Holidays? Subject to contract

Fancy the freedom of becoming an IT freelance? Just try taking a few weeks off, says Lynne Curry

The money's good, the work's plentiful and the freedom - they say so themselves - is the best bit of the job. The sun is shining and the days are long. Why not recapture a bit of post-university reckless exhilaration and take the summer off?

From the world of the British freelance information technology professional, there arises a collective hollow laugh at the very thought. Mark Cooper, a contract analyst/ programmer currently spending the summer inside the confines of British Steel in Scunthorpe, tried it once. He and his girlfriend, Sharron, now his wife, hired a yacht in Corfu and planned seven weeks of Greek sea and sun. But the week before he left, a new contract came up. It was 20 minutes from home instead of 150 miles. The holiday was lopped.

There is a psychological barrier in the British IT workforce that militates against taking time off beyond a respectable couple of weeks, even when they are - in theory, or else the taxman would like to know otherwise - masters of their own destiny.

Australians do it, New Zealanders do it, South Africans do it, but British IT managers raise an eyebrow at a freelance whose availability is constrained by her or his desire to go AWOL for the season. Britain takes its psychological lead from the US, where, says Alan Seldon, of Barnet-based agency A&P, the workplace axiom is that home life is "a nasty interruption to work". Seldon adds: "If you want to know what it's like to take the summer off, ask a teacher."

Jill McAvoy, of Robert Half Consulting, says the British workforce is "culturally unfamiliar with the idea of long breaks, and definitely apprehensive."Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans do it. They're over here to do the tour and they've already chucked in their jobs and held their nose and jumped.

"The Brits don't. They take their holiday when there's a gap in the work. Some work for two years without a holiday." McAvoy says. "They don't know when they're next going to have any work and after the recession, they make hay while the sun shines. A lot of them are in it to make the money and to learn skill sets quickly and to keep their skills up.

Freelance Ian Fazakerley has just taken off his first two weeks in six years. He and his wife visited Central America; while he was there he worried not only about all his computer equipment - he works from home - but about his three regular customers.

"The only way I could take the summer off was if I didn't give a toss about the customers I was losing," he says. "The agencies want you to be available when they want you. If there are two contractors, one available 52 weeks and the other 25, who will they take?"

Although he does work through an agency, Fazakerley says freelance consultancy has more constraints than staff jobs. "It's not an article you can sell then be finished with it. Once you've done it, the customer either breaks it, can't use it or it needs to be modified."

Barry Roback, managing director of specialist accountants JSA Services, which looks after contractors' finances, says contracting is not like temping. "The theory of being free to get up on a Monday morning and decide you're not going to go to work today is all well in exercise books, but harder in reality. These contracts generally are for six months, which is then extended. Clients and agencies don't take very kindly to being told that you're going to take a few weeks off."

Yet freedom features highly on the perceived advantages of being freelance. A survey just issued by Software Personnel has identified it as the second - if not the first - reason for leaving the staff payroll. But 70 per cent of companies use freelances for over six months.

The freedom, according to Roback, is within the job: "Contracting provides much more career freedom in terms of picking and choosing where and how you wish to work. The rates are good because the industry itself pays more than for the comparable job, non-contracting. It is a tax-efficient way of earning your income through a one-man limited company."

Mark Cooper, who failed at his one attempt at a free summer, still maintains it can be done, with sensible financial planning. "I'm taking three weeks this year, but it helps with company accounts to have a cashflow throughout the year rather than having no cashflow for six to eight weeks.

"When you go freelance your lifestyle can change so much, but I learnt my lesson and now make sure I always have enough money to live for a year without a job."

He recommends having the new, post-holiday contract lined up - with the knowledge that at least until the year 2000, there will be no shortage of workn

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

    £13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

    £18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

    Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power