This is a “how to” post. It’s inspired by experiences over the past ten years and more recently my son.
For instance, you have a stroke and become less robust than you once were, you need to find a different way to work.
Or you have long-term mental health needs and the hustle of the 9 – 5 (or 7 – 6) just doesn’t work for you anymore.
Or there’s a global pandemic and you lost your job.
You get the idea.
So you’re sitting at home wondering wtf to do next? Well, first you spend a few weeks in your pyjamas feeling sad and low and eating too many custard creams and binge watching Friends/ IT Crowd/ BBT.
Then you wake up one day. It’s the inspiring moment in the movie of your life where you finally take a shower and brush your teeth after festering in your duvet cave of despair.
This is the day it all changes.
You can’t go back.
You are going to be…self-employed.
After you’ve dealt with all the anxiety about whether this counts as “proper work” and the conversations with friends and family, also about whether this is “proper work” and whether you’re going to be able to make a living/ support yourself/ avoid dissappearing into a lichen covered caravan in the the woods, it’s time to get down to the nuts and bolts.
But wait! I hear you cry. What nuts and which bolts. How do I do this?
As someone who has established and succeeded in self-employment for the past six years I’ve created this nine step plan to getting started.
Step One: decide what you are offering. While it’s lovely to imagine earning your crust from your art work, and you should for sure keep that dream alive and work on it every day, in the short term you may find you need something more “bankable”. I had a holistic therapy business for about five years. While I made enough to cover my expenses and pay back my training costs it was never a main earner. This kind of treatment is a luxury, an optional extra, and unlike say a manicure or pedicure people don’t see it as essential. Much more profitable and sustainable were offerings such as gardening or administration skills which are the kind of jobs which just don’t quit (that grass is going to keep on growing…)
So what skill do you have which is needed? Can you bake? Walk a dog? Clean like a demon? Garden? Cut hair? Administrate like a boss? Skills which people need, and which need doing again and again, or which others find challenging, are a good starting point.
Step Two: pick your name. I have, more than once, set up a business without being clear on its name. This is do-able, starting is better than being held up for months while you ponder the intricacies of alliteration and seek to avoid unhelpful abbreviations and acronyms, but it can mean a lot of retracing your steps when you decide to change name and can also affect your search optimisation work for your web presence.
Step Three: create a biz email address; great for helping you maintain a “professional” face. Emails such as firstname.lastname@example.org are fun with friends but not so great for potential clients.
Step Four: Set up a website. For the lowest cost first option go for a Facebook page, this has great functionality now for no start-up cost. You can style the page with your own images, add regular posts on your growing biz and establish a rapport with potential customers. There’s also an option for appointment booking and reviews which is excellent. And now that you have an email you can add this on the page too so folks can get in touch to find out more about your awesome offer. Once you’re up and running you might want to look at Wix or Squarespace to create your own business page proper.
Step Five: order some business cards. This is one of two initial costs. At this point it all starts to get real. Choose something clean and uncluttered. Make sure your name and your preferred contact options (at least two) are listed as well as at least one social media channel. I have used both Vistaprint and Moo for biz cards and both are good quality and value for money. When you make those all important first contacts (the truth is out there!) you can leave a few cards with clients for friends…and so the network begins.
Step Six: set up your finances, a standard cash book to record your takings and expenses is a good place to start. You will also probably want a separate bank account for your earnings. This can be a standard current account to start with, business accounts can be expensive for small businesses at the beginning.
Step Seven: get insured. Whatever you’re offering, whether it’s tarot or tutoring you’ll need insurance. Insurance protects you and your clients. Google your industry and look for a well known company. Insurance ranges from £60 per annum for “low risk” industries and up but is crucial. Think about what you need, public liability is the main one, you might also want professional indemnity, something to cover equipment, and sickness cover.
Step Eight: get busy! Free apps such as Gumtree and Nextdoor are a good way to let people know you’re in business. Share posts with friends on Facebook and ask them to let you know of anyone who might need your services. You might want to set up a LinkedIn page or attend local networking events in person.
Step Nine: once you’ve made your first 1k it’s time to register on the HMRC website as a sole trader so that you can meet the self-assessment tax requirments. Congratulations, you’re in business!
Being self-employed is a great way to work. While you don’t have the protections of an employed role such as sick pay and a regular pay cheque, you can choose your work hours and you will never be bored. I have found it an ideal way to work alongside managing health and family.
Wishing you every success in your new venture!