Is now the time to go freelance

At 45, I am at the crossroads of my career. I have 20 years’ HR experience
in both the public and private sector. I have been offered voluntary redundancy
with a reasonable pay-off. I am not sure whether to go it alone in a
consultancy role or should I look for another job?

John Baker, head of practice, Macmillan Davies Hodes

l If you are thinking of going it alone there are a number of key factors to
consider. These include your ability to develop business, the strength of your contacts
and whether you enjoy working alone. These three points are key, as your
success depends on your ability to source, win and deliver consulting projects
in a very tough, competitive market.

An alternative idea that would give you the independence and variety you are
seeking is to become an interim manager, for which there is growing demand.
Your experience of different sectors could provide you with the opportunity of
working with diverse organisations and give you the flexibility to manage your own
work life. The flipside of this lifestyle should also be considered, however –
if you’re not working you’re not being paid. For people with consistent
financial commitments this can be a major cause of stress.

Cliff Dixon, consultant, Chiumento

l The prospect of taking the money and embarking on a new career is
tempting, but are your skills and experience, your personality and temperament
suited to consultancy work? An early investment in a psychometric test could
prove invaluable. The 16PF and Myers Briggs Type Indicator assessments would
indicate areas to which you are best suited – and unsuited.

How clear are you about what you have to offer as a freelance? Do you have
your own product, or might you consider entering interim work? In any event,
you will need to be a risk-taker and self-motivated with a business plan and
marketing strategy to drive forward.

Looking for another job will need equally careful thought. Use the help and
support available to you in the form of career consultants and recruitment
consultants relevant to your sector, knowledge and expertise. Ensure your CV is
strong – include a personal profile that leaves the reader in do doubt as to
your status, abilities and values.

Before deciding which route you go down, network with contacts who can guide
and challenge you in your decision-making.

Peter Sell, joint managing director, DMS Consultancy

What is your motivation for asking the question? If it is because you have
not been satisfied by traditional HR roles, then you may need to analyse what
job would give you satisfaction.

While consultancy may seem an attractive proposition, you need to ask
yourself some searching questions.

– As an experienced HR professional how can I differentiate myself from the
other sole traders selling consultancy?

– How good is my network of business contacts and are they in a position to
either buy my services or influence the purchasers in their organisation?

– How long can I survive without any income?

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