Freelancers and sole traders make a significant contribution to the economy of the United Kingdom and, in recognition of this, the Government has launched a review of self-employment. The objectives of the review are threefold:
- To gain an understanding as to why so many people opt for self-employment;
- To identify the challenges and difficulties faced by those setting up their own business; and
- To recommend ways in which the legal and commercial environment can be made more supportive of the self-employed.
It will, of course, be some time before the review panel delivers its report and the Government (hopefully) acts on its recommendations, but, in the meantime, there are several ways in which a sole trader can grow his or her business.
- Budget your time
Self-employment can be professionally rewarding and financially lucrative but it is also challenging and extremely hard work. Budgeting your time is the single most effective way to ensure that all of your tasks are accomplished and that you have the spare time and rest which are so critical to your productivity. While predictions are difficult, many sole traders find it useful to create a loose timetable which organises their time but allows latitude for any unexpected developments.
- Make sure you get paid
After being employed by, for example, a large company, you are probably accustomed to being paid on a set date. The self-employed have to ensure they institute a formal procedure for invoicing customers and that they make time to chase late payments. Your business’s very survival may depend on your being a little more aggressive than you would really like when dealing with financial matters.
- Make your mark
Sole traders rarely have a large budget for marketing but there are ways in which they can raise awareness. Local newspapers and magazines often carry competitive price packages for advertising and many local discussion forums, Facebook pages and Twitter groups will allow small businesses to discuss their products or services.
There may be organisations in your area whose sole purpose is to promote local work, and a reciprocal arrangement with other sole traders can be equally helpful: in return for your passing the name of a florist on to your customers, the florist will mention your catering business to his or her customers.
- Consult the professionals
Whether you are in the process of setting up your business or are at a point where you want to expand, professionals such as accountants can help you to make the vital decisions and make sure that you are complying with the law as it relates, for example, to taxation. Allsquare, based in Edinburgh, is a friendly, established accountancy firm with many years of experience in providing support to sole traders. We would be delighted to talk to you about your plans.
- Have faith
In an interview to mark her appointment as Chair of the review into self-employment, Julie Deane who founded the Cambridge Satchel Company, said that the most important tip she could give sole traders was to ignore the naysayers and have faith in what you can achieve. You are doing something amazing and you should believe in yourself.