“Is it worth setting up by myself as a trainer / consultant?”

Aside from the seemingly obvious attraction of freedom and independence, what are the real pros and cons of becoming an independent?  After more than 20 years since setting up my own language and communications training consultancy, I’ve had time to reflect and I think there are a number of factors you should consider before taking the leap.

Benefits of being independent

  • You get to work with who you want, not who you have to work with and you can be exempt from office politics
  • You can develop your own flexible working pattern
  • There are amazing opportunities for personal and professional growth through new projects which might not come your way if you were in a fixed role
  • You constantly meet new, interesting and often inspiring people
  • There are greater possibilities for travel (depending on your personal circumstances)
  • A strong sense of pride that you are achieving your goals through your own efforts. (I never tire of issuing my own invoices!)
  • You pay less National Insurance if you are self-employed!

Potential difficulties

But there are some pitfalls too, some of which I had not anticipated:

  • You have no secure income like a salary and income can be “feast or famine” so you must be able to handle insecurity
  • Similarly, there isn’t always a fixed pattern to work flow; this can never be predicted and you need to accept this
  • You are never part of a team, always an outsider, as your relationship with colleagues is usually temporary and as a result, you may sometimes feel lonely
  • You may be considered a threat by those who resent your involvement, especially if they are not performing well
  • You can only be successful if you are given the full support of senior management and if this is visible within the organisation
  • There is no holiday pay, pension contributions or other possible company perks

My advice

But if you still want to set up by yourself as a trainer/consultant, here are some other pearls of wisdom that I would like to share:

  • It’s important to be flexible and open minded to new people and new possibilities, even if these don’t conform to your expectations
  • Never burn any bridges. You never know where and when people you’ve worked with will turn up again
  • Always be discreet. As an outsider, people will confide their secrets and problems to you and you may uncover sensitive company information
  • Aim to be objective and diplomatic to avoid getting drawn into issues that are not relevant to your brief. You need to have a thick skin
  • Don’t try to force chemistry with potential clients if it not there. Move on
  • With those who feel threatened by you, strive to make them look good internally to secure their buy-in
  • Aim to secure a retainer contract with a regular client in order to achieve some degree of financial security
  • Be active on LinkedIn, illustrating your real achievements, especially if you don’t have a website. New clients have found me here!
  • Ensure you continue to pay your National Insurance contributions and your self-employed tax obligations

And finally, believe in yourself, your skills and abilities and I wish you good luck!

Barbara Wilmot, a CELTA qualified English trainer who was born and raised in Zimbabwe, has more than 20 years’ corporate experience in the UK and Europe. Until 2001, Barbara developed commercial opportunities and people skills for a global research group.  Since then, she has worked for a multitude of companies and industry organisations and has trained providers and individuals, delivering a wide range of courses though her language and communications training consultancy. She speaks French and Italian and has always had interest in languages and her main focus is working with senior level executives.  Clients have included a European Union Judge, the Head of the Swedish Crime Authority, Head of Business Banking for Credit Suisse, Danish and Angolan politicians and the Senior Economic Advisor to the government of Dubai. 


Image: Collage of photos from museums in Chicago and Manchester