Balancing employment & self-employment

Balancing act

I have two different jobs. 2.5 days a week I am the Finance Manager at a heritage charity, which I combine with also running my own business as a Fundraising Consultant to start-up businesses.

I only joined the charity in January. I needed to find a route back into employment and was fortunate to have a personal introduction to the charity. I have a lot of experience, but… “being self-employed for over 15 years, I hadn’t worked for anyone an employer for a long time, and I was finding it impossible to get back in through applying for job vacancies”.

Highs and lows of employment & self-employment

Having qualified as an accountant in 1990, initially I worked on government privatization projects, they were very in vogue in early 90s. After 5 years I realized I wanted to leave this area and found a role that worked for me, that I was very happy with, as Chief Financial Officer at an international oil and gas engineering consultancy. It was an incredibly interesting company. I really enjoyed it, and learnt a huge amount, particularly in areas such as international taxation, which I had to get up to speed on very quickly. But after 10 years in the role, of working across international timezones, virtually 7 days a week, I was getting burnt out. I was getting to the point of not wanting to see the inside of another hotel room in my life.

That’s when I set up on my own. I had an inkling that I wanted to have a stab at running my own business. I developed my proposition by focusing on what I knew I was good at – developing financially based messages and presenting financial information in engaging and digestible ways. Whilst what this involves has inevitably changed with the investment landscape over the years, it mainly involves helping start-up businesses with their financial modelling and producing investment pitch decks. It’s very stimulating, and it’s given me the opportunity to work with and help some very interesting businesses.

In many ways I have been lucky, I have had continuous work with my own business and all my work has come through personal recommendation, so I have never had to do a ‘cold’ pitch for client work. But what I learnt the hard way is that working in this way, without the daily contact of other team members around me, wasn’t very well suited to my mental make-up. I found myself struggling with my mental health, and suffered depression and anxiety. It took a lot of hard work to get me out of that trough, and it took me further time to realise I wasn’t pursuing the right work model for my mental health. I came to the reaslisation that I needed at least part-time employment to give me that structure and support.

Overcoming recruitment rejections

I have a huge amount of experience, but I tried and tried to find work through conventional job applications and found myself getting nowhere. I tried some placement agencies which seemed to be well suited to what I could offer, but I felt they were stringing me along, my name was not being put forward where it mattered. My experience is definitely that if you can’t present yourself with a conventional career path, particularly in your late 50s, then online jobs boards and applications systems reject you. I didn’t know what else to look for, or where to start to looking, as I didn’t know what else was out there.

I signed up for various activities, most of which didn’t come to anything. “I joined Brave Starts at a point where my self-belief was ebbing away daily. Firstly just connecting me in various online meetings with 7 or 8 people in various” circumstances was uplifting and invigorating. It made me feel that I wasn’t alone. There was also a lot of practical help around self-presentation, and they made the introduction to the heritage charity, who ironically was struggling to fill this finance manager vacancy. My income isn’t yet where I want it to be, but I have got myself back into the employment market. And… “I am able to balance employment and self-employment, in a way that enables me to co-parent my son” …who lives with me in the second part of every week.

I have gone through a huge journey and learnt a lot. It’s a journey that a lot more people are going through than are talking about it, and it’s important to normalize it.

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