Emma Dick : Pepperpot P.A.
When I left university I was unsure as to what I wanted to do and became a secretary at Lancaster University whilst I worked out what career path to take. Sixteen years later and after various administration roles and a period of ill health (in which I lost my job) I began to attend the Isis Project, a mental health charity for women, in Shipley. Through craft and social sessions and the care and support of the staff there I began to regain my confidence and started to look for ways to help the charity and find my way back into work. Along with another client I made jewellery and handmade craft items and sold them to raise funds for the project, we even went on to be awarded the Telegraph and Argus Community Stars Fundraiser award in 2011. I also began volunteering in the office as they only had two full time members of staff – the Project Manager and the Office Manager – and two part time crèche workers. I found myself enjoying helping other clients and doing administration work again. I decided that working as a virtual assistant, taking on secretarial and administration work on a freelance basis for sole traders and small companies, gave me the opportunity to work for myself and get a better work/life balance.
Initially I started looking for employment but found jobs were limited. My sister in law mentioned a website where people bid for freelance work as a way of making ends meet whilst I carried on looking for employment. I also wanted to continue volunteering for the Isis Project and was aware that this would be difficult with set working hours, especially when I went back to work full time. I was referred to Kickstart Coach David Humphreys through the Job Centre and met him to discuss the possibilities of going self employed. My first meeting with David was a bit of an ideas gathering session; I was still wondering whether to try and make a career from my crafting and jewellery making or to go back into administration. David helped me think through the pros and cons of both careers and I decided that administration was the more viable option. David’s assistance in considering self employment focussed my mind and gave me the desire to go and register on the website my sister in law had told me about. I went away with a feeling of trepidation and excitement and joined the online freelance community that afternoon.
I bid for my first job, which had just been posted, and being quick off the mark I managed to impress the poster and found my first client. My first job resulted in me being paid about £1 an hour; I had no experience of how long such jobs would take and how to price them but felt I had to start somewhere. My hard work paid off and the client asked me if I would consider doing further work for him. I was honest and explained that I was interested but would require a regular hourly rate, which he agreed, and five months later he is still one of my clients and I continue to work on his website. I soon picked up another client and began transcribing subtitles for the BBC archives.
David had invited me to a networking meeting and although nervous, I went along to meet other new start ups. It was beneficial hearing how other people were getting on and I learnt the importance of marketing myself a bit better, I was going to need business cards!
I had a further meeting with David at the end of my transcribing contract and we discussed which markets I may be able to tap into to find further work and prioritised these. Some were shorter term whilst others would take a bit more work to get into and were with the thought of long term establishment of my business. David also ran through some financial aspects of self employment with me and we completed a cash flow forecast which really helped me to see how things may work in the future, how much work I need to look at bringing in, my pricing structures and so on.
During this period I gained a couple of new clients and my work included proof reading project reports and working on another newly established website. One of my clients himself works full-time and the website is a side project for him, so I undertake the administration work and write articles for the site.
David’s invitation to the networking event led me to meeting a start up advisor at Bradford University and he asked me to go along to speak to a group he was running for people considering going into self employment. Again, it was good to meet other people and I found it interesting to hear their motives for becoming self employed. It strengthened my belief that although it is hard work starting up I am doing it for the right reasons for me and I enjoy what I do.
David has been essential in helping me expand my networks and I am meeting one of his other clients who also provides freelance secretarial services to discuss how we may be able to work together in the future. I plan to attend more network meetings not only to market myself but also to have contact with other self employed people. Working from home, mainly online, has a lot of benefits but I miss the social aspect of previous roles. I’m not sure exactly what the future holds for me work wise but I like that aspect of my work, the variety of roles and that everyday is different. Things are taking off steadily, I’m just about to get my own website up and running and I’m about to get my business cards printed, when I can decide on the colour!