What steps should I take to become an interim manager?

Welcome to our second column for interim managers, both new, old and those contemplating a move to interim management.

In our first column, we talked about becoming an interim manager – what interim management is, the benefits (and drawbacks) of interim management, what drives people towards this career choice, and what it takes to succeed as an interim manager.

This time we’re going to give some advice on taking the first steps towards building your career as an interim manager. Prior to that, we’ve talked to some of our interim managers about how they started, and what they felt were the best/worst things about being an interim manager.

From our experiences as an interim agency, we know that redundancy (real or just the threat of) can influence a move to interim work; our interims also cited some interesting levers into the world of interim management:

“My local government career had stagnated. With the cuts over the past few years, my role had changed to be “everything to everyone” to deliver the service (CYP). We had an interim manager join us for 8 months, and when she left, I realised that that was the type of work I wanted to do, where my skills could be focused rather than spread over a wide range, with no clear direction. Interim work allows me to specialise in my preferred area of work. I doubt I’d get this opportunity in local government elsewhere, and I don’t regret leaving my full-time, salaried post. Even though some of my colleagues thought I was slightly barking to do so!”

“I wanted to be able to FINISH a project, rather than facilitate on-going projects for evermore….I wanted to see an outcome, and interim work allows me to do this: I go in, do the project, do the follow-up, and leave. I get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing the project through from start to finish.”

“I worked in the private sector, for a large conglomerate. I was sent from one office to another to carry out ad hoc projects, and found I was very good at this. But the constant moving from one end of the country to another, with no say from me in the location, was detrimental to my family life. By moving into interim management I could pick and choose the projects and therefore the location. I also get to work in the private and public sector, and although I still move around for work, it’s my choice as to when and where. Wouldn’t change back to full time work now if you paid me twice over.”

When we asked what was good and bad about interim management, our interims had some interesting replies and hints for others:

The Good...

  • The financial benefits – larger day rate than my old salaried post.
  • Freedom to pick and choose assignments.
  • Variety of work.
  • Knowing it’s just for a set time.
  • Great job satisfaction seeing projects finish and be taken up by the employer.
  • Variety of people you get to work with.
  • Learn a lot on assignments.
  • Take holidays whenever I want.

The Bad...

  • Sorting out the finances – get yourself an accountant from the outset, and keep all your receipts. I mean ALL.
  • Lack of economic certainty in an economic downturn.
  • Need to keep up to date in many areas of legislation.
  • Knowing it’s just for a set time – can be a bad thing too.
  • Not knowing what happens in the future – what were the longer-term outcomes of my input?
  • Not being part of any one organisation – sometimes forever an outsider (though not everyone cares about this!).
  • Need for own development is in my own hands, and I need to make sure this happens without an employer providing this for me.
  • All holidays are unpaid, and I am not earning money whilst on holiday.


First Steps

When you’ve decided to become an interim manager, knowing that this is a lifestyle change, there are some things which you need to consider and act upon as you start in your new career. Needless to say, your financial (and associated tax payer) set-up is one of the most important, but there are other aspects to becoming an interim manager that you need to carefully consider as you start out.

Limited company or self-employed?

Firstly, when you become an interim manager, you have a few options as to how you present your services to the client; the main options being as a limited company (a personal services company, or “PSC”); or being self-employed.

There are different tax and regulatory implications for each, plus other areas that would need to be followed under business law, and you’d need to consider which of the options is best for you and maybe your wider family.

The vast majority of interims, however, opt to become a limited company; indeed you may find that your options for assignments are limited if you do not do so (some clients will not hire interims who are not limited companies, as they do not have the protection offered by a limited company).

Setting up as a limited company is quick, (relatively) inexpensive, and straightforward. You will find a lot of information on-line, including from HMRC, however we would strongly recommend you find a professional advisor to assist you in setting up in your new career – this also applies to further financial arrangements you will have to set up and follow, eg tax, insurance, etc; also legal responsibilities connected with your set-up; and you’ll have to also consider offering professional indemnity insurance, which some clients will require.

