So you want to be a care-micro provider?

Micro provide,What do I know about it anyway?

You want to be a care-micro provider? ***

Let’s think about that for a minute …….
I’ve been fully self employed (40+ hours a week) since 2012 , averaging between 10-12 different clients a week who employ me at any one time. I get paid by people using individual budgets, direct payments and personal monies. So I feel I’m able to offer some advice on being a successful small care provider.

Since I’ve been a self employed I guess I’ve had approx 40 or 50 people who have either written to me or approached me directly asking how they can go down the same route. So I’ve decided to try and distill it down into some key points and things I feel are important, this is only my opinion and despite what I might try and tell myself I’m not infallible ….!!!

Why micro-provide?

Seems an obvious question doesn’t it? Why become a micro provider and go through all the hassle and hoops of self employment when you could just go out there and get a care job?
What’s your motivation?
In my case I was fed up of feeling constantly constrained and unable to do the things I felt surewould really benefit our wonderful peoples lives.

I felt like I was being constantly asked to put a plaster on a bullet wound rather than dealing with the cause issues. Working for social services always felt like I Was “working in treacle” that feeling of loving the people I worked with but never really being able to work in a free and instant kind of way, having what seemed like needless buarucracy and red tape to fight through to get the simplest of tasks done.

For me it was also that feeling of having to exist in that “council mentality bubble” where things like social media didn’t exist because everyone was scared of it , no one was prepared to let you use it to showcase what you where doing because they themselves didn’t really understand it or see the potential benefit of it.

Then there was the whole council “having a meeting to arrange a meeting” kind of mindset where people would spend days going from one meeting to another with no obvious reason as to why, there never seemed any urgency or “joined up thinking” ,this are just a couple of things that irked…..

Since our local Learning disability services have been taken over by a private provider (Dimensions in the rebranded form of “Discovery” ) I have had a huge increase in people asking me how I became self employed . Surely this must be a good thing? Hmmm……….
Let’s think about that one …..

Don’t push me!!!!!

Sometimes it takes a major event in our working life to give us the necessary “push “ to take that step towards becoming the person we really feel we want to be, in my case my “line in the sand” was as innocuous as a senior manager I’d never previously met and knew nothing of me or my work handing me the council guidelines on earrings and body jewellery and asking me to remove my large earrings .

On the face of it a not unreasonable request to wear “smaller , quieter” earring as my line manager put it.
But It this came after a long period of being asked to dress in a certain way , in order to give over a “business-like appearance “( whatever that is!!) , a lack of acknowledgment that the results I was getting where in no way being affected by my appearance and a unwillingness of my managers to just stand up to their senior managers and say “ hang on, this guy is actually very good at his job regardless of his choice of ear-wear, he’s getting the results , the clients like him, what’s the problem? “

So I think it was all those things and many more besides that gave me the push I needed to go self employed. .For you it may be a different story but the really important point here is I made sure that I turned the negative situation (feeling forced into leaving a job of 12 years because of a manger not likening my appearance) into a positive by turning the situation around and using it as a “USP (unique selling point) and using it to launch my self employed career.

In my particular case I did this by writing out my resignation letter on a huge cardboard cut out of my favourite spiral earring posting it on my Facebook business page and having it go semi-Viral (7,200 likes and 3500 shares) this not only highlighted the ridiculous double standards of a senior management team who on one hand where going on about “about opportunity and equality for all people with LD” whilst on the other stamping on individuality and discriminating against their very own staff for being just slightly different but also gave me a “spring-board “ from which to launch my own business and obtain a massive amount of free publicity and support from the general public most of whose could appreciate the ridiculousness of the situation. The earring is now my logo so a great reminder and motivator.

So enough about my story……back to you……

Reality check….

Are you wanting to be a micro provider because you feel it offers you the best way to get your plan for world domination going ,eeeeerrrrrrr……., I mean work with your clients in a way they will truly improve their lives or is it just because it seems like an easy option to keep doing the work you enjoy without having a senior manger telling you you can’t take your client solo-paragliding in a wheelchair?

Being self employed is tough…..it is not an easy option, there is always more you could be doing, ,you have to be totally self motivated and not reliant on any one else to provide the solution to whatever the problem your currently facing is, that’s not to say friends and partners aren’t a HUGE factor in helping you but just don’t rely on them to do the job for you.

There probably won’t be people beating down your door to offer you work which is why you need to be very much a “go getter” rather than a “sit back and see” type.
You are the only person who can do this for yourself and you need to be really honest with yourself about your abilities and motivation.
Be realistic and set yourself a goal , if you can’t make some form of self employment work within a year it’s probably not going to happen for you. Probably……..

It’s a sad fact that working for any large organisation doesn’t necessarily equip you with the skills you’ll need to be successfully self employed , indeed it can often come of something of a shock to realise that you’re not getting paid to write reports or running records , submit grant applications or meet with potential clients and assess them.
All things that previously you’d of got paid an hourly rate for. Let’s not even begin to think about your time preparing and writing invoices and keeping your books or going on training and courses……

Yeah , right, Remember all those first aid/health and safety courses that you found so hard to stay awake through? Well, guess what ? You now not only have to pay for them you don’t get paid whilst doing them!!!! ( although the more wily amongst you may be able to find some free or low cost subsidised options)

I didn’t plunge headlong into self employment all at once. I began by doing it part time whilst working three days a week in a social care job. I made sure my manager was aware of what I was doing and checked with him that he saw no conflict of interests, something for which I am very grateful to him to this day.
I built up a client base and used existing contacts to spread the word.
Once I did go fully self employed things happened very quickly because I had already “prepared the ground” . Obviously there could be a “conflict of interests “ here between your current employers and your self-employed aspirations so be respectful , professional and use common sense. The people your upsetting now may be the ones who could get you work down the track …..or not….if you don’t treat them right.

