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Who wants to be an entrepreneur? Start here... (and those who are, help here please!?)

(410 Posts)
WilfSell Tue 21-Aug-12 17:15:35

OK, I was inspired by the 'earn 1k a month working from home' thread, which turned into an inspiring if terrifying 'don't sell yourself short' thread. And wondered if, those of us who might like to work for ourselves but don't currently, could get started here? I aim to keep my job, and perhaps try to move to part-time at some point. I have some business ideas, some good, some over-ambitious, mostly attempts to roll-out my current skills into a private consultancy, not necessarily linked to my existing job (university research/teaching).

I know it is an incredibly tricky time to think about this, and I'm sure it is not easy or comfortable to make a living... But some people manage it, so why shouldn't more of us?

WilfSell Tue 21-Aug-12 17:34:47

OK, I've discovered (I've been away from MN a LONG time..) that there is a MN 'Academy' - who knew? And that is runs courses for women interested in start-ups: start business course...

There must also be free help and support for thinking about these things. I know my university offers help to staff and students thinking of spin-outs from research and other business ideas; presumably the local chamber of commerce does stuff (or is that for more established businesses?) and various other organisations?

I'm still more interested in hearing from people who've set up a consultancy from scratch though. Presumably contacts and reputation are the most important starting point, as well as demand for your services?!

And also interested in hearing from people who have decided to make and sell things; or just sell them... especially when you didn't start out doing this. What gave you the confidence to get started?

DolomitesDonkey Tue 21-Aug-12 18:25:13

My local chamber of commerce does tons of stuff for new businesses - most of it's free, but some is paid - but very cheap. I can also claim mileage for driving to these courses or to the chamber of commerce itself.

I am setting up a consultancy - my biggest mistake I think was thinking "build it and they will come" - well um, they didn't. But I'm turning that rapidly around right now (see my thread "Marketing for dummies"). It's being re-built and they are now coming.

I'm doing a lot of networking on linkedin - building my brand and exposing my expertise. I'm answering "how to" questions online (always linking back to my site of course!) and I'm doing a 1hr free webinar next month. It's partially to get people interested and partly so I can test my concepts - any feedback will be great!

I was really "scared" that colleagues & former classmates would "laugh" at my ideas and ambitions - but I must say not one snide word has been made - to my ears at least! wink I thought I had some personality attributes which would help my consultancy so I set up an anonymous survey and asked my friends to list my 3 greatest attributes. I mostly got the answers I expected - and one quote which has totally blown me away. I keep going back and re-reading it blush - this person clearly has a lot of faith in me!

I am working full-time right now - as the breadwinner I'm not in a position to give it all up and sit and wait for clients. Thankfully consultancy start-up costs are minimal! I hope to service some clients evenings & weekends - or a few hours during the day, or I'll take time off work. I'm able to use a special "parenting leave" agreement and go part-time without losing benefits, so that will probably be an option in the future - I'm very cautious about fucking up and having no cash coming in!

I've made my 1 month, 3 month, 1 year, 3 year and 5 year plans so I know what I'm working towards and why I'm doing this.

Oh and I went to the cash & carry at lunchtime and pampers were dirt cheap - that's got to be worth filling a form in for! grin

nankypeevy Tue 21-Aug-12 20:17:37

I've read the £1k thread with interest! And, I'm as I'm not sure why people name change on MN, and as I've nothing to hide (well, apart from a pile of laundry that's failing to put itself away) then I'm not going to bother.

I'm returning to work after 9 years of breeding and bogie wiping. Staying off was a deliberate choice - we've done a lot of budgeting and lived on one salary so that our children would be shouted at nurtured by a parent. Not fashionable, but it suited us just fine. I've done enough private and voluntary work to keep my pofessional registration going, but that's all.

I'm a physio - I've got a post-grad in sports medicine but my last job was in the community. So, that was mostly elder care and people who were housebound.

