Taking the plunge into working for yourself can be daunting for some but it can represent an exciting challenge for others.
First, you need to take stock of your personality. You know yourself better than anyone. Does the thought of being your own boss, determining your own working hours and drumming up business sound exciting and achievable? Or are you better suited to the structure of a job where your hours, your duties and your remuneration are reliable and predetermined? The world needs both types of people and both can be winners.
However, working for yourself carries a greater level of risk than a steady job working for an established business. There is room for failure if you don’t pay attention.
When you are a sole-trader, you need to perform all roles; find customers, create/supply your product/service, do the book-keeping like billing clients and paying bills, take care of all the administration, manage taxes, meet with the bank, organize insurances, look after promotions and advertising, among other tasks.
An important early step is deciding where you will operate from. A laptop in your bedroom? A home office or study or that spare bedroom? Off your kitchen table? Piggyback off a friend or relative’s work premises? Rent a serviced office? These decisions will depend on the nature of the work and your financial means but they will impact on your performance as a self-employed worker.
One of the critical keys to success, when you are running your own business, is structure. Set-up your working hours program and stick to it. An important asset that will help you succeed is discipline. Don’t let your working day get frittered away by distractions like day-time TV or extra-long lunch breaks.
A vital skill you must master is successful time management. This goes hand-in-hand with the structure you have devised for the running of your business and finding the best efficiencies as you progress. It may be tempting when you are working for yourself to put in long hours and skip days off. After all, the harder you work the more successful you will be? Not necessarily. You need to learn how to plan well and work smarter, not work harder.
Good time management will ensure that you complete your work tasks in a timely fashion to bring in the money, but allows time for relaxation and family time. There are courses and training that you can opt for, to develop this skill.
There are several areas of training you should invest in when you set yourself up to work for yourself. Contact your local chamber of commerce or small business council to see what is available for small business owners. A lot of material is supplied free and they are usually short courses aimed at a basic but comprehensive level for anyone to understand.
One area of expertise you should master is the basics of financial planning. You need to be able to forecast your trading activity for the year in advance, including expected revenue and expected expenses, to formulate your expected profit. This can be valuable planning for when you seek funding.
Other valuable information is often free or inexpensive, like some basic training in marketing and promotion. Learning the most successful marketing methods can make the difference between your growth and expansion, or failure. If no-one knows what you have to offer, then you will struggle to make your business grow.
You will also need to pay attention to your trading ethics. Does your business have a mission statement or charter of quality? Paying attention to the quality of what work or products you provide is vital in building an ongoing business. It will mean the difference between an unsatisfied customer who never comes back or the successful building of repeat business. When the client learns to trust you and the quality of what you provide, they keep coming back and they recommend you to others. This is the most valuable form of promotion you could ever wish for.
Excellent customer relations translate to repeat business. Advertising and the promotion of your business functions to attract new customers, and it certainly costs money. But if you don’t treat people right and win their repeat business you are forever stuck with having to chase new customers. It is much more cost-efficient to build repeat business and reduce your need for running up advertising costs.