Going solo: how to survive in business on your own
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Last Updated on by Noni May
The world of business can be a scary place at the best of times, but as solopreneur or sole trader it can look particularly intimidating. It may be the first time that you’ve moved away from the safety of your traditional nine-to-five job, or even if not, you still have to face up to the fact that you will be competing against more established businesses with greater resources at their disposal.
However, that doesn’t mean that surviving on your own is an impossible task. Nor does it mean that you must get by without any support or assistance. Although going solo will be difficult, it is certainly achievable, and what’s more, it may prove to be the most rewarding decision you ever make.
The first step to survival as a sole proprietor is a rather boring administrative one, but it is important. Formally setting up your business normally involves registering yourself as self-employed with your government’s relevant body. In the UK this is HMRC, while in the US you may have to register with your state or local government, or possibly both. At this point you won’t necessarily need a business name – you can operate under your personal name – but if you do want to call your company something else, then take some time to think carefully about this decision.
The primary reason for getting registered, aside from the fact that it is a legal requirement, is that it will set your business up with the administrative details that you’ll need later on to pay taxes and other business fees. Keep hold of any important documents you receive as part of the registration process, as you may need them at a later date. And don’t just throw them under your bed. Start an organised business folder containing all your records, so you won’t have to rummage around when you need to find something out.
Come up with a plan
In all the excitement of starting your own business, it’s easy to rush into things and start selling your product or service as soon as you can. Unfortunately, this can lead to costly mistakes that undermine your operation from the get-go.
Coming up with a clear business plan should be one of your earliest actions. Think about your personal and business expenditure and how much money you’ll need to make to get by as a sole trader. Then start to think about the sort of money you’d like to make once you’ve grown your organization and how you are going to achieve this.
Budgeting is one aspect of a good business plan, but it’s not the only factor. Time management is also important and don’t forget to be creative. A good plan also involves bold ideas that can take your business to the next level.
It is quite likely that you will put a lot of pressure on yourself as a solopreneur, but don’t let this pressure force you into stretching yourself too thin. When starting out, try to give your business a precise focus to ensure you are not overworked. It may be better to deliver one product perfectly than many products to a lower standard. There’s only so much one person can do, so don’t let your business suffer by overreaching.
Ask for help
If you do find yourself struggling as a sole trader, remember to ask for help. Could you outsource some of your business processes, or even take on an employee to help manage your workload? You may have stated your business as a solo affair, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay like that.
Automate where you can
When you’re responsible for the entirety of your company’s output, or most of it at least, it’s important to lighten your workload in any way you can. Automation has been introduced to businesses for many years to reduce the need for manual labor. For a sole trader, modern software packages offer some relief when things seem like they are getting on top of you.
One of the business processes that can be automated relatively easily is the invoicing process. As a sole trader, if you are working with freelancers or contractors, you’ll want to ensure that they receive their fee on time to avoid the reputational damage of late payments. These software packages can validate your invoices, schedule them for payment, and create a receipt automatically, without you even having to press a button. You can find out more about the types of automation software available to businesses here: https://www.dataserv.com/solutions/ap-automation/features/3-way-match
Don’t shut yourself away
Although you may be going solo, that doesn’t mean you need to shun human contact for the rest of your life. Although certain jobs, such as a writer or editor, will require prolonged periods of isolation to help with concentration, there’s still plenty of reasons to get yourself out into the world.
Getting to know your market, for example, is always more effective if you conduct some first-hand research. Talk to potential customers and clients and find out what they like and dislike from a business partner. Also, remember to make time to network. Attending industry events won’t bring in any money directly, but it could let you find a new customer or connection that proves invaluable in the future.
With so much going on, marketing may be one of the first business aspects that gets neglected. However, if your customers don’t know about your organization, they won’t be giving you any money. Digital marketing is more accessible than ever, which means that having a good website and a knowledge of SEO principles is a must.
Other modern marketing techniques, like the use of social media, are also within your grasp, particularly as they are free to use. Many modern advertising methods take time and creative thought, rather than financial muscle, which means that you need to include time for marketing in your everyday work.
The world of business is extremely competitive, but also hugely diverse. Although going solo is daunting, there is room for organizations of all sizes in this world, from those with thousands of employees to those that have just one.
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