Pam Taylor

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From Risk-Averse to Self-Employed

Pam Taylor had a successful career in corporate project management, but she always dreamed of being self-employed. She was hesitant to make the leap, but when she was laid off, she decided it was now or never.

In this interview, Pam shares her journey to self-employment, including her biggest challenges and her best advice for others who are considering making the same move. She also talks about the importance of networking, finding your niche, and being prepared for the unexpected.

Read the first interview:

Can you introduce yourself?

I’m Pam Taylor. I’m based in Sandhurst, Berkshire, although I also work in London. I limit days in London to two days a week or less, or else it becomes too exhausting.


Could you tell us more about your business and what you do?

My business is called Taylored PMO Ltd. PMO stands for Project Management Office. I provide governance and assurance for projects and make sure that they run smoothly. Normally I deal with bigger companies, where they perhaps have a portfolio of projects running, and they want to make sure they’re all aligned with the company strategy, and working well together. 

You don’t want one project negatively impacting the benefits of another project. And so, what I do is make sure that projects are joined up and are aligned . I also help implement best practice in project management, making sure things are standardised across all the projects and programmes.

I also work on a strategic level with C-suit executives to make sure that the project portfolio aligns with the company’s strategic direction oftravel, and translate the information that’s coming out of the projects into information that can be used on a business level.

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Do you specialise in any particular industry?

My skills are transferable across different industries. But hiring managers tend to stick to candidates that have worked in a specific sector. Fortunately, for this first contract,  they’ve recognised that my skills are transferable. At the moment, I’m in the rail industry, although I’ve worked in water, and technology too.


How long have you been self-employed?

This is my first contract and it started in August 2022. It was an initial three-month contract which got extended by another three months.


What was your main reason to become self-employed?

It’s been my dream for a while now, to gain enough experience to go self-employed. You get exposure to different companies in a very short time. But I got to a point where I didn’t think it would happen because I am  very risk averse. I felt I would have a problem with not knowing when the next contract would be.

And then a voluntary redundancy offer made it a viable option and I thought it was going to be now or never. I’ve been surprised about how relaxed I feel when my contract comes to an end. I’m not panicky, I just ‘go with the flow,’ and I’m thinking this is not me!


Why do you think being self-employed has changed your outlook? Is there a clear reason?

I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve concluded that my confidence in my abilities has increased, and I can see, perhaps, how marketable I am. 

And also the feedback that I’ve received has encouraged me I think it’s just that my confidence has really improved.


What were your biggest worries about becoming self-employed?

My worry was that it would take a while to get my first contract. When I changed my status on LinkedIn to show that I was looking for work, I withheld that from my network because I felt it was like putting a sign outside your house that it’s for sale. And then people can see how long it takes to actually sell your house.

So I worried that it would take a while, and that would be embarrassing. And I needn’t have worried because took about three weeks from starting my search, to securing a contract.  It was amazing.


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How did you find your first client? And have you planned for finding future projects?

I looked through recruitment boards and applied to all the roles that looked interesting. And I’ve been told by countless people that it’s the hardest way to find a contract and it’s far more effective to use your network.

I did contact a few people in my network privately, and this contract came through my network. One of my previous associates was actively looking for jobs. She heard about this role but was not immediately available it so she referred me to it.

Little did I know that another ex-colleague referred the same recruiter to me. And so, by the time I rang her, she knew my name and was excited to hear from me.. And that’s how I got my first contract.


What is your plan to find your next contract? Are you starting already or waiting?

Because my current contract had been renewed once before, I get the idea that contract renewals are a last minute decision. So, I’m going to wait until a week before the end, before I start applying. 

And at that point, I might decide to take a month off to go on a holiday before I start looking again.


What do you like to do outside of work? How do you spend your spare time?

Outside of work, I do belly dancing. My class does performances at least twice a year. I also like going for walks. I’ve just found an app called All Trails and it shows walking trails around where I live.

I enjoy swimming as well; it clears my mind. I do that once a week. And I’ve just started Pilates as well.


If you had to pick a theme song for your self-employed career, what would it be?

I thought about this one a lot. There’s a song called Best Day of My Life by American Authors. I’m not saying that every day I’m self-employed is the best day of my life, but the song has very positive words of how it’s going to be. And I think that’s the theme. I want to think positive, and think about how wonderful the future could beAnd that keeps me going.


Do you have any heroes in life or business that you use as inspiration?

