In this article John Hall, a Chartered Loss Adjuster and member of our Smaller Independent Practices SIG committee, shares his experience of setting up his own loss adjusting practice.
After almost 35 years as a loss adjuster, working for several companies both large and small, I decided at the end of 2017 that the time was right to work for myself. I recognised that it would be a big step to leave the security and comfort of employment, but the prospect of more freedom, flexibility and control over my work/life balance drew me in.
I was interested in using my qualifications and many years of experience in a different way from the largely managerial roles I had occupied for the last 15 years, where I had felt removed from the sharp end of the business. From the outset I was clear that I wanted to work as a consultant or contractor to other loss adjusting companies, rather than sell direct to insurers. I carefully considered my skill set and what I had to offer, then asked myself what sort of work I would ideally like to do.
Casting my net, I was surprised at the number of contacts I had built up over the years and how they were spread across the industry. I was unsure what the level of interest would be, but I was quietly confident that there would always be demand for experienced adjusters, particularly with my particular skills and experience.
After one year, I have a number of clients, business is good and I am very glad I made this change. While some sources of work are what I expected, other clients have come out of left field, as a pleasant surprise. Being flexible and open to new ideas and ways of working is an important factor in running your own business.
Working from home is now common and acceptable, and this was an obvious choice to make. Other aspects to consider included:
- Whether to sell direct to insurers or offer contractor/consultancy services
- What specialist skills clients are looking for
- Geographical coverage
- How much to charge
- Sole trader or limited company
- Registering for VAT
- Whether to acquire a unique domain name for email
- Requirement for a website
The initial set up costs need to be considered such as professional fees, accountants’ costs, PI insurance, phone, computers/software costs and PPE. Initial cash flow needs to be managed as it could be a few months before you can raise your first invoice and even longer before you get paid.
I have largely enjoyed the IT side of the business: setting up good systems for storing data, keeping business records and running accounts. It is useful to have sufficient IT skills to set up and manage your workflow and accommodate clients’ varying demands. A reasonable grasp of MS Word and Excel is essential. I also use voice recognition software for reports. Where I lacked certain skills, I was able to call upon my wife and two sons to help, such as setting up email, accounts, graphic design and crucially providing moral support.
It is also essential to consider the following which are now prerequisites of modern professional work that are often taken for granted when working for a larger organisation:
- Money laundering
- Training and CPD
- Health and Safety
I have also been fortunate in finding a local firm of accountants who specialise in consultants/contractors. For a monthly fee they offer an accountancy package that covers initial limited company set-up, bookkeeping assistance, personal and company tax returns, VAT returns, and PI insurance. They took a lot of the headache out of the initial set-up and have been extremely efficient and helpful, leaving me to focus on my own specialist skills.
Looking back, my business has evolved and developed over time, often in unexpected and interesting ways. It has been a pleasure to connect with old and new colleagues and friends. The work has been both challenging and rewarding, but most importantly, it is now providing the quality of life I was seeking.
John Hall MSc FCILA FRICS ACII FCABE
Hall Davidson Limited