For many, loss of job satisfaction can lead to a fork in the road: Look for another job, or becoming self-employed. This article covers important things to know in preparation for becoming your own boss.
Reasons for becoming self-employed
Your reasons for becoming self-employed can follow any number and combination of themes:
- You want independence with your finances or to better them; want more control of your time
- Take on a new challenge, learn new skills or deploy the ones you have better
- You may want more money and better work conditions
- You may have been retrenched, feel unfulfilled by your current job, or can’t find a job in you area
- You may have spotted an opportunity in the market or want to have a greater impact on your community
- You may want greater flexibility in your day to see to family responsibilities
- More control who you provide business to
- You may want to pursue your passion and create greater meaning in your life
- You may not be ready, able, or interested in retiring.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to be self-employed, it’s important to know what they are, as these reasons will influence the kind of business model you create, and serve as motivation as you start and grow your business.
Related: Do You Speak Start-up?
Are you suited to be self-employed?
The next thing to assess is whether you’re cut out to be self-employed. While not everyone can be entrepreneurial greats like Richard Branson or Mark Shuttleworth, there are endless opportunities for individuals to kick-start small businesses and life fulfilling, financially secure lives.
Here are some characteristics that will help you figure out whether you’re suited to being self-employed:
Preparing to be self-employed
Before you print your resignation letter and put it on your boss’s desk, there are a few things to get in order on your quest for self-employment. You need to have a plan, so have these ducks in a row before taking any big leaps:
- Increase your savings. A business is going to require capital, often much more than you anticipate. So make sure you start saving. There will be unexpected expenses, months of little or no income, personal bills that need to be paid etc.
- Scaling back on expenses. If you’re leaving a salaried job to pursue self-employment, you’re going to need to reduce your expenses as much as possible. Not only with this help you with saving for your business, but once it’s go-time, there will be less pressure on the business to float your lifestyle. You may need to trade in the fancy car, scale back on luxury spending, skip a holiday or two. Make sure your family is on board with these sacrifices to avoid conflict.
- Can you start part-time? It’s not always necessary to quit your current job in order to become self-employed. Let your employer know of your intentions and nine times out of ten they will support you provided you’re not compromising your productivity, abusing company resources or poaching clients.
- Learn, learn and learn some more. Take the time prior to starting your business to analyse your target market, the demographics of your surrounding community, take courses or self-study to up-skill yourself, write a business plan, and get a mentor if you can.
- Crunch numbers. If you already have a business idea, take the time to carefully figure out your finances. How much capital will you require? What are your (conservative) projections? How long is your sales cycle? What kind of profit margin can you achieve? Will you require a loan?
Finding a business product or service to provide when you’re self-employed
Thanks to globalisation and the Internet, you needn’t always rely on your local community to support your business idea. If you’re passionate about a particular interest, search the Internet for forums or groups with similar shared interests. See if you can set up an e-tail business to tap this interest.
If you have spotted a need in your area that you have the skills and interest to tap, take the time to understand your market, their needs, income, expectations etc. As an example, if you spot a need in your community for a trustworthy and reputable handyman service, you can meet that need by setting up a handyman business that trains and deploys handymen around the community.
At the core of every single business on earth that has ever achieved sustainable success is this philosophy:
Every successful business (1) creates or provides something of value that (2) other people want or need (3) at a price they’re willing to pay, in a way that (4) satisfies the purchaser’s needs and expectations and (5) provides the business with sufficient revenue to make it worthwhile for the owner to continue operating. – Josh Kaufman
Implications of being self-employed
Also known as ‘the dark side of being self-employed,’ there are a number of implications that can be pushed aside during the excitement of having a business idea and getting it off the ground. Here are the top considerations to put some thought to before starting your own business:
Family considerations for the self-employed
The start-up and growth phases of a business are incredibly demanding. This means much of your time and energy will be devoted to the cause, while family can take a back seat.
You may find that being your own boss actually means more work time than if you were an employee, suddenly evenings, weekends and holidays are work-time too, primarily because of the knowledge that your business success is down to you and you alone.
Because of time and financial restraints, you may have to make unpopular sacrifices like annual holidays to the coast, reducing your children’s allowances, relying on your spouse to carry the bulk of living expenses.
Even if you’re in a position to still enjoy these things, you may have a hard time switching off and enjoying family time, knowing that there’s always something in the business that needs to be done.
Financial considerations for the self-employed
While a successful business can lead to greater wealth in the future, there will be times where the business presents huge financial uncertainty – you may not be able to draw a salary, it hasn’t reached break-even, a return on investment is years off, and your life will continue to throw financial curve-balls like an unexpected medical expense.
You will need to look carefully at if and how you plan to continue medical aid and pension payments, how you will pay loans like your bond, car etc.
