If you’re considering self-employment or starting your own business then you’re not alone. According to a report last year from the Office for National Statistics, self-employment in the UK is at its highest level since records began, with more than 4.6million people now working for themselves.
Going it alone can be an exciting but daunting task and that’s why plenty of preparation, harnessing your existing skills and seeking as much guidance as possible will all be key to help make your dream a success. Below are 10 tips we’ve pulled together to help you get started on your start-up journey.
- Do something you’re passionate about
It’s very hard work running a business, especially in the start-up stage, so it really helps if it’s something you’re passionate about. Doing something you enjoy rarely feels like ‘work’ and that feeling can be priceless!
- Do something you have experience and skills in
When entering self-employment you will inevitably learn new skills, however always try to maximise your existing skills and experience. Do a thorough audit of your personal and professional skills, and then use them to their full potential to kick-start your business idea.
It’s also great to harness the skills of those around you. Got a friend who is social media savvy? Asking them to give you some tips to help you promote your business online could prove to be invaluable.
- Access as much training as possible
One of the main reasons businesses fail in the first year is due to a lack of business training, so get as much information and advice as possible. The ongoing research for your business should include your own continuing professional development. Attending business training sessions can be tricky if your time is limited. Online programmes such as Outset Online are one example of free training available for those looking to start their own business that contain a wealth of information and can be accessed online, in your own time. Log on and get started.
- Increase your network
Everyone needs a good network of contacts to do well. Map what contacts you already have and let them know your plans, as they can be useful for support, information and a source of referrals.
Seek to expand your network through these contacts and also by attending formal networking events. Some local events can be found at www.findnetworkingevents.com/events. Also think about informal ways of networking, for example social media, social gatherings, clubs and leisure groups.
- Make sure you do plenty of market research
Knowledge is the lifeblood of your business, especially in the start-up phase. Comprehensive research is vital. Know your market, know your customers and know your competitors – only then can you operate efficiently and minimise risks.
Remember, market research isn’t a one-off job; you need to constantly acquire knowledge, anticipate changes and adapt your business accordingly. If you stand still, you could risk being left behind.
- Identify your unique selling point (USP)
You need to explain why customers should buy from you and no one else. Your existing or proposed customers’ behaviour, attitudes and opinions could be very different to your own, so ensure that you really know all about your customers. The more you know, the better you can design and develop your product or services to meet their needs.
- Identify what marketing strategy will be appropriate for your target client group
If you can’t attract customers you won’t have a business. Understand your customer profile. What are their habits? Where will they look for your product or service?
Only then can you begin to compile your marketing strategy. Take careful consideration of your product or service, the place and the price when choosing the most appropriate marketing tools for your business.
- Make sure your pricing covers holiday and sickness
Ensure that you will have enough profit to sustain you. Start by listing all of your outgoings, so you know your survival budget. Do this carefully – too many people overlook hidden payments and costs.
Make sure you build in a contingency, including an allowance for sickness and holiday, and factor this into your pricing from day one. If you’re intending to work five days a week, you might want to try pricing three days’ work to cover five days’ pay.
- Do a cash flow forecast
A cash flow forecast lets you predict how much money will be moving in and out of the business, and when. Remember that it’s normal to be initially in negative cash flow, also that many things in life take longer, and are more expensive, than you originally expect! Plan to cope with these eventualities.
- Set up a bookkeeping system
It may not be the most exciting part of starting a business but setting up an organised bookkeeping system will help keep things flowing smoothly once you’re up and running. Record details of all your business income and expenses, and retain all relevant documents such as receipts and invoices. You will also need to register for tax and submit a tax return, for which you need to keep your supporting records for six years.
Author: Rowena Maskell. Rowena is part of the team at Outset Online, a free online service offering business start-up support. If you would like support starting your own business you can access 12 months free online business support from Outset Online.