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.
Simple Strategies For Financing Your Small Business
Below is some useful information on simple strategies to finance your small business.
So, you have found your passion and now want to start a small business? One of the first steps to fiscal success is to look for simple ways to finance your new venture. This might sound difficult and you might not know exactly where to start, but it can be done with the right know-how and tips.
You could start by looking for small business funding online. There is also the option of attracting an “angel investor” or crowdfunding, but if you are just starting out it is best to keep things simple. Below is some useful information on simple strategies to finance your small business.
Look for small business-specific loans
There are financial companies in South Africa that are geared specifically towards helping small businesses. They believe that small businesses are making a difference in the country and are building a better solution by striving for excellence. Simply put, these financial companies want to help you reach your goals of success.
You will have to meet certain criteria for some of these companies, such as having at least three of the most recent months of bank statements for the company to scrutinise. You will be scored according to the performance of your company, but if you are just starting out, the process will be slightly different. If you look for small business funding online, you will need to find out the stipulations, such as having been in business for at least a year, earning R500 000 annually and being based in South Africa.
Try out crowdfunding
Through crowdfunding sites such as Indiegogo or the South African version Candystick, you will have access to thousands of investors who could help fund your business. One of the benefits of crowdfunding is that many of the contributors are not necessarily interested in acquiring equity in your company but simply want to get their hands on your product.
You will need to ensure that your crowdfunding campaign will attract investors and contributors. An effective way to draw the attention of investors is to offer an incentive, such as sending the first 100 people to contribute funds a sample of the product you are planning to make in your small business.
Be sure to read all the terms and conditions to find out if you have to pay any fees to the crowdfunding website to join or maintain your campaign.
Run a pre-sale campaign
If you already have a product, you can run a pre-sale campaign to earn funds to finance your small business. This way, you can keep the entirety of the money you earn and use it to build your business and make more of your product for new and returning customers.
A pre-sale campaign means that you will sell prototypes or early versions of your product through a PR (public relations) campaign, attracting new customers and benefitting from the traffic that it will draw to your website. You might end up selling all of your prototype products, which is fantastic as this revenue will allow you to build more and improve your profits. Be sure that you have enough product for the sale or you could arrange an exclusive event for a select few customers before you the official release of your product.
Ask friends and family
This might not sound like the best idea, but asking friends and family to invest in your business can often lead to success. You could ask a close friend or a family member who supports your vision to provide a percentage of money to help fund your business, with strict plans in place to repay them with interest.
Before you approach anyone asking for a loan, you will need to have a sound business plan in place, as well as a legally drawn up contract stating how and when you plan to repay the loan. This will reduce the likelihood of unpleasant surprises and shows your investors that you take their money and trust seriously.
You will need to seriously consider how the arrangement will be structured. Are you offering them an investment in your small business or is it a loan? This will affect the repayment options as well as the risk involved for them.
Explore all options
As a small business, start by looking for small business funding online and for small business loans in South Africa, then move onto the more creative outlets. If you explore all of your options, you will soon find the perfect solution to build your small business.
The best way to start is with a small business loan, as this is the most reliable way to gain funding and use other ways as secondary sources when the time comes to grow your venture. Remember to have a business plan in place first before you apply for any loans, whether it is from friends, family or a financial institution.
How Small Businesses Can Give Back Without Breaking The Bank
If you are not sure how to start giving back, below are some top tips on how to do just that… without breaking the bank.
As a small business owner, you might think that charitable giving is impossible on your small budget. But, this is not true. You can donate to a charity or contribute to a fundraiser, even if you have a startup or small business budget. You just have to be creative about it.
In today’s world, more and more consumers care deeply about social causes, which means that you need to seek ways to incorporate giving back into your business strategy. If you are not sure how to start giving back, below are some top tips on how to do just that… without breaking the bank.
Encourage your team to volunteer
You will see many calls from charities, such as MSF, to donate time and resources. One way to give back without breaking the bank is by encouraging your team to volunteer and offering paid time off as an incentive for them to volunteer at a charity.
You can give your employees a specific amount of time each month or quarter for volunteer work, and you will soon notice morale improving. It will also increase your community involvement and visibility in your community. You will have to ask your team which days they would prefer to volunteer, as many people might prefer the weekend over a Monday or other weekday.
Use your talents
Giving back does not always have to mean making a monetary donation. You can use the talents of the people in your business to give back to clients, or you can offer your services pro bono to charities that could use them.
For example, if you are a marketing agency, you can offer to upgrade a charity’s website or write content for their social media pages. If you are a financial business, offer a free day of accounting services to a charity that desperately needs some bookkeeping help.
Using your talents costs you nothing but can help to make a significant impact on the cause that is closest to your heart.
Set up a collection jar in the office
If you have chosen a charity, such as MSF to donate to, it can be difficult to find the funds in a small business. A simple but effective way to collect some funds is to set up a collection jar in the office for employees to contribute to.
