So.. I have a colleague whom I worked with a while ago, about 4 or so years ago.
We kept in touch, and she kept mentioning how she wanted to become a contractor.
She worked for a while in her area, but only with one company, and didn’t have varied industry or company experience, so basically was a junior.
She asked me a whole bunch of questions about what to do, how to go about it, etc. I basically laid it all out for her in simple tasks, no major detail, just — here’s what to do, go and do it.
This is what I said initially:
- Incorporate your business provincially (not federally if you are in Québec; only because it is a mess) – many brokers won’t work with you personally if you don’t have a company, so at least have one and then figure out the nuances later if you decide to work elsewhere.
- Register your company name
- Register for sales taxes
- Buy accounting/book keeping software
- Don’t buy a single thing – printer, business cards, logo. Forget all the #$* until you make money. The key is income.
- Find contracts and work as many as you can to get into different companies and to get varied experience
- Always read the contract and know the terms – termination clauses, non-compete, start and end dates, location of where to work, and travel expenses
- Always ask for double what you are making now, because you will only work 50% of the time PLUS need to cover your own retirement, health care above the provincial stuff, eye care, dentistry, etc.
- Take your money in dividends, not in a salary to avoid Human Resources (HR) paperwork with deductions, etc. It’s really messy especially in Québec.
Pretty succinct right? I’ve been doing this a long time, and have even had businesses since the age of 7, so I kind of have made every mistake in the book and paid dearly for it in many cases.
So, she finally left her job where she was a temp anyway, going through a temping agency, and became a contractor by coming back to the same company and charging them directly.
I congratulated her, didn’t really ask any questions, figured she had followed my list. I mean, I am nobody’s babysitter and if I give advice especially for FREE, I am assuming you’re reading it.
Then I hear from her after she leaves that company because she got frustrated with having to work with some misogynistic jackass (I can totally relate), and ends up not working.
I meet up with her once as I was also in between contracts, and I ask her how it’s going. She starts telling her story, freaking out.
“I gotta find something by the end of this month.
My husband is getting angry, I am burning through all of our savings by not working.”
Umm say what? There are plenty of contracts everywhere!
I personally don’t take certain contracts because they are too far for me, but I have money saved AND I am able to be picky because of my specialties and experience.
I give her a look. I proceed then to ask a few questions, and realize that the contracts are not an issue.
No no… it is the location of them.
She is REFUSING to travel or commute outside of her neighbourhood. She doesn’t want to deal with traffic and ONLY wants to work where she lives.
I side eye her.
I tell her that contracting means taking into account that you can be anywhere tomorrow.
You can be up north, south, east, west… I mean, this is what contracting is. And some traveling required ESPECIALLY as a junior with no experience, you need to suck it up and gain that experience.
She was flat out refusing to travel half an hour as a commute to get to these contracts. HALF AN HOUR. An hour I can understand but HALF. AN. HOUR.?
Also, she’s a bloody junior. To become senior you need more companies, more industries, more experiences.
You can’t just stay at one company and call yourself well-rounded as a contractor. Employees can do that, not independents.
So why doesn’t she become an employee?
She got used to earning $65/hour ($130K/year), and likes living on that salary, but knows that as an employee she cannot join a company at that rate because NO ONE would pay her that in her field of expertise.
If she became an employee, she’d be earning $65K/year, or half that amount. But she wouldn’t have to travel, she’d get vacation, benefits, etc.
But no, she’s upgraded her lifestyle to match her salary and now she can’t go back. Fine.
She has an employee mindset
She thinks she is going to get what she wants in the area she wants, for the rate she wants.
She is still thinking she is going to be employed but like through a temp agency, and is taking zero control of the reins to make all of this happen.
Turns out… she wasn’t wrong!
So she got lucky, and managed to JUST find a contract right in her neighbourhood area, for the rate she wants at $65/hour.
I had already told her to ask for much more, around $90/hour at least, and then if she wants, she can negotiate down to $65/hour which would be her minimum.
Did she listen?
