Do you work to live or live to work? Freedom to be your own boss is one of the most rewarding perks of owning a franchise, so choose the right one to meet your lifestyle goals
What kind of lifestyle do you want? For most employees, this question is irrelevant – their job dictates their lifestyle for them. Think of the accountant who works long hours only to have to tackle a massive briefcase full of work after dinner, the nurse who struggles to fit extended and changing shifts around looking after a family, or the driver who can be called upon at any time to drive anywhere, perhaps having to stay overnight. The same happens to people working as contractors or on zero-hours contracts. In all these cases, and many more, the job is dictating your lifestyle.
But it needn’t be like this. I started out as a journalist working for a publishing startup.
Fast growth meant frequent promotions and pay increases, but the long hours were taking a huge toll on me, while my employer was getting rich.
I left and went freelance. It was a more precarious existence and at the start, I made less money – but it was worth it to be able to control my workload. Rather than getting home exhausted at 10.00 pm on weekdays and spending every weekend recovering from the week before, I got my life back.
When your boss dictates your lifestyle, one solution is to become your own boss.
A franchise will make becoming your own boss easier, and when carefully chosen, can deliver the lifestyle you’re looking for. Franchises include full-time management opportunities, investor-only models, franchises that can be run as a side hustle, and flexible franchises that fit around family and caring commitments. There are examples of franchises in most business sectors, so there’s likely to be one that appeals to you.
But before plunging into franchise research, let’s take a step back and decide what lifestyle actually suits you.
What sort of life do you want?
I want money above all else
If you’re energetic and willing to work hard on your business in and out of office hours, look for a full-time franchise that prioritises increasing income. However, don’t take at face value the claims franchisors make about how much money can be made. Speak to their franchisees and ask them what they actually make and how much effort it takes to achieve this.
Things to bear in mind: In a typical franchise you’re unlikely to start seeing profits before about 18 – 24 months after launch, so ensure you have the capital to cover that.
I want to work around a family
If you have young children or other caring responsibilities, consider a family-friendly franchise. There are children’s services franchises that involve providing activities such as dance, arts and crafts, theatre school sessions, tutoring, fitness classes, or music from local venues, often after school hours or at weekends. In some cases, sessions are limited to school term time, so you won’t have the problem of doing sessions during the holidays. And, with some franchises, you can even take your children into sessions with you, so you can save money on childcare.
Things to bear in mind: You’ll still be running a business, which involves more than just conducting activity sessions. You’ll also have to manage the admin and business development, both in term time and during school holidays, so you need to factor in time for that.
I want to control my hours
Long hours are a common reason for job dissatisfaction and burnout. Many people these days work over 40 hours a week and are often expected to take work home – all without getting paid overtime or having a stake in the company’s profits.
If this applies to you, consider a management franchise. As a manager, you’ll build a team of staff to deliver your services, either from the start or as the business grows, so once your team is in place, you can set your own hours.
You’ll also reap the financial rewards of your efforts, rather than seeing them go to an employer. There are management franchises in a wide range of sectors.
Franchisees with No Letting Go manage teams providing inventory management and property services to estate and lettings agents and property management companies.
It’s a franchise that can enable you to take charge of your own working life.
Head of operations, Justine Tomlinson, says: “Franchisees start out delivering the service themselves, meeting landlords and tenants and conducting inventories, so they know what the service involves, but as the business grows, they start to take on staff. Within about 18 months most have moved into management, focussing on developing the business.
“Once you have an established team, you can decide what level of day-to-day involvement is required on your part,” says Justine.
At recruitment franchise, DriverHire, franchise sales director Graham Duckworth says: “All our franchisees employ staff so it’s a management franchise, and that gives them some flexibility as regards their own hours. However, we expect them to have daily involvement with the business, talking to customers and driving the business forward.
“We’ve had franchisees who have come from senior management roles that typically involve 12-hour days, international calls at all hours, and international travel. DriverHire is about management, but certainly not as pressurised as that.”
Things to bear in mind: Management franchises usually work better if you have previous management experience, especially in managing people.
I want an extra income
There are franchises that allow you to run your franchise alongside a job or another business, which is a good way to get started in a new industry and increase your income.
However, almost all franchisors want you to expand, and often they’ll want you to gradually move the focus of your time to the franchise. This enables you to change your career over a period of time – handy if you can’t afford to make the jump to self-employment all at once, or want to change your career with a safety net in place.
Things to bear in mind: Running a franchise alongside a job or another business means you’ll undoubtedly be busier, so think carefully before doing this or you risk delivering a worse service in both positions. You could also risk personal burnout.
