We’re off to the sunny land of Dubai today, which is where Ruth Badley of Ruth Badley PR was about to move when we last caught up with her in January 2015. When I asked her then where she hoped to be now, she replied, “Definitely in a warmer place! I hope to continue the work I am currently doing whilst also taking time to immerse myself in a totally different way of life, in a location which offers so many new and exciting possibilities. I don’t think I would be wise to predict where my business will be in a year’s time but I am looking forward to finding out.” Well, she’s certainly moved by now – let’s see how she’s getting on.
Hello, Ruth! You were about to move when we caught up last. Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
I relocated from the UK to Dubai through my husband’s job, around this time last year. The first few months here were dominated by the official processes required for residency status and then finding somewhere to live. The pros and cons of Dubai’s residential districts are quite difficult to unravel from the UK, so a year ago I would never have dreamed I would be living just across the road from the Burj Khalifa. The world’s tallest building is an elegant and inspiring piece of architecture and a major visitor attraction. I soon established an outdoor home ‘office’ area on my balcony so I could look at this man-made wonder during my screen breaks! An outdoor office is understandably something of a novelty for anyone moving from the UK and one I was able to exploit to the full – until the temperatures started to rise. I year ago I didn’t expect to have taken on any local work but this has happened through a new contact I made in the first few months of arriving here.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
As far as my business is concerned, it has been a very smooth transition to a new location with business very much as usual. My clients and contacts are based in the UK and mainland Europe and I have continued to work with them. The main changes are to my working day and the working week. At this time of year there is a four-hour time difference between Dubai and the UK. In practical terms this means that if I send an email to the UK at 10am my time, I cannot expect an immediate response because it is only 6am in the UK! I therefore tend to do most of my client work in the afternoons and evening. I like having the morning relatively free for planning or my own projects. At busy times it is often handy to know I can still catch people at their desks in the UK, even when it is 9.30pm here.
The working week runs from Sunday to Thursday so the weekend is Friday and Saturday. I am still getting used to that and Sundays always confuse me. Some of my clients are very clued up about the weekend traditions in the Middle East and often apologise for contacting me on a Friday. I confess I might respond to emails on a Friday from a poolside location but I try not to rub that in too much!
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I have learned that there is more to life than work. I have a much better work/life balance here than in the UK. My expat experience is giving me more time to explore personal projects that had been put on the backburner in the UK. I wish I had known a year ago how many friends we would make in the first year here – getting to know people from so many diverse backgrounds and nationalities is something I hadn’t expected and has made settling in to life here a lot more interesting.
Extra question: What question would you most like to ask your fellow small business owners?
I am hearing a lot about proposed changes relating to tax return information affecting small business owners. I would like to know what the views are on the changes and how they may play out as I will be returning to the UK in a couple of years.
Any more hints and tips for people?
I would like to share a book which I found helpful and thought-provoking. Great for anyone looking to refresh their approach to business or embrace a new direction: “Who Moved My Cheese: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life” by Spencer Johnson.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
I am guessing I will still be here in a year’s time but thinking, and planning for, a return to the UK. It may be that timing our exit will be harder than I think. I keep meeting people who intended to stay in Dubai for just a couple of years but found that two has turned into five, six and counting. My husband is too near retirement age for that to be a realistic option but we shall see. Expats cannot remain resident in Dubai without a job so retirement here is not an option. If my clients still want me to work with them I hope to continue my business, wherever I am.
UPDATE March 2017 When I contacted Ruth for her update, she bowed out of the project. She told me that in the last year she has taken forward several personal, creative writing projects and cut back her business activity considerably as a result. They are returning to the UK later this year and she will be semi-retired by that stage. I wish Ruth and her husband all the very best of luck for this new and relaxed stage in their lives.
It’s lovely to hear how well Ruth has settled in to her new home and country, isn’t it! I have to admit that while I could work anywhere, given that I work remotely with clients all over the world and very rarely meet them physically or even speak to them on the phone, I’m quite wedded to my life in the Midlands and don’t think I’d like to up sticks. It’s good to know that location doesn’t matter, though, just in case.
I’m not sure I can answer Ruth’s extra question; I think they’re planning on bringing in taxation based on what you’ve taken in during the year rather than what you’ve invoiced (which can be very different), but as I run things on the latter basis, it would probably be complex for me to swap over. I’d love to know what other people think, though!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.