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Real Talk – Jonathan Andrew on commitment

If there’s one thing that concerns Jonathan Andrew about the rising numbers of freelancing is the superficial understanding of the term. We asked him to elaborate…

There’s obviously been a rise of freelancing and self-employment, but I think a lot of people who want to do it don’t fully understand what it is; they think they can work in the salon and just have the benefits of being self-employed. It’s massively scary because the salon isn’t obliged to provide the same security for freelancers. I went fully freelance and took away all of my safety nets with an eleven-week-old baby – I did it in the scariest scenario you can imagine. My wife was probably terrified, I was terrified but put on a brave face. I said, “Give me a year, so that I can see what I can do.” And in the 11th month I signed my deal to be a global ambassador with Fudge.

Just going ‘self-employed’ isn’t the same; there’s no sick pay, there’s no holiday pay, and the same things are expected of you. If you suddenly announce you’re self-employed but still work in the salon, they’re still going to expect you to be in there first thing in the morning. You’re still going to have to book your holidays in because you’ve got clients. It’s not what people think it is. A lot of people have done it well, and successfully, and if you look at the people who have really made an impact when making that choice – people like Ky Wilson, Luke Benson – they’ve gone out and been session stylists, or opened freelance salons and rent-a-chair spaces; they’ve done all of those things within that field, fully understanding the commitment it takes.

The risk is there and the reward is there, if you do it for the right reason and you understand why you’re doing it. I didn’t do this with my eyes totally shut; I’ve worked with other brands and done some educating and travelling with VIP clients. There was enough of a safety net – not that much, I was still scared, I still had to do a lot and work round every instance of it. It was probably the toughest year of my life, and I openly admit that, both financially and stressfully, with a family to provide for… but at the same time it’s probably been the best year of my career.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was from of my clients. He’s an incredibly wealthy man, a self-made guy, and he once said “I’ll give you one piece of advice – when I was young I went out and bought a Porsche that I couldn’t afford. The scary thing is that you know you can’t afford it, but it gets you out of bed every day to make the payments.” That’s always stuck with me – you have to have some ambition, and some commitment to make it work. If you’re comfortable working in a salon then there is going to be zero hunger, and nothing is going to be any different. I promise you this, when it gets to January and you do your tax bill it’s a very big wake-up call – it’s all fun and games until you have to give the money back. The taxman’s not going to feel for you, understand you’re bad at maths, say ‘don’t worry, we’ll sort it out next year’.

There’s a reason they say the only two things guaranteed in life are death and taxes – and you need to be damn sure you get it right. I’ve enjoyed every minute of the success of it, and I’ve hated every minute of the worry of it… but for me, it was worth it. So I can’t sit here and say ‘don’t do it.’ I would recommend to anyone to do it, as long as they do it for the right reasons and they understand what’s required. When you are your own boss, there’s no-one there to give you a cuddle or fix it for you. If you’re in a salon and have a bad month, bosses will help you out. When you’re on your own – regardless of all the other people you have around you – you still have to account for your own actions. People seem to think the safety nets will still be there, and that people will still give you the same level of support, because ultimately they don’t think things will be any different, it’s just a way to get more money and work less. When actually you often have to work more for less money, because you have to take the jobs.