Contracting Life

5 things to consider as a self-employed contractor in London

No matter where you are in the UK, there is always a lot to consider as a self-employed contractor to…

Author Photo by Kingsbridge

No matter where you are in the UK, there is always a lot to consider as a self-employed contractor to ensure you’re running your business in a way that works for you. But if you’re a contractor in London, there is even more to think about. For all that London is vibrant, exciting, diverse and full of opportunity, it’s also expensive, overcrowded and absolutely non-stop! This can present challenges to a small business in lots of different ways.

So, what things should contractors in London consider when it comes to their business to help them deal with the difficulties of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, while also making the most of everything it has to offer?


Your rates

Every contractor has to pay careful consideration to their rates, but when you work in London, you really have to consider every penny you charge. After all, the average monthly rent for one-bedroom properties in central London is more than £1,300, while a monthly Travelcard between Zones 1 and 9 will set you back nearly £400. You need to make sure your rates generate enough income for you to cover your costs and, ideally, still have some left over to enjoy yourself.

The good news is that living in London does mean you can command a higher rate of pay. Just as salaries have a “London weighting” to accommodate for the city’s high cost of living, contractors are able to up their rates in a similar fashion.

What’s more, London-based clients typically expect this London weighting, so even if you’re not based in London you can still charge it if a client requires you to work there. If you need to take a look at your rates, be sure to check out our feature on how to increase them without putting clients off.


Your eco-credentials

Due to its sheer size and population density, London is one of the most polluted places in the UK, however, that doesn’t mean you can’t be an eco-friendly contractor while living in the capital. For a start, London’s extensive and joined up public transport network makes getting from A to B without using a car extremely easy, while the introduction of congestion charges mean that public transport is often the cheaper option, saving you money while you help the environment.

Having an Oyster Card or using a contactless payment card means you can touch in and out on the Tube, DLR, Overground, Elizabeth Line, buses and trams, making it easy to make your journey without having to pre-purchase tickets.

If you like to get around by bike, London is becoming increasingly cyclist friendly. Of course, heavy traffic in the city means you should really be a confident cyclist and you should also keep yourself safe with a helmet and appropriate high visibility gear. Find out more about becoming an eco-friendly contractor in our blog.


How to save money

Saving money in London might seem like an impossible task, but it’s not as tricky as it looks, and some simple changes to your routine can see you saving money for a rainy day.

For instance, don’t buy lunch out every single day. If you’re working from home, make lunch at home. If you’re working from a co-working space or at your client’s office, take a packed lunch with you. If you’re a fan of a takeaway coffee on the Tube each morning, invest in a reusable cup, a coffee maker, and make your morning Americano before you head out. You could end up saving yourself more than £1,000 over the course of the year.

Another top tip is to walk. London is a big city so it may not be possible to do your entire journey on foot, but jumping out of the Tube a few stops early and walking the rest of the way will not only save you a bit of cash, it will also help you keep fit. You can find more budgeting tips for contractors here.


Where you work

If you live in London, there’s a very good chance that your bedroom, living room, kitchen and dining room may all be the same space, making squeezing in a desk a bridge too far. Or you could well be living in a house share with four other adults all trying to work from home as well, leaving you confined to your bedroom.

Neither option is particularly appealing but, post-pandemic, less and less clients require contractors to join them on site.

Fortunately, London is a very contractor-friendly city and there is a huge selection of co-working spaces and freelance-friendly cafes in most boroughs, meaning you probably don’t even have to do more than walk down the street to find one.

If you need a quieter space to work, London has many libraries with workspaces and free Wi-Fi. Two of our favourites are the Barbican Library and the British Library Reading Rooms (for which you need a free Reader Pass).


Enjoy the sights of London

If you live in London or are there regularly for work, then make the most of it when you have some downtime. There’s no point to being your own boss if you can’t take time out to enjoy the city you’re in and we weren’t kidding when we said it’s exciting and vibrant place.

There are dozens of free museums (including the Natural History Museum where Dippy the dinosaur is due to return this summer), acres of beautiful parkland, gorgeous walks along South Bank and through Little Venice, or the tradition of the Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace. And that’s just naming a tiny number of things to do.

Visit London has a great list of 101 free things to do in London to give you some ideas and we’d love to see what you get up to.

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