Categories
Automation Digital Skills Equality and Diversity Flexible Working Industry Flexers Technology Industry

The Growing Digital Skills Gap

Back in 2019 we discussed the digital skills gap, what it is and what needs to be done to address it. We still stand by the fact that flexible working opens doors to many more talented people able to plug this gap. But what else have we learned?

Since we discussed the matter much more research has been carried out by organisations such as The Tech Talent Charter, McKinsey, World Economic Forum, Deloitte and more – find a list of all the reports we think you’ll want to read at the end of this post.

So here are a few stats to get you warmed up

  • According to recent analysis from BCS: the Chartered Institute of IT, in the last quarter of 2020 women made up only 19% of the UK IT industry.
  • Flexible working is far more likely to be sought by women or other underrepresented groups such as people with disabilities (Timewise).
  • Further research by the Gender and Behavioural Insight Team found that job adverts offering flexible working attracted 30% more applicants and boosted applications from women by 16%.
  • In a survey of working women by the Tech Talent Charter, more than half of respondents were open to a career in tech, subject to being able to obtain the relevant knowledge and skills.
  • BAME IT professionals are less likely to be in positions of responsibility than those of white ethnicity – despite on the whole being better qualified, a new study has found (Chartered Institute for IT, 2020).
  • 91% of UK employers struggled to find workers with the right skills over the last year (Deloitte, BITC 2020).
  • The percentage of organisations scaling automations was found to have doubled in the last year, making concerns surrounding re-skilling even more prevalent (Deloitte, BITC 2020).
  • Only 1 in 7 workers in roles at high risk of automation received training in the last year.
  • 8 to 9 percent of 2030 labour demand will be in new types of occupations that have not existed before (McKinsey 2017).
  • Forty-three percent of businesses surveyed indicate that they are set to reduce their workforce due to technology integration, 41% plan to expand their use of contractors for task specialised work, and 34% plan to expand their workforce due to technology integration (WEF, 2020).
  • It is estimated that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines, while 97 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms (World Economic Forum, 2020).
  • On average, companies estimate that around 40% of workers will require re-skilling of six months or less and 94% of business leaders report that they expect employees to pick up new skills on the job, a sharp uptake from 65% in 2018 (World Economic Forum, 2020).

So what does this mean for the future of work?

To try and condense a multifactorial concept of ‘The Future Of Work’ into a short paragraph is difficult but here goes. The way we work has and will continue to change. Automation will see mass job loss but also create millions of jobs too. Eight to nine percent of labour demand in 2030 will be in roles that do not exist today. It is clear that education and re-skilling are key to navigating this huge change. Without the investment it needs we could see huge unemployment. Yet in parallel there will be large volumes of vacant roles requiring skills few people have learned.

So what next?

With epic amounts of data to support what the future of work looks like. We know that these issues need addressing now. Our current workforce, especially those who are more likely to suffer job loss as a result of automation need to be re-skilled in skills for the future. Ideally this needs to be done whilst employees are still in employment. Tackling the issue once these people have lost their jobs will be more difficult as the urgency to find paid employment may negate the desire to change careers or study. 

Our children are the workforce of the future and the national curriculum should reflect this. Research needs to be done on how we teach children the in demand skills of the future.

A report by Deloitte and BITC highlight the case for change saying

  • investment in reskilling by organisations appears to be lacking
  • employees most at risk of automation are not spending time reskilling.
  • and it is getting harder for organisations to hire the skills they need externally.

Who should we re-skill?

It comes as no surprise that the technology industry is lacking diversity on all levels. According to recent analysis from BCS: the Chartered Institute of IT, in the last quarter of 2020 women made up only 19% of the UK IT industry. Research commissioned by the Fawcett Society revealed that 1 in 3 working mothers lost work or hours due to childcare needs, that women were more likely than men to lose work or be burdened with childcare during the crisis, and that ethnic minority women were more likely to have concerns about losing their jobs.

You only need to look at a handful of reports over the last couple of years to see the lack of diversity.

The Tech Talent Charter surveyed working women to see what would persuade them to consider a career in tech. More than 50 percent of respondents were open to a career in tech, providing they could access the relevant knowledge and skills.

