Looking for a way to remain outside IR35 and build your client network?
The Freelance Informer chats with Andy Barnes, Managing Director and Co-Founder of contractor and recruiter platform 6Prog on how it is offering contractors and recruiters an alternative workstyle to keep contractors outside IR35.
FI: According to IR35 specialist, Qdos, two-thirds of contractors (65%) have been assessed inside IR35, one-third outside (35%). If contractors want to keep on the outside track, how can 6prog make that happen?
AB: The 6prog workflow indicates two parties are agreeing on some work to take place. It, therefore, helps with outside IR35 determination (assuming both parties operate in a similar way when undertaking the project).
FI: What direction do you feel the contractor market is going based on client demand?
AB: Businesses are certainly seeing the benefits of working with consultant suppliers rather than ‘bums on seats’. Especially for professional consultancy work.
FI: Do you have a tip or two for contractors to make sure their projects don’t fall into IR35 territory as they build up work for a client?
AB: Tip one – invite your client to 6prog. Obvs. This helps because you will be operating without the shackles of agency intermediaries. Tip two – Network with contacts to offer your old clients (and new ones) more than ‘just’ your skills and help. Offer a service including other consultants.
FI: What is often the biggest pain point for contractors looking to set up on their own?
AB: Being certain on what they offer. I recommend using some of 6prog’s Q&A tools and discussion with the community to refine your offer so you are service driven in what you do. Being led by the client may also make you look like an employee – not ideal for IR35 of course.
I recommend you throw away your CV and create a canvas based on what your business provides, why it is valuable and how you will engage clients. I regularly work with consultants on this – feel free to get in touch.
FI: What are the main concerns that contractors have when first joining forces with other contractors on projects and in some cases calling on them as substitutes?
AB: How the money is shared. Once that is done the contractor and the substitute need a standard communication plan to ensure nothing is dropped and the client is happy.
It should be noted that it is in the contractors best interests to provide excellent substitutes as the client will be more impressed and will return to you for advice and guidance again. Show clients you have a great network.
FI: How would you describe 6prog in 6 words?
AB: Linkedin with a ‘contract now’ button.
FI: What’s behind the name?
AB: Ha ha – a closely guarded secret by the founders.
FI: When was 6prog launched?
AB: Launched in 2016 as a beta platform and from September 2020 into full production.
FI: What market drivers were behind the business model?
AB: We were firm on the idea there should be no sign up / licencing or other recurring fees. Also, we didn’t want to complicate things by charging suppliers and clients differently. We also wanted to undercut the huge fees charged by consultancies and agencies who rely on freelance consultants for their talent. We believe that the maximum amount of available budget should be spent on the worker, not on the process of getting the worker matched with a client need.
AB: We support recruiters who provide introduction services by paying them a fee for connecting a client and a contractor. Typically this means an independent introducer/recruiter would be paid more through 6prog than they are paid by the margin model that is operated by other firms.
It is also transparent and ethical to pay on delivery instead of an arbitrary never-ending margin. This means we tend to pay practitioners with a small network of referrals (of high quality) rather than typical contract recruiters. A number of 6prog registered contractors therefore can also operate as contract recruiters.
FI: How does the platform enhance a contractor’s chances of getting the right type of exposure to the right type of clients and projects?
AB: In itself, the platform is as good as most things in life – you get out what you put in. We have a variety of free marketing tools to help contractors to connect with clients. I’m not going to pretend 6prog is a magic bullet. This is part of our ethical consultancy policy.
FI: How does the platform and pricing work for contractors?
AB: It works in the same way for contractors as it does for clients. When agreeing a project with a client, the project value is shown either as milestones or daily/hourly. Once agreed both parties have a signed SoW (statement of work) with the deliverables outlined that both parties agreed. It means our ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ contracts are good for IR35. On approval of the work (e.g. a signed timesheet), you get 97% of the project value. (Note that the client is charged 3% too).
Contractors should evaluate all platforms to see how they make their money as some will charge as much as 20% and others don’t charge the contractor at all (but charge the client a lot which eats into the budget of course!) This is why 6prog charges the same to both parties and it is transparent for them.
Of course, it is completely private to any other users on the platform. Everyone who works with 6prog is a customer and is treated equally. Outside of this, contractors can use the platform to create client proposals, substitute networks, build client connections, market their business and get advice and guidance which is free. Furthermore, we have dedicated client and supplier offers from other businesses covering bank accounts, accountancy, insurance and memberships.
If you would like to learn more you can book Andy for a demo.
6prog is a consultancy group backed by SaaS technology. The group comprises engineers, developers, analysts, managers, writers, artists (and more) who work on a consultancy basis directly with clients from many industries. Its founders are based in Brighton, Newcastle, London, New York and Los Angeles.