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The self employed and freelancers have been in the news more than ever recently. Rightly so given the extraordinary circumstances we all face. However this also highlights the existence of this £300 Billion employment sector we have here in UK.

Its 20 years this spring since I was made redundant from a now defunct global box making business. Spurred on by frustration I took a big leap of faith combined with a years salary as payment along with my partners support and went self employed as a consultant/freelance box designer and advisor.

Its always tough to start with but the importance of networking became obvious early on. Fortunately I had a few good connections to get me started. I ended up talking to business leaders in my industry I never thought I’d ever get to, so got more netwroking contacts along the way

In those 20 years, I’ve met hundreds of people I never would have if I’d remained an employee. Also I’ve had the fortune to travel the world at someone elses expense. I honestly could not count the number of box plants I’ve visited but have been to every continent bar Antartica in doing so. This all provided me with more networking colleagues of course, some of which I still contact. Wherever your industry is situated the issues we face are the same the world over. But we learn and pick up tips.

They say travel broadens the mind, well in my case it certainly did. It gives a perspective when you understand and see how others live and work.

All this experience adds to the mix when it comes to running your own business. There’s a well known saying I read years ago, “Nothing frightens me, I’ve got children”. Well the same applies to falling back on that experience.

Experience is the great advantage to freelancers. You have to think quickly and on your feet usually and having a situation thrown at you that’s been previously dealt with helps enormously. Occasionally I get stumped but the simple response I give is ‘ let me think about that for a moment, I’ll get back to you’ is all thats required. I think clients respect that sort of answer instead of receiving a load of bullshit..

I recently did a 6 year stint as an employee at one of our global leaders in boxmaking ( They weren’t offering a Maserati but I still took the job!!) First as the Design Manager at a flagship site then the last 12 months involved in setting up their new eCommerce test labs and the online world in general.

This 6 years also gave me insight to the up to date manufacturing pressures and KPI’s etc. Of course not just at the box making end. In fact more how the customers and retailers operate and how they think. Multinational household names are very fluid in some respects but in others they can’t shift due to levels of decision making that get in the way.

I’ve just done my first 12 months back as a self employed person and this gives me great fluidity and flexibilty some would say, that’s agilty. Couple that with an encyclopedic knowledge its a powerful weapon in a freelancers grasp.

The word freelancer sometimes confuses people as to what and how we operate. I prefer to use the term ‘Third Party Contractor’ as it covers a multitude of skills and allows me to call on others to assist too.

What I do is offer a supporting role in times of uncertainty and when skill availabilty is short or at least needed to boost the resource my client has.

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