It's liberating to feel like I'm in control of my own work and future direction."

Helen Buckwell, founding director of Hidden Strengths Learning

How did you get into self-employment?

I made the jump! I was incredibly lucky that my previous employer, KPMG, was supportive of me doing some freelance work alongside my Head of Leadership Development role. Being able to do the two in parallel was hard work, but it enabled me to experiment and discover if I liked running my own business and whether I could make a go of it. In the end that answer was ‘yes’ to both!

What are the key responsibilities in your role?

Everything! That’s been one of the big shocks for year one. It’s not just the enjoyable client work, but the marketing, the PR, the business development, finances, the scheduling, the IT (well that last bit I delegate to my husband in truth, but everything else!).

Describe a typical day.

In a way, the joy is that there is no typical day – I get to do such a mix of meaningful work for great clients. That said, there are common patterns to my week. I have two young children so I also I want to be there for them. I choose to mainly work at home twice a week so I can do the school drop off and be with them after school. The other days are then client delivery and meetings.

Most weeks I do a mix of coaching sessions and facilitating workshops, combined with business development, and collaborating with other colleagues to design new offerings. In between I have to find time for the finance and administrative tasks too which I rarely do justice to.

In essence – it’s a real mix and it feels like everything makes a difference.

What skills are needed for this role?

Relationship building, communication and influencing, coaching, facilitation, project and finance management.

What challenges do you face in this role?

The biggest for me is lack of time (same for all of us I know) and putting boundaries around work – when to stop and trusting in my abilities. The other challenge is juggling the business development and PR elements which I need for the long term, with the immediate need to deliver high quality client work right now.

What keeps you motivated to go into work every day?

It’s liberating to feel like I’m in control of my own work and future direction. I’m very lucky to work with some wonderful people and so it’s enjoyable to collaborate with them all. I get to work with great clients and feel like I’m making a difference – be that at an individual, team or organisational level – and for me that’s amazing.

What advice would you give someone considering self-employment?

Plan, experiment, test new styles of working and your approach. Learn about yourself, be honest with yourself. What really motivates you?

Go for it!

Career guidance

Information and guidance to help you excel in your role, transition into the profession, and manage a career break

Callout Image

Take control of your career

Why work in the people profession?

Explore the many rewards of working in the people profession

Career options in the people profession

Explore career areas within the people profession, and the typical activities you may find yourself doing

Career guidance

Information and guidance to help you excel in your role, transition into the profession, and manage a career break

Getting in to the people profession

If you’re looking for a career in HR, L&D or any other aspect of the people profession, there’s a route that’ll suit you

Explore all our careers support