> poor UK rates but also the risk posed by HMRC and government policies.
Don't claim for anything that isn't completely legit and you're sorted. I use an umbrella who take care of all my paperwork (I sign contracts then submit timesheets online — that's it), and take a cut from me which is made up for in having my subsistence and travel taxes negated. Tax is a pain (depending on how much you resent public services), but that's a universal truth. In terms of pay I am on about 80% more than standard permanent rates for my seniority and specialism. That's a lot.
The work is great because I get to do more valuable stuff in short bursts — very few companies need someone to be as good as I am at my best on a permanent basis, but loads would be much happier getting me in to build them something awesome over a couple of months. I get to work in all sorts of industries, encounter different working practices, new technologies, and my portfolio and CV just gets more impressive.
Maybe there's a class thing going on here, but I honestly don't get it when people say £400/day is piss poor. You people must have friends who aren't self-employed senior IT workers?