Starting a business is an exciting leap into the unknown, but preparation is important. Here are a few pointers to get you started.
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The thought of setting up a small business or becoming self-employed can be daunting, but in reality it can be quick, cheap and easy to set the wheels in motion. Jonny Lawrence, Digital Marketing expert at Logic4Training, shares some practical tips for solo success.
For many of us there comes a time in life where being your own boss is an appealing option – perhaps you’ve mastered your trade, or you want the freedom to fit work around your family. Self-employment works really well for across many sectors from the trades to journalism and the arts, and more people than ever are taking the small business route.
So, you’ve been thinking about going solo for some time, you know the line of business you want to go into, you’ve got the qualifications and experience – where next? Don’t be put off by the admin side of setting up; it’s all about keeping thing simple!
Register your business with HMRC
You’ll need to decide on a structure for your new business, and then tell HMRC. Chances are, if you’re starting out as a small business you will be a sole trader – a limited company is more complicated and expensive to set up. Being a sole trader does not mean you have to do it all yourself. You can have employees, but you are solely responsible for the business.
You must register with HMRC within three months of setting up, and can do this online.
HMRC needs to know you're in business
Create a website
Once you’ve decided on the purpose and function of your business, you need to tell your potential customers! A fully functional professional website is a must have for any small business, and there are plenty of affordable options online, from DIY to professional web builders. The key elements to consider are:
· Get found
Create clear sections of your website for each product or service you deliver, and make sure your contact details are on every page. So, if Mr Bloggs is searching for ‘electrician, Sussex’ he is more likely to land on a page relating to this.
Good quality pictures and informative videos are a great way of demonstrating your work and are easily achievable on a good smartphone.
· Fresh content
A certain amount of fresh content will help your site to rank highly on google. A regular blog will do the trick. Uploading new jobs as soon as they are finished and sharing relevant news stories will make you look busy, engaged with the industry, and your website more interesting.
· Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
This is more important than how your website looks, reads or works – if no one can find it, it’s essentially pointless.
If a customer can’t access your site from a mobile, they might not bother!
Mobile is now the default for internet users
Spread the word
Getting your website together will also help you get your general brand in order. Make up some simple flyers, which can then be posted through letterboxes, or displayed in shop windows – not everyone looks online. Perhaps create some adverts for local papers, too; all this will help to build a positive local reputation of your company.
Alongside more traditional methods, social media is a cheap and easy way of reaching a wider customer base:
· Facebook – Setting up a Facebook business page is free, and provides a good place for loyal customers to post nice things about you, with plenty of potential customers in easy reach.
· Twitter – great for industry debate and general banter. Just try and keep it pleasant and not too controversial if you want to appeal to the masses!
· LinkedIn – a sort of Facebook for businesses, it’s a more formal platform than Facebook and Twitter - If you’re going for larger jobs, this is the place to research and target decision makers.
· Google+ - a fast growing social network. It’s important for businesses as it can have a powerful impact on search results, increasing web traffic from Google.
Insure your business
Depending on the type of business you operate, there may be certain insurances you are required by law to take out. There is plenty of information about this online so you need to do some research to make sure you are sufficiently covered.
For example, if you work on your customers’ properties, public liability insurance will cover you for any damage caused to third parties or their property. If you have business assets such as tools, it’s a good idea to make sure these are covered too.
Some insurance is a legal requirement, some will take the edge off a nasty incident
Show off your skills
You may have completed an apprenticeship, or worked in your chosen field for many years, but are you up to speed with the latest training your industry has to offer? If it’s been a while since you did your training, perhaps consider a refresher course.
Research and join relevant professional bodies. There may be legal requirements, for example gas installers must register with the Gas Safe Register if they undertake gas work in the UK.
Accreditations and qualifications can then be displayed on your website, emails and invoices, helping to develop your general brand and increasing credibility with your customers.
Go for it!
If you’ve got the drive, skills and ambition to go it alone, take the leap. There is an element of risk involved, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know.
Logic4training provides training courses and business advice to the building services engineering sector.