Build A Safety Net
When you’re making the leap into self-employment, the last thing you want is to be plagued by financial worries. Executive search consultant and founder of Search With Purpose, Fern Freeman, says it’s crucial to give yourself protection. “It may take a few months before you land your first big bit of work – and when you do, clients can sometimes be slower to pay up than you’d like. Having a safety net of savings in the bank will allow you to stay focused on building your business for the long term and invest your time in winning that brand-building contract.”
Consider Your Digital Presence
To build your business, people need to be able to find you – and when they do, your brand messaging should be clear. Fern advises: “The first thing prospective clients will do is Google you, so it’s worth investing in a good website and making sure that your LinkedIn profile is up to date. Make sure your online presence is consistent with the brand you’re trying to build.”
Know Your Worth
Before you begin, it’s important to take the time to understand how your prices will sit in relation to the rest of the market. “If you’re more expensive or more economical than the going rate, there should be a business-related reason why this is the case,” says Fern. “Doing your research properly will mean you’re able to explain your pricing to your clients, and make them feel comfortable with what you’re charging.”
Hire An Accountant
Unless you’re a maths whizz, outsourcing your accounts and invoicing to someone who knows exactly what they’re doing is likely to save you time, energy, and potentially money, too. “While you’ll still need to keep precise records of business costs and expenses, handing over the nitty gritty of accounts management will free you up to focus on the job in hand,” says leading life coach Carole Ann Rice.
Plan For Growth
According to the experts, it’s worth setting up your financials for the size your business will be in two years’ time, rather than your current situation. As Fern says: “Pick a sensible yet aspirational figure of what your business could be generating in two years and set up your financials accordingly. This could mean registering for VAT, Making Tax Digital or even affect which business bank account or insurance you should be looking at. This set-up takes time, but it means you won’t have to redo anything in the first 18 months.”
Never Say No To A Coffee
Networking may be trickier than usual right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s no less important. “You never know what will come out of a meeting, so take every opportunity to tell someone new about your work,” says Fern. “Who knows what opportunities could come out of it and what this new contact could lead to?” Equally, consider setting up an informational interview with people who are doing what you’d one day like to do. This way, they can give you advice on how to enter the field, and might even be willing to share their early mistakes and how to avoid the same pitfalls.
Have A Designated Workspace
To set yourself up for success, it pretty much goes without saying that you should start by creating an inviting office space that suits your business needs. The benefits, say the experts, are both practical and psychological. Carole says: “Your office space needs to be just yours, with a door that closes. There’s no point in working at a kitchen table with people coming in and out. Apply the same level of care and curation to your tech set-up, so that you can work in the most productive way possible.”
Establish A Daily Routine
As a freelancer, it’s easy to open the laptop at 6am in the morning, start working from the bed and go on until midnight, but Carole warns this is a slippery slope. “For the most part, a working day between 10am and 5pm is reasonable,” she says. “That way you can start your day with exercise and breakfast, before moving onto work, and have a proper evening to yourself or with loved ones.” Even so, many freelancers will say the advantage to being self-employed is the ability to create your own hours. If you know the school run demands an hour out of each morning and evening, take it. The bonus is, you can make the time up elsewhere – on your own schedule.
Take Time Out
Setting up your own business is a big and often nerve-wracking undertaking, and the boundaries between work and personal life can often become blurred. Carole comments: “Make sure you take regular breaks, as you would do in a 9-5 office role. Applying a colour coding system to your Google calendar or personal diary is helpful in terms of effective time management.” Also, without the usual parameters around annual leave, maternity or paternity leave, it’s up to you to carve out time off – which can be hard to do If there’s no one else around to shoulder the burden. While it might not be possible in the first couple of years, it might inform your decision to take on more staff, or at least have cover in mind so you can take a break.
Take Advice, But Trust Your Gut
While having a sounding board for your ideas is always helpful, there’s a lot to be said for going with your instincts. Fern advises: “It’s a good idea to float business or freelance ideas with former colleagues or friends in and around your sector. They will help you spot and fix blind spots in your plan. But ultimately trust your own gut instincts and if you think something will work, go for it.”
For more information on going self-employed, contact the official government website here.