Nitisha Patel: Moving from a Permanent Position into Contracting
Image: Mr Ladd Media
We sat down with professional chef and author of ‘My Modern Indian Kitchen’ Nitisha Patel, to discuss why she decided to move from permanent roles and into contracting.
Q: What made you want to move from permanent employment into the interim world?
I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial from a young age, ever since I graduated in 2011, I always had high hopes of doing something for myself but didn’t really pinpoint exactly what that was. In 2016, after 5 years of working full time in the new product development industry for large food manufacturing companies, I was hungrier than ever to revisit my ambitions to do something for myself.
At this point in my career I was doing well, I had worked for two of the UK’s largest food manufacturers and had carved a successful reputation for myself within those companies, however, having won sizeable business contracts for both of those companies, I was left feeling rather empty.
I wanted to focus on a project for myself and accomplish something to be proud of. That’s when the idea of a recipe book came to me. I was developing recipes for corporate companies, why not for myself?
In March 2017 I became a published author and launched my first cookery book, My Modern Indian Kitchen. As soon as my book launched, I was inundated with radio and TV interview requests, my social media following grew and lots of independent food business reached out requiring consulting on their food offering.
After researching and speaking to some of my contacts I decided to take the leap into the interim world. The thought of leaving a full time job was really scary, but the prospect of being able to work in the NPD industry whilst also being able to develop my own brand at the same time was twice as enticing
Q: How have you found the transition from permanent to interim?
Looking back at my last day in full time employment, I remember handing back my company car, my company laptop and my company phone. I was living with my parents and had no car, no laptop and no savings. I also had no contract to go into at this point, but I still had my monthly outgoings which weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
I remember waking up on a mid-June morning in 2017, my first day of being my own boss and thinking ‘what have you just done?’.
For the weeks and months that followed, I must have rung 20-30 recruiters a day desperately seeking a contract.
I didn’t land a big contract until October that year, I did have small bits of freelance work here and there keeping me afloat (just about), but for those 4 months of uncertainty I had to make a decision, do I stick to my guns or do I swallow my pride and go back to make a company thousands of pounds?
I’ll admit, it was a reckless decision and I was in a real sticky situation, but to be honest I don’t think I would have ever had the motivation to make it work unless I was in that situation. My ‘rock bottom’ situation gave me the drive to change things around and make things happen.
Landing a contract in October 2017 was the lifeline I needed, and I was determined to give the contract my all.
Putting my financial situation aside, I actually really enjoyed the transition from permanent to interim, after leaving a permanent role, I had 4 months to find myself and focus on my goals, I read books, I watched YouTube videos on entrepreneurship for hours on end, I networked like there was no tomorrow, I grew my social media following, I well and truly made use of the time I had available.
Q: From a financial point of view, what have been the biggest challenges you have faced?
I would say that not having a constant stream of income will always be my biggest challenge. The interim world is a huge gamble as you never know when you will land your next contract, but you always need to have funds available to cover any up-front expenses for the next contract.
Another challenge that I have personally experienced whilst making this leap, is not having much knowledge regarding the accounts side of things. Being a VAT registered business, means having to complete a lot more admin and paperwork. I have had to get an accountant on board to look after my books because it’s not one of my strongest qualities.
Q: Would you recommend taking the leap from permanent to interim and why?
I regret absolutely nothing about my decision, and for anyone else who also has a hunger to do something for themselves, I would very much recommend taking the leap from permanent to interim. Nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction you get when you go into a new business for a short period of time and end up making a difference. To be told that I have made a difference and hit the ground running means the world to me.
Q: What challenges did you find when starting out as an interim from an accounting perspective?
Not being overly knowledgeable was definitely the biggest challenge, as well having to get up to speed very quickly.
Q: Is there any advice you would give to interim/contractors/freelancers looking to move into their contract position?
Since going interim, I have had quite a few people reach out, some of which aren’t even from the food industry, who are looking to go freelance and need some advice. The first thing I always say is be prepared. Be prepared for being out of work for 6 months, you never know when you will land a contract and not having an income can affect you in so many ways.
The second piece of advice I give, is to network, not only online but in person too, go to events and sell yourself in person, tell people what you do, make an impact, be memorable.