What are your motivators for considering self-employment?

When I talk to HR professionals about the possibility of working with us, I spend a large portion of the conversation exploring what their motivations are for considering leaving (usually) a traditional employed role.

I do this partly because it can be helpful for marketing purposes to know what people’s drivers are, but mainly to help me assess whether the person I’m speaking to is likely to actually achieve what they are looking for, either from self-employment at all or from working with us in particular.

I know my own motivations in leaving standard employment were mainly centred around family. I didn’t want to commute into London any more, and didn’t want to have a job where there was limited flexibility for me to be around for my (then non-existent) children as they were growing up. I wanted work that was fulfilling but also as flexible and family-friendly as possible.

I have to say that has been more than achieved, and has actually become more beneficial as my sons have got older, even more so than when they were pre-school age. Being able to do the school run several times a week, not being at the mercy of an employer as to whether I can attend Sports Day, parent consultations and nativity plays, and (recently) being able to stay at home/bring kids into the office with me when they are off from school are all benefits worth their weight in gold.

I had other motivations too, mainly around control and independence – I enjoy making my own decisions! But actually it’s really interesting for me talking to other HR professionals. I do talk to many who are looking for an improved work-life balance – some with kids, some where that’s not a factor but they still want time for themselves and a good balance between work and personal life. But I also hear other interesting motivators, some of which weren’t a factor for me at all.

Recently I talked to someone for whom a motivator was being able to deal with the nitty gritty HR stuff again. And I’ve heard that a few times. It’s a natural thing as you progress in an HR career to become more and more distant from the things which drew you to that career in the first place – dealing with people, solving their problems, that frontline stuff. Of course, that’s a phenomenon common to many career types, but is interesting hearing it as a motivator from people considering self-employment working with small businesses – they are looking to make a difference ‘on the ground’ rather than only being involved in high-level strategy stuff and big initiatives without having any real contact with ‘normal’ employees.

Other motivators I have been hearing include wanting to being able to see a tangible difference being made by the advice they give to the clients they are working with, wanting to feel that greater connection with the day-to-day running of a business, wanting to get away from office politics and wanting to increase the variety of issues and problems they are dealing with, rather than a cycle of same-old same-old which many HR professionals see if they stay in the same organisation or sector long-term.

It does sometimes happen that someone says they are looking into self-employment because they want X and I have to tell them that if X is what they are looking for, self-employment as an HR consultant to small businesses won’t achieve that. Because of course it’s not the perfect solution for every work ‘ill’ that HR professionals suffer, and isn’t right for everyone by any means. And it’s not good for either them or I to pursue discussions further if what they are looking for won’t be achieved. I might be able to convince them that it will, and persuade them to work with us, but the only result will be that they’ll not find what they are looking for and won’t enjoy it, won’t find it fulfilling, and therefore ultimately, won’t succeed at it. Which isn’t good for anyone!

If you know what you are looking for from your work life, or know what things about your work you aren’t happy with and want to change, it’s important not to assume self-employment is the answer, but to identify genuinely whether the challenges of self-employment are going to be worth it as your personal desires and priorities will be achieved. If you’d like to have a chat about what you’re looking for from work and whether (honestly) self-employment would be right for you, please get in touch.