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  • Ian

A Room Of One's Own

Self-employment brings many challenges - irregular work and uncertain income - chief amongst them. Doubt, worry, regret and lassitude are optional extras but best avoided. It's down to you, but not necessarily you alone. For the most part you are in thrall to the vagaries of the "market". You stand or fall depending on its dynamics, its curious ebb and flow as well as your place in the overall scheme of things. You are only as good as your last day's work and even then that's judged by others. The future must always be earned. These are the ground rules. You submit to them, give it your all and hope for the best.

Of course there are upsides too. Self-employment affords you the opportunity to shape your business and employment around your own motivations, ambitions, skills and more besides. It's a blank canvas and you get to colour it in. You get to add this but subtract that. Get it wrong? Just tear it up and start again. What's not to like? There are trade-offs, of course, but the what, why and how is pretty much your decision. Think carefully and choose wisely. For now it's your call. The "market" will have its say in due course.

In lecture halls and years' far distant, we were told that technology would render time, distance and location factors less relevant for business than heretofore. Networks - both virtual and physical - as well as connectivity would be key enablers for market access, productivity and operational efficiency; all the more so for those located in peripheral or rural areas. This has proven true to a degree but is also dependent, to a considerable extent, on the nature, scale and uniqueness of the business activity, the product or service offering and the market location. What is more certain though is that the technology tools now available - a dizzying but impressive array of devices, software and apps accessible to all - offer transformative possibilities for the self-employed allowing operations, logistics, marketing and communications to be configured as one wishes; available when and as needed. The future is now and it's flexible, lean, efficient and mobile.

For many however, the other side of the connectivity equation is more problematic. Broadband - its availability, variability, quality and cost - remains a vexed issue in many rural areas and a real inhibitor to economic development. Promises and assurances have been many and frequent but visible progress less so. In truth though provision has improved, even if its pace has been frustratingly slow for many and the digital divide between urban and rural grows ever wider. As always, the "market" is a harsh mistress. It was then with some surprise that we learned that what is now Prescience HQ - located in the heart of the beautiful village of Rosscarbery; a hours drive west of Cork city - benefited from broadband of a quantum significantly beyond that provided in certain urban settings and offices well known to this author. That set us thinking...

Prescience HQ

So it began. As winter passed and Prescience strode defiantly forward, many options were considered; ruled in or ruled out. Plans and assumptions were adapted, streamlined and in some cases binned altogether. Contingencies and needs were assessed with everything viewed through the imperatives of mobility, flexibility and connectivity. As such, a fixed work location though desirable, was not necessary; irrelevant almost, in the sense that our location at any given time would be determined by client needs and locations whether at home or abroad. We're resolutely local but our market isn't. In so far as we needed an office, we were good to go. But to where?

Not far as it happens. In the end, for us, the answer was obvious. Ditch the commute and stay at home. Remain in the village, shape the available space to ones needs and augment where necessary with co-working spaces or hot desk facilities, wherever they're to be found. Strip out the unnecessary and devote more time to the productive - whatever one determines that to be; all the while creating one's own distraction-free environment (one exuberant Golden Retriever and an impressive genre-hopping music collection aside). Pretty much everything we need and rely on is to hand or a stone's throw away - as indeed are some of the things we very much like, but absolutely don't need. So why not? We serve each others needs. What a pleasure it is to observe and to participate in the daily rhythm and flow of the village; it's vulnerabilities evident but thus far trumped by its resilience, adaptability and sheer sense of self. A pleasure too, for us, to make some small contribution in return. Who wouldn't opt for that? Remember, it's our call. So count us in, we're here to stay. Changes will come in time but for now we're right at home.

"Give her a room of her own and five hundred a year, let her speak her mind..." so said Virginia Woolf, albeit in a very different context, to a different audience and with a considerably different meaning. Almost 90 years on Prescience took heed, got the room, tooled up appropriately and went in search of that five hundred a year. After all, who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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