Indeed working at self employment two days a week I’d managed to build up a “backlog “ of clients wanting to work with me and when I expanded to five days a week it soaked up some of this backlog.
I was lucky as I already had a good relationship with the various social work teams and other care professionals so was able to use this to my advantage. Bear this in mind and start getting to know people who can help the process of finding you work.

One thing that concerns me about some of the potential new micro providers who contact me is the fact that they need to be “up and running” very quickly. Like a lot of us they have financial commitments , mortgages, families to support etc and by it’s very nature self employment can take a while to get going and build up a client base and if you have lots of financial commitments this can add a huge amount of extra pressure, much better to be able to build it gradually whilst still maintaining another income source as your business builds . The more successful micro providers seem to be people who have this “breathing space” be it provided by a partner taking over the bulk of the bills or another part time job.

Am I “Well-Rounded”!!??

Being “Well rounded” is essential , let me explain what I mean by that……

We are carers because that’s our passion (if it’s not you can stop reading now…..) but the qualities that make us good carers don’t always mean we are good managers of our own time, or have the ability to communicate with a whole gaggle of social care professionals, doctors, carers , parents.
It doesn’t mean we can write polices or arrange insurance , find someone to supervise our private work or be good at promoting ourselves and our businesses through social media or the internet or be able to keep accurate records of our client work to evidence the difference we are making in our clients lives and financial transactions ,books etc but all of these things are important if we are to be successful micro providers

We also need to “ showcase” what we are preaching so if we are advocating fitness and healthy life styles for our clients whilst over eating and not taking care of ourselves and our own health what kind of message is that sending out?

Likewise with our own mental health and wellbeing , being self employed you don’t get paid for time off or holidays so get yourself sorted before undertaking this huge step and it is essential that you give yourself the best possible chance of being successful.
Remember self employment should be all about moving towards something positive not away from something negative……If you can’t sort your own life out how do you hope to help other people?
I’ve met a few carers for whom sorting out other people lives means they themselves can avoid looking at there own problems and issues, don’t be one of them…..our guys can spot a fake a mile away…..

Now before all that scares you off, remember we don’t have to be experts at all the above but we do need to have an ability to do some of the above our at the very least know and trust someone who can do it or help us with it.
But there are what I call “core skills” you absolutely will need .

An ability to effectively communicate with clients , carers and parents .If you can’t explain your self and your abilities and plans why would anyone want to have you work for them?

Time management ,Reliability and punctuality. Our people depend on you and you absolutely must be where you say your going to be when you say you are .

Total honesty ( do I really need to explain why? ! …..)

Boundaries ,keeping things professional ,
When you email me asking about becoming a micro provider one of the first things I do is look at your publicly viewable Facebook page or google you and see what I can see, drug and drink references or causal racism and extreme political views aren’t going to make me want to recommend you… and trust me parents and other professionals looking to employ your services will do the same..indeed the fact you don’t understand social media enough to not post these things publicly or indeed all won’t inspire me with confidence in your abilities.

You are here for your clients and their convenience not the other way round.

Just do it!!!
You will doubtless of spent time writing polices , procedures , contracts etc? Yes? Good, it’s all really important to have these things in place, but DONT let not having them all 100% done become the reason you can’t get out there and start doing the job. Sometimes we can become blinded by all the micro-managment and we lose sight of what’s really important…helping improve our clients lives!! Evenings and time off can be used to do these but 10am on a Tuesday morning is prime “hands on” time. Do it……

Be nice! Sound obvious but we never know who is watching us out in public and I’ve lost count of the amount of people who say things like “ I often see you out in town/in the cafe/bank/shop with your guys” so act accordingly treat everyone you meet with respect and courtesy and you won’t go far wrong.

A sense of humour . Never underestimate the power of humour to help defuse a tricky situation and help you keep things in perspective .

Develop “Your thing” !

So, my “thing” is technology and the internet , it’s my “specialism “ but as well as that I can also provide all the “normal” care services, shopping , life skills , support ,trips out etc .
This means that clients who come to me for “my thing”they often move on to other care services I offer and vice versa. Being flexible is one of the micro providers top weapons in their arsenal and something many of the bigger companies struggle with so USE IT!!
So, Identify what you excel at and use it! Whatever your “thing” is !!!

Just remember to be clear on what you provide ,a vague “Care services” and awful logo of two clasped hands on the back of a Vista print card may not cut it….

Personal development and maintaining high standards

Something that often gets overlooked is the need for personal development, mixing with our peers and other care professionals at conferences and training events and really importantly is making sure you have a supervisor with whom to discuss your cases and working practice. I can’t emphasis enough how vital this is to make sure you are working to high standards and have someone to reflect and check difficult decisions with.

I have a retired social worker who I take these things too and they have proved invaluable in helping me see the “bigger picture” and advise me.

Wrap it up Alex……

So there you go . My very personal slant on becoming a care micro provider. Possibly the most rewarding, amazing and life changing job you will ever have .

I’ve grown and developed in areas I’d never imagined .Ive been able to support people in ways I could only of dreamed of when I was employed. I’ve seen people lives change out of all recognition and The guys I support have had a huge amount of FUN!!!
(Warning-Vomit inducing positive affirmation coming up)

Remember the only barrier is the one you create……….or dont…… the choice is yours.

*** A micro provider is a small group or “sole-trader, a self employed ,independent ,care worker .