I haven’t always supported small business owners. I also chased monkeys.

I’ve never been one to focus on a career. For a moment as an early teen, I wanted to be a vet, but an incompetent careers guidance counsellor and then a missed grade scuppered that dream. However, I’ve always had a vague sense of direction in life, one driven by continuous learning and a desire for a healthy, balanced life.

As a teenager, I had seen what an unhealthy, stressful life had done for my dad, and I didn’t want that. From the time I left high-school in 1998, up until 2014, I’ve pretty much been a student with part-time jobs and bank loans to pay for my studies and adventures. Except for one year when I was a zookeeper in a Midlands zoo looking after parrots and penguins and two weeks I spent selling gas and electric utilities door-to-door.

I mostly studied apes and monkeys and specialised in studying the ways humans and other animals communicate. I’ve chased chimpanzees through the riverine forests of the East African Rift Valley; observed red-tailed monkeys leap through the tree canopy in Western Uganda and followed olive baboons closely as they stomp through the jungles of Eastern Nigeria. And as you can see, I have a passion for forests and I loved the two years that I spent living in them, almost completely isolated from the world.

olive baboon karima in Nigeria
david in jungle
kakama male chimpanzee portrait
chimpanzees grooming

The greatest challenge in all my years of study was the final three years of what became a seven-year PhD programme. For the first three years, I had a scholarship and some savings got me through the fourth year, which should have given me enough time to finish my thesis. But when I came back from collecting data in Nigeria in summer 2008, I was weak and sick. It took me months to fully recuperate. And once I had recovered, I had no money left and needed to find a job to support myself – I managed to find four.

During the day I ran doggie daycare and dog walking service. While the dogs rested after a long walk in Richmond Park, I worked as a virtual assistant helping a handful of small business owners with some invoicing and answering some email enquiries. A few evenings each week, I served drinks in a private tennis and squash club. And at the weekends I offered a tutorial service to University students, helping them design their final year projects and then analyse their data.

david with pepper and toby
baxter and gracie
cooper
mimi
poppy and eddy
hendrix

All this work kept me very busy. I enjoyed the diversity of the work and I got super fit walking dogs every day. They were also a welcome distraction from writing my thesis, which was becoming an almost impossible task with no end in sight. By the end of 2009, I was ready to give up. I wanted to walk away from my thesis and get on with my life.

And then at a party on New Year’s Eve in London, I met a French girl, and I had yet another distraction, but she was the most beautiful of distractions.

She returned to France, and we stayed in touch. I didn’t speak or write French, so we conversed in English, through a few phone calls but mostly by letter and email. After several months we were hopping back and forwards between London and Paris on the Eurostar as often as we could afford it.

After a year and a half, I was still struggling to write my PhD thesis and could barely earn enough to pay my bills. I’d even replaced the cleaner in our apartment as a way to make a bit more money.

After a difficult conversation with my girlfriend to explain that I could no longer afford to travel to Paris to see her, she suggested that I come over to Paris and live with her. She’d support me financially so that I could leave all the jobs and focus on just my thesis. And I did just that.

On the 3rd of July 2011, I loaded all my belongings into 29 boxes. I set off at 10 pm with two Romanians and their white truck, travelling the night as we crossed the English Channel on the cargo train and then into France to arrive early morning in the quaint western suburb of Saint-Germain-en-Laye where my girlfriend lived. And it’s where she and I still live as husband and wife.

david and bene in machu picchu
david and bene in garden
david and bene on glacier
david and bene kayaking
david and bene in canada

It’s now been almost 11 years since I started doing a little administrative work for small business owners as a way to support myself as I finished my PhD. In that time I’ve worked with business owners in real estate, marketing, arts, personal and business coaching, training and consultancy, mystery shopping, complementary therapy, safeguarding children, custom furniture, theatre, circus, a homelessness charity and an NGO.

For some clients, I’m a virtual assistant. For others, I’m an online business manager, copywriter, web developer, technical support or coach. It all depends on what they’re looking for – someone to advise, someone to implement, someone to create or someone to manage.

In whatever role I assume for clients, however, my goal is always the same – to help them get stuff done as simply and as organised as possible, giving them space in their lives for other things. And the reward for me is the diversity of the work I’m given. Over the years I’ve specialised in being a generalist. And I love it!

Simplicity, organisation and making space are important principles that run through my life. They’re the reason that despite an offer to move into a corporate job, I stuck with my home business supporting clients around the world. My business allows me to manage my own time and energy, work from wherever I want and gives me plenty of time to be with my wife and dog, read and write almost every day and do a whole other number of things that I’m interested in. At the moment I’m learning the ride a unicycle (and it’s much harder than I ever thought).

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by a jungle of tasks all demanding your attention, maybe I can help you find a way through.

Got any questions?

Do you have the necessary skills to support me?

When you present me with a task for the first time, I will always let you know whether I can carry it out or not. In most cases, I’ll be able to handle the task. I’ve worked with many clients over the past eleven years and have supported them in very different ways. Most clients; however, require the same type of business support and so there’s rarely a task that I’ve not done before.

Is there an ongoing commitment to work together?

No. Upon agreeing to work together, you sign a working agreement with myself. This contract simply describes my obligations and protects your ownership rights to all work used by or created by me. This agreement does not bind the client to an ongoing relationship. If you do not have any work for me in a particular month, then there is nothing to pay. You use my services only when you need me.

How does this remote business support work?

The widespread availability of high-speed internet and the means to communicate effectively and efficiently on-line has meant that we can not only work from home but can have full business relationships without ever meeting face-to-face.

I work remotely, using email as my main tool to communicate with clients. In addition, messaging, audio and video chat, on-line shared folders and of course the telephone, are all tools which I use to establish and maintain relationships with clients.

Working remotely like this can take some adjustment, but by starting with clearly defining the role that you require me to take in supporting your business is a vital first step. We can discover a working relationship that works for you. You can contract me to carry out one-off tasks or to continually manage or monitor aspects of your business (e.g. a certain project, address books, web content).

What are the advantages of working with a freelancer like me?

One of the biggest advantages to outsourcing work is a large reduction in your business running costs. As I am a freelancer and not an employee, you do not pay a salary, health benefits, sick pay or even office space. Just like a doctor, lawyer or accountant, you pay only for work carried out and none of the associated costs of having a full-time employee.

As a freelance contractor, I am also invested in the success of your business. I carry out all work under standard freelancer agreements providing you peace of mind that I will work for my fee, and that your data and anything I use or create in the process of working with you, remains your property. Furthermore, I can increase the visible size of your enterprise.

Is it a secure way to work?

Your personal data are stored securely in an encrypted virtual vault and absolutely never shared without your consent. All usernames and passwords are encrypted. I track the emergence of any new viruses, trojans or malware and can let you know how to handle them (if necessary).

Is there any type of work that you don't do?

I don’t answer telephone calls for clients. I can’t provide this service for clients because it would mean that I would be continually interrupted by calls. This would negatively impact the quality of my work. I also don’t manage accounts for clients. This work is for accountants. Although I do create invoices for clients and log these in accounting software like Xero. I also don’t do any type of work that could be considered illegal or dishonest.

Are you interested in working together?