Starting a business checklist

There are many reasons for starting a business, for example to make a profit from a much loved hobby. Or perhaps you’re a tradesperson gone self-employed.

I come across the latter frequently in my role as a business coach. Often, tradespeople find themselves doing ‘foreigners’ in addition to their job. In some cases, the number of these jobs increases to the point that a business is created. However when starting a business, there are a few key tasks to complete to give it the best chance of success:

1. A business plan

In my previous post, (Starting a business from a hobby) I share the elements needed to create a simple business plan. Covering everything from goal setting to pricing, this is a great place to start and will ensure you have the key components in your business plan. Read it here.

2. Decide on a business structure

When starting a business, you’ll need to decide on its structure, either as a sole-trader or as a limited company. There are pros and cons for each and I’d advise getting expert advice from an accountant to decide what’s right for you. If setting up as a sole-trader, you’ll need to register for self-assessment with HMRC. To become a limited company, you’ll need to register with Companies House, find more information here.

3. Set up a bank account

As a sole-trader, a business account isn’t essential, however I’d recommend having a separate account to easily keep a track of income and expenses for the business. While you’re at it, decide upon a process for recording what you spend and what you earn. A simple spreadsheet can do the trick.

If you’re a limited company, you’ll absolutely need a business bank account and it’s worth shopping around for the best new deals. Moneysupermarket offer a good comparison for startup banking.

4. Get insured

Investigate what insurance you’ll need to protect yourself and your customers. As standard, you’ll need public liability and professional indemnity, but also consider whether you need to insure any tools or machinery. Again, shop around for a deal that suits your circumstances.

5. Qualifications

When starting a business of your own, you’ll naturally come up against competition and many consumers will likely obtain a few quotes. Is your training up to date? Be sure not to lose out due to out of date qualifications.

6. Equipment

Similarly, if you were previously employed your tools may not be your own. While you may need to invest in your own, getting the right tools for the job will also help in winning work and doing a good job. Get this sorted as soon as you can.

7. Winning work

With a business plan, marketing strategy and structure all in place you’re now ready to start winning work. Many new business owners aren’t natural salespeople and while it takes time to hone this skill, there are some simple guidelines that will help when quoting for work:
– don’t be late, sounds obvious but first impressions count
– be well presented; work clothes are fine but take care not to leave dirty footprints on the carpet. Use common sense
– send a written quote, to show you’ve considered the job thoroughly
– ask for the work! Simply follow up with a phone call to see if they’d like to go ahead, if you don’t you could miss out

As ever, if you need any help going through these processes, why not contact me for a free new business review? I’ll spend two hours with you giving you professional coaching on starting a business. I’ll leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Doug D’Aubrey.

Starting a business from a hobby

Starting a business from a hobby is a dream for many. Done well, it can turn passion into profit.

Over the years I’ve worked with lots of businesses that have been borne from a hobby. A common example of this is a photographer. With digital cameras making photography more accessible, (and any other hobby turning into a business) thoughts turn towards whether a career can be made. While this is absolutely possible in many cases, there are some golden rules to follow:

1. Set goals

Firstly, what do you want to achieve from starting a business? Is it extra income to pay for family extras like holidays or a new car? Perhaps it’s a retirement plan? Or maybe you want to replace your full time job with the hobby business. Whatever it is, spend time thinking about your goals. Once you know what they are, you can plan to achieve them.

2. Business strategy

OK, how will you ensure your business reaches your goals? One of the early things to decide is how to make money from the skills you’ve learned. The obvious choice is to start selling your services or products, whether that’s photography, cakes, or other crafts/professions. I would urge you to research the market, is there room for another one of you?

If there is already a huge choice of other businesses doing what you do, don’t worry! As with any successful business, you’ll need to define your USP (unique selling point). Be sure to communicate it in order to stand out from the competition.

Alternatively, you could consider teaching others your skill! Once again, research will help establish the viability of this as a business strategy.

3. Pricing

I can’t stress enough how important pricing is as part of your business plan. The tendency with hobby businesses, is for products and services to undersold. Why? When starting a business from a hobby, the business owner doesn’t always value themselves and their skills highly enough. Or, while still holding a ‘day job’, income isn’t the driver and prices are cheap.

Again, when setting your price, research is vital. What are your competitors charging? How successful do they appear to be? Where do you fit with your offering? Be careful to set your price at what you are worth! Once you’ve made your first sale, your confidence will build.

4. Marketing strategy

The final piece of the puzzle is to plan how you’ll get your products and services in front of your audience.

Firstly, work out who your audience is. Are you selling to businesses or consumers? Are they predominantly male or female? Are they affluent or hard up? How old are they? What are their likes and dislikes? Answering these questions will help build a profile of your typical client and with that, you can decide where and how to advertise.

For example, a photographers typical client may be young, engaged women. A great way to get get in front of potential customers would be to attend wedding fairs. Another is to create alliances with other wedding professionals. By doing so, you can recommend one another. Networking is a great way to do this.

Think about where your clients spend time or what publications they may read. Knowing this will direct where to exhibit or advertise.

5. The business plan

Now you’re well on your way. With these four steps in place, you have a simple business plan and can move your hobby business into a viable business.

Read onto my next blog: Starting a business checklist, for advice on the remaining must-do tasks to get your business set up and registered correctly.

As ever, if you need any help going through these processes, why not contact me for a free new business review? I’ll spend two hours with you giving you professional coaching on starting a business. I’ll leave you with actions for immediate implementation.