Work-life balance for the self-employed
For many new and experienced entrepreneurs, finding a work-life balance can seem like an insurmountable challenge.
The line between work and personal time becomes blurred, your sense of success and fulfilment becomes attached to your business success, and you may find it hard to switch off at the end of the day.
Here are some tips to help:
- Set a place and schedule. Choose a place to work that allows you to zone in and concentrate. It’s good for this place to have a door. Get up at the same time every morning and have a routine similar to what you’d have at a place of employment. When the work day is done, turn off the computer, close the door, and ‘go home’. Don’t fall into the trap of working in your favourite TV chair, of working all hours of the day, and trying to multi-task business and family.
- Build social contact into your day. Hanging about the house all day will lead to cabin fever and a sense of isolation. Allocate time in the day to leave the ‘office’ to have lunch, pick up the kids, run errands, visit clients, socialise etc.
- Keep some days ‘no work’ days. While it’s a tough decision when you’re business needs you as much as it does in the start-up phase, make sure you have dedicated ‘no-work’ days. Even if it’s just one day a week, you need this time to recharge your batteries and enjoy important personal time.
Isolation of the self-employed
One factor of being self-employed often takes entrepreneurs by surprise – and that’s a sense of isolation. When you’re your own boss, you are at the steering wheel and the weight of the responsibility can make you feel isolated.
If your family members are employed, they might not understand what it feels like to experience the challenges, responsibility and demands you do as a business owner.
At first, the idea of working by yourself can seem appealing, moving from a business with numerous employees to being a small business owner can also feel isolating because of lack of social engagement.
This is particularly common for entrepreneurs starting a one-man-business from home. While you no longer have to commute to your place of work, you also lose the daily interaction you previously enjoyed with colleagues.
For a boost to your confidence, some much needed entrepreneurial and industry advice, being exposed to potential business, spreading word-of-mouth referrals, and developing yourself as an entrepreneur, network, network, network. Join entrepreneurial organisations, attend industry events, and maintain good relationships in your network.
To get started with your small business, click here.
How WordPress Can Help Your Small Business
WordPress is an amazingly large platform filled with incredible tools from useful plugins to intriguing extensions. It’s a platform for bloggers, social media influencers, and increasingly, small business owners.
WordPress is one of the largest content management systems available. In fact, it powers nearly 30% of all US websites. Its ease of use and a open-source nature has prompted the platform to become overwhelmingly popular.
For many, WordPress is an invaluable resource that makes website management simple and promotes their brand easily. It is Little Wonder then that so many businesses use WordPress to handle their website and online presence management. Even though it is very popular, learning WordPress is an entirely different task.
Not many small businesses can afford to have a WordPress developer. In that case, it is important for many owners to learn as much as they can about WordPress.
Achieving effective market growth
There are those who still wish to use traditional services but are usually dumbfounded by the price and time requirement for making custom websites outside of the platform.
The abundant array of tools and applications makes using WordPress simple but effective for market growth.
For many businesses just starting out, getting traction and marketing growth are very difficult and can be taxing experiences if done by hand.
With a platform like WordPress achieving a beautiful website and pushing a brand is much simpler and easier than trying to do everything yourself.
Optimising your website with SEO
One of the most important aspects of business writing on a website is search engine optimisation or SEO. WordPress fortunately comes with a number of plugins that makes SEO very simple such as Yoast.
This service scroll through text and automates the SEO process to make sure your content is pushed to the best of its ability while also giving your brand the most exposure it can possibly take.
SEO is a very taxing and tedious process for many small business owners and the WordPress platform makes it simple.
Monitoring your website and developing leads
There is also the issue of monitoring who is coming to your website and who was looking at your products. again, on the WordPress platform there is the Google analytics plugin which allows owners to analyze who’s coming to their website and for how long.
This can be used to determine if your marketing or branding is effective and can determine what things need to change to increase exposure.
For small business, exposure is everything and awareness is the key to a successful business.
Increasing site security
Keeping a site secure is another main issue for people who run their own website and luckily WordPress has a plug-in for that.
Vaultpress, the premier security plugin, keeps your website secure and in the event of a catastrophic failure it can restore the entire site.
Business owners often fear their website crashing as it would reduce the amount of traffic it could garner and may interrupt their business practice. The WordPress platform has many tools which prevent loss of data or breaches of security so that your business can continue to run smoothly.
The benefits of using WordPress
These tools, mixed with a host of other utilities, make WordPress the premiere platform for websites for businesses of any size.
With its integration software you can automate messaging, simplify marketing and, optimise the speed of your website to give users an incredible experience without the cost of a full development team.
The technological age requires that all businesses must have a website or at least a web presence of some kind. it has been shown time and time again that a website is the best way to make a big impression on the consuming public.
