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.
Even SMEs Can Use Big Data: Here’s How
If entrepreneurs are brave (and forward-thinking) enough to take the plunge into big data, there are many business advantages to be gained… especially before everyone else catches on.
Big data has for years held a reputation as a business tool that only large corporates have the time, money, and human resources to use effectively. But, as is so often the case with technological disruptions – what once seemed unattainable is becoming sleeker, faster, more affordable, and more user-friendly than ever before. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that with strategic usage, even small businesses can gain as much advantage from big data as any Fortune 500 company.
To start with, what is big data? Organisations deal with data every day, from customer profiles to supply chain processes and sales figures. Big data takes this operational information-gathering to the next level. Multiple data sets are drawn together to create a large resource of facts and figures, which (and here’s the most important part!) are subjected to complex analysis to pluck out useful insights that enhance business operations.
Traditionally, SMEs haven’t delved much into big data. When you’re busy trying to build a successful business from the ground up, submerging yourself in statistics probably sounds more like a hindrance than help. But times have changed, and over the years, capitalising on big data has become a lot easier and more budget-accessible for SMEs. No need for dedicated data managers and unaffordable analytics platforms.
In fact, over 70% of respondents to a global survey of small businesses found that the adoption of this type of technology exceeded their expectations. Closer to home, 27% of SME decision-makers expect to be using big data within the next five years. If entrepreneurs are brave (and forward-thinking) enough to take the plunge into big data, there are many business advantages to be gained… especially before everyone else catches on.
A detailed understanding of your customers
You may think you have a good picture of your customers, but inevitably you’ll encounter blind spots at some point. Big data can fill in the blanks and give that same customer picture HD-clarity. Buying habits, consumer profiles, satisfaction levels, social media usage – combine this information, apply the right machine learning algorithm, and the result is a far better understanding of customer wants and needs, which you can then work to better fulfil. This applies to both the product or service you’re selling and the way you’re marketing it.
Perhaps even more importantly, big data can help you get ahead of trends. There are a few things more valuable to a business than having the first-mover advantage as latent demand surfaces. And the best thing about big data is that it’s based on solid facts and figures. When it comes to predictive decision-making, it removes assumptions and guesswork, allowing you to get off the starting block first, and with sure footing.
Improved internal processes for your company
Big data is not just about heightening customer relationships. It’s a powerful resource with massive benefits for organisations internally as well. And not just in terms of time- and cost-savings around business analysis.
Crunch your operational statistics, and you may find surprising ways to optimise processes – such as identifying places where automation can be introduced or retooling your staffing to meet shifting demands over the workweek. In addition to reinforcing business decisions, big data is excellent at helping to identify problems in real-time and correct course. Today, solutions are available immediately, when in the past it could take weeks or months to mine such valuable insights.
Related: Can Your Marketing Team Speak Data?
Tools to take advantage of big data
What do you need to make the most out of big data as a small-business owner? In the digital age, the foundation is a reliable high-speed Internet connection. This is because of big data’s own evolution. Data analysis was once a lengthy process which required a large amount of hardware storage (and, before that, filing cabinets), it has now evolved into a digital product provided by many business solutions providers over the cloud. The handling of information is streamlined in this way, and setting up databases, sending information for analysis, or receiving meaningful results, happens almost instantly.
SMEs may not have the resources of their more established, big sibling rivals. However, up-and-coming businesses do typically have the advantage of agility thanks to their size. It’s easier for a start-up to move quickly, redirect as needed, and act on just-gained insights and trends. This makes big data no longer “nice but unnecessary,” but an essential tool to give your company that all-important advantage in the digital economy.
A – Z Easy Small Business Ideas
Whether it’s a ‘eureka’ moment at three in the morning, or a persistent feeling that you’ve got a great small business idea, here’s some of the things you need to know to determine if you’re on to a good thing.
A small business is by no means a lesser one to the big corporates out there – even they were once small.
The term ‘small’ simply refers to the size of the company in terms of its turn-over (less than R1 million per annum) and its number of staff (usually 50 or less), certainly not its clout.
In fact, it’s often small businesses that give large corporates a run for their money as being small allows for greater agility and flexibility, quicker turn-around time, and greater room for customisation. Ready to get your small business started?
A small business can start in a home kitchen, a spare room; it can start in a garage. It can start in a small rented office space with just a laptop computer and yourself manning it, or it can start between friends, spouses, business partners.
Mostly though, a small business has minimal staff, is started with a small amount of capital, and it carries low overheads.
Need small business ideas?
Take a look at the list below to help you start brainstorming. The key is to examine an industry that you have strengths in, and determine whether the skills and character you have (or can develop) can meet a need within that industry.
