Friday, 30 November 2012

God I feel grown up

In October 2010, I left a job in Medical Communications as a senior project manager which I really loved.

The only reason I left was due to us moving 200 miles up the M1 back North again and they were not prepared for me to work from home, well they were but it was a pretty rubbish deal - I would have to go freelance, the hourly rate they were willing to pay was pretty much the hourly rate I was on as an employee but without the paid pension, healthcare and holidays and they wanted me fully at their disposal, so I turned the offer down.

I thought I had set something up, working as a freelancer for a virtual medical communications agency. This would mean I was self employed but signed a contract with this new company who we will call Company B (for bastards). The alarm bells should have rung. I had my CV out for months before the move with recruitment agencies, and then I got a call one day to my office at work, which came through my assistant. I was out at the time so had this strange message that someone I had never heard of was trying to contact me. I rang the number and it was a manager with Company B who said they had been sent a copy of my CV by a recruitment consultant but didn't want to pay the recruitment agencies fees - their reasons were they had been sent 2 previous candidates in quick succession who had not worked out, the first one had only lasted 1 month, the 2nd they replaced him within less that 3 months, so they felt the agency owed them money and not the other way round.

I met with the managing director in a service station on the M25 (as you do), had a telephone interview as well and got offered a freelancer position. I would be on a set monthly amount which was pretty similar to my then employed salary, and although I was freelance, I could have 20 days of holiday which they would pay me for but this was not in the contract. A virtual agency is basically one which has no office base and all staff are freelance. I was given a blackberry and email account and started the week we moved. It was hell on earth. I was surrounded by boxes, no Internet connection so running off a dongle.

The demand on me was like nothing I had ever experienced. I would get phone calls at 7.45am and ask if I could ring them back as we were trying to get out to school, same on a night. Work deadlines were very tight - it was a nightmare and after 3 weeks I knew I had to find something else. Problem is where we now live is 80 miles from the nearest Med Comms agency and there is only 1 scientific company in the town. There is also Leeds and York so I started looking. 3 days after making this decision, I got a phone call in the morning from Company B and was basically sacked - first time for everything but it was such a relief to be honest. Some of the reasons they cited for me not working out were 'not being flexible enough and available when needed', 'not having childcare in place as the kids were often there when I was needed' Huh yes, at 7 bloody 45am or 8 at night. Well rid of them.

This was followed by 2 months of nothing, I had a couple of interviews but having been out of laboratories for 6 years it was hard to get back into them at the level of pay I wanted/needed, and my PhD was a bit useless as I was very specialised to research taking place in London.

Things started to get a little desperate and I was being told that I was over qualified to stack shelves in the supermarket on a night - seriously 'because they knew I wouldn't stay and would want to move on or progress within the company' - No actually, all I want is some extra money and I am willing to do anything (within reason of course), and a job which requires little thought was actually very appealing.

So January 2011, New year, new start, the experience with Company B had left me battered and bruised and destroyed a lot of confidence, but pick myself I had to do, and did, found a list of Med Comms companies in the UK and literally sent my CV and some writing examples out to 100's. One paid off and after another service station meeting in Nottingham, I started as a freelancer for another Med Comms agency. 2 years on I still get the majority of my work for them and love it. I do all school runs unless away at a meeting, I go to all school events, I help out weekly in school for an hour and half, I don't worry about doctors or hospital appointments, yes, i often work in the evenings and have even done all nighters but it is worth it. In the last 2 years I have been to Paris, Vancouver (and got upgraded to first class!!), Rome, Milan, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Frankfurt and Madrid as well as numerous meetings in London which I always tie in with an overnight stop with friends. Most of the places I have travelled to I have also had time to do a bit of sightseeing in as well. I don't get paid holiday or sick pay but I don't mind, my hourly rate more than covers those days off. I also do freelance work for my old company who approached me and agreed to pay just under my going rate but a lot more than they originally offered when I left, and I have had the odd job through those original CVs going out - in fact I have just replied to a potential job today to tide me over Christmas which is great.

Last year, I did my own tax return and to be fair cocked it up. This year I have employed an accountant - oh my god, I have my own accountant! This has shocked me. I still often have to pinch myself that I work for myself and successfully so as well. But to suddenly have a meeting with 'my accountant' really slammed that point home. Today she has sent me through my tax assessment and all my paperwork - this is really me. I am not so impressed with the £8,000 tax bill I have to pay in January or the fact I then also have to pay an extra 50% of that towards next years tax, parting with 12K is going to hurt badly but at least I have been sensible enough to be putting my tax aside. That's another thing, I suddenly have ISA's and stuff like that to keep my tax in - after 38 years, it has only just dawned on me that I am really quite grown up!

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