Then we need to consider those more likely to lose their jobs as a result of automation. Those in industries such as retail, manufacturing and hospitality (McKinsey, 2020).

When should we re-skill?

Time is of the essence. With Covid potentially accelerating the automation curve we need to act now. We need to avoid the costs of job loss and a prolonged, expensive recruitment process. Not to mention trying to recruit people with skills that very few have trained to do. 

We need to invest in reskilling our workforce now. It makes good business sense. Make the most of your employees now. Take the employees whose roles may be at risk from automation and ask them if they would be interested in retraining. Models for retraining and redeployment need to start now.

graphic showing option a to re-skill and redeploy workers versus redundancies and costly recruitment

How are flexible working, diversity and inclusion and the digital skills gap linked?

Our own research has shown the diversity in our own audience seeking flexible working. This is backed by Timewise who say “flexible working is far more likely to be sought by women or other underrepresented groups such as people with disabilities.”. But until flexible working is more widely accepted and valued by organisations these people, talented and brimming with potential will be unable to access the careers they desire.

Research by the Gender and Behavioural Insight Team found that job adverts offering flexible working attracted 30% more applicants and boosted applications from women by 16%. Whilst this is great news that highlights the value of flexible working, much is still to be done to ensure that flexibility offerings are not just a tick box exercise. Something our team at Find Your Flex takes very seriously.

Open up a discussion on how, where and when is the best way to do a job and you will attract more talented and diverse people into roles. The technology industry needs to be as diverse as the people it serves. There is a whole group of diverse people out there eager for a career, they just require the flexibility to access it. This untapped group of talented people could be the part of the answer to the digital skills gap.

How will Find Your Flex address the digital skills gap?

We have exciting plans for 2021 – 2022 and have something up our sleeves that we think could not only address the issue of re-skilling but also provide a green solution too. We can’t say too much now but watch this space. We’ve also just joined The Tech Talent Charter as one of their signatories. Read more about the great work they are doing here.

A list of interesting reading on the future of work, diversity in technology and responsible automation

Categories
Careers Flexible Working Students and Graduates

The Apprenticeship Route: Why it is a smart choice

The Apprenticeship route is a path to employment that has been around for decades. Despite many positive attributes, apprenticeships have almost become a second class career path. Taking a backseat to other means of gaining employment. This blog post will be looking at some disillusioned stigmas associated with apprenticeships. And why currently it is one of the smartest routes to take to gaining employment.

Are schools diverting traffic from the Apprenticeship Route?

In 2019 I conducted a survey within high schools with students and teachers as part of my internship. To find out which routes to employment they were most encouraged to take. The results were that the majority of students found apprenticeships appealing. Yet only a minority would actually choose this route. Students felt they did not have enough accessible information on apprenticeships.

The teachers’ survey yielded similar results. They claimed that the majority of students go to university. The teachers also admitted that there is ‘sometimes’ a stigma with other post-education career paths. They did say these attitudes are changing, but felt the other career paths are not as encouraged as university. Many said there could be more accessible information within schools on the apprenticeship route.

The results showed schools encourage the university route more than other career paths. A general comment made by teachers is that views on the apprenticeship route are changing and becoming more positive. Yet, that implies it is changing from a negative view, which should never have become prominent in the first place. One thing is clear, schools need to provide more encouragement and accessible information on apprenticeships. To do otherwise if depriving students of opportunities that could potentially lead to a fulfilling career.

The Impact of Parental Views on Apprenticeships

Parents want what is best for their children, it is their innate priority. And for a lot of young people, family opinions/encouragement is what impact’s their decisions the most. Parents can often map out their child’s career journey before they can even walk. Could pre-existing bias or misconceptions of post-education routes be impacting their children’s choices?

A survey on Young Persons’ Behaviour and Attitudes relating to careers advice and guidance, was conducted Island between September 2019 and February 2020. Statistics showed that over two thirds (68%) of pupils agreed their family encouraged them to go to university. 2% more than the number of students who agreed it was their own choice to go to university. These statistics are worrying. Showing that parent encouragement of the university path could be detracting from the number of children choosing other (just as successful) routes to employment.

