1. Name? Frances Follin
2. Business name? Genesys Consultants Limited, t/a Genesys
3. Located in…? Chislehurst, South London
4. What do you do? Mainly editing but some publication production management, and last year I helped to curate a major art exhibition, wrote an essay for the catalogue and gave a couple of talks about it
5. When did you become ‘self-employed’? 1995. I was first in a partnership with two other people made redundant with me, which we turned into a limited company in 1997. By 2003 I was on my own, running the company (the other two were a lot older than I was and had retired by then)
6. What prompted you to make the ‘leap’? My whole department was made redundant and I was told by an agency that jobs at my level were very rare
7. Do you miss employment? Not much – when money is tight it tends to look attractive but not otherwise
8. In your personal experience, what’s the best thing about self-employment? Not having to get up at daft times because someone who is not as bright as I am thinks there is something sacred about 9.30am.
9. What’s surprised you most about working for yourself? That I like it so much. Also, that doing one thing well can give you opportunities to do something completely unrelated, which would be much less likely in an employed environment. For example, I landed a long-term freelance editing job because one of the two people involved in the decision admired my production skills and the other admired the way I had handled speakers at a conference.
10. What’s the best piece of advice you could give anyone else thinking of becoming self- employed? You have to be able to work alone and manage your finances. It isn’t for someone who needs ‘managing’ by others or whose money burns a hole in their pocket.
11. What’s the toughest aspect of self-employment? Coping with times when there is little or no work – very depressing, very worrying.
12. Did you know there are 4.8m self-employed people in the UK? Not exactly but I knew there were a lot of us
13. Does the Government do enough to support people like these? No
14. What do you think the Government could do to make it fairer? Stop trying to tax the legally self-employed as if they were in secure jobs. For people like me, instead of a tax on dividends they could charge us NI on the same basis as the self-employed, i.e. a lower rate than the employed, on money taken out of the company and not wanting to take employer’s NI as well as employee’s NI. This is why those of us who operate limited companies have to take our income in dividends. Why should we be treated as if we were ICI or BP? The new dividend tax means that all the money I pay in corporation tax no longer effectively counts as ‘my’ tax, and that affects gift aid schemes – I end up having to pay the tax on the gift aid!
15. Is being self-employed worth it? For the right person, yes.
16. Would you ever consider being an employee again? As I get older, I would consider a part-time, local job if winning business gets harder.
17. Have you ever considered ‘the next step’ becoming an employer – i.e. taking on staff? No – it’s not feasible for me, I don’t earn enough to pay someone else. It also involves a lot of responsibilities I just don’t want. Self-employment should increase your freedom, not reduce it.
18. What’s the biggest barrier to self-employment? You need a saleable skill and the right contacts to find a market – not everyone has these
19. Do you think schools should promote self-employment as a career option? I think that young people need to gain skills in employment before trying to become self-employed but schools could encourage them to think about professions with potential for self-employment, to steer young people in directions where they will have that option later.