Don’t be daunted by the need to set up as a company or as self-employed, nor with the associated financial/tax/legal implications. A good advisor will be able to assist you for a fee; there shouldn’t be too much work involved once the business is set up and running.

Remember that within the financial arrangements, you need to decide on how much you will charge. Interim managers are paid a day rate, payable directly by the client if negotiated direct, or via the agency if working through a service provider (ie agency). In the latter case, the agency will determine the day rate with the client, taking a proportion of the rate as their fee. This should not affect your day rate. We’ll be talking further about setting your day rate in our next column, along with choosing and using an agency.

Handling admin

Aligned to setting yourself up as a business is the need for administration. Remember, you are now a business, and you will need to ensure you have support in all areas of administration which a business produces – reports, tenders, marketing, invoices, banking, accounts. If you are not in a position to undertake the varying support systems yourself, you should ensure you have admin support in place. It is unlikely this would be onerous, and employing a PA or VPA (virtual PA) for a set number of hours per month should keep admin in place and up to date. You don’t want to be sending out invoices (or chasing for payment!) when you come home from your assignments!

Market yourself

Secondly, think through what you’re offering. You’ll need to market yourself, and as such you need to define what your services are – be clear about what you bring as an interim manager (your experience and expertise), along with proof, such as testimonials/referees/examples of previous work undertaken. When looking for an interim manager, few organisations seek a jack-of-all-trades, so ensure you highlight your specialty/expertise.

This, of course, results in the production of your CV. You’ll need to make sure that this highlights your expertise/specialism(s), gives an honest account of your previous experience and outcomes, as well as a brief overview of your career trajectory to date. You may want to seek specialist assistance when putting this together, as not many of us can produce a highly relevant CV to the professional level required in the booming interim manager market.

There are companies and individuals out there who will assist you in putting together your CV; if you sign up to an Interim Agency, they should be able to recommend various options for you. For example, the Interim Agency arm of Osborne Thomas recommends Richmond Solutions to new (and sometimes, dare we say, slightly “jaded”) interim managers in the provision of CVs, either to produce from scratch or to update/revive. Otherwise, you may find a company via networks, word of mouth, or a websearch. And our hint here would be to make sure you keep your CV up to date, refreshing it on a regular basis. You’d be surprised – or maybe not! – how many interim managers submit outdated CVs with irrelevant experience.

You then need to market yourself. Firstly, you may want to consider a website to showcase your services. If so, get a professional to create one for you, with the option of being able to update the text/images yourself over time.

Ensure that the text is proof-read, and the site is user friendly – it’s better to have a site which users can read than to overload a site with whizz-bang images! A four or five page website, professionally created and with your own URL, is relatively cheap – ask around for recommendations. You’ll find it invaluable to link to your site though social media (eg Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook), and it also removes the need for printed brochures or “leave behinds” at meetings, as your website will be on your business card. On that note, don’t forget to get business cards – you can produce these yourself on-line with various companies, again at a very reasonable rate. If you have a logo (image or font-based) produced for your website, you can incorporate this into your business card and any further business stationery.

A further route to market is to sign up with Interim Agencies (service providers) – companies which act as conduits for organisations to find and hire interim managers. The agencies charge a fee to the client, but NOT to interims. If you are asked for a fee to join an agency, decline to join. It’s illegal, no matter what the agency representative says! And you can sign up to as many agencies as you see fit/appropriate.

This covers the initial stages of starting as an interim manager – get your company set up (whichever type your choose); get your financial and administration requirements in place; produce your CV and start to market yourself, and think about signing up with an interim service provider.

We’ve only touched on each of these, in all cases there is a wealth of information online; you may also want to look at specific sites such as the Institute of Interim Management for further in-depth information; they are the “professional body” for interim managers, run by interim managers for interim managers, and the site is well worth a visit for newcomers to interim management. We can also provide further information, just email us or call us on 0203 280 3671.

In our next column, we’re going into further detail on marketing your services as an interim manager, including using social media, networking, and the use of interim agencies. In the meantime, please do get in touch with us if you’ve any queries or feedback – talktous@osbornethomas.org or phone 0203 280 3671.

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