If you are looking to start a career working as a contractor or freelancer, there are several employment options to choose from, which include:

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1 Working as a contractor or freelancer If you are looking to start a career working as a contractor or freelancer, there are several employment options to choose from, which include: Joining a PAYE umbrella company Setting up your own Limited company PAYE through an agency (if the agency offers this service) Working as a sole trader We have highlighted the main advantages and disadvantages of the different routes you can take when working as a contractor or freelancer, so that you can fully understand your options and pick one that is right for your career. Working via an umbrella company Umbrella companies are an ideal employment option if you re new to contracting and want the freedom and flexibility of the contractor lifestyle as well as a good deal of support and security. Joining an umbrella company or professional employment organisation like equidity provides you with the opportunity to focus on your career, without having to worry about your admin. As a equidity employee, you also don t have to concern yourself with IR35 as you will instead pay PAYE tax and National Insurance on your earnings. What s more, we will collect payments, handle all invoicing and calculate tax and National Insurance contributions, so that your payments are correct when paid into your bank account. Freelancers and contractors who turn to equidity receive a contract of employment plus statutory benefits such as holiday pay, sick pay and maternity pay. In addition to looking after your admin and tax and NI contributions, joining an umbrella company allows you to dip your toe in the water without setting up on your own. You can therefore determine whether working as a freelancer or contractor is right for you without making any large commitments.

2 Choosing the umbrella company route is a good choice if: You re a contractor working on short term assignments from 1 day to 6 months You want to test the water and try contracting for a while before committing You have a natural aversion to paperwork and don t feel confident doing your own tax return You want to stay out of the whole IR35 debate You travel medium to long distances and claim travel and food and drink expenses Your assignments last longer than 6 months You re quite happy taking on responsibility for your accounts You don t have internet access You can t claim much by way of expenses You re a higher earner, over 35,000 a year Working as a contractor via your own Limited company Limited companies are also a popular choice for those wanting to work as a contractor or freelancer, as they offer great flexibility and additional tax benefits. Limited company directors usually pay themselves a combination of salary and dividends, which makes setting up a Limited company one of the most profitable options. Personal and company finances also exist as two separate entities, so you are never personally responsible for company debts. The increased profit does go hand in hand with additional responsibility. When running a business, you need to arrange insurance, find an accountant, take responsibility for the accounts, check your IR35 status and ensure the correct tax is paid. This option is therefore best for those willing to take on such responsibility in return for a greater profit and the ability to be their own boss. There is plenty of support available if you are thinking of working as a contractor through a Limited company. equidity Accountants, are specialist contractor accountants who can take the vast majority of responsibility off your shoulders and nearly all the paperwork off your desk. Contractors often test the water by joining an umbrella company first, going on to set up a Limited company if they decide that contracting is their long-term career choice.

3 Contracting via your own Limited company is a good choice if: You re a freelancer working on multiple short projects You want to increase the amount you take home You ve decided to commit to contracting for the long term You re happy to take on the extra responsibility You have a specialist contractor accountant, like equidity Accountants, on your side to take over the majority of paperwork and hassle You re happy to manage your own finances and set aside money to pay your tax You want to be your own boss You don t want any hassle or responsibility at all You can t get your head around the basic principles of tax, IR35, National Insurance contributions etc. You want to pay tax as you earn (PAYE), instead of being landed with one big tax bill You earn below 35,000 a year You ve been bankrupt in the past Agency PAYE Agency PAYE is an employment option offered by recruitment agencies, where they sort out your tax and National Insurance contributions on a Pay As You Earn (PAYE) basis. Recruitment companies can also take on admin duties and paperwork, often at an extra cost. As they ensure that you are tax compliant and receive the correct payment every week or month, you can focus on working as a contractor or freelancer rather than dealing with tax and National Insurance. While the payment process is similar to that offered by umbrella companies, there are differences between the two employment options. Recruitment companies do not offer a contract of employment, so you do not get any statutory rights and cannot claim expenses, plus you may end up having to change agencies for every new assignment. Certain recruitment agencies also do not offer admin support, and often the help is aimed at temporary contractor positions, such as secretarial or bar work when offered. Therefore, agency PAYE is usually a preferable option for those wanting to take on occasional temp work without the hassle of looking after their tax and National Insurance.

4 Good choice if: You re looking for occasional temp work, such as secretarial or bar work You don t think you will be facing additional expenses in order to complete the assignment You want someone else to sort out your tax and National Insurance without having to think about it You don t want to be tied to one agency You change assignments frequently You want to claim expenses You earn over 35,000 You want employment rights Contracting as a sole trader Working as a sole trader is often considered to be one of the simplest yet riskiest employment options available to contractors or freelancers. All you need to do to start working as a sole trader is to register as self-employed with HMRC. Similar to running a Limited company, you are then required to complete an annual Self Assessment tax return and arrange your own assignments. You are also responsible for finding a specialist contractor accountant who can handle the additional duties involved in being a sole trader. This option is therefore most suitable for those willing to take on the extra responsibility and who prefer the independence of being their own boss. However, there are a number of issues to be aware of. Firstly, as a sole trader you have to find all assignments yourself because of the employment risk involved for agencies. Secondly, it is often not the most profitable way of working as a contractor. You have to pay tax on all your income, whereas becoming a Limited company director gives you the opportunity to enjoy additional tax benefits. You also become personally liable for any debts run up by your business, which can mean that your home and other assets are put at risk if things go wrong.

5 Good choice if: You work for a number of different clients simultaneously You want to reduce your legal responsibilities You want to be your own boss You want to set up quickly, easily and cheaply You don t want the responsibility of finding all your assignments by yourself You have assignments that are longer than a few days Joining an umbrella company and setting up a limited company are often the most preferable ways of working as a contractor. Read our umbrella vs. limited guide to find out more about these methods of trading. You can also contact equidity on if you are weighing up your options and want expert guidance on which route to take.

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