Happily, there's been lots of research in the last ten years into the effects of exercise on older people. Turns out, it's awfully good for them - in fact, those over 75 have a BETTER response to strength and fitness training than elite athletes. Wow. They gain functional benefits faster, so they fall less, their memory improves, their incidence of disease drops's going to cause a revolution in geriatric medicine. And, happily, it marries together my experience with elite athletes (I've worked with assorted national teams at assorted international events, not the Olympics, but I did look after Commonwealth and pro teams) and my love of and experience with geriatrics.

Anyhoo, I need a job that will accommodate school hours and be flexible for school terms. Most elderly people really don't want to be seen before 10 am -school run sorted, perfect.

My plan is to build up a client base to generate some income. Write up my research based exercise sessions for the elderly fit, the elderly frail, the confused, the chairbound and the bedbound. Make links with nursing homes and run the exercise groups for free for six months - in return I'll get to measure the residents' balance and strength etc. I will use the stats to write a paper proving that my combination of research based exercises improve the physical and mental health of the participants.

The ratified exercises can then be packaged up as courses to sell to residential homes. The cheapest way for them to deliver exercise is with their own staff, so I'll train their staff.

And, if it works - franchise it.

So, short term goals - stop procrastinating and get the website up.
Med term goals - generate a reputation as The Expert on physio for older people living in the community.
Long term goals - have staff running it for me and franchisees building a pension for me.
Really long term goals - DH comes to work for me and jacks in his job at which he excels, but is confined to an office and he misses being outside.

I'm aware that I've just effectively published what my business plan is - but, I'm taking a leaf out of Xena's book. The chances of anyone matching my qualifications, experience, talents, brains, common sense and sense of humour and so being able to nick my idea is slim...whereas, someone might read it and think "got to get this woman to come and see my place!" are maybe higher.

...or, is that a foolish idea? Working for the NHS does not teach you much about business...

Now - Dolomites: can you explain to me what on earth linkedin is? I've had invitations from people I know personally to join, and it's seemed to me to look like another time suck. Is it like facebook for work?

Right, am away to write up some of my fandabbydoo website. It's a corker - way better than the competitions...or, it will be if I can get the blasted thing up and running...

DolomitesDonkey Tue 21-Aug-12 20:21:17

Yep, it's Facebook where you don't swear or like borderline dodgy comments.

WilfSell Tue 21-Aug-12 20:30:47

Great posts. Thank you for sharing your experience/plans.

I am not at that stage yet... But I am chewing over ideas. I don't know whether it is wise to share every detail, but I guess people often say 'someone will always do what you do, you have to just do it better!'

I need to go to my employer's business development unit first I think, and see what opportunities there are to develop consultancy within my job. Sure, they will take a cut but on the other side, they also offer (my!) IP and lots of infrastructure/reputation. I'm also thinking about applying for a secondment out there in the real world (universities are not real grin) to see if I can hack it!

But I am pretty entrepreneurial full stop - I do all the social media marketing for our department, I like to start new projects in and out of work and see them through (I just started a self-funding community choir!). Just need to find the thing I can bill for in one of the poorest areas of the country.. ho hum.

IrishSea Tue 21-Aug-12 20:46:05

Another one here inspired by the £1000 a day website and would love to join in.

I had already decided to go down the self employed route - hence being on this part of the site, but the timing of that thread was perfect and very inspirational.

I also work full time and am the main bread winner although my DH is finally beginning to catch up. My business plan is actually related to what my self employed DH does. He makes high end bespoke concrete things. I believe there is a niche for a low brow concrete version of what he makes, but he won't 'lower' himself to to it!

My trouble is that other than being married to a concrete specialist I have no experience - I work in a totally different field (investment management). So I plan to start slowly (via the internet and through some outlets) and aim to hand in my notice on 1 August 2013 (the day after bonuses are paid).

It's v early days, but exciting!