Of course not.
She just gave $65/hour and was happy about it.
…but then she doesn’t realize she is an actual INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR
She calls me in a panic and says: OMG! They won’t hire me on as an employee at the broker!
What?.. Is.. Going.. On…
Me: *inside my head*……. OF COURSE YOU AREN’T GOING TO BE AN EMPLOYEE AT THE BROKER. YOU ARE A FREELANCER.
Me IRL trying to keep it together: Of course not. You’re an independent contractor. Didn’t you set up your company like I told you to?
Her: No, at the last contract I was at, they put me on their employee payroll.
Me IRL: You were with a temp STAFFING AGENCY, they weren’t a broker. You were basically a temp, that is not the same thing.
Her: Oh. Well what do I do!?
Me IRL: .……. Go and ask them what you need to invoice them.
She goes, asks, and figures out that she only needs to at least register for the sales tax numbers as a sole proprietor, and doesn’t need to incorporate if she doesn’t want to.
She found the lazy solution out of the problem.
Does she go and incorporate and do everything else she SHOULD DO so this doesn’t become an issue again?
No. Of course not.
Then she calls me 3 days after she starts her contract
Her: I really have to talk to you
Me IRL: It is close to 8p.m. I’m about to head to bed. What’s up?
Her: Well, I really don’t like this contract I am on. They aren’t organized, they don’t know what they want, they are ___ and ___ and ____… (on and on)
Me:..… *inside my head* WHAT!? This is WHAT CONSULTING IS. It is going to clients that don’t have their #$*@) together so that you can do the job. If they knew what they wanted, you wouldn’t be there.
Me IRL: Well… that’s kind of what consulting is. Do you like money?
Me IRL: Me too. I think you’re going to need to suck it up. This is what the job is.
Her: Well there’s something else. I have another contract I could start on. I talked to the recruiter last night, and they are hiring.
Me IRL: Great. What’s the problem?
Her: Well I asked for $65/hour but then I asked someone else and they said I should ask for $100/hour.
Me: ……*inside my head* Are you f*#$(ing with me right now?
Me IRL: You shouldn’t have given your minimum rate. They’re brokers – they’re never going to take you at a high rate, but you can start high then negotiate down or stand firm.
Her: So what do I do now? Can I ask for $100/hour?
Me IRL: You can ask for anything you want, nothing is written and on paper, and you haven’t signed or seen the client or interviewed. You can ask to increase the rate, but once you said $65/hour they’re not going to give you $100/hour. They’re going to know your minimum is $65/hour and just come back to you and tell you the client won’t take you at $100/hour.
Her: Well maybe I can just ask them to put me forward at $100/hour and then see what the client says, but my minimum would be $65/hour.
Me: *inside my head* You are so not cut out for this.. I can’t even.
Me IRL: Yeah, sure, fine, go for it. Are you going to incorporate?
Her: No, I asked them and they’re happy to put me on their payroll and issue a T4 so there are no issues there.
Me: *inside my head* That’s dumb AF but I’m out.*
Me IRL: Okay, sounds good. Good luck!
Why is being an employee on their books but as a contractor dumb AF you might ask?
…because you have none of the benefits of being an employee and none of the benefits of being a contractor. You basically get screwed.
If you are an “employee” on their books being issued a T4, they will deduct things like taxes, healthcare, all the stuff that comes off payroll which is no problem.
So far, so good right? No muss no fuss?
You don’t get 2 weeks vacation, you don’t get dental or eye care, or any extra healthcare perks, you don’t get ANY employee benefits because you’re not REALLY an employee, you’re a contractor they’re signing onto their books as an employee just to get this contract, but they give you ZERO of the benefits of being an employee because you’re a contractor.
If you were a corporation instead, and THEN you invoice them and put everything else under your company, you’d at least get to write off many business deductions like part of your housing costs, utilities, mileage like gas to drive there and back if they send you on little business trips, meals, office supplies, your cellphone… I could go on.
