- September 28, 2017
- Posted by: Zack Halliwell
- Category: Blog, Professional Development
In 2017, more and more of the modern workforce is becoming self-employed. From writers to designers, the army of do-it-yourself entrepreneurs is showing how traditional employment is not the only way forward for young people in Seattle. In fact, in the country, an amazing 15 million people are self-employed (10% of the US workforce).
So, how exactly do you go about becoming self-employed? There are some things that you will need to know and although mistakes will be made, the fewer the better! Here are a few of the more important pointers to keep in mind:
Hopefully, you have been inspired by an idea. Either there is a product or service that is on trend (like pulled pork rolls, avocado on toast, or fancy coffee beans), or you have an idea that is a solution for a common problem. If this is the case, then good because you will have the first key thing to make it alone: motivation.
The second thing you need is good, old-fashioned, knowhow. You could be experienced and up and coming in your field, in which case that’s a great reason to act as a sole trader. If you don’t have the expertise that is also not an issue, Steve Jobs didn’t. But this does mean that if you use someone that does have a wealth of experience to help you, it could mean you may need to either pay for their assistance or register as a partnership.
An important part of your business structure is the plan. The part that a lot of self-employed entrepreneurs mistakenly miss out. However, having targets to aim for will often get you there a lot quicker, rather than bouncing off walls until you get there.
A business plan is also non-negotiable if you require a capital loan from a bank or capital from investors. They will need to know that their money is in safe hands, so it is vital to be clear in your plan. We’ve all seen budding entrepreneurs falter in Shark Tank, and although an exaggerated process for TV, it emphasises the need to have a solid plan that you know better than your mother’s birthday.
A company’s branding is the most important piece of marketing, as the brand is what customers will build a relationship with. Just because you’re a one-man band doesn’t mean that you don’t need cohesive and attractive branding.
Because of its importance, it is highly beneficial to do significant market research before designing your brand. A good idea is to look at the branding of companies you like, why do you like it? Also research competitors in your niche, why does their branding work or how can it be improved?
Do some primary research; send out questionnaires, ask online forums or small focus groups. Ensure that they are related to your customer demographic though, as your family isn’t likely to give you the most constructive advice (no matter how supportive you are mom, sorry).
Once you have decided on a brief for your brand design, contact specialist designers who can create a logo or advertising material. Or do it yourself if that’s your specialism!
A unique selling point (USP) is what will separate you from the competition. It can be part of the design, distribution, locality, or even simply pricing of your services. Pricing is very important, especially as you try to get the competitive edge against a number of freelancers; just remember that it isn’t always best to be cheaper. If you can provide something different then sometimes a certain clientele will be willing to pay more for exclusivity or extras.
Intellectual Property Law
Once you have your USP, you will need to protect it against your competition from copying it. The most common form of protection is a patent, which is a copyright of a design. Patents are complicated and will be restricted to certain countries. If your market is worldwide, then you will need to apply for multiple patents.
It is also a good idea for anybody you work with to sign a confidentiality agreement so that design and production secrets aren’t leaked to competitors. Not so important as you start out on the self-employed path, but can become vital the more successful you become!
Another step towards marketing yourself is designing a website or using social media platforms to promote yourself. There are many uses to having an online presence, whether it is for e-commerce, or to promote your products or services. More and more consumers are using the internet in the buying process, so it is essential you are seen.
Social media has also become very popular for businesses to interact with their customers. As a sole trader, there is nothing stopping you from emulating this success and reaching your audience on a regular basis. There is also the chance to write an expert blog and become a key voice within your chosen industry.
Get an Accountant or Financial Advisor
This might be the most important. While a lot of self-employed workers are very good at making money, managing it is not so simple. Staying above the bottom line can be stressful, but more so is paying taxes and making sure you have the correct cover.
The cover that you require as a self-employed individual can depend on the type of trader that you are. For example, a freelancer will require freelance insurance, and a limited company will require public liability insurance.
It is also important to know when you are required to pay VAT or if you are eligible for a business rates appeal. All should be covered by an accountant who has the expertise. Ensure you have all of your ducks in a row before fully launching into the self-employed stream and you will be sure to find success.