Saturday, November 22, 2008

Update on Life

So its already almost December and I've been derelict in posting here. However, there's a very good reason: I've taken a permanent position with a company.

Now, that doesn't mean that I'm no longer going to be doing consulting work or letting my side business go away; on the contrary, I need to continue to work even harder and making sure my name and brand are established...both within my organization and external to it. I've been around long enough in my industry to know that very few things are ever long term, and things can change in a heartbeat...especially in today's economy. But for now things are going very well. I'm being challenged at work and I'm still diving into new areas of technology.

On the government front, I did in fact get my GST number FINALLY (end of September, shortly after my last post).


Monday, September 22, 2008

Word From Revenue Canada!

I got a call today from Revenue Canada wanting to verify some information about the direct deposit. Which means I *still* don't have my GST number, but it does give me a bit of relief that I'm still going through the process. A very long process...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Experience Means Nothing...Unless its Quality Experience

I had an interview today with a company...not for a contract, but for a perm position. They how and why behind it aren't necessary for this post, but let's just say its a great opportunity to work with some technology I'm really excited about.

The interview today was just soft-skills. Nothing super technical other than to discuss my prior experience, behavior type questions (what would you do in this situation), etc.

One thing became apparent though as I was asked these questions: considering I was interviewing for a software development type of position, I had alot of examples that were from non-software development projects or were non-complex ones: small web applications, business analysis, teaching, Microsoft Excel applications...all good work that brought in good money...but it wasn't good experience.

As consultants, we're tasked with finding new work and bringing in the money. But sometimes we'll hit a dry spell, where we still need to put food on the table but the opportunities just aren't there. In these cases, we'll look at what's available and take whatever we deem is the best based on type of work and rate.

But I would make a new suggestion, one that takes a bit more gumption: If an opportunity has no lasting benefit beyond providing you a paycheck now, don't take it.

This is the new credo that I'll be basing all my contract opportunities on. I want to be sure that the work I do is something that a potential future employer will look at and identify as good experience.

As an example, let's say you were hiring for a sous-chef position in a restaurant. You have a candidate that claims to have over 10 years of experience. You look through the resume and see that the person does have a long tenure, but the types of restaurants are diners, chain restaurants, or mom-and-pop shops. Sure, he has 10 years of cooking...but does his experience show that he's able to perform in the sous-chef position. Compare that to the person with 4 years experience in high end NYC restaurants, working under well known chefs, and with proven experience cooking with more fine dining style cuisine? The 4 year candidate has more good experience than the 10 year candidate.

The same is for us as consultants. We can definitely eek out a living on the scraps that other companies drop to the ground...the projects they pass up because of a low dollar return or a technology that is below them. Or, we can raise ourselves to a higher that puts us in the major league ranks when it comes to offering up good experience as part of our portfolio.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

I Don't Think The Government Wants Me To Have a GST Number...

So I decided to finally just fill out the form and snail-mail it into the government. Filling out the form was very painless...good directions on which pieces to fill out for which aspect of a business account (GST, payroll, etc.) you were applying for.

But as seems to be the case with my government interactions lately, there of course is a snag: The form doesn't say WHERE I need to send this thing to. Ok, that's alright. I mean, maybe there are different offices or something. Luckily, they suggest to review "The Business Number and Your Canada Revenue Agency Accounts" brochure to get all the answers to any questions you might have.

Great...I download the pdf...and look...and address. I search. No address. I HAVE NO F'N CLUE WHERE TO SEND THIS!!!

So let's recap:
- Tried unsuccessfully to enter my information through the government website THREE TIMES and was even told by tech support that they were sure it was working fine and to try again.
- Tried to call it in but wait times were UNREAL. Any time at a client's (which is where I am during the hours the gov's office is open) and am doing personal stuff, its time I'm not billing the client for...which means I'm losing money...which means phone calls are NOT an option.
- Tried to manually fill out a paper-based form and the wonderful government website couldn't tell me where to send the form to!

Luckily with a bit of snooping, I finally found this page which gives you a link to a listing of all the government tax offices accross Canada.

So what's the lesson in all of this kids? Don't wait until you hit your $30k to get your GST number. Get it right out of the gate. Sure you charge your clients GST up front, but you also get to write off your own GST on purchases for the company (or something like that...I still don't have my GST number so I'm not sure what the details are, but there's a benefit).

Now let's see how long before I actually get my number in the mail.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Seriously...I just want a GST number...

So continues the ongoing saga that is me trying to get my GST number. Seriously, this *shouldn't* be this difficult.

I've tried again going through the Government of Canada's website. I was actually very optimistic this time around...until I clicked the Accept button and got "This application is temporarily unavailable". Really.

So then I decided to check out some other sites, like the Business Development Center, which is actually a private company that will, for a fee, register your GST number for you. But, it shouldn't be that complex of a process to warrant bringing in a third party.

So now I'm onto my last option which I think might be my best: fill out the form, and mail it in.

Ugh...this is SO FRUSTRATING...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Head-Hunter Lesson Learned

I have a potential client lined up for a bunch of work over the next few months. Sounds good right? Well...

I was placed at this client through a head-hunting company. This was my first break into the independant world, and they were a great introduction, so I have no complaints. However, they recently changed their stance on sole proprietors and incorporated entities.