Here are some examples of businesses you can start from home:
- Air-conditioner and appliance repair
- App developer
- Ad agency
- Antique restoration and resale
- Aquarium supplies and maintenance
- Animal trainer.
If you have a skill and it can be sold to someone who needs your skills, it is a business.
- Professional blogger
- Business consultant
- BEE consultant
- Body guard service.
If you are looking at service oriented businesses, make sure you are properly qualified to perform the service and registered with the appropriate associations for credibility.
- Catering business
- Car mechanic
- Cellphone repair
- Child care
- Computer maintenance and repair
- Computer training or programming
- Construction and clean-up
- Customer service professional
People will buy a product or service if it makes their lives that little more convenient.
Something that saves people time, money or hassle is essential for a sustainable business.
- Dry-cleaning service
- Driving service or school
- Data capture or data analysis service
- Desktop publishing
- Dog training, walking or grooming
- Disaster prevention and planning service
- Direct mail marketing service
- Database management
We know you were thinking Doctor – however, there are options beyond being a ‘doctor’.
- Engineering consultant
- Exporting business
- E-tail store
- eBay reseller
- E-tail secret shopper to see if someone’s e-tail experience is easy.
If it’s happening online, you can add an e- to it.
- Furniture removal company
- Fire safety
- Fire-hydrant maintenance and sales.
Whatever you do, it doesn’t always matter if it’s a traditional or ‘old’ business, so long as you’re doing things differently and that they’re meeting the needs and interests of the modern consumer.
Although established internationally, an up-and-coming industry in South Africa is all things green, from construction to materials, to greening businesses through lowered carbon footprints.
- Green cleaning service
- Green consultancy
If green doesn’t float your boat, there are household aggravations like:
- Gutter cleaning
- Garage makeovers
- Gluten free products and foods creation and baking.
- Handyman service
- Holiday planning service
- Home inspection service
- House-sitting service and anything home-based.
- Image consultant
- Image or Internet researcher
- Interior designer.
Be careful to research your industry properly before entering in to it, take ink cartridge refilling for example. As technology changes, will you be able to sustain your business?
- Jewellery designer
- Got space? How about a junk yard?
- Kitchen fitting
- First aid kits like cyclist and other sports, or kit-cars for motor enthusiasts.
- Life coaching
- Labour broker
- Liquor manufacturer
- Lab consultant or running your own lab
- Laundry service
- Language instructor
- Lock-smith service
Provided whatever you do adds value to the customer that they can’t get elsewhere, you’re on to a good idea.
- Start your own marketing company
- Massage therapist
- Make-over consultant
- Motivational speaker
- Moving company
- mobile masseuse
- mobile salon
- mobile food truck
- mobi-app developer
- Medical consultant.
The latest trend as technology advances is for things to be mobile.
So, you want to be an entrepreneur? Then you’ll need a business idea. Here are eight ways to come up with a original business idea.
- Nail salon
- Nurse – Think a post-operative care service, or even elderly care.
- Organic producer
- Online trader
- Occupational therapist.
- Personal shopper
- Party planning
- Personal trainer
- Pest control
- Photo-retoucher and restorer
- Project manager
- Personal tutor
- Pool cleaning
- Quality controller
- Queuing service
- Quantity surveying
- Quiz master.
- Resume consultant
- Research consultant
- Restaurant or business reviewer.
- Secret shopper or secret reviewer.
- Salon or spa
- Social media strategy
- Speech writer
- Sound engineer.
- Translation services
- Transcription services
- Tax accounting and consulting
- Sun-free tanning solutions
- Undertaking services.
- Video producer
- Virtual assistant service
- Voice-over production
- Voice training
- Viral marketing.
- Webmaster services
- Web design
- Wedding planner
- Wallpaper design and hanging
- Car washing service.
Ok you’ve got us there… try something x-treme.
- Yoga instructor
- Youth mentoring, counselor, camps, youth co-ordinator
- YouTube video producer
- YouTube channel manager.
We’re drawing at straws for this one, especially when the only thing you can come up with is ‘zoo’. But even they might need some services outsourced.
Tips about selecting a small business idea
So now your brain is thoroughly overflowing with new business ideas. But before you go quitting your job and investing everything you own into it, it’s time to assess whether it can be turned into a sustainable small business.
Here’s what you need to evaluate:
- Who is the target market? There’s no business if no one will buy your product or service. Is your target market able to afford (and prepared to pay) for it? Do you have reams of market analysis about your target market’s likes and dislikes, area densities, income, responsibilities, age, gender, education etc? The clearer the picture you can paint of your target market, the more able you are to provide to them.
