The DIY of self employment
People sometimes ask me about running my own business, and what it is like doing all of the extra tasks that being self employed entails.
I was thinking about it, and there isn’t that much.
There’s a few things I have to do that some of the older skool researchers I’ve worked with would have palmed off to a PA / admin / junior researcher, but those of us that have grown up with computers have always found it quicker and easier to do such things ourselves anyway:
- Keeping my diary straight and sending out meeting invites
- Setting up electronic project files and keeping them tidy
- Charting up data
- Formatting reports
- Booking travel and accommodation
Then there’s a few things that would have made a difference a few years back, but these days the need is so rare that they are barely an issue:
- Printing and binding tables and reports (I’m pretty much paper-free, and clients rarely request it)
- Envelope stuffing (Electronic surveys have largely replaced postal surveys)
- Having stamps in (I don’t post much)
I don’t have anyone to delegate these things to, but it makes no odds to me in practice.
I’m quite happy doing my own accounts although I know some find this the biggest change when becoming self employed. Thing is, throughout my career I’ve had to keep project records – planning and accounting for my time, submitting expenses claims, and letting finance know about invoicing requirements. I simply continue to do this, the only differences being I don’t have a big fat shared system to enter everything into and I have to type the invoices myself (which takes no longer than emailing the same info to the finance guy). With all this routinely in place, my self assessment tax return – a new thing – takes 15 minutes. So that doesn’t count either.
Here’s what I do have to do that is new to me:
- Proof reading – I have always encouraged colleagues to get two proof reads on key documents: one for content and one for typos. Ideally from different people. I don’t have this facility now. I have to do it myself, and concentrate really really hard.
- Script checking – I would have previously asked someone junior to undertake the fiddly and tedious job of going through a draft web survey a million times and checking every possible combination of answers to ensure it works properly. I have to man up and do this myself.
- Chasing unpaid invoices – Urgh, so awkward, so annoying.
- Marketing the business – Actually I enjoy the blogging and the web maintenance and the branding and so on.
- IT troubleshooting – Aargh, panic panic, thankfully I have Carbonite backup and a husband with a Computer Science Degree.
If I was that bothered I could outsource some of this stuff but day-to-day it doesn’t amount to much so all in all I’m alright with that. Basically, being a sole trading research consultant is remarkably similar to being a research consultant in a larger organisation!