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Cinderella freelancers can find it tough working on their own

Being a freelancer means being your own boss, but it can also be tough out there on your own.

Freelancers are the Cinderellas of the profession. They may be able to choose how, when and where they work, but they have no security, little support and less access to regular training and refresher sessions than their salon-based opposite numbers.

Caroline McCarthy is a freelancer based in the Derby area. She originally trained and worked with Headmasters in her native Lancashire. But the lure of travel saw her take off around the world in her 20s working as cabin crew for Thomas Cook. “I had brilliant fun,” says Caroline, “and I learnt all about delivering a high quality of service, safety and customer care.”

In the years of her work in the travel business, she never lost her enthusiasm for working with hair, “I always had my scissors in my pocket, and I would cut the hair of friends and family in my spare time.” So when her children came along and travelling became more of a challenge than a pleasure, Caroline chose to hand back her oxygen mask and life jacket and return to her original profession.

She went back to college to get her NVQ Level 3: “Fashions have changed a lot since I first started working, and it’s much more technical now. So going back to college gave me the confidence to work with the latest products and styles.”

After gaining her qualification, Caroline decided to set up as a freelance: “I wanted to be my own boss, and have the flexibility to manage my work/life balance” she says. Being freelance also gives her the freedom to tailor the style to the person, rather than impose a branded ‘look’: “My aim is to be as creative and professional as possible, and I love making people feel good about themselves.”

But there are downsides to being a freelance. Caroline admits it can be a struggle being on your own and competing with the high street salons: ”I do think we’re regarded as having a lesser status in the profession. I work hard to stay up to date by going to local training sessions and watching demonstrations on MyHairDressers.com, but there are still those who think we’re just second best”.

The fragility of the freelance sector was underlined when the Freelance Hair and Beauty Association (FHBA) went into liquidation. In response, a new Freelance Hairdressers’ Association (FHA) has now been launched. Sheila Abrahams, who founded the original FHBA, says “the new FHA will be working to ensure that professional freelance operators continue to have representation within the industry. The FHA will maintain standards, promote training and personal development and provide help and support for members in both hairdressing and beauty.”

If you’re a freelance like Caroline, do let us know what it’s like to be out there on your own. Do you sometimes feel you’re treated as ‘second best’ in the profession? Any tips for your colleagues? Will you be joining the new FHA? Just let us know.