How to become a freelance health, safety and environment consultant
As a health, safety and environment (HSE) professional, working in an office or organisation offers a sense of security. In contrast, working in a freelance or consultancy capacity can be challenging since no workday is the same.
While HSE consulting isn’t a job for everyone, you can offer your knowledge and expertise to client organisations of various sizes and types.
Here are the steps you need to take to become a freelance health, safety and environment consultant, as told by Principal People.
What do consultants provide?
Aside from giving advice and guidance to clients, they can also:
- Provide support to clients’ in-house health and safety (H&S) departments.
- Come up with suitable solutions that will help their clients in the workplace.
Why would business organisations prefer ‘outsiders’ instead of hiring an in-house HSE officer?
Typically, freelancers are more objective when looking at the client’s situation. They are not involved with company politics. Instead, their only agenda is to provide service to keep the client’s workplace safe and efficient.
What are your career prospects?
Typically, in-house HSE officers build their careers working with one organisation. You may think that consultants would have trouble developing their careers because they work with changing issues and various clients. However, HSE consultants believe that working with one company alone limits their experience. By working with multiple companies and situations, freelancers acquire far more skills than if they were employed.
As a consultant, you’ll have the opportunity to work with various companies/industries and deal with:
- Serious safety issues and incidents.
The wealth of information that consultants collect also allows them to provide valuable advice to the client when dealing with extreme situations.
What are the benefits?
There are many benefits to becoming a freelance HSE professional:
- Managing your own workday
- Building professional relationships and networks
- Helping create clients’ safety policies
- Sitting in on clients’ H&S boards/committees
- Helping set up policies from the ground up
What are the disadvantages?
There are also various disadvantages in being a freelance HSE professional. Here are some of them:
1. Don’t assume that you’re making money if your freelance income is the same as when you were employed. To succeed as a consultant, compare your hourly or project rate for one year with your:
- Previous salary
- Benefits such as sick leave and health insurance
- Holiday time
Also, consider the expenses you incurred in running your business.
2. There are no established rules on how much money you should make as a freelancer versus as an employee. It will depend on various factors, such as industry standards. Typically, freelancers should make more than twice their previous employee salary.
3. You have more things to do. Since you’re a freelancer, expect to do other business activities you didn’t do as an employee. In addition to completing the work that you were hired to do, you’ll also need to do administrative work such as:
You’ll also have to carry out advertising, marketing and the selling of your services. These activities can take between seven to ten hours every week. However, you can’t directly bill them to any client.
Where to find clients
If you’re still new to HSE freelancing, you can make ‘cold calls’ or send emails to prospective clients. You can also consider getting help from recruiters.
Work as an independent or as a group?
As a consultant, you need to be self-motivated and capable of working independently. You’ll also often work with short-term contracts on an hourly or daily rate. With such pay arrangements, you’ll need to:
- Market your skills and services
- Maintain and develop your services
- Take care of the administrative side of your consultancy
Since you’re a freelancer, consider setting up contingencies for events such as:
- Getting sick
- Feeling stressed
- Taking care of finances when in-between contracts
- Administrative support
These are the various issues you need to deal with if you’re working alone. Meanwhile, working as a group of HSE consultants has its advantages. You can work with other professionals with various levels of skill and experience. If needed, you can ask for their help. You also have the opportunity to develop your career within the group. With the right colleagues, you not only maintain your professional skills but also further improve your expertise.
HSE freelancers find consultancy to be both a challenging and a liberating experience. You can build your career, but only through hard work and expertise. However, knowledge alone isn’t enough. You need people skills, such as being tactful and diplomatic. You’ll need these abilities when talking about sensitive issues with managers about their organisation.