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The DIY of self employment

January 5, 2016


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!




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