A survey commissioned by Intuit Australia has found more than 80 percent of the 300 self-employed female respondents use a phone or tablet to run their business, while 69 percent use a notebook.
What wasn't revealed was the percentage that exclusively use a mobile device, notebook or desktop PC, but those numbers do suggest vendors would do well to ensure that their small business software and services work equally well across all common types of hardware.
Nicolette Maury, Country Manager and Vice President of Intuit Australia, said: “It’s great to hear that Aussie self-employed women are embracing technology when it comes to business."
When asked what would help makes things easier for their business, the most commonly identified tech issues were:
- Better internet speed (31 percent). The imminent rollout of the FTTC part of the NBN is likely to help small businesses in various metropolitan areas in the coming months, as are the ongoing improvements to the three mobile networks.
- Technology integration, such as centralised storage of application and files, or the ability to transfer calendar items from laptop to phone (10 percent). This is largely a solved problem – Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive and similar services make it easy to store files so they can be used on any of the person's devices; cross-platform calendar synchronisation is often possible (such as Android to Google to Mac); and rise of cloud-based software means the same applications can be used on pretty much any internet-connected device.
- Technology should be easier or more user-friendly (8 percent). This is an ongoing problem, and it seems more of a journey than a destination. There are at least two aspects that come to mind. One is that fewer steps should be required to complete any particular task, the other is that software and devices should work the way users expect, in order to reduce the learning time. There is an inherent conflict: how can you simplify a task without changing the way it is done? One worrying trend (seen in Apple's products, for example) is to make something look simpler by hiding the less commonly used functions – but if you used an earlier version you're likely to think the hidden functions have been removed, and if you haven't, how do you know they are there?
- Mobile apps (7 percent). Another interesting issue: while there's a clear preference for apps among some parts of the community, some people regard having lots of installed apps to be an inconvenience – if only because of the storage requirements and the need to keep the apps updated – and would just as soon use mobile-friendly web sites for some of these functions, especially those that only work with an internet connection.
The research found that many self-employed women work in professions such as retail and sales (13.5 percent), bookkeeping (6 percent), creative professions, hospitality, and alternative therapy/beauty, and that a majority of women have chosen to be self-employed because they want to be their own boss (59 percent) or because they wanted a better work/life balance (49 percent).
Coincidently, just the other day we heard the suggestion that starting your own business means working 100 hours a week. Clearly, becoming self-employed doesn't guarantee work/life balance improvements – it's something you need to actively plan for and work towards.
Further, switching from employment to self-employment is less about becoming your own boss and more about replacing one boss with many (your clients). It's easier to sack a client (perhaps they are far more trouble than they are worth, or their values don't align with yours) than it is to sack your boss (ie, resign), but it's important to realise that running a business to suit yourself may conflict with your financial and possibly other goals.
"I'm only going to work 30 hours a week" or "I won't accept clients from the XYZ industry" are legitimate choices, but that they should be made consciously and with due consideration of the likely consequences.