This shows a bias towards the university route. It’s clear the majority of parents think that university is the best path their child can take. They should focus on what career their child is pursuing. As the university route is not always the best way to get there. For many parents, their proudest moment was when their child received their degree. And they should be proud, that is an amazing achievement. However they also need to keep their priorities straight; which is more important? That framed cap and degree, while their child is upstairs on their computer struggling to find work? Or the knowledge that their child has a fulfilling career and were encouraged to choose the best means to get there? Parents must not let misconceived bias and pride derail them from doing what is best for their child’s future.

The Apprenticeship Route vs The University Route

Every job role is subjective; some require certain routes to get there. This section is less about deciding which route is better and more about creating a level playing field. It is true that there are many pros to going to university. Yet there are more than a few cons too. And it is a fact that apprenticeships do not have these same cons.

Certain job roles specify that they want a degree in the field. However, to some employers its does not mean that much. University is expensive, often new students have to borrow the money to go to university. You are essentially in debt before you have even gotten into a full time career. Also you are giving up three or more years of your life to studying. There may be less time consuming routes that lead to the same outcome. There is a level of exclusivity to some courses; they can be difficult to get into. You may find yourself a few points shy of the minimum and unable to get onto the course you want. An apprenticeship can be a worthwhile alternative.

You don’t pay to do for the apprenticeship route, you get paid. Although payment is the least you get out of an apprenticeship. What is more important is the experience you will gain. Employers are becoming as interested in experience as they are in a high level qualification. You may be able to do work placements and voluntary work while in university. But won’t gain as much experience as the full specified training while doing an apprenticeship. Some employers conducting apprenticeships tend to take on once they have achieved that qualification. As they have spent time and money training someone how to do a job and to do it well. No route is better than the other, they are equally beneficial. But you may find one will yield results more than the other depending on the job role you’re aiming for. 

The Flexible Route

It is important to point out that more young people require flexible working hours and study time. They could be young parents. Or have relatives they need to look after or have physical or mental health needs that need catering too. There is a stigma that flexible working is primarily reserved for single mums or people over a certain age. However on, Find Your Flex, 47% of flexible job seekers using the site are male and around 60% report they don’t have children or their children are aged 17+. So no one should make this assumption. Everyone should be entitled to flexible working and young people are no exception, the same goes for their post-education routes. Is it fair that a young person cannot gain a higher qualification because they may have to look after an unwell relative? Of course not. Which is why apprenticeship providers, universities and employers need to begin making changes. To incorporate not only flexible working but flexible study into their courses.

Covid-19 has shown us how vital this is. In the face of the greatest threat of our generation, we have had to make changes. Yet we shouldn’t have had to adapt as much as we have. If society made changes to incorporate flexible working and study before this pandemic, not as many people would have suffered. We wouldn’t have has such a drop in grades and rise in unemployment. When we return to normality, we cannot forget the lessons it taught us. We cannot throw away the importance of flexible working and study; we cannot make the same mistakes twice.  

The rise of the Apprenticeship Route

Find Your Flex has been on this mission long before Covid. Yet we will continue to ensure flexible apprenticeships continue long after the fight against this virus is won. Visit out apprenticeship hub: at https://jobs.findyourflex.co.uk/apprentice-hub to find out more. We work with organisations that are making the significant changes to ensure that flexible working is available for everyone. If this encompasses you, do not hesitate to look at our apprenticeships. As you may find the perfect apprenticeship for you that will lead to that job you are striving towards.

The apprenticeship route isn’t exclusively for school leavers either, it is available for anyone older than that. Even graduates, don’t assume that because you chose to do a degree that you cannot or should not consider the apprenticeship route. If you find yourself struggling to enter the field you want, an apprenticeship could be the perfect way in. For more advice on what graduates can do or should not do to gain a career after graduating, have a read of this blog post: After Graduating: Getting that first step on the job ladder

Categories
Career Change Careers Interviews And CV's

Career Wheel

Assessing and Handling Your Strengths and Weaknesses

When seeking a new job or trying to progress in a chosen path, there are so many aspects to consider. Many people understandably feel overwhelmed. A multitude of matters demand attention but you may experience trouble in categorising them, prioritising them and tackling them optimally. The career wheel is an effective technique to assist with these concerns.

