Friday, 28 June 2013

5 Golden Rules: thinking of freelancing?

Moving from the safety of employment into the big world of freelancing can be both daunting and exciting at the same time. There are many things to learn about running your own business and perhaps some new skills to acquire along the way. Here are my Golden Rules to consider before you take the leap:

1. Branding: 
Give serious consideration to the name for your business. This is so important and something that should not be rushed. Can the services you’ll be providing form part of the business name? Is it just yourself as a freelancer or will you be working with other colleagues/associates? Do you have an exit plan? If so choose a name that isn’t tied to you or your location making it more appealing to an interested buyer. Get a professional to design your logo. Someone once told me that “image is everything” which I have found to be true. If you intend to offer professional services your branding should look professional enough to convince people to buy from you. Once it is out there it is so much harder and more costly to change.

2. Legal: 
There are key differences between being self-employed and forming a company. Make sure you understand the differences and liabilities. Choose a legal structure and register with an appropriate body. Remember to notify the tax authority of your change in employment. Next look at putting insurance in place. No one ever thinks they would have a problem with a client when they first start out, but it is much better to be safer than sorry. Most likely professional indemnity will be needed but you may also need to consider Directors Liability and Employers Liability insurance (depending on your legal status). A well written contract with clear terms and conditions would be a wise investment.

3. Finance: 
There are many ways you can approach pricing. Whether you price per project or by the hour do some research so your pricing is right. It is much better to price high and come down than starting low and then increasing prices. Get help if needed to draw up a budget, consider your start-up costs, marketing and on-going overheads. Speak to an accountant to get advice on allowance expenses and the way to structure your business in the most tax efficient way. If accounting isn’t your strength consider engaging a bookkeeper who can record the day-to-day activities of your business and keep your books in good order ready for an accountant to do any tax computations and statutory accounts.

4. Marketing: 
Every business should have a plan which should include a marketing element. If you’re starting up a service based business your plan doesn’t need to be extremely detailed but writing a plan will help crystallise what services you intend to offer. Focus on what the benefits are to your customers and who they are to help them identify with what you are offering. Think about whether you start with a full range of services or roll them out over time. How will your target market discover your services? Consider presenting at events, writing articles for well-known publications in your industry, look for places where you can network with customers and perhaps consider advertising or exhibiting. Social media is now being used more widely so you should include this in your marketing mix making sure that all your communications are consistent with your brand.

5. Balance: 
Starting a business can be hard work and ups and downs come with the territory. I am a great believer in what goes around, comes around so treat people as you would like to be treated by others. If you have family, be mindful of the impact on them. You quite possibly will work lots of hours building a business in the early days and this can take its toll on friends and family alike so make time for family holidays. It is important for them but it is also important to take time out and switch off. It will give you time to think and when the holiday is over you’ll return with fresh ideas and energy.

Most of all, enjoy and have fun. Life is just too short.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Tips for Organising Successful Events

Clinical Research professionals are experts in GCP, Protocols, SOPs, helping investigators meet recruitment targets and ensuring all work is conducted to the myriad of guidelines, local regulatory requirements and ‘GCP’. However, at times there are some challenges that these professionals have no experience of, no training for and which can be somewhat daunting, e.g.organising an Investigator Meeting. This article gives some hints, tips and experiences of how to organise a successful event which might be an Investigator Meeting, CRA Training or a Conference.
Venue finding – it isn’t just about how many can fit in the room….
The venue can have a huge impact on your event. Getting this wrong can be a costly mistake. You want your guests to have a pleasant experience that’s why it is important to get this right. There is nothing worse than miserable staff, unclean toilets, poor food service and tasteless coffee. Searching for venues, obtaining proposals, conducting site visits and negotiating contracts takes considerable time. Choosing a venue can depend on many factors such as the location, date, size and type of property. Consider the message the choice of venue gives not only about your event but your organisation too. A worldwide hotel brand 5* venue is quite different to a modern high tech university lecture theatre. Maybe a practical training room in a city centre is all you need. For larger events the flow of delegates and exhibition floor plan requires working with the venue team to plan and manage this successfully. Can your delegates find their way around the venue easily or is the layout confusing? Will you need extra signage or ushers to help delegates find their way to meeting rooms? Have you considered being a mystery visitor and testing out the check in procedure or the food in advance?

Registration – efficiency is the key

In today’s world of technology registering/booking your guests should be done online wherever possible. It is by far the most efficient way of handling guest registration. Several years ago we were sent delegate details by email and then transferred everything on to a database. We used mail merge for confirmation letters and invoices all then sent by post. Unsurprisingly many documents were lost in the post and the cost of postage for the large number of delegates was notable. When we were asked to organise the conference again the following year we took the registration one step further by connecting the registration on the website directly to a database. It meant delegates would receive automatic confirmation and we could create an invoice at the click of a button. On comparing the previous year it saved four days of admin time. Since then we have continued to develop our own in house Online Registration & Invoicing System which provides:
  • Simple registration 
  • Banquet tickets included 
  • Easy invoicing 
  • Dietary needs 
  • Hotel accommodation requirements 
  • Real-time data 
  • Break out session planning 

Team Work – together we can make a great event
A coordinator usually has many people to work with as part of the event team. Not only should they focus on their client needs, responding to guest enquiries promptly they also need to pay attention to the detail when it comes to finalising arrangements with the venue. This is crucial, and in my experience, good venue coordinators are becoming a rarity with high turnover in the hospitality industry. Get any changes or prices in writing and check the final running order carefully. Make sure you are completely satisfied before approval as this will be the basis for your bill.

Good suppliers are worth their weight in gold. Using ground crew at the airport for International meetings can take the stress away of the ‘meet and greet’ and local transportation to and from the airport to the venue. They can alert the team at the venue that the next large group are on their way so they can be ready to greet them with a smile.

During the event you will be assigned a venue contact for each day. They are sometimes called Guest Relations Manager, Duty Manager, Front of House etc. Make sure you know who they are, how to contact them when needed and first thing in the morning that you run through the timings for each day. They are your ‘right-hand man’ so to speak so if the coffee runs low or lunch break will be late they will liaise with catering staff to get it sorted quickly. They should never be far away when you need help.

Your staff should be briefed on the venue surroundings, guests with special needs, VIPs, timings for the programme and who to contact in case of difficulties. The staff on the day will represent your team and your organisation. Have a briefing session at the start of each day to run through roles and responsibilities so they know where they need to be and when.

And finally...
 don’t forget to say thank you, ask for feedback and wish your guests a safe journey home.

Angie Major has over fifteen years’ experience of organising events in the healthcare industry. Angie is Managing Director of Delegant Limited (


Originally published at The Journal of Clinical Research & GCP