Collaborative post on how to maximize your income…

There are many reasons why people choose to leave the relatively secure world of full-time employment and move into a career as a contractor. For some it may be about time. Working as a contractor can free up time that can be spent with their family or concentrating on another, entirely unrelated, project or business. For others it can be that they enjoy the fresh challenge that each contract brings as opposed to the monotony of a full-time job.

However, the main reason for most people to start working as a contractor is the money. The prospect of a greater income is an attractive lure, especially in today’s job market, but there are one or two hurdles to overcome once you do decide to go it alone. The most important consideration is the way that you intend to operate as a contractor. Let’s have a look at the four main ways of doing so:

  • PAYE – While it may be difficult to find a recruiter that is willing to run a payroll system it is worth a mention just in case you run into one that does. PAYE is what you would pay as a full-time employee so you will be liable to full tax and employee’s national insurance. You will not be able to claim back any business expenses on PAYE.

  • Self-employment – As the name suggests, self-employment is when you are in business completely on your own account and not working through a limited company. For this reason it is unlikely to be the right solution for most contractors as recruitment agencies are not deemed applicable by HMRC.

  • Limited Company – Over the years the vast majority of contractors have created their own Limited Companies to work through. The reason for doing so is mainly because the advantages, when it comes to taxation, were usually much better than above methods. With the introduction of IR35 in 2000 contracts falling within IR35 have been affected. IR35 roughly states that if without your company you would have been deemed an employee of the organisation issuing the contract you will be treated as such for reason of taxation. However, if your contracts are likely to genuinely be outside of IR35 you will still be better off with a Limited Company.

  • Umbrella Company –Umbrella services can offer the same structure legally as a Limited Company, but without the hassle of the admin. The umbrella company will issue all invoices, with the contractor being made an employee of the umbrella company. This is by far the best option for contractors whose work will fall within IR35, or just those who are after an easy life that is free from most of the paperwork associated with running a business.

In summary it all really depends on if you fall within IR35 or not. If you do then an umbrella company will most likely be your best option. If you don’t then a limited company should still be your first choice for maximising your income.

I love Mexican food, ever since I tasted my first burrito as a student in New York, I have been a super fan.  However it is not a food that I find easy to recreate in the kitchen from scratch which is why I am also a massive fan of the Old El Paso range.

We were recently set a selection of products to review, including Enchiladas, two rice one pan meals, a couple of easy to make casserole sauces and some relishes for us to dip our tortilla chips in.

The whole range has been scrumptious.  We took the One Pan Rice meals on our recent holiday to Cornwall, and they were the perfect easy option for the end of the day.  The One Pan Rice Meals come together in moments and can be made veggie or with meat and the whole family wolved them down (before I even snapped a shot!).

The One Pan Rice Meals take twenty minutes to prepare  – you can see the recipe here.  I definitely recommend adding a red pepper for a bit of colour and extra zing.

I have used the casserole sachets in the slow cooker, last night we enjoyed quorn mince, mixed with tomato, sweetcorn, red pepper, onion and a Chilli and Roasted Casserole mix.  The end result was utterly scrumptious, it was a chilli meets casserole sensation.

So delicious that I had it as leftovers for lunch!

The Old El Paso website has lots of ideas for meals and ideas for Mexican themed parties, it is a great resource to check out if you are planning a Mexican night in either for the girls, the boys or the children!

Tomorrow night we are having enchiladas – I can hardly wait!

Thrifty wise – the Old El Paso range is really well priced, with deals being found in many well known supermarkets.  So you get great food at a great price!


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Online reviews are a quick and easy way to gauge public opinion to a company or its products, but how much can they really be trusted? In the digital age, the Internet is often the first port of call when seeking information prior to a purchase, and so online reviews play an extremely important role to consumers and manufacturers alike.

In this article we take a look at several of the pros and cons when it comes to using online reviews, and examine whether they are a fair and accurate indicator.

Many companies actively seek product reviewers, and offer incentives, either financial or – commonly – a free sample of the product. There is of course nothing at all underhand about this, but it is more likely to result in favourable opinions and reviews. Some sites even pay people to write positive (or indeed negative) reviews of a specific product in order to meet a company goal – be that to enhance their own company’s reputation or adversely affect a direct competitor.

This latter point is important – the Internet is a very powerful tool and carries a strong influence on its users: should a product receive a handful or disparaging reviews posted on its website or in a more general forum, this can be extremely detrimental. Conversely, products and companies can also receive a major boost by virtue of online “word of mouth”.

It is also perfectly possible for companies to filter or remove comments they have received prior to publication on their website – it’s highly unlikely, for example, that a very negative review of a product would appear on a manufacturer’s own site; glowing reviews or testimonials are however commonplace. It is also quite often the case that satisfied customers may prefer not to post opinions or reviews of their goods or a service received, whereas customers with a bad experience may wish to share their views publicly.

In order to receive a more informed opinion of a product or service, third party or specialist review websites are a good port of call. Major supermarket chains and sites which sell a wide variety of products, such as Amazon or Argos for example, offer a wide range of reviews on many of their products – often accompanied by a series of rankings for such factors as speed of delivery, the quality of the product itself and any aftercare or service received. This also helps consumers to weed out negative reviews based solely on a delayed or lost delivery – it’s not unusual to find highly negative reviews posted on some sites simply because the product turned up late: the purchaser may be delighted with the product itself but the review may not even describe this.

A sensible rule of thumb when analysing customer reviews is to look for a reasonably large body of opinions, discount the extreme ends of the comments (both positive and negative) and use the remainder as a guideline. It is also worth seeking out product reviews across a variety of sites (where possible) – one site may carry a number of bad reviews, while another could be overwhelmingly positive about the same thing. With a little research and a few extra clicks, the Internet can be an extremely valuable source of information.

A good example of using comparison or review sites is the UK energy market. The recent round of price hikes among the major suppliers has left consumers scrambling to find the best deal for their domestic energy: with a growing number of comparison sites available, customers can analyse public opinion on British Gas or read Ovo energy customer reviews before committing to a new supplier.

My kitchen is tired, almost as tired as I am, but not quite.

It needs some tender loving care, potentially a complete overhaul – but cost always remains a factor when it comes to waking up the home.

However, I do have some exciting news – Magnet have got some great February deals on over on their website.  It is more than worth checking out if you are in the mood to do some re designing in the home this year.  Plus, what could be nicer than a new kitchen?


Our kitchen is the focal point of the home, where the kids tell me about their day as I make the next days packed lunches, it is where my husband greets me when he comes in from work, it is where I spend a bit of time relaxing on a weekend after a hefty baking session.

So, Magnet have an exclusive online sale on – but you have to be quick – it is only on until the end of February.

If you enter your email here: and read the full terms and conditions on the site you can download a voucher to use to buy your dream kitchen from one of the ranges currently involved in the promotion.

Sales like this means creating your dream home doesn’t have to break the bank.

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