Can you start an HR consultancy and stay employed at the same time?

One of the things we get asked by HR professionals who are looking at either working with us or an HR consultancy in general is whether it is possible to start your own consultancy business while working in a conventional job at the same time.

It’s an understandable question – when starting any self-employed venture it is obviously usual not to have income straightaway, or certainly not steady income, and if you are in a position where that will represent real problems, it can seem like a good idea to stay in your job, or take a new employed job and develop the consultancy business alongside.

So what’s the problem? There are some important things to take into account if you are considering doing this.

Availability to clients

If you’re developing a client base, you need to be reasonably available to clients. If you have a potential client you will want to talk to them and ideally meet them as soon as possible, particularly as you are starting out and don’t have any, or many, clients. If you are working elsewhere and are very restricted in when you can see potential clients you risk losing the work.

When you do get clients again your availability might be an issue. Whilst you could potentially do some of the client work in the evenings or weekends, around your other commitments (and this is of course a key advantage in HR consultancy in the first place), there are lots of client commitments where you need to be available.

You might be visiting their site, attending meetings either on site or via video, taking phone calls. In order to keep a paying client happy, whilst they don’t expect you to be available 24-7, realistically you won’t keep clients if your availability for meetings or calls is very restricted.

Marketing activities

Similarly, although of course lots of marketing can be carried out outside normal working hours, a key part of marketing for most self-employed HR consultants (or many other types of self-employed businesses) would be networking.

If your self-employed working hours are very restricted because you are remaining in employment, you may not be able to attend many networking events, and this will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the effectiveness of your marketing.


Something perhaps less obvious is the ‘headspace’ factor. For most people, starting a new business involves many things they’ve never done before. They are outside their comfort zone, having to get their head round all sorts of new things, not just HR anymore, but other business activities, finances, marketing – even just getting used to talking about themselves is a big step for lots of people. There’s getting used to a completely different way of working, perhaps working completely at home for the first time, having to self-motivate and adapt accountability without having a boss, the concept of having lots of different clients rather than one business they are deeply involved with.

All of this is a big change and takes up a lot of room in your head, especially at the beginning. The more of your headspace you can devote to a brand new venture, the quicker you will get used to it, feel comfortable with it, and get better at it. If you still have the demands of an existing (or even a new) job to contend with, that doesn’t just take up headspace during your actual working hours, it’s there all the time, and it will detract from how quickly you develop your business, and will add to the stressfulness of the new venture.

There are advantages in keeping a job alongside, in terms of the steady income it provides until you can replace this. But it will undoubtedly have an impact on the development of your HR consultancy.

So ideally if you want to keep a job whilst developing a consultancy, make sure it is only part time and can incorporate as much flexibility as possible, allowing you to swap days, or take client calls on your working days, and make sure you can compartmentalise it as much as possible mentally and truly devote your headspace to your new venture as much as possible.

If you’d like to talk to us about becoming a partner with face2faceHR, do get in touch.