Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Five Minutes with Freelancer Helen Glenny

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Helen Glenny PhD HonFICR CSci

My background
After completing a PhD in Biochemistry (Nottingham Medical School) in 1978, I started my career in a Human Pharmacology Unit at Beecham Pharmaceuticals in an era when work was more fun and considerably less bureaucratic! Imagine no computers!

Since ‘going freelance’ in 1992, my clients have included CRO, pharma & biotech
companies, large and small. I’ve co-ordinated and monitored numerous Phase I studies and UK hospital centres participating in a wide range of therapeutic areas. I've also undertaken various medical writing and editing projects, several feasibility studies, and for one company I participated in an international survey of ongoing research in osteoporosis.

I’ve also enjoyed a long standing association with Institute of Clinical Research (ICR).

What attracted you to freelancing?
I 'went freelance' to avoid relocation after my employer's merger and to enable

me to work part-time whilst my son was young. Working on a freelance basis is certainly becoming increasingly common in clinical research and experienced freelancers are in demand! Freelancing offers more excitement, challenges, financial reward and variety of work than is usually possible with a permanent position.

What are the positives and challenges of freelancing and running your own business?
Freelancing provides a lot of freedom in terms of being able to work from home. It allows you to live where you choose and gives you the opportunity for a more healthy lifestyle. People working away from the distractions of office life are able to much more productive – this particularly applies to tasks, such as report writing, that require sustained concentration. Autonomy is great but isolation is not, so it’s important to prevent the latter by ensuring that your lifestyle provides you with sufficient social and professional interaction.

I’m currently the only clinical research member of Acumentia (www.acumentia.com).
Thanks to members of Acumentia – consultants to the food and pharma industries
and covering a huge range of specialties - I have gleaned useful information
and broadened my perspective as a consultant.

What would be your top tips to fellow freelancers or those considering a move into freelancing?

  • Seek advice from established freelancers and keep in touch with your former colleagues. Consider carefully: whether to operate as a sole trader or as a limited company? VAT registration? Professional indemnity insurance? Your daily/hourly
    rate?  What type of work you would like? Are you happy working for pharma, biotech and/or CRO? Are you going to specialise in any particular phase (I to IV), type of work (project management, monitoring, medical writing, training, auditing etc) or
    therapeutic area(s)? How far are you willing to commute/travel?

  • Personal motivation is key! Keep your skills & knowledge up-to-date and manage your own professional development. Join at least one organisation which will provide you with business, intellectual and/or social support e.g. European Medical Writers Association. Seeing the success of others’ businesses can be inspirational!

Helen is co-author of the highly successful and popular ICR Guide to Freelancing which was first written in 1998, and substantially updated with the help of Helen’s accountant - Allan Smith - in 2009. The guide can be ordered from the ICR: http://www.icr-global.org/resources/publications/