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Startup Advice

Discussion in 'General Business Forum:' started by retroandy, May 27, 2014.

  1. retroandy

    retroandy New Member


    I am currently in a full time job where i get to use some of my Design Skills. I have found a real passion for it and i spend a lot of my time working for a number of clients freelance. I also work for a friends business, churning out wordpress sites to his client base. My full time job is looking precarious at the minute and i could find myself out of work. With this in mind i have been proactively trying to get more work to the point where i need to look at my future more carefully. As i am only doing bits and bats i haven't registered myself as a sole trader due to me still being in full time employment. As i have said this is likely to change and i will therefore look at making this my sole income.

    I am obviously concerned that going from a well paid job with a regular income to having to market myself and win as many jobs as i can fit in the time i have to earn similar money after tax deductions, that it will be a scary time. I may be able to work for an old firm for a few days a week but the rest of my time will be spent working on various projects to earn my living. I am also an IT Support technician and while i am trying to fill my time could look at using those skills.

    I suppose my reason for boring you with all this is to gain some advice from anyone who found themselves in my position or similar and how things have panned out for them.

    I must add that i dont see myself as a "top notch designer" i am realistic in my abilities but over the last 4 years have worked for many clients and never had any negative feedback. I am also constantly striving to learn new things to develop my skill set and be more confident in my own ability.

    Thanks for reading and i look forward to reading about your experiences
  2. dedwardp

    dedwardp Member

    If you're taking jobs on and receiving payments etc then, firstly, you should register as a sole trader regardless of whether or not you're still employed. You'll just do a self-assessment that also fills in the employment section at the end of the financial year - if you have any expenses then you may find it beneficial in terms of taxes as well.

    Situations like this are always worrying, but it could also prove to be the push that you need to make a success of it. Put in a lot of planning, work out what finance you need to get by (not necessarily what you're already earning, but what you would get by with) and work out how many hours of work you need to achieve that. You already have some clients so you have a starting point, and you're not out of work yet anyway.

    The more work you can build up now whilst you still have the security of your full-time job, the better. Try to save as much as you can now too so, if the worst does happen and you do try to give this a go, at least you have a buffer. If you have a couple of months or so where you know you can manage even if the work isn't coming in too freely then all the better.
  3. Dave L

    Dave L Well-Known Member

    That bit about saving money is good advice. It may be a bit over-cautious now I've been comfortably independent for five years or so but, for security's sake, I try to maintain a float that will cover my bare-minimum expenses for six months: firstly, it provides a buffer for lean times and, secondly, it gives me a window that would not only allow me to see a downward trend firmly establish itself but also a bit of scope to support myself while I look for alternative sources of income (i.e. a proper job). When setting out, you should also think realistically about your likely utilisation: I started on the basis of bringing in enough work to see me earning for around two days a week and built from there. As an average across the year, I'm still probably only working at around 60-70% of 'working week' capacity but, with the right kind of clients, that can provide for a decent living. Also, I'd recommend limited company over sole trader status: you'll get to keep more of the money you earn that way.
  4. TDesignCo

    TDesignCo Member

    Great advice guys, I too am about to register as a sole trader and go Independent. The 'cash flow buffer' is top of my priorities, after a bit of marketing.
  5. Paul Murray

    Paul Murray Moderator Staff Member

    Whenever people ask me about going self-employed, I always want to answer with "just do it".

    Of course, everyone's situation is different, but honestly, I think the fact that someone even considers the idea show that they have the motivation, desire and experience to succeed. Not everyone is happy getting up and doing a 9–6 job in exchange for "job security" (hint: no job is truly secure, no matter how long you've been doing it).

    Yes, self-employment is scary. Yes, you'll shit yourself when a job comes in and you have no idea where to begin with it. But you'll get on with it because you have to, and you'll amaze yourself.

    You'll lay awake some nights worrying about money, but is that really any different to life with a salary? So long as you're careful with your spenditure and you're dedicated, you'll make it.

    My advice would be to bend over backwards to please any clients you have already. You never know when you'll need to give them a ring hoping they can push some work in your direction or put you in touch with someone who can, so it pays to keep them happy. Always be professional, even when a client is being difficult, because you don't know when a snide comment will come back to haunt you.

    Pretty much all my work comes from word-of-mouth from past/present clients. I joke with my friends who are working in studios and hate their long hours, low pay, and lack of respect that I'm just floating through life on the breeze of good fortune, with clients coming to me with work, but the reality is I've spent 3/4 years getting to where I am now, working late, stressing with projects on my own, failing repeatedly, literally wanting to cry like a baby because I'm so stressed with a project and there's nobody I can turn to to help me with it.

    It gets easier though, and at the risk of sounding mushy, there are people here who will always give you as much help and advice as they can.

    This is slightly off-topic, but I definitely recommend you have a read of Paul Arden's book It's not how good you are, it's how good you want to be. It's not about running a business as such, it's about succeeding in life by presenting yourself in a particular way, effectively controlling how you're seen by others.

    It's one of the most inspirational books I've read, and I think it's relevant because you need to control how you're seen by potential clients. Treat your first project like it's your 1000th (get a deposit, use a contract, hold off sending files until you've been paid, etc) and every job after that will be 1000 times easier. You'll find the quality of your clients stays high too. Businesses want to work with professionals, so from day one you should working as a professional. They don't know if it's your first, second or tenth, job, and if you give them exactly what they want first time, they won't even care.
    cassiedesign likes this.
  6. retroandy

    retroandy New Member

    Thanks for all your advice. I could be looking at a redundancy package so that would help with the buffer zone. I may also have the potential to work for two firms on day rate so if I can secure that I will have regular income with the other days left to develop the freelance stuff. I am fairly confident in my ability to win work. I have a lot of experience running a business even if it's not my own. I have lots of areas I can improve in and I am also willing to work the hours which I will fit In around the family etc.

    I need to start putting things in place as soon as possible so thanks all for the advice
  7. @GCarlD

    @GCarlD Well-Known Member

    If it's any consolation, I was in a much, much worst situation when I first started up. I didn't even consider some things you already have set up for yourself. I just jumped into the deep end but sometimes that's the best way to learn to swim!
  8. Edge

    Edge Active Member

    Very, very wise words. Creating that float should be one of your main goals.

    From my experience it won't make too big a difference. Being LTD, as the name suggests, limits your liability and separates your personal assets from the company. If the company gets into trouble - you won't lose your house.

    The thing to remember is there will always be someone who can do it cheaper. Always. The only thing that will get you repeat business is quality, reliability and customer service. The skills required in running a business are quite different to those used in design and you always have to consider yourself a work in progress. People with high emotional intelligence tend to do well. Good luck!

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