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NOW CLOSED: Are you a Business Owner or thinking about starting one? Please share your top tips & advice - you could win a £250 Amazon voucher

(101 Posts)
AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 12-Oct-12 12:15:30

We've been asked by the team at Barclays to put the call out for all of you who own your own business or who are thinking about starting one - your business could be still a dream, in its infancy or all grown up and thriving.

Barclays would like to know:

~ What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business)
~ What things you wish you could have known and would share with others
~ And your top tips for budding entrepreneurs - what to do and what not to do

Please share your thoughts on this thread (it doesn't need to have a financial angle) and you'll be entered into a prize draw where one MNer will win a £250 Amazon voucher.

Please note your tips and advice (without MN name) may well be used on the Barclays pages on Mumsnet or in an email out to members.

thanks and good luck
MNHQ

GetKnitted Fri 12-Oct-12 21:52:44

I always think off and on about self-employment. I'd really like advice about how to market my services and also what does it really take in terms of up front capital to start up a home office business.

HazeltheMcWitch Fri 12-Oct-12 22:26:44

Agree with keeping a really tight hold of costs, and building in a projection to be able to know what happens if your cost base increases by X%.

Also - cash flow really is super important also. Many 'profitable' businesses go under as they don't have enough cash at the right time to service their debts.

Hopezibah Fri 12-Oct-12 22:55:01

I have a dream about a new product and have been encouraged to see lots of mumpreneurs (for want of a better word) bring products to market - but it is scary to know where to start.

I would love to have advice on how to go about patenting a product, business basics to get in place before you start, a kind of checklist that applies universally to make sure you haven't missed anything critical out.

Other peoples advice all in one place would be useful rather than having to contact them all individually to find out the lessons they learned along the way.

I am sure that most of the advice i need is out there somewhere but it is so time consuming to look it all up, and have the energy to start on the core aspects of your business too.

skyebluesapphire Fri 12-Oct-12 22:55:46

My self emotes business is bookkeeping and accountancy and I setup last April after 20 years employed. I advise a lot of new businesses on tax, vat and payroll. My advice would be:

Keep all your invoices bills etc, even if you chuck them in a box just make sure you keep everything

Put money aside to pay tax and vat or you will get a shock

Register as self employed within three months if starting or you will get £100 fine

Get quotes from accountants. Do as my h of your own books as you can to keep costs down

Be honest with clients, don't promise what you can't deliver

don't fork out for expensive advertising, keep it local to start with. NEVER advertise in a newsletter for Police, Ambulance etc when you get a call out of the blue. It's never in your area, costs hundreds and you will not get any work from it!

Make sure that you know the cost unit of your sales product or you may lose money instead of making it.

Make sure you have all relevant insurance, licences etc

If I think of any more I will post them

Emerald6 Fri 12-Oct-12 23:15:32

My advice is to do something you are totally passionate about.

If not, then when the going gets tough in biz or with family commitments, your enthusiasm will wavier. I'm having second babe in two weeks and still not on maternity leave yet as have so much to do. Tradeshow is booked for January and I'll be bringing my 12 week old in tow. You have to be really committed.

Get social media savvy...I've found my graphic designer, my accountant, my printers and fellow designers who run similar businesses (greeting card designers) all on Twitter or Facebook.

Finally, while your kids are small or while you only have a small amount of time to devote each week to biz, stick to one thing. I can see where my biz can grow and develop, and buyers are constantly asking for new products, but for the next few years I will only concentrate on the one product as I don't have any extra time/energy to bring another product to market. Don't get sidetracked by what your competition are doing. Do it at your pace.

StainlessSteelCat Fri 12-Oct-12 23:18:16

Ask for help and advice. There is more out there than I realised, and although much of it was repeats/things I already knew, more than enough of it was useful to make it more than worthwhile. The most useful place I went to was Business Link - government run but outsourced, so different companies run it in different places. They were really useful, gave me the basics I needed to get me up and running, thinking about all aspects of my business model. Also they helped with the legalities - insurance, certificates etc.

Factor in ALL your costs, especially if working from home. Work out what it will cost you to provide that item/service, how much the petrol will cost to deliver it, how long your heating will have to be on, packaging ... everything.

I strongly second keep all receipts smile And keep on top of paperwork, or it spirals out of control.

Talk about your ideas. Call it market research, networking ... you'll meet other people who can help you out with contacts. Local business networks can be especially useful, passing on opportunities.

If you give out contact details, check for messages. Put a message on your answerphone/voicemail so people know they have reached your company. Reply to emails.

Think about how you want the business to grow. If you intend to start small and out of your own home, how will you grow the business so that it is independent of your home? Will you need to hire storage/production space? Will you need to hire more staff? What do you want the business to achieve? Have plans otherwise you get bogged down in day to day problems.

Don't forget to notify home insurance/car insurance if you use either for your business. There may well not be an increase in premiums, but you will need to have informed them.

The details matter.

musicposy Fri 12-Oct-12 23:31:07

My top tip would be never to rest on your laurels. It's easy to think your business is doing really well, then suddenly hard times bite and you find you have lost half your clientele. You need to keep very aware of small trends before they become major ones.

Insurance advice for those running a business from home would help. I don't do much at all from home but most companies say a blanket no anyway, which can leave you almost uninsurable.

Banking advice for those with very small or one man businesses would be helpful. I pay in enough cheques that a business account would be useful, but when it's only me earning only enough money for me, business charges seem like a minefield.

skyebluesapphire Fri 12-Oct-12 23:39:27

my self emotes business should of course be my self employed business... stupid iphone!

RollingThunder Sat 13-Oct-12 08:33:28

My advice would be start small and don't expect to make money for a while. We started an online retail business with a small investment but didn't take any money out for ages, so all money made was left to grow the business.

Really think about your costs, what do you have to pay even if you sell nothing.

Forget about your time being worth x per hour, it doesn't work like that when you are growing a business.

Customer service is vital!

You have so much to learn, all the time, don't do any one thing that HAS to be right or the business will fold, because at some point you will get that wrong.

I wish there was more available about self employment, tax, vat etc.

I have started up two small businesses in the last few years. Initially I was put off because I have no capital and didn't want to borrow.

I ended up starting up one business for £120 and one for £35. The £120 I am winding down a bit as it got a bit too busy but it's good as it works on payment in advance - so no cash flow problems (see below). The £35 one brings in a full time wage, is run from home (ideal as I have a severely disabled child) and is fully booked into next year.

My advice (having seen quite a few make this mistake) is don't spend thousands on a website. You can set up are near free one yourself easily - even I can do it and I am no coder. When the business takes off you can spend money on a whizzy website if you want, until then don't bother - your idea might not take off anyway, and it's much less painful to waste £35 than a few thousand. The £35 start up for my second business was the costs of domain name registration, bit of extra storage online etc. That was all I had to spend to get my business up and running and has served me well for the last 20 months.

Oh and the other bit of advice is, if working for big organisation, watch your cashflow - they will hold onto your money as long as possible. Start to chase before your invoice payment due date and if you have a repeated big business non or late payer, unless you are desperate for work, don't be afraid to sack them or insist on some upfront payment (they might refuse that but you can try). Chasing known and repeated non-payers doesn't make business sense (takes too much time) if you have other options from people who do pay on time, or almost on time. I've only sacked one big business repeated non-payer, but my bank account has looked a lot healthier for it and my stress levels dropped dramatically. They may be a respected big player, but they're no use to me if they never cough up or if they only cough up with a big fight.

Oh and don't be afraid to give it a go. I initially thought of my £35 business about 4 years ago but didn't think there would be much demand for it so didn't do anything with the idea for a few years. Finally set it up because things were getting very tight here and within a few weeks I was working full time and then some more on it. I've never developed an advertising strategy (started to at launch) because I've always had too much, rather than too little work. The demand completely took me by surprise

If you can chuck together a cheap website it allows you to just try something out, tweak it if need be and abandon or develop it depending on how it's received.

LineRunner Sat 13-Oct-12 17:35:33

I would love to be freelance full-time, but HMRC don't help. Just when you think you've learned the rules, they change them, and nothing they say or write makes sense to me, especially in respect of child tax credits during the first year or two.

poorbuthappy Sat 13-Oct-12 18:56:01

I am struggling with marketing.
I am registered as self employed and have done some work for a variety of different organisations and individuals mostly through word of mouth.

But now the time has come for me to be more proative and actively seek out clients.

So...
how do I know if I'm getting a good deal on printing?
how do I know if advertising in the right place for my type of business?
How do I know if I've worded the leaflets right?
How do I know I should get leaflets printed?

And so on...
I need a marketing expert!

poorbuthappy Sat 13-Oct-12 18:56:37

What I actually mean is...
I need a marketing expert who won't charge me anything...

Morebiscuitsplease Sat 13-Oct-12 20:00:46

Join a good networking group...support and advice from fellow business folk can be invaluable.
Subscribe to business website as they are a good source of free advice and/or follow business folk who dole out advice I.e. social medial, marketing etc.
Ensure you meet up with people, it can be lonely working on our own.
Go or it, give it your all. Mistakes will be made but as long as you learn from them...nothing lost.
GOod LUck
PS Been in business for almost 7 years and it has been great. smile

Geordieminx Sat 13-Oct-12 21:56:34

make sure you have a (recommended if possible) good accountant that you can build up a good working relationship with.

Keep receipts/invoices/tax returns/accounts filed methodically and neatly. It makes it much easier when you get to the year end if you have a folder with everything organized properly.

Don't underestimate the time it will take just to do your own admin. if possible set aside a couple of hours a week just to get diary/filing/expenses/time sheets everything up to date for the following week.

VirtuallyHere Sat 13-Oct-12 22:25:28

Break everything down into bite size pieces and make task lists. I am currently in the process of scoping out a small business and I find this technique invaluable to get anything done alongside other committments of childcare, PTA, evening class, working, etc, etc. So instead of 'organise advertising material' I would have 'Flyer: decide text, set up format, print copies, distribute (and this would be split into lists of where I would approach). This means that instead of seeing I haven't got the time to start the task I can pick off something small I can get done in 20 minutes from all my different worksteams and everything progresses.

gussiegrips Sat 13-Oct-12 22:46:57

Barclays would like to know:

~ What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business)

Where to get finance from...mine is a low-cost startup, but I've been at home with kids for 9 years. I've got a good credit rating, and did have my own flat before I devoted myself to shouting at my family's needs - am I really a poor financial risk because I've been at home with kids? Banks wouldn't help me (though, to be fair, Ididn't try Barclays) - happily, the bank of dad did. So, there's lucky that he's got cash he's willing to take a punt on me with.

~ What things you wish you could have known and would share with others
The thought of making it work during school hours and school terms is ludicrous. Get used to thinking about it every waking moment, and dreaming about it at night. Setting up your own work becomes all absorbing, in a good way, but you'll work longer and harder than you did on PAYE.

~ And your top tips for budding entrepreneurs - what to do and what not to do
Do watch Dragon's Den so you can decide the best way to tackle those stairs.

Don't let the buggers grind you down. You KNOW it'll work. So, get on with making it work and let them choke on themselves when you swoop down the dragon's stairs...

HannahLI Sat 13-Oct-12 23:15:50

I have thought about it a few times but never really got past the ideas stage yet, but I guess the information that I am interested in finding more about is where to start. When I think about it all I understand outgoings and that you have organize your tax and market yourself but how do I get a dream onto paper and into a business plan and one that has a good chance of being successful if all of the right factors fall into place?
Maybe also a how to guide that has quick links to things that you need to know?

HappySunflower Sun 14-Oct-12 00:02:15

What advice you're looking for (or looked for when you started your business)
Information about Tax/NI/VAT/Tax Credits and all things financial!
A step-by-step 'what to do first/next' kind of flowchart with key bits of information and advice would make a huge difference.

What things you wish you could have known and would share with others
It is very hard work
Don't expect to break even, let alone make any kind of profit/be able to draw a salary for several months, often even a year or more.
Expect to live and breathe your business. It won't just be restricted to 9-5 and you will need to throw your heart and soul into it. This will be very hard work but is a real investment for the future.
In the future, you will reap the benefits of your hard work and be able to pick and choose your hours/have more freedom.

And your top tips for budding entrepreneurs - what to do and what not to do
Do: have a standing 'to do' type task list.
Be disciplined about staying motivated as working on your own can feel isolating.
Talk to people about what you do. Involve them. Ask their opinions.

ChippingInLovesAutumn Sun 14-Oct-12 00:47:25

I'm looking at starting up my own business again (different business this time), but I just don't know what... any suggestions gratefully received!

I'm pretty good at running a business - but totally shite at coming up with the original idea!

Asmywhimsytakesme Sun 14-Oct-12 08:10:11

Would love to run my own business but want to get to grips with the sector first.

HecateLarpo Sun 14-Oct-12 08:27:50

Me and my husband both own our own businesses.

My top tips would be
Do your research. Don't just jump in getting all over excited about your idea. Make sure you're offering something people want. So often, people start up with something that nobody actually wants and they plug along with it. Talk to people. hell, survey monkey is free, design a survey and start emailing / fb it. It doesn't have to be something unique, it can be a loaf of bread as long as it's a loaf of bread like nobody's ever seen before grin

Don't sell to yourself. It's what other people think that's important. Give people what they want, not what you think they want.

Accept that you aren't going to make any bloody money at first! grin. Make sure you can live without any income for a year (just in case!)

Decide up front if you're going to be a sole trader, limited company etc. Look carefully into which is right for you.

DON'T take on staff until you HAVE to! Don't take on extra costs until you HAVE to! So many people get carried away and want the office and the receptionist and all that show. But it's a crippler if you do it before you're ready.

CASH FLOW FORECAST! Get one done. eat, drink and breathe the bugger. If you've not got the figures for a full 2 years ahead - what's wrong with you! grin

network. It's a poncy concept grin but it's got to be done. Get out there. Get chatting. Make contacts. Use social media - fb, twitter, linkedin

Don't leave things until the last minute. Don't bung your receipts in a box and sort it out at the end of the year! Be professional, be organised.

Think carefully about your business's image. That name, that logo, that tagline - they're more important than you think!

Don't get personal about it. Some people are really overprotective and act like any criticism of their business is a personal criticism of themselves. You have to get over that and learn to take it! Accept it. Examine it. If you get angry or defensive then you're not cut out for it!

Look at yourself. Do you actually, honestly, seriously have what it takes? It is HARD to start up and to succeed. Long hours, little money. No sick pay, no annual leave and everything falls on you. If you are in your heart, an employee - you'll never make it!

AlbertaCampion Sun 14-Oct-12 09:07:52

Keep your books up-to-date, and make sure that ALL forms/returns that need to go to HMRC are filed on time. Never underestimate how bloody tricky HMRC can be to deal with. Some of the advertised schemes, such as Time To Pay if you can't pay your tax bill in one go, are difficult to get the nod on, in reality. Last year I had a penalty notice for £100, relating to a P35 filed a week late back in 2006! In the current economic climate, they seem to be clamping down a lot..

MainlyMaynie Sun 14-Oct-12 14:26:58

My top suggestion is get an accountant, however little you're planning to earn to start with. Having an accountant who doesn't mind answering my stupid questions has been invaluable - he even advised me on how to send invoices.

Don't be afraid to take on work that pays less than you want, if it will help the business in other ways. My worst paying client is well respected, so the work I do for them means other people trust me.

Find complementary start-ups who you can work with. A friend with a graphic design start-up designed advertising for me, in return for me directing complementary clients their way.

Make sure you have a partner or family who will support you with childcare and housework, so you can take on urgent work.

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