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IPSE membership covers an amazingly diverse range of self-employed people, with thousands of freelancers, contractors and consultants. Every individual has valuable knowledge, experience and insight in building their business and career. We want to share more of that wisdom with the story of solicitor Kim Huggins.
We spoke to Kim about how she went from the idea of working for herself to establishing a successful self-employed business, helping a wide variety of businesses with a range of legal matters over the last five years.
Read the interview
Can you describe your self-employed business?
I’m an independent consultant working as a solicitor. My business has a range of clients, from big corporations to individual micro businesses, and anywhere in between.
What’s the biggest benefit from being self-employed for you, and your clients?
So, what makes it great for me is the variety of clients that I get to work with. That’s particularly enjoyable because I have a hands-on way of working, and for me, it’s about being a partner with a client and their business.
I get a lot of satisfaction from getting involved with different businesses and learning about them, and I enjoy the variety and the flexibility it gives me as well. And the control I have because I can make a decision about who I want to work with, and when it might not be the best fit.
The benefit for clients is that my business is based on establishing good relationships, which works for everybody. If my clients and I get on, it makes the working process that much more enjoyable, and we achieve things much more efficiently. If it’s a big organisation, and I’m working with different divisions within it, then it’s important to establish those relationships at the outset because they have to feel comfortable talking to me, and sharing information with me.
So that’s something I pride myself on, my ability to get on with people. It sounds basic, but it’s surprising how many solicitors struggle with that. And I’d like to think that for my clients, I provide a good service and that’s important to me. And I think beyond the problems that come to me, because often it’s not just one specific thing in isolation. So, I refer to it as an integrative approach to the work that I do.
How long have you been self-employed?
I set up my company on my birthday in 2014. But I would say that it was probably from about 2016 that I really started working as a self-employed consultant. I think in 2014, the seed was sown in my mind that it was what I wanted to do, but I hadn’t really quite thought through how it would happen, and how I would make it work. So, five years, we’ll say.
How long have you been an IPSE member, and what led you to join?
I joined in the summer of last year, and what led me to join is that while we were in lockdown, it had gone very quiet for me workwise. So, there was a lot of time for reflection, figuring out what I wanted to do with the business, and if there was a different direction, I wanted to take it in.
And I was also doing a lot of work around who my support network is, who it is I can have within that network to lean on, to share things with and get help from, but also just to be with a similar group of people, who are not necessarily doing what I do, but who are working the way I do.
And I think IPSE had been on my radar. But I just felt last summer was the right time to join, to seek out those people, and to be part of a tribe of people who are working like me.
Have you started communicating more with other self-employed professionals through IPSE membership? Would you like more opportunities to connect with other members?
You’ve had the two Freelancer days and I’ve been involved in both of those, and there’s a limited amount of networking. And then more recently there was a Zoom call set up where I think there might have been eight or ten of us. And we’re able to talk about problems that we might have, and share things. If you could do more, that would be great, because it’s a really, really good way to meet people and get chatting
I’ve really embraced networking via Zoom. And I know we’re all spending a lot more time in front of screens than we ever used to. But it does make networking that much easier, because there’s no travel involved. So personally, I attend a lot more now than I ever used to. And it just opens up the opportunities for meeting people and making connections, and you just never know where those will lead.
Has IPSE helped you with any specific problems or issues?
Not a specific problem, but I must admit I’ve listened to pretty much every one of the IR35 webinars, and they’re always really useful. I’ve referred back to everything I’ve heard and learned because I’m working with a new client at the moment, and I’m having to do it within IR35.
I’ve been employed by an umbrella company to work that way, and it raised a lot of issues. I knew theoretically about IR35, but suddenly I was in it. And I needed to refer back to a lot of what I’d heard. I also reached out in the Facebook group to other members, just to see other experiences, and if anyone had used the particular payroll companies that were being offered. I had two choices, and I thought well, I don’t actually know which of them to choose or what I’m looking for, so I did reach out to other members to help with that.
And has IPSE helped you to save time or money since becoming self-employed?
I suppose the timesaver would be the networking events. If you are able to run more of the member meetups, that is saving me time and money. I haven’t saved money yet but maybe that’s a positive thing, as things haven’t gone wrong, and I haven’t needed to rely on IPSE to help me out.
Do you get involved in any of the IPSE campaigns to support the self-employed?
I do, generally. Certainly, on IR35 because of the impact that has had on me in particular. If I get a survey, or a request for support, then I do try as much as possible. I do feel strongly about supporting what IPSE does, because it helps us. Without us giving our input and support, you can’t help us. So, I’m always keen to do what I can.
Would you recommend IPSE membership to other self-employed professionals?
