Starting a Business (Part 1): Time to be your own boss

Date: 13th January 2017   |   Author: Adam Phillips

So, you’ve been made redundant, you have a wedge of cash coming through and you decide it’s time to start your own business… or you’ve decided that the management isn’t to your liking and you fancy being your own boss. It’s time to become self-employed. Easy….right!?

This is the time to ask lots of questions, you don’t legally require a straight up business plan, but really thinking about what you are going to do, how you are going to it and where you are going to do it are just the starting blocks of all the questions you should probably be asking yourself. The most difficult and obvious question is – what am I going to do?

Are you going to continue on the same journey that you’re currently on and keep doing what you are doing or are you going to do something which you really enjoy, maybe time to take that hobby of yours a bit more seriously? Perhaps you’ve always fancied giving something a go? Perhaps you happen to be really good at something – not necessarily what you want to do long term, but you know and are confident that ‘it’ can make you a ton of cash?

Then the serious questions start to creep in – knowing what you’re going to do, seems to suddenly have become the easiest question of all and you realise that this may require a lot more attention than perhaps you first thought…

Your Business

So, you’ve figured out what you are going to do, awesome. The next stage is figuring out how you are actually going to make money from it? Are you going to charge a fee? Are you going to charge a percentage? Whether you charge a fee or charge a percentage of the job, how much is it going to cost? Why ‘that’ much money- why ‘that’ particular percentage? Have you cost something effectively and taken everything into account?

So, let’s work out a scenario. Let’s say you venture into the world of window cleaning. I would like a quote for someone to wash my windows. Not too big a task I would have thought, might even do quotes for free...part of the service. There's no cost to me to turn up and work out how much a job is going to cost....right...??

Well.. if you live next door, then probably not. However, when starting your business it is important to cost it as efficiently as you can. In English, this means, you have to make sure that you are making money in real terms. So, after all the work and labour and materials, after the wage, you should hopefully have some money left over - this is known as 'Net Profit'. So, in order to do a quote, you'll need transport to your destination. This transport may require MOT/tax/insurance (there's a cost attached to that). You may need your tools, ladder/measuring tape/pen/paper/mobile phone/laptop etc. You may need to wear suitable clothing. If you climb up the ladder- you may require public liability, all of these cost money and there is of course one last thing - your time costs money, the time you spend doing quotes for free, you are not working and doing the job, which makes money. All of these cost money to a certain degree, what you then have to do is work out if the free quote is viable, the only way to ensure it is viable is by costing your business correctly. So would you charge a set fee per job? Do you set a fee according to the number of windows there are? Do you do it according to the time that it takes? Do you do it owing to the size of the windows?

Scenario:

You are asked to do a job and you charge £10 for the job. Is this viable? You have only one job booked in for the day. You have to travel the other side of town, which is 3 miles away and pay for parking at £1.00 for 1 hour. Your van does 35 miles to the gallon, so it would cost you about 35p to travel 3 miles* and then of course 35p back home. (70p in total). The van is paid off, including all of the legal requirements (van insurance, MOT, Tax). Equipment has all been paid for because of profit over the year, so everything on you is owned. The client is happy for you to use their water and its the bottom floor windows as its a ground floor flat. The job takes about 10 mins or so. In this scenario the math's would work out as follows: total money in = £10 (cost of job) minus £1.00 for parking, minus 70p for mileage, you are still £8.30 up. Not a lot of profit, but not bad for 10 mins work, there's still profit, if there were several houses in a row here, you could argue that this business is more than viable.

If however you had a job and you charged £10 for it, the only job for the day.Its a mansion, that's 20 miles away, this would cost you £2.52* you had to hire the van because you don't own one yourself, that costs £50 for the days rent. Before, you've even began, you are down £42.52. This would cripple a business - Very quickly!

Its important to ask all of these questions - how am I going to get from job to job? What tools and materials do I need to do the job? The tools that I use - are they the most efficient? How long will it take to do the job? What legal obligations must I satisfy?  When will I get the money back for these items? What kind of water am I going to use? Where am I going to source it? and of course the most important question of all - how much is all this going to cost me?The list goes on and on...

Remember all of the above, are questions that I have literally just thought of, there will be of course be many many more that I haven’t covered, but I feel it’s really important that, as a business owner, these questions are asked. The above scenario isn’t accurate, it is purely hypothetical but, it will hopefully give you a rough idea on what to be thinking about. What you are going to do and how you are going to do it, are the very basics of any business. If you don't know how you're going to make money or if the money that you are making - is actually making you anything then, you might as well down tools. It is important to not just understand what you do for a living, but if you are wanting to succeed (and by succeed I don't mean become a millionaire necessarily, it could just mean you want to be comfortable living, month in, month out) then, you have to make sure that what you are doing is viable.

As I go through the different scenarios over the next few months, the questions I ask are simply there to get the ol’ cogs working. It’s crucial to understand your business and the questions that need to be asked are personal to you. Coming up with a solid business plan is not legally required but a pretty good idea. There is help on the Santander website, go to https://www.santandergeneralbusinessguides.co.uk/starting-business and click ‘writing a business plan’.

For any additional help, please contact me on 07718 320510.

Please note that any views and/or opinions expressed here are solely the views of myself, Adam Phillips and not that of the bank Santander Uk Plc or any of its affiliated companies.

*according to http://www.fuel-economy.co.uk/calc.html as of 15th February 2017

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