I’ve been listening to the Diary of a CEO. I really take inspiration from the podcasts. Although the title sounds like it might be business-related, each podcast deals withdifferent aspects of life and I take learnings from the experiences of the famous people he interviews. They often delve quite deep, so I take inspiration from that. 


What does your typical work day look like?

Days in the office are very different from the work from home days. At home I normally check my emails against diary planning. I have my ToDo list on OneNote and figure out what I’m going to do for the day. And then I just follow the plan.

Sometimes I go from meeting to meeting, sometimes I’m doing a project roadmap. And sometimes I can get caught up with somedetailed analysis, as well.

I don’t do mentally difficult taskswhen I’m in the office, because I get interrupted a lot. So, I do more client facing when I’m in the office.


Do you have any apps or websites bookmarked as essential to your work or life?

Not anything interesting to anyone else. I go onto the client’s SharePoint on a daily basis. We have a spreadsheet of who is in the office on which day, and also my programme director’s diary know if I can phone him if he’s not busy, or when I can put meetings in the diary.

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And has IPSE membership helped you start your self-employed career? How long have you been a member?

I probably joined IPSE in June. It was recommended to me by an accountant and it’s been super, super helpful. The Incubator emails have been really helpful, especially in the beginning.

And the big thing that it helped me with was understanding IR35. Something I also struggled with in the beginning was working out my day rate, and I did get some information from the IPSE website. And something else that was usefulwas a medical aid offer. I was just  thinking about that, so I’m really appreciative.


Read the second interview:

Thank you for joining us again, and has anything changed since we last talked, when you were working on your first contract?

In February, I’d just finished my first contract. And I got another contract pretty soon after, it was almost on the first day of my job search. They wanted me super urgently, and it extended and extended. So, I did that from March until the end of June.

And then I finished that contract and decided it’s the beginning of July, it’s holiday time, and made the decision to take time off because things were going to slow down anyway. 

I’ve had July and August off, and just before a holiday in Cornwall, I was contacted by someone I’d worked with before. This time, I hadn’t even started formally looking for contracts, when I’ve got something in place now. I’ve been delighted that I’ve been able to have the freedom to take the summer off, that I’ve had time to recover, and that someone has approached me.


With everything going so well, what would you say has been your biggest success?

I feel that I’m building a good brand and reputation for my work. People seem to like the high quality of work that I produce, and they like my personality. So, I think that’s a big success.


Have you had any new challenges or problems to overcome in the last six months?

On my last contract, one of the challenges was that the ‘hot’ things kept changing. Commercially in the business things were changing, things were being added to the project, and other elements were taken away, and that affected the timescales.

The challenge was to keep the focus on delivering the important things, and weighing up the best use of resources, being able to work together as a strong team and communicate with clients, and to prioritise. 

I’ve had to learn to cope with it. And also, to have the confidence that I do possess the skills to be able to cut through that.

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The answer is probably pretty obvious, but are you happy with the progress of your business so far?

Really, really happy. And I’m happy that I’m able to secure contracts in different sectors because that’s one of the things I wanted to do. I didn’t want to simply be stuck in, let’s say, the water industry, because that’s where I came from.

I’ve worked in rail, then social housing, and now my next contract is going to be in financial services. I’m really happy that people have been able to see and trust that I’m adaptable, and my skills are transferable. And I’d like to keep diversifying.


Has your typical work day and routine changed between different clients?

With the constant change at my previous contract, I had to be a bit more structured, having daily catch ups with lots of different people to make sure we were running quite tightly as a team. There was a lot more planning, foresight and working backwards from deadlines.

It’s not that I didn’t do it previously, but it was needed much more when things kept changing. They had to replan and be way more on top of it.


Between your work commitments and time off, have you found time for any new books or entertainment?

What I’ve discovered is that I haven’t had a lot of time to keep up with the news. So, while I’m getting ready in the morning, I’ve started watching a Sky News live stream on YouTube so I can keep up with what’s going on.


And have you discovered any new websites or services that have helped your work?

I did receive mail through the post saying that I could get a company credit card. The company is so young, it doesn’t have a credit score. And there wouldn’t be a credit check on the company for the card to help build up the score. So, I’ve used that as a new service.

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Are you still able to find time for hobbies, or catching up with friends and family?

I’ve definitely been spending time with friends and family going to the beach. And I’m trying to get back into my exercise regime, and I know that will help remove stress. I like swimming, Pilates, and cycling off-road, away from cars.


And have you found any new benefits or support from your IPSE membership?

I’ve started creating my member profile. And I’m hoping that will help me network with other PMO consultants


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