Fill In The Wheel

Print off a copy of the large wheel shown. Identify the 8 most important features of your job search or career progression. 

For example, you might select any of the following – check online recruitment noticeboards, research employers’ websites, rewrite CV and improve presentation skills. 

You may also opt for increasing confidence, interview tips, sourcing childcare, organising finances, expanding a network of contacts, or even buying appropriate business attire. 

Write these on the edge of the wheel with each feature taking up one segment.

Rate yourself out of 10 on each one. How well are you doing at the moment? Be honest but also be fair to yourself.  

Place a dot on each score in each segment in the 1-10 line. Join these dots together in the manner shown in the small diagram.

What Shape Are You In?

Is your wheel a large, clean circle or does it look more like the uneven, bumpy ride shown in the small diagram? Whatever the outcome, you can immediately see where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

Take A Balanced View

Avoid the mistake of concentrating solely on the “lowness” of some scores, which can lead into a downward spiral of negativity. Instead, look at each ranking, whatever it may be, and give yourself credit for what you have achieved by this stage in your career. Assigning due notice to your positive attributes and your journey so far is vital both in terms of creating a realistic skills audit and in engendering an upbeat perception of yourself.

Ordering Your Needs

The next issue to be determined is the order in which you confront each segment. There are various strategies that you can adopt to help you decide.

  • What is the lowest score? – usually the weakest point attracts immediate attention and you may feel this needs to be managed in a timely manner.

  • Which would be the easiest to implement? – if buying business clothing is a necessity, you may opt for this as it is relatively straightforward to achieve (compared to working on aspects of your character). Do not underestimate the power of quick wins in building confidence.

  • What would have the biggest impact? – if presentation skills are going to make or break your chances, you may wish to enhance these even if you already have a reasonably good score in this respect.

  • What appeals most? – if you have similar scores and nothing stands out, choose what you might enjoy most in developing. This way you can build your motivation.

  • Which is the most cost effective? – resources are finite and improvement may be most helpful when undertaken in an economically conscious manner.

Action Plan

Assessment is of limited value without a plan of action to back it up. For example, assume that you decide to focus on updating your skills. Perhaps, in the past, this was a sticking point when it came to landing the right job. You might come up with the following solutions.

  1. Research what skills prospective employers in a particular market require.
  2. Read a book on how to obtain these skills.
  3. Access free information and pointers on the internet relying on reputable sources.
  4. Take a course.
  5. Join a professional organisation which offers industry accreditation.

Rank how far up the segment scale each option will take you. If one alternative improves you from 2 to 3, but another promotes you from 2 to 4, you have pinpointed what to prioritise. Time and money are scarce commodities, so use them wisely.

Ditch Perfection, Pitch For Progress

Be careful not to be despondent if you do not attain a very high score in every area, even after making significant alterations. The key is to make progress incrementally. As all of us are a work in progress and learning is a lifelong endeavour, aiming for a string of 10s is simply unrealistic. 

If you look at Olympic diving and gymnastics competitions, gold medals are handed out to universal acclaim for scores of less than a perfect 10. Bearing this parallel in mind, do not be too harsh on yourself. A rank of 8 may well be good enough for your purposes. 

What is top-notch, however, is that your own personal career wheel is an ideal tool to highlight talents and opportunities. Use it to roll on to the success you deserve.

Career Wheel, scaled 1 - 10
The Career Wheel
Categories
Careers Interviews And CV's

Online Interviews

How To Zoom To Success

Online interviews are on the rise, offering employers the opportunity to engage with a wider range of candidates in a more efficient manner. Digital possibilities bring the economic and strategic benefits of reducing the time, resources and cost involved in selecting the perfect hire. But how ready are you for this form of recruitment?