Be sure that your collection jar is placed in a high traffic area of the office, such as in the kitchen or on the way to the coffee machine. You can make it fun by running a competition of who can donate the most and offering a prize, or you could ask those who bring in their own lunches to donate what they would have spent on purchasing a lunch that day. Be sure that your staff never feel forced into giving a large amount of money, but remind them the jar is for a good cause.
Launch a charity drive
If money and time are in short supply in your small business, you can still give back by launching a charity drive. You can collect anything from books and clothes for children, tinned food and bedding for an animal shelter or even tinned goods for a soup kitchen.
Be sure to choose a charity that everyone in your office agrees with supporting, otherwise it will be difficult to encourage everyone to take part. Take it one step further and ask your local community to contribute to your charity drive. Set up a place in your office where people can drop items off and offer them a thank you card or note so that they feel appreciated. Make posts on your social media platforms before, during and after the drive, and ensure that you share photographs of your company donating the goods to your chosen charity.
Use your voice
If you know about a cause, such as the outbreak of Ebola in the DRC in 2017, then as a business you can use your voice to make people aware of it. You can create a social media campaign for a charity or join in their advocacy, lobbying, letter writing, and other efforts.
By adding your voice to theirs, their cause becomes louder and it is likely that more people will be interested in donating to them. For example, you could set up a Facebook page for your local animal shelter and create informative posts about pet health for their followers to share. Or you could post blogs to your company website detailing the needs of a local homeless shelter and how people can help them.
You do not have to stick with monetary donations when helping a charity, although these are much appreciated. You can look for creative ways to give back without breaking the bank. As a small business, it is important to build your presence with consumers, and helping a charity is an effective way to do so.
You can encourage your team to volunteer, use your skills to help your chosen cause or you could set up a collection jar in the office. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is creative and in line with what your employees can achieve.
The Importance Of Training In A Small Business
Having happy and satisfied employees is great for business and will put you two steps ahead of your competition.
As a small business owner, you might not think that training your staff is as important as it would be in a larger company. This is where you are wrong. A small business is still a business and, in order to be successful, you will need to have staff that understand their roles and their responsibilities completely.
They should also be trained in other aspects that do not relate to their position, such as computer literacy and general administrative duties. Skills development facilitation is an effective way to ensure that your employees perform to their highest levels and feel appreciated and valued in your company.
It can help to address weaknesses
While you are not trying to make your employees feel bad about their performances, training programmes can help them (and yourself as the business owner) to address any weaknesses they might have.
By addressing these weaknesses, you can find ways to improve their skills, such as sending them on computer courses or communication courses. Training your staff also allows everyone to be elevated to the same level of competency, making for a more productive and proficient business. Any employees who feel they have weaknesses will be able to improve their skills and reach the same level as the other employees.
Employee performance will improve
If weaknesses and shortcomings are addressed during skills development facilitation courses, this will obviously help to improve your employees’ overall performance levels. You should be sure to send employees on relevant courses that are targeted to their roles and responsibilities so their departments can improve too.
Your staff might be feeling unmotivated or overwhelmed, and a training programme can help to improve their confidence and performance. Improved employee performance is a huge positive for a small business, as it will mean a faster turn-around time and projects being met on-time and within the client budget. Training your staff in their areas of expertise is a sure-fire way to boost their confidence and performance levels.
It can provide direction
If you have a department that is not operating at its full capacity, then a training programme might be the perfect tool to help this department reach its full potential and find direction. Having direction when working in a small business is vital to any employee, as it helps them to be productive and reach business goals.
You can choose from a range of skills to train your staff in, such as computer skills or office administration skills, targeting a certain department that might help with direction in their work. Skills development facilitation can also help those employees who are not sure of their roles or whose skills are too “general” to fit into one department.
If you only have a few employees, sending them on training courses can help to show them what roles and responsibilities in the company are.
Training provides consistency
Sending your employees on skills programmes will ensure that everyone who works in your business has the same level of experience and expertise. This consistency is particularly important when it comes to policies and procedures, as all employees need to be aware of the expectations and procedures within the company.
Putting all staff members through the same basic training will ensure that everyone has the same exposure to every department, which can help the office run smoothly and improve employee relations. Having consistency in your office means that everyone is operating at the same levels and that your business is able to finish projects at a much quicker rate than before the training. Be sure that you also look into more targeted courses for your different departments.
It gives you an edge on the competition
Human capital and skills can help a small business to get an edge on the competition. This is especially true if your entire workforce has been trained in their fields and has received the same training across the board.
Having an edge on the competition is not only beneficial to you as the business owner, but will help your staff to have a sense of pride in their work and can even help to retain your talented employees. Being able to outdo your competitors relies heavily on the abilities of your employees, which means that you should take your training programmes seriously. If you want to be a success, put the needs of your staff first and see how quickly your business improves.
Happy employees means better business
Sending your employees on training programmes can help immensely with job performance, employee retention, office consistency and addressing any weaknesses there might be. Your employees will feel valued and respected, which, in turn, will improve their loyalty to your company and help with quicker turnaround times.
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