How women can survive as sole traders in tech
Posted on 1st August 2018
Last century, in 1997 to be precise, a young lady left school at 17 and went to Glasgow College of Building and Printing for a course in multi-media studies. This involved such new fangled things as CD Roms and the course had an option in third year to switch to (the relatively new) Glasgow Caledonian University for a degree in web technology. The young lady in question, Linsey Miller, took to this new tech stuff like the proverbial duck to water. However, let her tell the story…
“This was relatively early days for tech. We were learning html coding and a lot of other stuff (much of which has since fallen by the wayside) and I thought it was just brilliant.
“Back in the 1980s, my dad’s firm began to use computers. For anyone graduating today these would seem antiquated beyond belief. I remember a Toshiba “laptop” that was about the size of a smallish suitcase and of course there was no Windows back in those days – all the screen was covered in orange characters. However, for me it was an introduction to a fascinating new world. I began to use computers, something that not many other friends at school were doing then and I recall that when Windows 3.1 was introduced it seemed like a whole new world. That early exposure to technology fired my enthusiasm and, as I’ll explain, my dad was later to play a key role in the development of my career.
“After graduating, I got a job with a company in Kinning Park in Glasgow, working on very early mobile technology, but I was then offered the chance of a job with a design agency in George Square (in the centre of Glasgow). That was going well, or so I thought, then they went bust. I was 21. I’d just bought my first flat. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen.
“My dad came to the rescue. He’d been working for himself for some years by this time and he suggested I do the same, so bought a PC and software, I set up Tag New Media as a sole trader and took a leap into the unknown.
“I found that the low overheads that came with working as a sole trader were very useful as they allowed me to keep costs down for clients. I also developed a network of contacts who were freelance souls like me, all happy to exchange leads and information and share business. It’s a great way to work and I’ve been making a decent living from it ever since, although latterly I did change the company structure to a Limited entity on the advice of my accountants.
The most difficult time for my business was definitely when we decided we wanted to have children. I had to save up and put aside money to cover the period when I wouldn’t be working. To make matters worse, contrary to conventional wisdom that first babies arrive late, Carly, my daughter, was three and a half weeks early. I hadn’t had time to finish all the work I had in the pipeline and I remember sitting in a hospital bed, texting Kenny, an associate who worked with me on a number of projects, asking him for help to launch a new website that was scheduled for the weekend when I was supposed to be getting home.
I took three months off, slowly weaning myself back into work. Carly is now in Primary School and, like so many self-employed mothers, I have learned to juggle work and a child. It did mean a drop in wages, because I have less time to work than before, but because we had planned for this we had money put aside to cover our mortgage and other ongoing expenses.
“It’s simply a question of working more flexibly, using spare time at nights at times, but Tag New Media has continued to prosper and I’ve enjoyed my time in web design. However, when I was doing my degree, I had a friend who went on to do her PGDE (Post Graduate Diploma in Education) and, while at that time I thought I was too young (20) to be a teacher, I’d always thought I’d like to do that at some point in my career….”
Interview, Alastair Blair
Posted in Women in Tech
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