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The DIY of self employment

January 5, 2016

2014-02-12

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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