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(UK) How to become a contract web developer

So, you want to get into contract development, but you don’t know where to start? Let me explain how to get started, and what you need in order to begin contracting. Strap in, because this is going to be a long one.


Setting up your business

First off, you will need to either set up your own limited company or find a service which offers an umbrella company. There are multiple ways to set up a limited company. You can create the company yourself, or use a service to do it for you. I was personally recommended a company myself called “The Company Warehouse“. They also offer accountancy packages which may suit your needs.

You could also use companies such as Your Side Kick, JSA Group etc. These companies will set up your business and deal with taxes, PAYE etc. If you decide to go alone, then you will need to register on the gov.uk website.

After you’ve set up your limited company, and if you didn’t use a service, then there are extras to consider. These are; PAYE, tax and VAT. All of this can be done on the gov.uk website, but you need to take care to ensure you fill the details correctly.

Another thing to consider if you haven’t used any of the services above is an accountant, they can deal with your yearly taxes and any VAT submissions (should you require it). They can set you up with accountancy software such as Quick Books, Free Agent, Xero etc. Once they set you up, they will help to get you started and can let you go on your own once you’re confident enough to use the software.

Deciding who to bank with

There are so many banking companies out there, even more with the boom of Fintech banks. Personally, I chose Starling which is a fantastic fintech company. They offer 0 monthly fees, they charge £3 fee per money withdrawal at Post Offices. However, you can also choose from the following… Monzo, Tide, Coconut and many more. There are also traditional bank accounts such as HSBC, Barclays, Santander etc.

It is up to you to research each bank and find the one that best suits you. Once you have done this, you should hook it up with your accounts management software or notify you accountant.

Looking for contracting work

You have the business side of things taken care of, now it’s time to find work. How do you do this?

There are tons of options available for you, if you have connections elsewhere, then you can ask them. You can go to Slack or Reddit communities where other devs are already working for companies looking for contractors. I actually found my role through an agency called Nigel Frank on LinkedIn. They are a worldwide agency so there’s plenty of work to go round.

Speaking of LinkedIn, that’s a massive resource which I recommend. You can join communities and connect with like-minded people. People are always advertising for positions on LinkedIn too, so be sure to use the search to your full advantage. Twitter and Facebook may also help, but I haven’t had any luck on there just yet.

Another great step would be to set up your own website to advertise your work and the fact you’re looking. You can create a contact form, add your phone number and share to friends and family who may also share to others.

Hang out at conferences by using MeetUp.com to your advantage while learning new skills. I recommend you go when there are interesting topics, otherwise, you might not have any luck. You may also want to create some business cards which you can hand out to people you meet.

Finding a suitable accountant

Finding a suitable accountant is something else you will need to consider, especially if you’re not sure how to handle the money side of things. I personally used a local accountant which was recommended to me by a friend and you may want to do the same. However, a company I keep seeing and has been recommended by a lot of people is Crunch. These guys seem great and I would definitely recommend you check them out.

They also made a great article on starting up your own LTD company which you should definitely read.

Optional: Work Equipment

This one depends on your circumstances. If you have got a working laptop and all the gear for working elsewhere, then you can skip this. Otherwise, you will need to find a laptop. You may also need some dongles, a mouse and keyboard, earphones or headphones, or monitor cables.

I personally went with the HP Envy 13″ with a USB-C dongle. The dongle has 2 USB-A, one USB-C, ethernet, one VGA and one HDMI ports. My mouse is a Razer (can’t remember the model) and I use the keyboard that’s on my laptop. My workplace offered me a monitor with HDMI cable, but you may want to take your own display cables just in case. I can also connect to their network via ethernet.

It came with Windows 10 pre-installed, but I chose to install the latest Ubuntu software. In hindsight, I should have chosen the LTS version due to software support. I will stick to the next LTS version to avoid this situation in the future.

Final Thoughts

As far as starting out with contracting, that’s pretty much it. You may also need to learn to invoice your clients although my agency does that for me. However, I still have to fill in timesheets every week in order for them to keep track and I create invoices that never go to them.

Read my story on how I got start with contracting…


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