“There are two aspects to online interviews – situation preparation and personal presentation. You need to nail both to maximise your chances of getting the job you want,” advises Samina Kiyani, an experienced broadcast journalist, awards host and media trainer. “The golden rule is this – minimise distractions.”

10 Tips For Zooming To Success.

By Samina Kiyani

  • Location, location, location – usually the employer decides upon the setting. But, with online interviews the onus is on you. Choose a spot which is neat, tidy and neutral. Steer clear of intimate spaces such bedrooms, as this is too personal for a business meeting.
  • Unintended soundtracks – consider what is within earshot. For example, you really do not want the sound of a distant washing machine to feature as the theme music to your interview. If the home phone rings, can you hear it? As you switch off your mobile, consider also temporarily disconnecting your landline.
  • Let there be light – ensure that the light falls on your face. It is best to sit facing a window, about a metre away from it. Avoid having your back directly to the window, as sunshine from behind can form a halo effect. Have a lamp that you can switch on, if your potential employer says it is too dim to see you properly. The amount of luminescence in the room is not always the same as that transmitted via the screen.
  • Connectivity and technology – check your internet works and the wifi speed is good exactly in the place where you site your computer. Some have been caught out by poor connection in certain areas. Verify the audio, video and mute functions. Just as you would arrive 10 minutes early for an office interview, log on before the scheduled start to deal with any last-minute mishaps.
  • Max headroom – too much headroom means that the interviewer mostly sees your background. You are pitching yourself, not your choice of wallpaper. Your head should appear 1/4 down from the top of the screen to maintain the right proportions.
  • Right height – placing the computer too low can distend your neck, and over-emphasise your chin and nose. Position the screen at eye height, balancing on sturdy books if required, to give prominence to your facial expressions.
  • Dress well – avoid anything with a small design as the print can seem to waver, slightly but noticeably, on the screen. Whilst white clothing may sparkle in a traditional situation, on a screen ensure it does not reflect so much light that it leaves your face dull by comparison. Stick to simple, structured clothing and dress professionally from top to toe. Accidentally revealing pyjamas or jeans under more formal upper attire is a clumsy approach. 
  • Body language – given that things become magnified on screen, even minor tics can distract. Fidgeting can give off an unhelpful vibe of shiftiness. Refrain from over-gesticulating to the point that your arms move out of screen, as this is disruptive and gives the impression of flailing. Beware also of making strong forward gestures with your hands, as this can come across as jabbing. You don’t have to freeze like an Easter Island statue but be mindful of your movements.
  • Roving eye – you may have reduced disturbances at your end but this may not be true of your prospective employer. They may perhaps be in a setting that inadvertently shows people walking past or undertaking office activities in the background. During an online interview keep your focus on the interviewers. A loss of eye contact can break rapport.
  • Trial run – it can be uncomfortable to see home videos of ourselves. A mock interview is essential to highlight what aspects require attention. Preferably do this online with a knowledgeable person who can make an objective assessment and give you honest, constructive feedback. Are you making one of the errors listed here or are you inadvertently speaking at an unexpected pitch or speed? If nothing else, at least record yourself and replay to figure out what to improve on. 

“Ideally an online interview should feel as natural as a face-to-face one,” says Samina. “It’s definitely a skill that candidates need in their repertoire. But don’t get too fixated by the fact that there is a screen in front of you. With practice, you can pull it off.”

Samina Kiyani provides communication and online interview training at www.saminakiyani.com 

For more advice on interviews and CV’s you may want to read these 5 ‘Top Tips For Nailing That interview‘ and ‘How To Approach Writing A CV After A Career Break’

Categories
Flexible Working Lifestyle

The Four Day Working Week

The four day week has been touted as the “new better” for the way we work and is gaining widespread traction as a consequence of the game-changing coronavirus pandemic. A FindYourFlex survey found that 72% of respondents would welcome a four day week to turbocharge the economy with 28% against. But what does this actually entail? 

What Does A 4 Day Week Mean?

There are various forms of four day week. So, the FndYourFlex Survey further asked what kind of 4 day week people preferred.

