Strength in numbers – getting the balance of self-employment and teamworking right

One of the things many of the HR professionals I speak to mention when talking about their concerns with self-employment is the potential isolation, the sense of being ‘on their own’.

There is no doubt that this is tough, particularly if you’re used to working in a bigger HR team. You can bounce ideas off other people, ask for a sense check about things, get someone to help you out if you’re overloaded, or generally have a whinge when you’re having a rough time.

But when you run your own consultancy, you don’t usually have a team around you as well, so it can be very isolating. Our model gives our consultants a great balance in this respect, and brings a number of practical benefits as well:

Someone’s been there before

All of our consultants are at different stages in their businesses and for those who are newer, it can be enormously reassuring at times when it gets a bit tricky to be able to speak to others who are doing the exact same thing, and have been through difficult times and out the other side.

Even for longer-standing consultants, there might be client problems or other difficulties they are experiencing, and it can be enormously helpful and reassuring to hear from others who may have been in the same situation, even if it’s just for a frame of reference as to what’s ‘normal’!

Different sector expertise

One of the most exciting things I found about becoming an HR consultant for small businesses is the variety – working with all sorts of different types of businesses.

That’s great, but it has its challenges. My own background isn’t especially varied in terms of working in different sectors, and that is very common. Many people have a background in a certain industry or type of industries, but limited experience outside that and sometimes a bit of inside knowledge or experience about a particular sector can be really useful.

Our consultants definitely make the most of this – if they are working with (or putting together a proposal for) a new client in an industry they’ve not encountered before, frequently there will be one of them who has experience who can give them some guidance or ideas.

Ideas and solutions

It’s useful sometimes when presented with a problem a client has to be able to ask others for ideas on how to solve it, including initiatives that might have worked elsewhere.  Having a team of consultants who you know share the same values, principles and approach to HR as you do and have experience working with similar clients is invaluable for this.

Similarly, our consultants discuss together various marketing initiatives they might be considering – getting a perspective on whether anyone has done anything similar and how well it worked can help ensure time and money are spent in the best way possible.

Practical assistance

A fantastic example of this recently was one of our consultants who was due to give birth very shortly was invited to put together a proposal for a big client. She didn’t feel she would be able to fulfil all the requirements of the project by herself, so spoke to a couple of the others and put together a proposal for the client that involved the project being delivered by three of them together.

Another example would be that I have limited time for working with small business clients now, and while I keep a few long-standing ones, at times when they need a project completing, or some training delivered or similar, I offer one of our other consultants to do this. That way we keep the client, share the work and the client knows they are getting someone who can work closely with their regular consultant and ensure the tailored support they are used to continues.

Specialist skills

There are also some specific specialist skills that some of our consultants have, that fall outside our ‘core’ services. Being able to offer a colleague to provide these services adds value to clients and to both consultants involved.

Social aspect

Although our consultants are in touch with each other all the time, we get them together physically at least twice a year. As well as valuable training and development opportunities, one of the best things about this is the opportunity to spend time bonding with others in the same boat who have things in common, hearing their stories and generally getting a sense of having real colleagues at work, which is often missing from self-employment.


If you’re interested in talking to us about becoming a partner with face2faceHR, with bags of support, do get in touch.