Related: 10 Online Marketers To Watch In 2018
Time, as it moves slowly forward, shows us that the world will revolve around the Internet and technology. A web presence then, is not just a good idea or a trendy notion, but rather imperative to stay competitive in the future. To that end, there is no better platform to create a website on than WordPress.
New Fund For Small Businesses To Be Developed
Government has allocated R2.1-billion toward the development of small- and medium-sized businesses.
Driven by the Departments of Small Business, Science and Technology and the National Treasury, it was announced during the 2018 budget speech that entrepreneurs could unlocking funding for their businesses through a new funding initiative.
What is the new Fund?
Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, explains where the fund stands and how it will work:
“The Fund will be operational during 2018/19 financial year but the planned disbursement of the funding will be the beginning of 2019/2020 financial year.”
She says R1 billion has already been transferred to the Department of Small Business Development from the national fiscus.
“The Department of Small Business Development together with National Treasury and Department of Science and Technology are working with the Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC) to develop the architecture of the Fund where issues around the management of the Fund will be considered,” she explains.
Who will the Fund be for?
“The Fund is targeting high growth businesses as our research on the ecosystem shows that there is a lack of funding of enterprises that are at an ideation and early start-up phase,” Zulu explains.
Her department together with the other participating arms of government, will identify areas of collaboration across research, mentorship and training of enterprises on financial management.
“The work that is being undertaken now will assist government to decide on how the fund will operate, but the government is conscious of the economic environment and would not look at setting up a completely new structure that will add to operational costs,” she says.
Addressing parliament on the fund, the minister said the financial mandate of the fund will be informed by the exercise that is being conducted through GTAC.
“Government is looking at having this fund as a soft loan which will provide affordable finance to small businesses and the emphasis will be more on ensuring that the Fund is sustainable rather than profit maximisation,” she explains.
How to apply for funding
Contact the following departments if you would like to access a portion of R2.1 billion:
Department of Small Business Development
- Address: 77 Meintjies Street, Sunnyside, Pretoria
- Tel: (+27) 861 843 384
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for information on the department and its services.
Department of Science & Technology
- Address: DST Building (Building no. 53) (CSIR South Gate Entrance) Meiring Naude Road, Brummeria
- Tel: (+27) 12 843 6300
- Email: Isaac.Ramovha@dst.gov.za or email@example.com for information and brochures about the department’s scope and funding.
National Treasury (GTAC unit)
- Address: 40 Church Square, Pretoria
- Tel: (+27) 012 315 5944 or (+27) 012 315 5645
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for information from the Government Technical Advisory Centre who will manage the small business fund for National Treasury.
7 Ingredients Of Small Business Success Online
Building your future requires equal measures of passion and hard work.
Building a small business online is scary. Big businesses can easily outspend you with PPC, SEO, SMM and inbound marketing campaigns.
However, smart startup founders grimly pass around business battles on the blogosphere, charging low prices for quality product, reversing their vision, failing to voice their opinion on their podcasts, showing contempt for our product, and disrespect for our craft.
And yet, look around at the World Wide Web jungle. It’s watered by the services offered by small businesses. The technology to produce product and convert customers exists because we create codes, design services, and write web pages, blog posts, and marketing materials that generate leads and close sales. And every 350-pound gorilla company uses our products or services to thrive.
If you’re a small online business owner, you can chicken out and quit when you face your competitor in the marketing arena, or you can choose something better. Because there is something better.
In the time since I began building my content marketing business online, I’ve noticed some mindsets, traits, and abilities that make the difference between businesses that want to accelerate their sales, make a profit, and survive, and businesses that want to sell more and increase their ROI but don’t seem to have the ability to do so.
Based on my observations, here are the seven most important things small businesses need to succeed online.
This might sound too simple, but if you’re a small business owner, you know what I mean.
There’s no substitute for the love you have for your products or services. There’s no substitute for the commitment of showing up every day. There’s no substitute for the excitement of receiving an order or for the burning desire to work extra hours, to reach your prospect, to ship an order, and to make more money.
If you don’t love entrepreneurship, your product or service, and the process of getting things done, none of the rest of this really means anything.
I could have just as easily dreamed of building another Moz, Kissmetrics, or Shopify, but I chose what I loved most. Whichever business idea you dream of, it’s about refusing to do it just for the money. It’s not only about making money; it’s about changing your customer’s life for the better.
If you want to achieve that, you have to dominate your industry. You have to be the go-to person for your products or services. Be super professional at your offerings so that your customers won’t want to leave you for your competitor.
2. Attitude of service
Making money can be a tempting proposition, pursued for the sake of your own interest of becoming rich and dominating the headlines.
However, as soon as the customer clicks to order your product – the vitamin C pills, the Smartphone cover, the SEO or PR services you sell – the product becomes the focus.