  • Compressed schedule – complete five days of work in four, with no loss of salary. 78% favoured this approach.
  • Part-time model – work for four days and receive less pay. 18% of respondents gave this the thumbs up (4% were uncommitted to either compressed or part-time).
  • 32 hour week – more radical is the proposal made by John McDonnell of the Labour Party that the full-time working week should be lowered to 32 hours but without any loss of pay. 

A universal Monday to Thursday is unrealistic as we want to visit shops, museums, sporting venues and restaurants every day of the week, and care homes and emergency services operate round-the-clock. But the idea is that people can work differently outside the traditional norm.

Why Adopt A Shorter Week?

A truncated week is cited as offering a number of advantages as it may:

  • replenish physical resources – rest and/or leisure activities revitalise us;
  • boost mental well-being – stress and anxiety fall;
  • enhance relationships – more fulfilling time is spent with family and friends;
  • save the environment – less commuting erases part of our carbon footprint;
  • jump start volunteering – charities may see an upsurge in participation;
  • stabilise employment – redundancies are avoided by having all staff on reduced hours; 
  • widen the talent pool – those shut out by rigid timings can enter the job market;
  • capture loyalty – a talent retention mechanism to stop good workers from leaving; and 
  • cut overheads – if the office is shut for an extra day, running costs decrease. 

How Controversial Is A Shorter Week?

Objections are raised against four day patterns of whatever ilk. Flex requests have been refused for myriad reasons such as impractical personnel changes, higher costs, downgraded business performance, lower customer service, and/or the need for continuity over five days. 

But it is the 32 hour week, do-four-get-five, that is stirring particular controversy. Surely it is counter-intuitive to pay someone more for working fewer hours? Yet many of us are already paid to go on holiday through remunerated annual leave. The state offers statutory parental entitlements, sometimes topped up generously by employers, essentially paying people to look after their own children for a while. This is done because there are acknowledged social and health benefits that outweigh the pure economic expense. The ask of the 32 hour week is to push this concept one step further. 

32 Hour Week – How Much Does It Cost?

The battleground of the 32 hour week is the possible price tag associated with it. The NHS is often mentioned as a problematic situation. If you pay a nurse for five days instead of four, you must hire more staff since people are ill every day. The Conservative Party claims that the costs to the NHS would swell by £6.1 billion a year. Others assert that the NHS is a special case and not the yardstick by which to judge all sectors. 

Autonomy, a non-profit organisation, has stated that the cost of the 32 hour week is lower, as bald headline figures fail to factor in the gains from beneficial features such as reduced medical absence. As the Health and Safety Executive has estimated 57% of sick days are due to work-related stress, anxiety and depression, this is not to be ignored lightly. The difficulty is that several of the advantages, outlined earlier in this article, are not easy to quantify and are contentiously debated by those who champion one assessment methodology over another. 

What Next?

The part-time and compressed four day weeks, whilst not as widespread as they could be, are progressively being offered. However, even the most ardent proponents of the 32 hours option admit that adjustments will be incremental rather than an overnight phenomenon. There are likely to be a plethora of trial runs, setbacks and resistance. It may also not be viable in every instance. 

But it is worth remembering that changes that were initially seen as radical are accepted as standard practice. The 5 day week was once novel, annual leave was viewed as rewarding indolence, and maternity leave was regarded as an unnecessary self-indulgence. Now we expect these benefits. There is the potential to herald in a whole new future.

Categories
Careers Flexible Working

Becoming A Virtual Assistant (VA)

Guest Post

A Guest Post from Christine Southam, Virtual Personal Assistant and owner of CS Virtual Assistant.

I had spent a number of years in Higher Education in Estates & Facilities Management; Local Government as PA to two Managers in Islington. I then worked in Berlin at an Architects’ firm and then in Business Development for Market Research before returning to London for my dream job as PA to the Executive Director of a European environmental organisation. I was disappointed when My ED announced he would be stepping down as we had a great relationship and I knew that it would move to our Brussels based office. So, I decided to follow my long-term dream of opening my own business and becoming a Virtual Assistant. 

It made sense to carry on utilising all the experience I had gained over a decade of working just transferring it to a home office. I decided that becoming a Virtual Assistant ticked all the boxes!

