Julie* has been an insurance broker for fifteen years, and three years ago she decided to work for herself. Since then she’s been gently seduced by the freedoms of working for herself.
“I was very good to begin with, I used to work from my office in the City. I’d go in and do a normal working day and then I thought I can be a little bit flexible with my time."
"Then I got a puppy.”
“I thought, I can walk him at lunch time and I can leave a bit early and do a bit of work from home and what not. Of course the reality is that it takes masses of time. Lunch times would be two and a half hours when he was a little.”
“I thought, well, I’ll work from home whilst he is young, but I’ve never gone back to the office!”
“I think probably it would have been better for the business if I hadn’t got a dog and started working from home, because I was on the verge of taking on an employee and starting to grow. But I didn’t because I lost my biggest client, they went into liquidation, at the time of that big credit crunch."
"My husband works in the City and I thought, what if I stretch myself to the limit and he gets made redundant?”
Working at home, she doesn’t feel isolated. “I go and visit clients from time to time. It’s quite a sociable business to be in because you need to know the underwriters, you need to speak to them regularly and have lunch with them and go and get drinks and stuff so I don’t get too lonely.”
"I love speaking to clients, I love speaking to underwriters. I like doing deals, I like giving a good service. And it’s a very good income for a part time job.”
“And having a dog I get out and meet people. But there is something about office banter which is quite fun, it’s very sociable working in an office and you got out for lunch occasionally and you have a drink after work if you’ve had a bad day and have chat with someone who is in the same business so that was quite nice.”
Accounting, I absolutely hate it with a vengeance
Julie’s least favourite thing is admin, and in her business admin is quite a big deal. “It’s a regulated business so compliance is tedious beyond words. Accounting, I absolutely hate it with a vengeance and ordering stationary and all of that sort of stuff – I don’t need very much but it’s just all of those tasks which you’ve never had to worry about before. Everything is down to me.”
And her Achilles heel is marketing. “Well I have been very lazy with marketing! I’ve got a book of business, and I react to everything that needs doing, and I deal with all of the renewals and stuff, but somehow I never quite have time for new business. I need to be more disciplined definitely.”
“I do lose clients from time to time. I mean one went into liquidation earlier this year. So even if I give really good service, people are really happy with me, and they stay with me for a long time, there will still be losses that are out of my control.”
It is actually quite nice running the home and being a sort of house wife
Working for herself, Julie’s motivation needs to come from within. “I do tend to be a bit lazy. There is no-one questioning what I do. It’s very easy to just not bother with stuff that doesn’t need to be done. When I’m stuck in an office I do work all of the time. Being at home I’ll tend to think, I need to dust, I’ll just put some washing on.”
But overall it sounds to me as if she has found a perfect balance.
“I earn a lot less but I do work far fewer hours, probably only about three hours a day. I think my husband would prefer me to do a little bit more!"
“I do quite like looking after the house. I’ve had fifteen years of working in the City. When you both work long hours there is no one to take deliveries, you have to have a cleaner when you are not here and she is always breaking things, she never does things how you’d want them to be done."
"It is actually quite nice running the home and being a sort of house wife. I prefer it like this I think.”
*"Julie" prefers not to be identified in this interview