Professional founders work with an attitude of serving their customers great value, yes, serving them with beautiful, durable, quality products. They also work to provide excellent customer experiences that exceed their expectations, that gratify rather than aggravate, and that are born out of the genuine attitude of serving the buyer.
Successful consultants, bloggers, and content marketers all live in service to our clients. No matter how stunning or super sexy we may find an idea, if it doesn’t serve our client, out it goes.
Why? Because we have deep love and obsession for our customers.
3. Obsession for the customer
It has always struck me as odd that many of the most serious startup founders pay more attention to selling than to their customers.
It shouldn’t be that way. Customer obsession comes first. It’s like the engine that pumps cash into your corporate account. It comes from your company’s culture, value proposition, mission, and overall vision to change your customer’s world with your product or service.
Serious visionaries are obsessed with their customers. “If you’re truly obsessed about your customers,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO says. “It will cover a lot of your other mistakes.”
You can’t just sell your products. You can’t just sell your services. You can’t just advertise your brand.
You need to appeal to your customers first, because they are your buyers. And you can’t see a spike in your revenue unless you’re obsessive about charming them with your brand and building quality products that will ease their lives.
4. Obsession for quality
Many small-business owners imagine that if you have a great business idea and a great vision, you’re qualified to be called an entrepreneur.
Not so fast.
Successful CEOs and entrepreneurs are not just creative; they’re producers of quality products. They understand what type of products to create in the first place, based on the feedback they get from their customers.
They also understand that their products must solve their customers’ pain points. Their products must add value to their customers’ lives and must provide great experiences for them. You can learn more about how to build a solid product by looking at how great companies like Apple, Amazon, and Starbucks did it.
If you are obsessed with quality, you can incorporate what you learn from these companies into your business culture. Beyond your product or service, you can internalise quality packaging, simple usability, prompt responsiveness to customer queries, and even quality, compelling content on your company blog.
Because in today’s digitally driven marketing world, quality blog content is king. It’s crucial for your traffic, sales, and revenue.
5. Compelling content
You may have a brilliant idea. You may have gotten the perfect product/market fit. But, if you don’t devote yourself to the butt-in-chair time needed to produce a significant quantity of compelling content on your company blog, you won’t get where you want to go.
To a great degree, writing compelling content is a skill that can be cultivated. As a small business owner, you can devote some time to practice the art, ingrain writing into your schedule, and write every day to master the craft, or dig deep into freelance marketplaces to find a superb content creator.
Compelling content does more than just amuse your clients. Compelling content can change your life. After writing this viral post on this amazing platform, I received a dozen praises from readers across the globe. I also got a couple of writing gigs.
The blog post went viral not only because the story appealed to its intended audience, but also because the conversational tone and writing style are so engaging and entertaining … the reader feels compelled to share it.
Writing compelling posts has nothing to do with your degree, your experience, or whether or not you’re a native English speaker. It’s about how you make readers feel. That’s why every writer – just like every entrepreneur – must be creative, imaginative, and innovative.
Innovation is critical for your business growth for a number of reasons.
First, innovation develops customer value. Your customers are always in need of a product that will ease their lives, and once they get it, they move on to something else – something easier, newer, or simpler. As Steve Jobs put it, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them,” the Apple founder opined. “By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”
Second, innovation is vital for your traffic, sales, and revenue. New ideas, new products, and new stories are what always get the most attention. “The arrogance of success,” according to William Pollard, “is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
Third, innovation-active businesses are more productive and generate more jobs than non-innovation-active businesses, according to a recent data by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
But, building new products from your new ideas is risky. There’s a good chance that you’ll fail. Still, you must do it. You must double up on your experimentation. Bezos says, “If you double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to double your inventiveness.”
You’ll see wonders if you consistently innovate.
One of the tough things about growing a startup is that the path you walk is one you make yourself.
There’s no one to tell you how you should work, no one to tell you which direction to go, no one to tell you when to go for a break, no one to tell you when to work extra hours, and no one to tell you when to say no and when you need to be where.
That’s one of the fantastic things about running your own business. But, sometimes Fantastic is also Difficult. You might open your e-commerce shop today, work for an hour, check your email, and retreat for the day.
But, can you come back to do exactly the same thing tomorrow? Can you do it again the day after tomorrow, and again the day after that, and again, and again? Consistently?
That’s the difficult part. And that’s where many entrepreneurs are getting it all wrong. Building a thriving business is not about working for extra hours today and not working the next day.
It’s about doing the work that matters consistently. It’s about showing up every day. It’s about minimalism, not complexity.
So roll up your sleeves and keep working. “For the future,” as Paul Wellstone puts it, “belongs to those who are passionate and work hard.”
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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