Tips for successful self employment

With more people setting up on their own this autumn Charles Russam shares some advice for making it as an independent worker in self employment

Self Employment


Working dads at all levels and stages in their career are thinking about going freelance post-Covid.

Some are looking for a better work life balance. Others, unfortunately, will be forced to look at new ways of working as the recession bites.

Charles Russam owns and, with others, runs It’s a specialist career advisory business supporting senior director-level executives coming off the permanent payroll into an independent working lifestyle. He shares his tips for successfully setting out on your own.


Albert Einstein said: “in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” It need not have been Einstein who said it – hundreds of people have said similar things. All of that makes it true – but the real opportunity has to be spotted and you do need the mindset to turn it into reality. Even if you think you’re being forced into independent working – for instance, as a contractor, interim manager or freelance, it will probably disappoint if you can’t adopt the right mindset.

This current crisis has not yet fully developed. There are conflicting reports and areas where we know change has happened but which has not yet been reflected in the figures. But we do see change happening in all areas – and unemployment is a real prospect.

Self drive workers

However, if you look at the monthly Office for National Statistics employment statistics you’ll see that, out of a total UK population of 65m, 33m constitute the working population and only 55% of this are full time employees – adjusted to exclude those with second jobs and temps. The other 45% is everyone else. Much of this 45% defies categorisation. But these people are in charge – partly or wholly – of their workload and commercial destinies.

We call these people “Self Drive Workers”. It is a sort of massive gig economy. But it’s hugely complex and continuously changing. We see the move, for a growing number of professional people, from Dependency to Independence as a crucial niche and trend in the UK’s professional workplace.

Independent working

Of all the material written about independent working, you can boil it down to three short phrases –

  • Define your PPP (personal professional product)
  • Be good at it
  • Find the work

If you have a viable PPP, you are in the driving seat. You are selling a product; not waiting for someone to come along and buy it. Being good at what you do is a full-time process and clients keep asking you back. If you’re not good, you spend all your time marketing. Selling is one third knowhow, one third persistence and one third luck.


If you treat this mantra seriously, you can make it work for you. Importantly, it is YOUR business. You can’t get fired. You can go bust. You’ll likely peak and trough like all businesses. But, whatever the economy does, it is within your own resources to do something about it rather than being at the disposal of someone else, or be waiting for another employer to come along.

Reflect on these two quotes from Steve Jobs: “I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” And this one: “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations.”

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