Since you are NOT a corporation, and worse, you aren’t even a sole proprietor with your own home business under your name (because you’re getting a T4!! You can’t claim this #$*@ if you are getting a T4 as an employee!), this means you can’t claim any of those expenses as a home-based business either.
So you get screwed both ways – no real employee benefits as an ’employee’, and as an employee, no corporate/business benefits at all.
I’m eye rolling at this point because the frustration is rolling off me in waves.
She hasn’t done anything I told her to do in the list, because of a few things:
- She says doesn’t have the money saved to spend on this – but if you aren’t willing to spend time and $500, considering you were benched for 5 months doing nothing, you aren’t serious about freelancing
- She doesn’t speak French like a native – not an excuse, I don’t either and I managed to go and get everything done by myself without my partner’s help, and they are SO NICE at these offices if you try a little in French
- She definitely doesn’t have the $2000 required to pay a lawyer to hand her a turnkey business with a name, taxes and all that jazz already set up and ready to go. If you DIY, it is $500. If you pay someone else, it is $2K.
So listen… I am so over it.
If people don’t want to listen to FREE advice from someone who has been doing this over a decade (I look young but I’m smart AF and cheap to boot), then I don’t know what to say.
She was sitting at home, fretting about this money issue for 5 months when she could have spent time going through these papers and learning how to set everything up, while looking for a contract.
Being a contractor is not just showing up and collecting money.
It means running a BUSINESS. It means running your money management and organizing your personal and business affairs, and making sure you have lots of money saved because you’ll be benched 50% of the time, having money set aside for taxes (20% at least if not 55%), and learning how it is done.
If you don’t want to do any of that, you gotta pay people to do it for you, but no one is going to turn around and hand you everything on a silver platter without charging you.
The same goes for anything, including managing your finances.
There are so many things you can do for FREE if you don’t have the money, but no one is going to hand it to you for free if you want it done for you.
You have to pay someone to spoon feed yo the info, or work for it and research it yourself.
End of discussion.
Update: It concluded.
Her: So. I quit. I couldn’t take it any more. I just gave my 30-day notice.
This is about 45 days into the contract she tells me this so she has been there a month and a half.
Me IRL: Why? What happened?
Her: Well I couldn’t take it any more, it was just too much what they were asking, they didn’t know what they wanted, and it’s too stressful. Also, the last straw was not getting paid until SIXTY DAYS AFTER I STARTED WORKING!!!
Me: ..….*inside my head* Are you serious right now
Me IRL: *carefully* Sixty days is standard for freelancers. We usually bill end of the month (30 days, if you start at the 1st of the month), and then it is payment terms of net 30, meaning…60 days. We all normally budget and account for this, that’s why we have big cashflow buffers. Also, it means when you end your contract, you get another last paycheque coming which is nice.
Her: So I am out. I didn’t want to stay.
Me IRL: Well. Good luck.
So for all of you as a background, she had a three month mandate or about 90 days.
She has to give 30 days notice, which means when she told me at the 45 day mark, she still had to stay another month (30 days) before she could leave.
Total? 75 days.
The kicker is that she only had 15 more days before her entire contract ended.
She should have either quit the FIRST WEEK she was there and had a ‘bad vibe’ as she called it, and given notice with a fake family emergency excuse so that everyone saves face, and left after 30 days.
She should have just sucked it up and finished her mandate, gracefully declining her extension.
She didn’t do either.
She burned the bridge with the recruiting company, the client, and basically torched her reputation with anyone she has worked with, and she didn’t even do it in a professional manner understanding the politics of being a freelancer in a very, very small industry.
WE ALL KNOW EACH OTHER.
I am also never, ever going to recommend her for any jobs. EVER. She has burned that bridge with me.
I can like her personally, but as a professional, she is not definitely one.
Lastly… SHE HAS NO MONEY.
She burned through all of her savings, expecting this high freelancing salary, with no budget, no cash flow, NOTHING, and she wants to leave a contract that is 10 minute from her house and paying $65/hour that would have probably kept her on forever if she wanted?