Colin Campbell has been working in IT for over 40 years, and he's seen it all. From the early days of mainframes to the latest cloud-based technologies, Colin has been there and done it all.
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 her 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.
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.
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 you 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.
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.
More member journeys
Hilary Brown is a self-employed strategic project and programme manager with over 20 years of experience. She started out on her own in 2022 after many years operating in Governmental and public sector organisations.