I would definitely, because I do know that there’s a tribe of people out there working in the same way as me. And we should all be in it to support each other, and have a body which is working on our behalf, and doing what it can to make things work well for us.
I’ve certainly had nothing but positive experiences. Networking will add that extra element for me, but there’s always lots of information, and it’s my go to place for information that is relevant to me.Are there any projects or contracts that you’re particularly proud of?
Honestly, everything I do, I’m proud of. It’s hard working independently, and I didn’t really appreciate that until more recently, working with more clients, spinning plates and trying to manage everything. So, for me, everything I do is great, because I want to do it. And if I’m doing work for clients, it’s because they enjoy working with me, and I’ve done a good job.
I recently helped a lady who runs her own independent business and had run into an issue relating to trademarks, which is one of my specialist areas. And I was able to explain things and make it more understandable. I didn’t actually do anything particularly complex from my perspective, but just hearing her understand it, that kind of thing makes me really pleased.
I’ve always wanted to help people, and I think when we’ve worked in something for a long time, and there was a lot of studying involved to qualify as a solicitor, so I’ve learned a lot. And I think it’s good to appreciate that something I know is of real value to somebody else. So that was a particularly nice moment.
What’s been your biggest business achievement since becoming self-employed?
I think I get a lot of people recommending me. And in fact, somebody I was working with recently asked me if I was a member of any umbrella firms set up by ex-partners of law firms, and although I am, I don’t do a huge amount of work through them. And she asked “Well, how do we find you otherwise”
And I just said, “Well, my reputation precedes me”. And afterwards I realised how it could have come across, but thankfully, I don’t think it did. And what I meant was that I’m very lucky that clients I’ve worked with have asked me to go back and work with them again, and they’ve referred me to other people. So, word of mouth is driving the majority of the work that I do, and that’s an achievement in itself.
I’ve had friends say to me, “well, it doesn’t just happen Kim, it’s not a fluke. You’re not doing a good job by accident, it’s the way you carry yourself, it’s the way you do your work.” So that’s an achievement, that I’ve made a success of what I’m doing for these last five years, and business is growing.
You mentioned referrals, but do you do any other marketing or promotion for your business?
I launched my new website earlier this year. My previous one was put together just to have an internet presence, so I invested quite a bit of money into having something much more professional put together.
And I have lots of plans for what to do with it. My plan is to use my website more to have some sort of go-to information on there. And there’s a lot happening in the legal world. One of the things I’m really keen to do is to break that down and explain to businesses, this is what it’s relevant for you to know, and what does this case decision mean for you as a business?
I’m also quite keen to start using Instagram, so that I can do short little videos just to demystify some of the areas of the law that I work in. These are all plans that I have, and it’s just finding time to do them!
Do you find it hard to balance work and your free time?
I do, I’m very driven. I also live alone, and I’m single, so there’s no children running around, there’s nobody else vying for my attention on a daily basis. And it’s very easy as a driven independent worker to just keep, just keep going.
And in fact, I had a conversation with a nutritionist earlier today when we were discussing my stress levels, and how actually I need to get those under control, because they’re impacting me in ways that I perhaps haven’t appreciated.
So, I do need a better balance. I mean, one of the great things about working for yourself is that you can take time out in a day to do something. And I do a lot of fitness related things, but it does mean I’m often burning the candle at the beginning of the day, and at the end. And yes, more balance is needed.
There’s a bit of a feast or famine in my work, and since the beginning of the year, there has been a lot less famine, which is great. But I think a lot of service providers like me will say that it’s difficult to turn anything down. We don’t want to turn work away because it might be a great opportunity, it might be something that we’re really interested in, or we’re worried that a potential client might not come back to us. And so, we say yes.
And we find a way to get it all done. But it’s not sustainable long-term, that’s for sure
And finally, what does self-employment mean to you?
It means being able to play tennis in the middle of the day! More seriously, I’ve already mentioned flexibility, choice and control. And running a business the way I want to run it. I have some very strong ideas about what’s important, and I have very strong values.
As I mentioned, relationships are really fundamental to what I do, and I want to be able to offer a service in what I think is the best way. And being self-employed allows me to do that. So, everything I do is the way I want it, and that brings me professional satisfaction and enjoyment.
And then just that flexibility that actually I might want to take a whole month off. It’s all on my shoulders, and that’s a very, very positive thing. It has its downsides as well, but I suppose flexibility, control, choice and variety, that’s what self-employment is for me. And fun.
If you’d like to find out more about Kim Huggins and KLH Legal, you can visit the website, here.
If you’d like to share your own experiences or know someone who would make a great subject for a quick chat, then let us know via email.