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Jenna Brace was working as a barrister’s clerk when she had her first child. She took just 10 weeks’ maternity leave as she was keen to get back to the office. “I got a real buzz from the work,” she says.
She says she gets a similar buzz from her new business as a recruitment agent, working for herself using a new software system.
Jenna’s career trajectory, like that of many working mums, has not been straightforward. She had to leave her legal job after six years when the company split in two. She was offered the chance of relocating with the company but on a lower salary. She left and started to retrain as a teacher, but it was hard with a young child.
After having her second child, she had a car accident which damaged her back. She started working from home 12 hours a week doing sales calls for a recruitment firm, but the money was less than she had been promised so she found a job in an IT recruitment company. Her back pain got worse and worse, though, and she had to leave after three months.
She was planning to go back to the homeworking job, but the IT company was contacted by Sonovate, a company offering recruitment software to homeworkers. A colleague recommended her. She researched the company thoroughly and decided to go for it, setting up as a recruitment agent specialising in manufacturing. She hopes to eventually specialise further and work only on mechanical engineering.
Jenna, who lives in Barry in Wales, says working for herself from home has been the perfect solution for her. “When I was at the IT recruitment firm I was paying £900 in childcare a month and only earning £1,100 and was also paying out for the train fare. It didn’t seem worth it,” she says. Now she has set up her own recruitment business using Sonovate’s software package which includes administrative support, computer systems and access to different jobs boards at a reduced cost.
Being her own boss means she can work around the children, who are now aged six and two. She interviews clients in the mornings when she has no children around and then, depending on the role, does some calls to candidates later in the day. If the children make a noise she just says she is working from home. Her partner, who works shifts, is around some of the time to look after the children too.
“It means I can pick up the children and go to the park in the afternoon if I want to and then do interviews later on in the day which candidates often prefer because they are working during the day. I am tailoring what I do to my own needs and it fits well with the job I am doing,” she says.
The job also means she can lie down or on the sofa if her back is playing up.
She started up the business – ES Recruiting – in March, but says her personal life has been fairly hectic ever since as her father had a heart attack and she is also preparing to get married in September. “I had to take a month off for my dad, but because I don’t have to pay fees to Sonovate [www.sonovate.com] this year there were no big overheads involved,” she says. “In a big corporation I could not have taken a month out.”
She has big plans for developing the business in the future, however, and talks with real enthusiasm about the benefits of working for herself. “It means I can earn around £4,000 for a placement. I have to pay around 25% of that to Sonovate, but most similar companies that do home recruitment expect a larger percentage. Some want 50% plus if you work in a company you only get a small percentage of placements as commission,” she says.
From next year she will have to pay a monthly handling fee to use the IT system, but she says that by then she anticipates having built up the business so that she hardly notices the fee.
She also finds that she can deliver a more personalised service to clients than when she was working in a recruitment firm and had to send out a certain number of cvs to recruiters. “Companies don’t want cvs. They want a more personal service, “ says Jenna. “I only send them what they want. If I only have three good candidates I will only send those details. I have only had two cvs that I have sent out which have not resulted in a callback. I am hoping that by working in this way I will build up a greater sense of trust.”
She adds: “My focus this year has been on my family, but I have written my business development plans and I have big plans for growing the business while balancing it with my family’s needs.”
Over the summer holidays that includes trips to the beach where she can work on her smartphone while the kids build sandcastles. “I would not be able to do that if I was working for a corporate,” she says. “I don’t think I would go back to that life now.”