Going it alone as an independent director in the freelance economy

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Around half of the UK’s working population is working independently in some capacity and many at a very senior level – as interim managers, consultants, project managers or non-executive directors.

Going it alone is growing in appeal for senior women looking for greater flexibility and choice in their careers. A report out last week “Bringing Talent Back to the Workforce: How to make returner programmes work for your organisation” published by the Executive Coaching Consultancy highlighted that businesses are losing women returners because of a lack of workplace flexibility.

One in six women return to work in a different function and 38 per cent change industry sector saying their current job offers more flexibility than the one they had prior to taking a break (59 per cent).

For these women, working independently is another great option. Based on ONS figures, I have calculated that around 47 per cent of the 32 million workers in the UK are likely to be independent workers; a figure that has been constant for the last few years and looks set for growth as more individuals move from full-time to independent working into the freelance economy. This is a complex area and I refer to these independent workers as “Self Drive Workers”.

This shift has partly been driven by technology, which has allowed people to work more flexibly, but also by people wanting greater freedom and to improve their work life balance. Businesses too want a more fluid work force – to hire specialist skills when they need them rather than be restricted to employing someone full-time.

One of the big challenges for people making the leap is how to get started. I get calls every week from individuals wanting to leave corporate life but they don’t know where to start.

To support them, I – and some colleagues – have launched Working Free, an information hub and advisory service which offers all the resources, guidance, tips and advice they need to get started. It covers issues such as taxation, marketing and business structures that will ensure a successful portfolio career.

To succeed as an independent worker requires hard work, new skills, huge determination, resilience, training and a clear understanding of how to market yourself and win work. But those that do, often never look back.

Here are my ten tips for becoming a successful Director-level independent worker today:

  • Do your homework before deciding to become an interim manager – make sure it is the right career choice for you. Ask yourself what benefits will you bring to a client?
  • Have a viable professional product
  • Identify and understand your market
  • Understand your market’s context and positioning
  • Prepare a business plan
  • Be very good at what you do and stay good. Specialists generally do better than generalists
  • Know how to get work
  • Think of yourself as a serious small business – you will have to do all the things a business owner would do including business planning & strategy, marketing, selling, accounting and IT
  • Manage your own Practice
  • Work harder than you ever expected – the harder you work, the luckier you get

About the author

Charles Russam - 25.6.15Charles Russam has just launched Working Free, aimed at being a leading web based UK Enabling Provider of career, professional and business development information to Director-level Independent Workers in the UK.

Charles set up leading Interim Management search firm, Russam GMS in 1982 and sold it 35 years later to his two executive directors although he is still involved in the company in a Business Development capacity.

Charles also owns, and runs with others, the [http://www.devonshirehousenetwork.co.uk,/]Devonshire House Network, a Director level membership club focussed on the human side of enterprise. He lives in North Buckinghamshire with his wife, his cat and her dog and 16 hens and an industrious cockerel called Adrian.

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