When the recession hit, Nick Begy found himself out of a job. Heíd spent the past 15 years working in marketing for institutions such as Centre Parcs, M and M Direct, Baker Ross and The Cotswold Company and never had the intention of becoming a consultant. But when the downturn took hold, he was forced to go it alone. Here he tells Direct Commerce Careers about how a move, prompted not by choice, has worked out for the best.
My career move
With recession came redundancy. It wasnít unexpected, as working in a small company with high-ticket items, the cost base was simply too high to absorb the high-value head count.
I had no real enthusiasm to become a consultant. I had a family to support, school fees, a mortgage; none of which are conducive to a life where income can be variable. I spent the initial weeks jumping through the hoops of the government legislation in order to claim on various insurances, and using networks and more traditional media channels to look for new positions. It is amazing how little the employment services cater to people in my position, and though they wanted to help, there was little they could really do. What amazed me was the bureaucracy, and living in a rural community, the way they made people travel on public transport at their expense to sign on, eating a chunk of what they received in return. However, this is not meant to be a political satire, but it does put things in context, and keeps you in reality.
I fell into what I do now totally by accident, but on the back of years of networking and building close relationships. I was contacted by my current and only client through two separate recommendations. My client was looking for marketing input at a senior level, but was not necessarily sure it warranted any sort of full-time position. I went to see them, and as it turned out they are some of the nicest and most honest people Iíve come across, which really made the decision a lot easier, along with a few external factors. Around the same time Iíd actually been offered and accepted a full time director position for a large direct-sales operation. This meant living away from home again, something Iíd done for probably six years on and off, and Iíd even decided on a flat for the duration. However, on discussing my position with my client, and realising that maybe the corporate dollar was not always the best return, I made the leap to self-employment, for three main reasons:
Pros and cons
My situation is different in so many ways to other consultants. I have some security as effectively Iím working with my client full time. I also trust them implicitly, which leads to the major drawback of anyone entering in to this self-employed world: I know I have some level of security, though it doesnít come with a contract. Many of you taking this route will not have that security and will need to find multiple clients to mitigate this risk. That to me would be the hardest battle. Iím no salesperson, and I have a deep-seated honesty that means I would not walk out on my current client for another, much in the same way the trust runs the other way. In terms of developing a client base, I strongly feel it has to come through networking. Iíve invested many hours at events, conferences, and dare I say bars, getting to know the people in my industry. Iíve always treated suppliers, colleagues and contacts with respect and with humour, and this has lead to me having what I feel are many strong contacts, and in many cases, good friends within industry, who when I needed it have helped to open doors and point opportunities in my direction.
There are also the positives that come with striving out on your own. From my point of view it has allowed me more time, or at least some time at home with the family. From a professional stand point, Iím now bringing the experience of many various company profiles and positions to help a client I happen to care deeply about and believe in. There are also the obvious financial benefits. I really had no clue about how to financially manage a new company, but with help from a local expert I now know exactly how to offset expenses to reduce my tax burden, and pay a level of tax lower as a company compared to the previous 40 percent level.
There are, of course, downsides too. You and your family are now totally dependent on your clients for your income. Iím in the enviable position to have a trusting long-term and stable relationship, but if that breaks down, there is no contract, no redundancy and no notice period in theory. I would advise if you do have a long-term client to try and build some formal contract to cover this, especially if you are dependent on this income.
Iíve also become very aware that if I donít work I donít get paid. Planning for holidays and taking even the shortest of breaks takes on whole new financial implications that have to be considered. Maybe in the early days as you build up a client base you have to be realistic about this.
In summary, Iíve been very lucky with this transition. To make it work for you, you may need to build a client base, so use the contacts and relationships that have been built over many years in business. Being a consultant is rewarding but itís not easy, and has many hurdles to climb. I was lucky, but following some simple steps it can work out:
If financial planning is not your strong point, use experts to plan this side of your business, as I learned a lot and it saved me a great deal in the long term.
If youíve got a story to tell about your career move, email Miri Thomas at Direct Commerce† firstname.lastname@example.org.
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