- What makes you stand out? Does your idea already exist? If so, what are you doing differently to your competition? Is there something unique or value adding that you offer? If your business idea is new, is your target market ready to take you on? SEO, for example, was around a long time before businesses saw its value and started paying money for it. Make sure your business has a unique selling proposition (USP).
- Money, money, money. While some ideas are great, whether it will translate into an awesome business is determined by a financial feasibility study. What will it cost you to get the business off the ground, how long will you need to wait before you break even and see a return on investment? What are the on-going expenses like overheads? How will you bridge the gap between starting the business to it becoming profitable? Once you’ve completed a feasibility study, you may be disappointed to discover that the idea just won’t make a profitable and sustainable business. Don’t be sad though, at least you discovered this before you poured in your life-savings into a dead-end idea. Keep thinking.
Choosing a small business idea based on strengths and passions
Everyone has skills. The trick is to see what skills you have in your current job or through your work experience that are transferrable into your new business.
Take a hard look at your business idea and see whether you’ve got both the personality traits and the necessary skills to make it happen.
If the answer is yes, keep going. If you find that you’re quitting your corporate job because you despise it, starting a business to capitalise on that same work experience might not be your calling.
Assess what your personal interests are, what you’re passionate about, and how you can use the skills you have to turn it into a business. Entrepreneurs need to be passionate about their business idea – as it will be passion that motivates you during tough times.
Why Small Businesses Need A Security Control Room
Below are just some of the reasons why you need a security control room for your small business.
As a small business owner, you know how important it is to provide your staff and your clients with a safe and positive environment. However, a CCTV control room is often not the first thought that comes to mind for a small business. A CCTV control room is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your staff and office space are safe, day and night. Below are just some of the reasons why you need a security control room for your small business.
It will prevent criminal activity
Businesses that install a CCTV security system are less likely to be targeted by criminals. Often, the mere sight of a camera on the side of a building is enough to deter and prevent criminal activity. Criminals do not want to be caught in the act.
If the unfortunate event occurs that you are broken into, you will be able to prevent further crime by installing CCTV control room equipment in your office space. Criminals tend to target buildings and businesses that appear to be unprotected, which means that having a CCTV control room will reduce your chances of being targeted, and can help to reduce crime in the area overall.
You will protect your business assets
A small business, such as an artisan coffee shop or vegan restaurant, will have assets that help it to function. It is vital to protect these assets, and you will need to have both insurance (in case one of them is stolen) and a CCTV control room to watch over every asset your business owns.
Installing a good security system also relates to cybercrime, as you will be able to watch both consumers and employees, noting who is using your computers at any time during work hours. If you notice missing data or incorrect time logging of employees, you will be able to go over the camera footage to see who logged what at what time. Data and information may not always be covered by your insurance company, which is why having a CCTV control setup is vital to protecting your assets.
Protect your employees
Your small business might only have five to ten employees operating at once, but this small number does not make protecting them any less important. Your employees are your most valuable asset, and so their safety should come first.
A CCTV control room will allow you to keep an eye on your employees, ensuring that they are safe. If any suspicious activity does occur on or around your premises, you will be able to see it happening and take immediate action, such as someone harassing your employees or trying to gain entry to your building. Protecting your employees also protects your business, making it a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Assist law enforcement
If your business is broken into and something is stolen, assisting the police with CCTV footage can help their investigation immensely. The police may need to release footage to the public in order to catch criminals who have stolen significant amounts from your business, or retrace the steps of the crooks in order to catch them.
Law enforcement officers might have the best skills in the business, but without video evidence, they are unable to find criminals with ease. A picture or a video can make a huge difference when looking for criminals, and will also prove to them that you made the right call in contacting them about the situation.
Keep your employees honest
While it is vital to protect your business from outside threats, there are internal threats that could damage it too, such as dishonest employees or employees who steal from you. You do have to make your employees aware that you are filming them with CCTV, but this footage may not hold up in a CCMA court, as every person is entitled to privacy according to the constitution of South Africa.
The knowledge that they are being filmed will, however, encourage employees to be honest and open while working, making for a more productive workplace. In a small business, it is easy to become friends with your employees, as you work closely with one another. While this is positive, it can lead to them taking advantage of you in some situations. Being able to monitor their behaviour will keep them honest and will deter crime in the office space.
Having a CCTV control room is vital for the safety of your small business, but it is important that you make both customers and employees aware that you are using CCTV in your office or retail space. Cameras can help to protect your staff and your assets, as well as aid in diminishing the crime in the area overall. Small businesses need to think about their safety just as much as bigger corporations, so investing in CCTV control room equipment and setting one up is the best action to take.
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