Gemma Beeston, manager at TheSkyCam, whose franchisees offer aerial photography and videography services using drones, says: “You need no previous experience as we provide training, so you can gain your commercial drone pilot’s licence.” There are close to 100 SkyCam franchisees around the country.
I want an investment business
These franchises, concentrated mostly in the fast food and fitness sectors, welcome interest from investors seeking to broaden their portfolios.
Commonly the investors already run quite substantial businesses and see the franchise as a way to diversify. They appoint managers to run their franchise and recruit staff, while they use their business skills to steer the franchise alongside their existing businesses. These franchises can sometimes be run as partnerships with other investors (such as family members or groups of friends).
Things to bear in mind: These opportunities tend to require investments of hundreds of thousands of pounds and are easiest for investors who already have funding sources in place, as well as the capacity to easily recruit senior management to run the franchise for them. However, there are a few that are less expensive, so shop around.
Gary Riches Driverhire
“I escaped the long-hours culture”
Gary Riches, a former HGV driver and transport manager, was doing 70 hour weeks and it was killing him. Gary says: “I was working 11 hour days, extra at weekends, and was a retained firefighter too. I was making good money, but something had to give.
“I’d take my kids to the cinema and sleep through the film. I was grouchy and snappy. Eventually, the stress made me feel like I was having a breakdown. My GP sent me to a counsellor and when she heard about my lifestyle, she just said: ‘You’re not getting enough sleep. It’s killing you.’”
Keen to work for himself, in 2012 Gary bought the Colchester Driver Hire recruitment franchise, a resale with three staff. “I had the transport experience, and the franchise provided the recruitment training,” he says. Turnover is now approaching £2m a year.
“Now I work 8:30 am to 5.00 pm, and I’m in charge of my own workload. It’s hard work, but I love it. Family life is better, my wife is happier and I can go to midweek Norwich City games.”
He now employs five staff and says: “Having enough staff means they and I can go on holidays and have a family life, and we can keep operating if someone is off sick. You don’t have to be a lean business to make a profit.
“If more workplaces adopted this attitude there would be fewer mental health problems.”
Mitch Shah TheSkyCam
“I’m flying high with an extra income”
Mitch Shah and his business partner Nirav are co-franchisees of aerial drone imagery franchise TheSkyCam, which they run around their existing businesses.
Mitch says: “I’m a freelance sales agent in electrical wholesaling and Nirav is an electrical engineering consultant. We’re both self-employed, so when a friend told us how he’d become a drone pilot with TheSkyCam franchise, we were intrigued and followed it up. I was always interested in photography, and you get full training to become a qualified drone pilot.”
They launched the business in June 2021.
“Head office markets our service through a website they created for us and provides most of our leads. We’ve had some interesting and varied jobs: filming from high above a roundabout for a student doing a traffic survey and carrying out a drone survey of a site for a fire engineer and a contractor (which would have been impossible any other way).
“Our latest project involved working with Amazon to film the launch of their brand new warehouse and offices in East London, which required aerial filming and photography of both the internal and external parts of the building.”
Mitchell Walters No Letting Go
“I’m taking charge of my own life with a franchise”
“One thing I have learnt as an entrepreneur is that you must run the business instead of letting the business run you,” says Mitchell Walters, who owns No Letting Go franchises in Barnet and Enfield, north London.
Mitch learned this the hard way. “I used to have a mini-cab company, but it was a nightmare. I had about 20 drivers, but all too often I’d get a call saying that a cab had not turned up, and I’d have to jump up from a family dinner to go and take a client to the airport. As well as disrupting family time, it happened while I was out having fun with friends and even contributed to the breakdown of my marriage. It became a sort of joke.” Eventually, he closed the business.
His divorce left Mitch as a single dad, keen to find a better way to provide for his two daughters. He discovered No Letting Go, offering property inventory services, at a franchise show. “I spoke to all of the franchisees – there were 21 at the time – and they all said good things, so I invested the last of my savings in it and started the Barnet franchise in 2010,” says Mitch.
He invested in the neighbouring area franchise in 2018 and now has five staff, including his daughter Gabriella. They meet tenants and landlords and carry out inventories and property checks, while Mitch manages the business.
“I now mix about 15 hours of management work a week with playing golf at the nearby course. I’m nearly 70 so feel I’ve earned it,” says Mitch.
“I have time to see my children and grandchildren and go on holiday when I choose – but I still go out and meet clients when I want, and I love working on my business.”
Linda Whitney writes about franchising for the Daily Mail, What Franchise and many other publications.