Is interim management the route to a flexible career?

One of the main reasons I handed in my notice 12 years ago and set up as an interim can be summed up in one word – flexibility.  I didn’t have children so had no right to request flexible working.   I don’t think it would be overly critical to say the legal sector I worked in at the time was not as progressive as it could have been in this area.  It was a key consideration in making the move.    

Although time and sectors have moved on, being an interim could still be classed as the ultimate flexible life.  In the last Institute of Interim Managers Survey interims billed, on average, 156 days a year.  That wouldn’t constitute a full time ‘job’.  This might go some way to explain the numbers of female interims completing the survey going up from 15% in 2004 to 27% in 2018. 

One of the attractions of interim work is the ability to choose when to work.  I know female interims that don’t work in August or work reduced hours in the client office during school holidays or throughout the year.   It’s possible.  I had the summer off for the London Olympics; great timing. 

So is it truly possible to have a flexible life and be an interim?  I’d say yes.  I don’t want to paint an overly positive picture.   One option could be to take a part time, fixed term contract role – a way of getting part time hours and benefits too.  For interims whether day rate interims operating through a limited company or others I’d share the following:

  • Have a clear client strategy.  If you’re upfront with a client about being on site for less than five days a week, remember clients might choose another interim.  I’d recommend honesty. Use it as positive part of your sales pitch and a cost effective way to get the best bang for their bucks.

  • Manage your cash flow.  Running your micro business efficiently is the foundation of many things including flexibility.  Ensure your day rate covers your full business costs and enables you to be comfortable when you’re not working.

  • Build a strong network.  Great contacts – previous clients, supportive former colleagues, wonderful recruiters and people who can recommend you as a trusted service provider will help you.  Building trust quickly is critical to successful interim life.  If you have a head start by a personal recommendation or a recruiter championing you, it will make it easier for the client to buy your flexible offering.  Your network is also your support system – a must in my book for anyone working this way.

So yes, it’s possible to have a successful, flexible interim career.  It’s an opportunity and as Ralph Waldo Emerson says ‘Opportunity is missed by most people as it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.’

Sharon Green runs Chiara Consultancy, an HR interim, coaching and consultancy business helping clients change, innovate and maximise the power of their people.  She works on change projects from small scale to large scale transformations.  Sharon co-runs a Linked-In HR Interim Networking Group with over 440 members. https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharongreenchiara/