Whatever the motivation that brings the dream of self-employment into reality, we’ve developed 10 top tips to get you thinking about your way forward.

Developing a sound business plan at the very beginning with the support of an experienced Enterprise Adviser is always a great starting point but before you do, take a look at our checklist before you start.

1 – Research & Research Again

Check the commercial viability of your idea as well as your potential market and competitive market. Talk to everyone you can during this initial phase of research. Talk to potential customers, suppliers, competitors, distributors and ex-employees of competitors.  A passionate hobby does not necessarily translate into a sound business idea so find out about your market place – concentrating on potential demand, competitors and your supply chain. 

2 – Get a mentor and involve your significant others

Family comes first when considering self-employment.  Consider the impact that self-employment could bring. Your home atmosphere should be very supportive, particularly in the early stages. Your family could also help out with the odd task or provide feedback or even back up finance.

Get a mentor - two heads are always better than one. Seek out the advice of a family friend who has the experience of being in business, or someone who is recommended to you, or seek out start up support bodies that specialise in Enterprise.  NBSL have dedicated enterprise support advisors with sessions to support pre-start and fledgling businesses.

3 – Write a business plan

Once you’ve conducted your research, seek out any enterprise advisors in your area and start thinking about a plan for your business.  It doesn’t need to be onerous – keep it simple, keep it succinct. Your research will help you formulate a simple plan. A typical business plan could include:

  • Market research – potential opportunities and barriers
  • Customer and competitor analysis
  • Your product offer and how you plan to launch to market
  • Financial housekeeping and organisational structure

Justify every assumption in your business plan but remember it needs to be flexible and think about longer-term objectives, estimates and forecasts – try to make as many of your goals as possible measurable. The two most important reasons for having a plan is that it can keep you on track, keep you focussed and shows that you have realistic goals – especially useful if you are planning on attracting finance! 

4 – Work out finance needed and the type of business you want to operate

Some people rely on personal finance but some require an initial capital injection. Think about how much you will need to successfully start your business, this includes everything from premises to cost of living. You also need to consider the fact you may not make a profit for a wee bit of time.

Think about your banking facilities – you will need to open a specific account to keep your finances separate. Keep an eye out for charges that may apply and what facilities the bank offer. You don’t necessarily need a business bank account when first starting – just a separate account.

Define core people around your business and type of business you want to operate.  You could be a sole trader, partnership or a limited company. Each one has its advantages but as limited company you have limited liability, they are tax efficient, potential credibility and prestige and pension possibilities.

5 – Delve deep into your strengths and weaknesses

Assess your strengths and weaknesses and ensure you have the right type of people around you to ensure you stay motivated and focussed.  By figuring out how you work – you’ll be able to call on the necessary skills when needed.  Surround yourself with people that will support your ambition and enjoy their involvement.

6 - Think of a name

You may already be fit to burst with your name or it could take a wee while – either way you need to carefully consider your business name as it can have a huge effect on how your business is received by your customers. Think about the following:

  • Keep your customers in mind – the name must appeal to your customers
  • Think big – don’t restrict yourself to things like location, your business could go global given the online world
  • Web friendly – how will your company name look as a web address and is it available?
  • Be precise – choose a name that reflects you
  • Be unique – differentiate yourself from your competitors

7 - Build a brand around your business name

Build a brand around your business – you need to develop more than just a logo but create a sense of vision, pride in your products and can create a sense of service to ensure your customers feel your personality and professional approach.  You can create a sense of trust in your offer ensuring your customers return time and time again.

Think about your marketing activity – the way you market your product will also help define your service with clear objectives, messaging, methods of communication and how you can find – and keep – customers.  There are a huge amount of networks you can tap into that can provide you with a wealth of knowledge – sharing best practice and pitfalls.

A great way of setting the scene is through the creation of a website and getting online.  Secure a domain name that is easily relatable to your business and can set out your credentials, products and services.  If your budget does not cover building a full website, you could consider building a holding page with key information and contact details.

8 - Invest in tools that will help you build your business

Don’t make do and mend, invest wisely in your tools to ensure you provide an appropriate service. And negotiate!

9 - Have the right insurance policies

Insurance for your business is critical and you’ll need to get professional advice on what policies you need depending on your industry. You will also need to consider property and contents insurance, business interruption and theft.  Again seek out professional advice.

10 - Make space

Don’t be tempted with the kitchen table.  If starting from home, invest in setting space aside in the house to ensure you can operate without interruption.  You may need to think about commercial premises to ensure your business can grow.  Either way you should consider the facilities, the proximity to your target market, transport links, licences required, and insurance policies needed.


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