Play it safe
“I advise companies on what they need to do to comply with health and safety laws,” says Sean Conry, a health and safety advisor. “These are the laws that apply to businesses to protect staff and members of the public, and I’ve been working freelance for 15 years now.
“I used to work for BT – for 13 years – and I think I would have shot myself in the buttock if I’d had to do another 13 years! BT was a pretty good employer – there was a good benefits package, and salary and conditions – but I was 38 and I thought, ‘There’s no way I can stick this for another umpteen years’.
“Why? Well, in terms of progression, there were only two other positions I could have gone into at BT in that field, so it was really a case of dead man’s shoes. Also, I found myself arguing all the time – big businesses have their own culture and all the nonsense that goes on was challenging. I’ve nothing against BT – I’d just had enough.
“So, I definitely wanted out and it was a case of, once I was out, what to do. I spoke to my wife about opening a hairdressing salon, because she used to be a hairdresser. She said, ‘Don’t be stupid, nobody makes money hairdressing!’ So I thought, what do I know?
“I advertised in the Yellow Pages. It took about five years for word of mouth to really work and now 70-80% of my business is through that route. I had one big client in 1999 and I could probably draw a family tree that would show about half my work is related to them.
“I work for small companies generally but I do have one large client – I’m retained by Bonham’s. St Paul’s Cathedral, Friends of the Earth and the Independent newspaper have all been clients. Typically, though, my client will be a smallish building company that has to satisfy various criteria in a tender for work.
“I had a bad two or three years when the Independent merged with another newspaper group and I lost about 25% of my business, but this last year has been as good as I’ve had it, so business is good!”
Sean can be reached through www.seanconry.com
By Liz Granirer