I don’t like change. There, I said it. Never liked it much before and definitely not keen now.
But 2020 had other ideas.
Firstly, let me be clear – I’m writing this from a completely neutral, no prejudice point of view (you’ll see what I mean in a minute). I’m quite calm, supping a coffee and reflecting from a what feels like an objective point of view.
All that said, 2020’s first kick in the balls was being made redundant in March.
In the middle of a global pandemic.
Luckily, I went straight from being a permanent (ha!) employee of 13 years straight into being a contractor quite literally over night. Thank feck. There were a couple of weeks where I was sending out CVs and dealing with, shall we say, less than up front recruitment agents. But I was lucky. Despite not spending years cultivating a support network I managed to reach out someone who knew (of) me, and after a chat and a coffee (remember those?) we agreed a contract for work for what as been ten months now. It’s been fantastic. Great, local client and I think I’m adding a lot of value there.
But as with all contracting, nothing is certain, and I’m currently waiting for what I hope will be a contract extension.
Again, rather luckily, I was contacted by someone whose path I’d crossed back in 2019 and long story short I’ve started working with them too.
During all this employment change and worry I had my priorities readjusted when my daughter tested positive for COVID. Thankfully she was fine, temporary loss of smell and taste aside, and has subsequently flown the coup and started university. But it was a good reminder of what’s important.
This isn’t my first time contracting. I did it many years ago, for about 18 months. It wasn’t as much of a change then as I went from being a ‘big four’ consultant working on site for a local authority client to contracting directly with the client. With the blessing of the consulting Partner involved who quite elegantly said “There’s no point being a dickhead about this, as long as you don’t bad mouth us to the client I have no problem with it.” In theory I wasn’t allowed to leave then work for a current client, but I had no reason to bad mouth anyone, and as he said, I was leaving anyway so why not do it in a way that kept everyone happy.
Contracting feels a bit different this time around though. Last time I used an umbrella company who sorted out my tax and so on. Whilst not being as tax efficient as other approaches, it made life easier for me and kept things relatively normal. This time though, I’m set up as a sole trader for one client and have a limited company for the other. Not my choice, but it’s how they each wanted it arranged. So I’ve set up a limited company, a few bank accounts and spoken to an accountant. It’s all pretty straight forward actually. All I have to do is keep track of my work and send out (and occasionally chase) invoices.
Making things much easier are the facts that my clients are great, the work is varied and interesting and it feels like I’m adding more than enough value to warrant my rates.
But the biggest change is in how I feel. Rather strangely my stress levels seem to have dipped. My heart rate is about 10bpm less than it was this time last year and I don’t think I feel any work stress (other than ensuring there is some). Looking back, there was a constant stress that had been building for a year or two. Changes in my previous employers organisation chart resulted in a shift in my role and who I reported to. Based on my subsequent ejection I think it’s safe to say that neither of us was enjoying that particular arrangement.
But take all that away and it becomes a much more honest relationship. Does the client want to make use of the skills I have, and do they think I’m worth the money? It’s a simple, transparent arrangement which leaves a lot more mental capacity for getting the things that matter done.