I`m a contractor: how should I approach the second lockdown?
We’d all hoped it wouldn’t come to this but on Saturday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson followed Germany and France in announcing a second raft of national lockdown measures in response to the growing second wave of coronavirus.
The new lockdown is slightly different to the first one. While the lockdown announced back in March was open-ended, this one has a definitive start and end date: beginning on Thursday 5th November and finishing on Wednesday 2nd December.
According to the government, after the four-week period we will return to the tiered, regional system. As with last time, though, people are being advised to stay at home, working from home wherever possible. To accommodate this, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the furlough scheme) has been extended to cover the lockdown, rather than being replaced by the Job Support Scheme (JSS) as originally planned.
The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has been doubled in line with the furlough scheme as well.
But what does this mean for you as a contractor? Hopefully, not a lot. Since the first lockdown, many businesses have learned to adapt to COVID-secure working practices as well as working from home, so we’re hoping to see many contractors continue more-or-less as normal.
However, we know this won’t be the case for everyone, that some industries will need to shut down again, and that some hadn’t even managed to open back up yet. So, how should you approach this second lockdown to ensure you come out the other side of it with your business intact, ready and raring to go?
Put money aside (if possible)
We know the first lockdown was rough for the self-employed, with many of you telling us how you had to use savings to pay your bills, or eat into your business’s reserves to keep yourself paid. So, we know that for many of you right now, money is tight.
But if you’ve been fortunate enough to be working over the last few months, or perhaps you’ve been eligible for support that you haven’t yet needed to spend, put some money aside so that you can access it later if things become a bit tighter.
Knowing you have cash in reserve can ease a lot of the stress of lockdown, so if it’s possible for you, do it.
Look to broaden your skillset
Children are remaining in school this time round, so if you do find yourself with a break in work, you won’t be having to use the time to homeschool. Instead, it could be the perfect opportunity to look at ways to widen your own skillset. There are lots of online courses and training events out there covering a wide variety of skills.
So, if you’ve ever fancied turning your hand to something new, or taking on another aspect of your current role, this could be the ideal time.
It’s not just about keeping yourself busy though. It’s about giving yourself the edge in a competitive contractor market, as more contractors bid for fewer projects. If you can demonstrate that you can ‘do it all’ then you’ll be much more attractive than other candidates – and you’ll also show that you’re worth your fee.
Keep a good relationship with existing clients
As there is a target end date to this lockdown, it’s likely that existing projects will be able to re-start once we return to the tiered model, so it’s vital that you maintain a good relationship with clients so that they keep you in mind and want you back. But what’s the best way to do this?
The good news is it’s easy to do, simply by keeping in contact . You know your client best and you know how you would usually get in touch with them (email, phone, WhatsApp, for instance). There’s just a few things to bear in mind.
- Don’t simply keep asking them when the project will re-start. They may not know and will likely have other worries right now.
- Do be sympathetic. Ask how they’re doing, how their family is, how their team is. Ask after specific people if you can. Show that you understand what they’re going through.
- Do keep up to date with industry news, enquire if or how new developments affect your client, keep it friendly.
- As we near 2nd December, let them know you’re available to re-start once they’re ready for you.
You want your client to want you back in as soon as they can have you, and to keep you in mind as someone they want to work with. One of the best ways to do this while you can’t actually work is to simply be professional, friendly, and available.
Have your insurance set up and ready to go
We’ve mentioned giving yourself an edge over the competition and one way to do that is simply being ready to go. So, should a client or recruiter contact you requiring your services, you can say you’re available immediately without any delays. One way of doing this is to have your business insurance signed and sealed so that you’re fully covered and ready to start work at the first available opportunity.
As a minimum, most contracts will require you to hold professional indemnity cover, public liability insurance, and employers’ liability insurance before you can sign on the dotted line, so you want a policy that gives you all these. Kingsbridge’s contractor insurance package gives you all three, as well as occupational personal accident cover, and directors’ and officers’ liability insurance – you can also add our award-winning IR35 Protect Insurance, so that you have all the cover a client could possibly require you to have.
While getting your insurance set up right now might seem like the least of your worries, it’s worthwhile doing so that when an opportunity becomes available, you’re ready to pounce on it. If you’d like to chat to us about your requirements, you can give us a call on 01242 808740 where our friendly team of experts are ready to help, or else get a quote online.