This is the second post on ‘Lessons learned from going solo’ – in the previous post Tony Fleming, from Pathfinder Project Management talked about the need to plan out your marketing, why you should ideally set up as a Limited Company and the need for a good accountant.
Now, welcome to part two.
Get as much advice as from many different sources. You might have friends or family who have taken the plunge, that you could sit down with a talk to. There are numerous groups on LinkedIn that you can join and post questions (or just read existing posts if you’re shy!). Your local library might have books on starting up a business or can direct you onto other sources. Where I live, there are numerous business networking groups, where local businesses meet and network. Few are going to mind you attending if you explain you’re just looking for advice and how to go into business. Another good source of information are the banks. HSBC for example has a ‘Knowledge Centre’ with resources on setting up and running a business. However, other banks will have similar information to varying degrees.
Keep on the right side of the Tax man. Keep your nose clear and resist the urge to be too ‘clever’ when dealing with taxes. Pay your VAT on time and if you’re not sure if something can be legitimately put through as a business expense, either get professional advice or don’t do it. For example, someone once asked me if he could set up a company and then operate it using his personal bank account. I told him that for God’s sake, he shouldn’t do it. Companies are legally separate entities as different as you and me. You have to show HMRC that there is a clear difference between your personal finances and those of your company. If you don’t, money you make through your business could get taxed as personal income. If you need a reminder of the power of the Taxman, remember that the gangster Al Capone wasn’t sent to prison because of the murders he ordered and the illegal alcohol he sold – it was tax evasion.
Get into a routine – You should be used to working to a routine already. There will be certain days when you have to put the rubbish bins out. You may have a routine for getting ready for work or returning home. Routines are also essential for running a company. For me, Saturdays are the days I log my company receipts and Sundays are when I reconcile them against my bank balance. Get into a routine that works for you and stick to it. If you have to mark it out on a calendar or a diary to remind you then do so. Falling out of a routine makes it easy for the work to pile up and as the pile gets bigger, it becomes easier to ignore.
Get help where you can. I was brought up to be self-reliant and while that’s a good attitude, it’s stopped me from realising when it’s time to ask for help. It might be getting someone to do marketing for you or it might be someone to do occasional administration tasks. Thinking about it logically, what would you rather spend time on? Admin or actually doing the work you want to make money from?
This isn’t by any means the sum total of knowledge I’ve learned in the last year but it is an attempt to highlight some of the key points that stood out for me and that with any luck they’ll stop someone else making the same mistakes as me.
This was second of two posts on ‘Lessons learned from going solo’ – to talk more about Tony’s experiences in going into business or your own project management needs, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org