habré - "Designing a resume for foreign companies . "

    Job seeker

    The process of hiring a contractor usually consists of three parts: first contact with an agent, a telephone conversation with a client, and a personal conversation with a client. There are options when there is no telephone or personal conversation with the client (this also happens, but not often), as well as when you have to speak with several representatives of the client - often financial institutions are interested in this. But this is all exotic, so I will focus on three main parts.

    A conversation with an agent is needed in order to clarify the financial details, location, as well as quickly check the availability of the required skills, in the sense that they should be indicated in the resume. Often the agent asks to indicate where and how this or that technology was used and to send the corrected resume. Usually, after the conversation, the agent says that he sends your data to the client, which may be true, or it may just be an excuse to end the conversation.

    There are many reasons why the agent will no longer contact the candidate and therefore, after the call, you need to put these vacancies in the tablet, just in case, and move on. At first, I was fond of jerking agents every couple of days on the topic “how is my application there,” but then I stopped - this is superfluous. If the client is interested, then the agent will certainly call, because, the applicant from the dude, on the other end of the wire, will turn into a potential source of income.

    With the second call of the agent, the most important begins. As it turned out in the second week of the search, my optimizations earned me three telephone interviews with clients. Usually a telephone interview is semi-technical, customers want to see if the candidate is suitable at all. It must be said here that while I was reading tons of articles about resumes, I managed to catch a very important idea about the interview, namely, throughout the conversation, I should only talk about client problems. That is, everything that the candidate says should be in the context of a future position. But how to do this, because often the client first asks about the candidate’s experience, and only then talks about what needs to be done? Then you can answer a question with a question, simply by asking what problems will need to be resolved in the first place. As it turned out, the client happily switches to the narrator mode and after a few minutes gives the applicant a list of topics with which he can be “hooked”. A successfully solved problem, a created procedure, an implemented solution - often it weighs more than some abstract 10 years of experience with anything.

    In the first of three interviews, I was embarrassed to apply this method and, as usual, I read out the most, as it seemed to me, interesting moments. On the second, having compressed, instead of answering a question about my experience, I asked about their tasks and suddenly instead of talking about me, a conversation began about how to migrate their Active Directory, what can be automated and where and what tools should be bought. The conversation was so far out of scope, which I was used to, that for another 15 minutes I just sat and digested what had happened. After conducting the same experiment at the third interview, I finally became convinced of the correctness of the approach.
    Brief comment
    Of course, from time to time, a telephone interview is conducted by completely strangers, such as HR employees or a “guy from another department”. If the person on the other end of the line does not present the tasks and problems that the consultant will solve, then the method, alas, is useless.

    A day later, I received an invitation to a personal meeting from two companies. In my purely subjective view, the second interview is done in order to just look at the candidate. Usually an invitation to a meeting after a telephone interview means that the candidate has one or two competitors, and often he may be the only one. A suit and a good mood decide everything. True, sometimes, in a personal interview, they give a technical test. It's over with him can be harder.

    As a result, on Friday of the second week of the search, I received two offers, one of which - with going to work on Monday - was accepted. That evening I felt like a pilot who emerged from the clouds and saw that all the calculations for the approach were correct. The issue of income was resolved - a way was found to efficiently search for contracts, and the proposed daily rate promised the return of the usual standard of living, and its improvement within a few months.


    In order to be a contractor, you must be able to bill your customers. I immediately decided to open a Limited Company, and not use the services of Umbrella.
    What's the difference?
    There are two main ways to administer revenue for a contractor. The first way is to open your own legal entity - Limited Company. This approach is more flexible and offers interesting opportunities for tax optimization, but requires more attention. An easier way to handle this is to use the services of the Umbrella Company. For little money (within 150 pounds per month) they will deal with all paper problems, and the contractor will receive the usual salary. Umbrella companies promise to pay up to 85% of the money received from the client, but in reality about 65-70% should be received. For Limited, this percentage is more flexible and largely depends on the quality of management, however, 80% - 90% percent with annual income of the company less than 300 thousand pounds - a value quite achievable.