Here Are My Top Tips For Becoming A Virtual Assistant

I believe having your own desk and work space is important and preferably with a lovely view and natural light as you may end up spending a significant amount of time there. Then cover your back by investing in insurances and registrations. These are just some of the costs to consider before you begin:

These will be your outgoings and it’s important to know how much you will need to earn per week or month to afford these costs.

The VA is not a regulated industry so hourly rates, quality of work and how securely personal data is handled varies greatly.

Christine Southam working on lap top at a desk

Marketing Yourself

I set about getting myself visible with a website and a Facebook page (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook groups and LinkedIn).  Without the traffic to your sites you won’t be getting noticed. 

  1. Communicate your expertise. If people believe you are an expert when it comes to looking for solutions or choosing someone, they are going to pick the expert.  
  2. Know your moral and your ethical values. For example: the way you respond to a customer complaint.
  3. It’s a referral-based market. Everyone will look at your reviews of what other people think of you not what you think of yourself.

Personal Development

Putting aside time for personal development is really important and the skills you learn on the job should not be under estimated. 

Consider investing in some professional development such as website building or social media training so it can become a service that you offer yourself. 

You will also be learning on the job about self-assessment tax returns, credit control such as chasing late payers and Human Resources related matters such as contracts, on-boarding Clients and Associates. 

Since running my own business, I have developed business set up and operating skills which empower me to assist other business owners more effectively.

Getting Started

I gained my first client within 3 months of opening, it’s a different experience for everyone. It could take you longer or you could arrive on the scene already with a few clients. 

Word of mouth, recommendations and contacting your existing network of business contacts could be a very strong way of getting started. 

Learning Lessons

Through a local community-based website, I contacted a start-up business. The gentleman was seeking office tidying, bookkeeping, self-assessment tax return preparation and the occasional PowerPoint. I travelled to his office at first to build up the trust and the relationship. It was a costly and time-consuming task as he didn’t leave close by. Over time he posted or scanned and emailed receipts to me and the physical meetings became less frequent. He was a client for one and half years until his disorganisation and lack of consideration for my small business took its toll on my finances and I eventually called it a day. 

The beauty of hindsight is that I wish I had utilised the Virtual PA Facebook groups more readily. I wish I had been more open to seek my networks’ advice and support. I could have possibly kept the client and resolved the issues. Having a support group of VAs or even a local group of business owners who meet virtually or in person can be a life line and very important.

My Current Working Practice

I started off dedicating 20 hours to my business each week. Now, I’ve reduced that to 15 hours per week because I want to manage better my work life balance. 

I’ve started to utilise Associate Virtual Assistants to help me manage my workload.  

To run my business, I use as much of the available and intuitive online software as possible. The best ones I can access from my phone. This means that I can make use of dead time; checking and replying to emails and checking and replying to social media posts. 

Some of the programmes that I could not work without:

  • Freeagent for invoicing and self-assessment tax returns which came free with my NatWest business account.
  • Canva for creating infographic and images for my social media sites.
  • Lastpass for all my password storage and safe sharing with Associates.
  • Toggl for time keeping and tracking the time keeping of my Associate team.
  • Dropbox or Google Drive for sharing documents online.
  • Mailchimp for creating newsletters, landing pages and emails. 
  • Asana for planning projects, meals, reminders and tasks.
  • Hootsuite for scheduling social media when I go on holiday – but usually I like to post directly onto the social media site.
  • Pocket as a great source of industry relevant articles.
  • Microsoft Suite in its entirety for Word, Excel, PowerPoint Outlook for calendar and emails.

Being Your Own Boss

It’s almost essential to think of your own business as a client of yours so that you give it as much respect and value as you would your Client’s work. It also helps you to have an objective view overseeing what you do for it. 

It’s fair to say that being self-employed is a financial and emotional rollercoaster. 

Social networks of support are ever evolving and who knows you might be the instigator of a great new initiative that will revolutionise the industry. 

Learn more about Christines business here. Or on social – Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter.

Read More blogs from our guest authors:

Hester Grainger – Founder at Mumala Club

Claire Winter – Content Creator & Copywriter