Caroline opens up about the transition from 9-5 to self-employment, the challenges she faced, and the many opportunities she’s been given.
Tell us about your business!
My business is called Evolve Business Consultancy. I work remotely in the US with SMEs, startups and entrepreneurs on their strategy, operations and business development innovation. I mainly work with businesses in the private equity, investment banking and property sector.
Why did you become self-employed?
I set up my business because I got ill with fibromyalgia. I was working full time in private equity and it became very difficult to work.
I had to give up my role in 2017. I suddenly thought, “Oh my gosh, I'm ill. I'm out of work, I need to work, but I can't travel to work”. I wanted to rebrand myself. See what my USP was. And from that, I set up my consultancy called Evolve Business Consultancy.
How does being self-employed work better for your lifestyle?
It works better for me, because I can control what I do and how much I do. For example, somebody approached me last week to take on some more work. Whilst I would have loved it, I had to sit myself down and say, “No, you're doing work for two clients at the moment”.
I have to allow myself time off a couple of hours between each role in the day, because mentally any mental work is also exhausting. Having fibromyalgia, it's not just a physical illness. It's a mental illness as well. So I have to pace myself.
What's your favourite thing about working for yourself?
The variety of roles and jobs that I can do. I love it. You don't get opportunities to go across sectors and different spaces when working in a permanent role.
The advantage of being freelance and particularly having a portfolio career, which is what I've done for five years, has given me the opportunity to work with lots of different people in lots of different spaces globally.
You throw yourself into it, and you have the freedom to be creative. You get to design the career that you want for yourself.
What’s one thing you’d wish you’d known before becoming self-employed?
There's lots of software out there that can make your life easier, and you don’t have to do everything by yourself.
When I first started, I thought, “Wow, I've never been self-employed. I don't have any idea about the finance side of running a business”. It was scary. And then I found Crunch, who have helped me a lot. They’ve been invaluable in helping me understand the finance side.
How has Crunch helped you on your self-employment journey?
Their newsletters are invaluable. I learn lots as a freelancer, such as what to charge, what your value is to businesses and working out your expenses.
Currently, I work with a Crunch accountant. At some point, I'll move to the software platform. But because of my illness, I don’t want the stress on top of having to do my own Self Assessments every year and so on.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a freelancer or self-employed?
I think it's important to brand yourself. Do your SWOT analysis. I’ve created lots of tips for creatives wanting to become a freelancer or self-employed on my consultancy website which will help.
You should ask yourself; “what am I good at?” “What are my weaknesses?” “What platforms could help me? “What is being used by different companies?” From very early on you should create your own brand and identity.
Set up a company page on social media. There's lots of different freelance groups on Facebook. There's lots of different virtual freelance sites online, where you can find clients.
One of the challenges is budgeting. Create a monthly spreadsheet, so you can see what your outgoings are. Have a forecast set up for three to six months in advance. Analyse it month by month, see where money will be coming from. I’ve done that for the past four years, and it's helped me loads.
Know your worth and your value. Freelancers tend to undersell themselves, when they first start out. Understand what to charge people, because you have to take into account, you don’t get holiday or sick pay. All that needs to be in the equation when you're working out what your consultancy fees are. Make sure you have insurance and the correct documents too.
One of the best online accountants. I ran two Limited Companies with Crunch. An amazing experience, I would definitely recommend.More
Crunch are fantastic. Always there to support you, which is especially useful when you are a new business owner. Super fast and reliable service.More
Crunch boasts over a decade of experience by assisting a plethora of businesses with professional advice and guidance from experts.
Our Knowledge articles, jargon-free business guides, tools and calculators as well as tutorial videos can help answer your questions.
Our free self-employed community, Crunch Chorus, boasts over 71,000 members like you.