    Thus, it can be said that if the contractor has no other business except his IT contract or if he plans to leave the country temporarily or permanently, then Umbrella looks like a more acceptable option, however Limited is better suited to achieve maximum income.
    Umbrella List of Companies:

    I registered the company while still working on a permanent job. This procedure is quite simple and it can, and even better, go through to the first contract.
    Company registration
    To open a company in England and Wales, you need to come up with her name and have a local address. I would recommend using the services of companies that are engaged in registration. It is inexpensive and will save a lot of time. For example, here:

    Through them, the opening looks like this:
    • Fill out the necessary forms;
    • Pay the money;
    • They request proof of identity and address;
    • After confirmation, they register the company and send documents.

    Two important points:
    • Do not register the company at your home address; buy the Registered Office Address service;
    • Make sure that you can receive correspondence sent to this address. This is usually called Mail Forwarding. Tax communicates exclusively by mail and sends everything only to the official address of the company.

    There is another mandatory step in creating a new company - this is the search for an accountant. I did this after I found the first contract.
    Briefly about accountants
    In the London market, in addition to classical accounting firms, there are so-called Contractor Accountants, which specialize in accounting services for contractors. On the one hand, they are really a little better acquainted with the needs of the contractors themselves, on the other hand, they work exclusively in this environment and will not be able to give the necessary advice if it comes to any related business or, for example, any international rules. However, for a novice consultant who does not have any other business, they may be best suited. For example, you can use the services of these offices:

    And finally, about the money. There are many reasons to work under a contract, but one of the main reasons is money. Contractors are paid more for the same work, in addition, the contractor can regulate the amount of taxes that he needs to pay. Unlike permanent vacancies, which indicate the gross salary per year, for contracts the daily or hourly rate is indicated.

    Take a simple example - suppose your bid is 260 pounds per day. This is the top bar of Junior Admin. That is, for a month the client pays you ( Invoice amount ): 22 * ​​260 = 5720 pounds. Let's say your expenses for food at work, transportation and communications are 300 pounds per month. Add here the costs of an accountant and company administration- 150 pounds. Also, to optimize taxes and fulfill pension requirements, you take 600 pounds of salary . That is, the profit before taxes is 5720 - 300 - 150 - 600 = 4620 pounds. From this you have to pay 20% corporate income tax. Total net profit 4,620 * 0.8 = 3,696 pounds. This profit can be received as dividends. Thus, in the month of Junior, the administrator has access to 3696 + 600 + 300 = 4596 pounds “on hand”. This is more than the income of a Senior full-time employee. The costs of food, communication and transportation are added to the available means, since the same costs are borne by regular employees.

    What can Senior count on? The following is a summary table of potential revenues for positions of different levels, calculated for contractors with Limited company.

    Daily rate
    (£ per day /
    position level)

    Invoice amount
    Salary Costs
    (transport, food, communication)
    The cost of maintaining the
    company (accountant, administration)
    before taxes
    150 / Junior3300600300150225018002700
    200 / Junior4400600300150335026803580
    350 / Mid-Senior7700600300150665053206220
    450 / Senior9900600300150885070807980

    Calculations for Umbrella users are here:

    Affordable income means that it is money that is potentially possible to get on hand. However, if you take a fiscal year, it requires careful financial planning, since a step-by-step income tax comes into play. Nevertheless, even with this, it is clear that potential income is approximately doubled compared to regular workers. And this is with the same responsibilities.

    By the way, 450 pounds per day is not the limit, but getting an extra just starting a contract with a client is still difficult for an engineer.

    So do you have to be a contractor?

    The usual contract length is 3-6 months, but quite often it is extended. The contractor does not receive bonuses, is not part of the client’s organization, does not go to courses, cannot in some cases use the discounts available by a permanent employee and often does not take part in corporate events. He must plan his finances and the finances of his company, be prepared for the fact that the client can refuse his services any day.

    I like all this. In addition to the obvious financial plus, the contractor does not participate in the procedures for the formal assessment of personnel, does not take part in office political games, he just does his job and leaves when it is done. In my opinion, contracts give much more control over a career, and indeed about life in general. With the change of permanent work to contract, it became easier to breathe.

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