Q. I have a couple of sideline businesses that are mildly successful but nowhere near profitable enough for me to pack in the day job. I would like to find something more flexible so I can manage my time better. Which jobs offer completely flexible hours?
A. First, seek advice about your sideline businesses to see if you can develop them into full-time activities. Then you won't need to bother about a further flexible job. Business Link (www.businesslink.gov.uk) offers free business advice and help with marketing and legal matters, and can pinpoint sources of funding. This would be logical, as it seems that you might like to run your own business in the long term. Are there other businesses you could run alongside your current activities that would be a logical extension of them – for example, graphic design – and that could offer printing services? Are there ways of using your home – running a bed and breakfast, perhaps, although the hours aren't so flexible. Cobweb (www.cobwebinfo.com) has profiles on different business opportunities. Flexible working for an employer can be trickier – sales and market research spring most readily to mind, but you may need the right background, and the salary could depend on commission or piece work. There is work in gathering memberships for charities or persuading people to sign up for regular donations, delivering phone directories or mail order shopping, but they may not bring in the income you want. Homeworking UK (www.homeworkinguk.com) and Homeworking (www.homeworking.com) have ideas for working from home, mostly from the self-employment angle, but they might give you inspiration.
Q. I'm interested in training as an assessor for the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) in Brussels. How useful would this qualification be? I am currently studying for an MBA specialising in strategic quality management and supply chain management.
A. The EFQM award is a well-established benchmark for good business practice. It is given after a stringent audit, usually carried out by accredited assessors, although there are opportunities to work alone. Each organisation is scored against specific criteria such as people development and corporate social responsibility. To become an assessor you need to have experience of working in business, before taking an intensive short course. This lasts two to three days, plus the same amount of time on preparation and "homework" based round practical scenarios. It's possible to specialise in private or public sector organisations. Obtaining the EFQM assessors award would certainly be a selling point at interview. It would entitle you to carry out audits and the training would give you skills and knowledge that could be used in any business context. The cost of the assessor qualification would be relatively low: it varies according to the provider, but £1,000 is typical. If you go down this route, make sure you register with a properly accredited course. Assessing is unlikely to be a full-time job – think of it as another string to your bow. Typically you would use it as part of a raft of training and consultancy skills: the majority of EFQM assessors operate on a contract or freelance basis and do it as part of a portfolio of activities. www.efqm.org is a good starting point for your research.
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