Jaz Cummins, Director at Empower, was interviewed by Better Business magazine for their August / September 2014 issue on the benefits of working virtually. You can read the whole interview below or read the full magazine here.
A virtually perfect way of starting up?
With the prospect of low overheads, little initial investment and no office space, more and more start ups are forgetting bricks and mortar in favour of running a ‘virtual’ business.
Running a virtual business with no physical premises may sound ideal for start-up business owners but it can create distractions, lead to a lack of routine and make it difficult to communicate with business partners and clients.
Jennie Watson caught up with three business owners to discover the benefits and challenges of running a virtual business.
JAZ CUMMINS, Director at Empower (www.empower.agency)
From day one, Jaz and her business partner Ben Matthews made a conscious decision to run their digital marketing, communications and social media agency virtually. The virtual approach is working so well for Empower that Jaz and Ben have no plans for physical premises unless the need arises.
“It was a planned decision,” explains Jaz. “My business partner and I had both freelanced for a while and love the freedom and flexibility that comes with that lifestyle.”
Aside from the flexible benefits of virtual working, it has considerable financial gains for small business owners too.
“The main advantage of virtual working is that we cut down on costs associated with office space. Rents are expensive in London, so that’s a big saving which we can pass onto our clients.
The second huge benefit is the time saved commuting, meaning our working day starts early, and not after battling through rush hour! On a personal level, there are life benefits too – time to exercise, receive deliveries or meet friends for lunch. We have considered joining a co-workspace so we have a permanent office that people can visit, but the need hasn’t arisen yet.”
Despite its cost advantages, virtual working can be isolating so it’s important to create a routine and environment to keep yourself motivated and happy, according to Jaz.
“Isolation is a challenge, which can be worked around with calls, client meetings, exercise and social activities. A little planning ahead each week prevents the feeling of isolation. At the other end of the scale is the challenge of drawing a line between work and non-work time. Especially working in social media, it can be very hard to switch off. I try and implement a digital switch off at evenings and weekends, whenever possible, which makes for a fresher return to work. Having a good network to reach out to for advice and contacts within our industry and with other self-employed friends is also important.”
Jaz and Ben use a range of on online tools and services to run Empower virtually, from Skype for client calls to Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn to promote their business, but it’s Google Apps for Business and Crunch accounting software that have been fundamental to their success in Jaz’s opinion.
“A lot of the business is run using Google Apps for Business, so that’s e-mail, word processing and spreadsheets. Google Apps for Business takes the pain away from everything technical, and is fantastic for backing up, version control and collaborative working with clients and remote teams.
We also have virtual accountants through Crunch, which is particularly vital for our business. We’re not finance people, so having an accountant on the end of an e-mail at all times means we don’t have to worry about our accounting and can get on with running the business.”
Looking ahead to the future, Jaz expects to see fewer start ups based in physical premises.
“There are so many different ways to run a business these days, with virtual working being one route I think that more and more firms will take. There are lots of co-working spaces popping up too, which fills the gap between individuals working from coffee shops or at home and businesses taking out office leases.”