Basically, if your inc then you're ok...but if your sp, then you get treated as a term employee, with tax taken off and you're not *really* independant (and you lose the ability to move what would have been taxable dollars into RSP savings instead of just handing it back to the government).

So now I've been out of this client for about 6 months, but there's a 1 year non-compete clause that we both signed with the head-hunters. The problem is that I can't go in as an sp because i'm not willing to be considered a term. I'm also not going to jump through the hoops and pay out the money to rush an incorporated status just to be able to get this gig.

Complicating this further is that when I did my taxes this year, my accountant asked me why they issues me a T4 at all (the head hunter place said they had to take CPP and EI off). They didn't...and because they issues a T4, that meant that I'd get flagged by Revenue Canada, so i had to claim all that money under taxable income.

We'll see how this shakes, but right now I'm thinking that unless they let me ba a *true* SP and just invoice them and leave it at that, this contract might not fly. Which is ok...the one year ends in the fall and if they still have work I'll be free from the shackles of the head hunters.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

So what did I learn from tax season?

Taxes are done and in, and let me tell you: having an accountant do them is a godsend!

It wasn't the best case scenario for rebate/payments, but I did learn one very important thing:

If you're working as a sole-proprietor and the agency you're going through gives you a T4 at the end of the year, ASK QUESTIONS. Turns out that organizations that claim to have to with-hold EI or CPP don' least they shouldn't be for fully independant workers....and that's what happened with one gig I did for a local head-hunting firm.

As a result, that amount had to be recorded as taxable income (there's a T4...T4 = you worked somewhere).

I'm curious to see the actual print-outs to see how it was all calculated, but so far my first 6 months has had some good lessons learned, and I didn't take too much of a we'll see what shakes!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tax Time

Here it first tax submission for a year where I worked for half of it as a sole proprietor. I am a little nervous, as I really don't know what to expect. I know that I'm definately *not* getting a refund, but I'm also not sure what my bill is going to be. I've contributed quite a bit to RSP's, and I have a fair amount of expenses to claim (which is another thing...seeing exactly what does get claimed and what doesn't, or how much for some of the home bills since I work out of my home for some of my work). I just really don't know...

I'm going to be talking with my accountant about Incorporation again, mainly for the tax benefits and not so much the increased "safety" that it supposedly provides (which I've heard numerous times ove the last few months that its really a fallacy about how much protection you get going SP to Inc).

Anyway, time will tell...look for a tax report in the next few weeks!


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Frustrations with Registerign for GST Number

I've been trying to register for a GST number since late 2007. You'd think it would be easy, but unforunately its least if you go the website route.

I tried registering for my GST number online through the Government of Canada's the end of it I got a blank page with the title of "Summary". Weird. Weeks went by and nobody contacted me (as I was told they would on the site). Finally I called. Guess what? They had *no* record of me in their system. I guess something had messed up.

I went through the process again, and received the same issue: blank summary screen at the end. I emailed their tech support explaining what had happened and that I was concerned that this might not have gone through. I was assured that it had and that someone would contact me.

It's been a few months. No contact. So I'm just going to call them instead and get this sorted out. This has been very shouldn't be this hard.

For what its worth, the application they use is a Java applet, and I was accessing it with Firefox on my some combination of those three is the issue I suppose.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Moving to Incorporation

I've been pretty happy being a sole proprietor so far, and although I was aware of the benefits of being incorporated I was given advice not to worry about it until I was making more money than I was spending...basically a nod to protecting money taxation wise when my personal salary would start to jump up.

However, things have changed. A bulk of my work is done through staffing agencies, Saphire (formerly CNC Global) as the primary one. As of February 1st, they've changed their policy and only do two types of placements: Incorporated individuals or Term individuals. The problem is that even if you're a sole proprietor, you'd be placed as a term employee OF Saphire...meaning that in the government's eyes you aren't acting as an independant body; you're a temp employee of the staffing company.

So add to my plate this month going through the incorporation process...which should give way to some great blog posts at least. Some things that I'm needing to research:

- How to set up my own salary once my business is its own incorporation
- How to set up other employees of the business if I wanted to
- How to set up financial accounts since the incorporation is now separate from my own finances
- What do I need to do from a license perspective with the city, provincial government, and feds

And I'm sure many others. Stay tuned...


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Now I Know How a Trader Feels...

Finding gigs on your own can sometimes feel like your trading stocks: things happen in ebbs and flows, and can change on a dime.

Last week I was asked if I could help with a contract engagement with a former employer (as a subcontractor). We were waiting to hear back from the client and in the meantime I had an interview for another subcontracting gig.

This week, I received confirmation that I won the gig I interviewed for, which is good...but this other opportunity would need to finalize soon if I was going to fit it into my schedule. That same day I get a call that the job I won was a no go because a senior position couldn't be filled and the government agency we were going to work with had to re-tender it. Then I find out today that the former-employer opportunity is a go and we have a meeting for this Friday. All the while, I'm negotiating with a placement firm for an engagement as well.

Tonnes going on...the biggest thing I've realized in all this is that you play until the whistle: talk means nothing unless there's a signed contract backing it. Otherwise, nothing is a for sure. This meeting scheduled for Friday *could* get bumped, or cancelled outright, and if I placed my entire hope in this one contract I'd be handcuffing myself. So to all those out there starting out in consulting, keep all the pokers in the fire but don't commit to one until the meat on the end of it is cooked (I have no idea where that came from...just go with it).