In 2013 Michael Watson an experienced Independent Social Worker approached us to help him market his new book “How To Represent Yourself in Family Court” and his coaching work.
We were able to work with him on making a website and launching his book and associated products which is part of his growing business Family Court Coaching
Michael is an example of why the term “independent social worker” is not what it seems.
Most Social Workers who say they are independent are not really, they work for someone else; be it a local authority or a recruitment company.
They trade their time for pay and with some legal safeguards for their actions bought through subscriptions to BASW or the equivalent they offer skills taught and learned for a contract of work. Sometimes these contracts are long and sometimes they are short. Sometimes payment is regular and sometimes payment takes a little while to kick in due to purchase order issues.
In 2012 the Guardian published an article called “Should you set up as an independent social worker?” It gave statistics from BASW and interviewed an independent social worker who said she now has time to do a management course and has learned new skills such as chasing money and management.
Much in the world has changed since 2012; it is not clear if more social workers have become independent but more workers are now faced with competing for limited independent jobs. If you choose not to find your work through a recruitment company and not to become dependent on the inconsistency of word of mouth how can you grow your Independent social work business?
This is a digital age and most people now look online for services including social work services. Workers with an online presents are much more likely to find work and repeated work than workers who put their CV in the hands of another company as their only way of advertising their worth.
Large numbers of independent social workers would like their business to grow; they have a book in them, a product that they would like others to use and to get out in the world. It is not true that all independent social workers want to launch a series of books however the real meaning of independent for some professionals is the chance to make the difference in an entirely different way to the constraints of the 9 to sometime past 5 in a local authority.
It is also not true that all social workers want to give up the “comfortable” permanent job with a local authority but they do want to create a part time business in training or mentoring, supervision or coaching. These independent part time businesses are not easy to set up as most LA do not allow workers to do part time business and the marketing and selling on your own can be a steep learning curve and difficult to achieve on a part time basis.
According to the CEO of the Association of Professional Staffing Companies Ann Swain
“At a time when the UK is suffering from highly publicised skill shortages across sectors as diverse as construction, education and healthcare it is no wonder that professional salaries continue to climb. The war for talent is raging as organisations scramble to get their hands on the best people to facilitate future growth and productivity.”
However Community Care has this to say “Local authority social work is in a state of flux under the impact of cuts and personalisation. Increased rationing and bureaucracy are causing increased dissatisfaction for users and professionals alike, while some councils are outsourcing social work jobs to other agencies.
The situation has prompted questions over whether the model of having most practitioners employed by councils is fit for purpose, or whether professionals, service users and taxpayers would be better off if independent practices or agencies became social workers’ major employers.”
What does this mean for independent social workers in 2016 and beyond?
Firstly social workers can not be independent if their ability to work is dominated by the state of market trends, true independence is being in control of your “company’s” ability to have a foothold in the market place through effecting marketing of your skills on an ongoing basis in a digital age.
Secondly, using online marketing can give independent social workers who want to branch out an unfair advantage over those who rely only on others.
And finally there are other independent social workers who are achieving this right now. Michael Watson is an example, he is in control building the independence of his social work business.