PS I think of LinkedIn as Facebook for grown-ups smile

porridgelover Tue 21-Aug-12 21:57:12

Wilfsell, thanks for starting this thread. I too posted on that other thread and having being thinking hard about it since. I found Xenias posts challenging and energising.

nanky...I hope you dont mind my saying but I got butterflies reading your post. I am an OT with lots of Paeds postgrad training and experience. I also have a SN child which I think gives me a unique perspective on the challenges for parents, and how therapy works in with family life. I have been thinking and thinking about making a serious go of having my own business instead of dabbling in private practice.

I know enough about geriatric care from my early career rotations to know that what you envisage is absolutely true and vital...and I would have thought that the much-flagged aging population profile would work into your plans. I could envisage you being contracted into private care settings, care-of-the-elderly groups, active retirement etc etc

As you say, the health services (I have worked in several countries) does not set one up with business acumen. So I'd love to know where to go for that. I have a serious case of bleeding-heart and find it very difficult to charge properly.

Any advice gratefully received.

nankypeevy Tue 21-Aug-12 22:36:06

porrige - it is exciting, isn't it?

I saw a bit of how business works when I worked in a private company after doing a stint playing with the handsome boys in NZ's healthcare system.

The company was owned by a businessman with no care background at all - he had a daughter-in-law who was a physio and she suggested occupational health was a growth area.

He set up a company that provided in-house physio services, manual handling training and ergonomics advice.

I learned a great deal - not least that it's not That Hard to sell a service to someone who needs to provide the service to their workforce because of legislation. He used to take me along to some pitching, I'd try to look knowlegable and he'd do the spiel. He didn't have a clue about the actual service, but he was a great salesman.

I also eventually realised that he was making a good living on the back of my hard work...

Bleeding heart is tricky. If it helps you feel better - I'm supposed to charge £60/hour for a domi visit under the CSP guidelines. That's never going to happen - it feels too much like ripping off old patient list is currently all sports stuff generated through word of mouth - I'm supposed to charge £35 a treatment in a clinic, I'm actually muttering "is 20 quid ok?" in an apologetic tone, because I know they know that's what I charged the original person who referred them to me. Mates Rates - should never have started it.

Then I get cross with myself and think what a plumber would charge me for a call out. So, am I not as skilled as a plumber? are my services not as useful? Why am I not charging for them then?

It's a cultural thing - healthcare is free here, so it is Very Difficult to justify charging people for something that you believe should be free.

However...they CAN opt for the NHS. They just won't get me there. And, I'm shit hot, and I am worth it (oooh, look at me shaking my hair around right on cue) because I am WAY better than the other private options available to them.

The reality is, I'll charge a middle ground for my services. Long term, I need to employ people who are qualified to deliver exercise classes (not necessarily physios) and pay them well, but charge them out for more.

There's no real money to be made from hands on treatments. People who are drawn to healthcare are not, in the main, naturally cut throat. Having said that, you could easily make double your NHS salary for less hours and less hassle, and more control...and, that's a very attractive option to me given that I left the NHS before Agenda for Change destroyed everyone's soul...

You know what would be really useful? Teaching undergrads what it is like to be on the other side of the fence, from someone who also understands the service. A surgeon friend of mine landed up on ITU for weeks and having lots of rehab. She did a bit of lecturing to medical students - brilliant. Have you read "the diving bell and the butterfly" by Jean Claude Bauby (?sp) He had locked in syndrome and wrote a tiny book about his experiences by blinking. It's a work of genius, the way he describes the people delivering his care is really insightful. Though, I'm afraid he wasn't much enamoured by the OT and just seemed to fancy his PT.

Anyway - there is a definite need for people like you to teach our students. Invaluable. If you've got post-grad, have you got enough to lecture? Or write a book?

What's the thing that families need, that's not being supplied? SN creche? A directory with all the services they'd benefit from, but not be able to find? Can you deliver that?

Is there something needing re-designed and you know what needs to be done (I'm thinking specifically about car transfers for SN kids that are too big to lift. A friend of mine has a hoist fitted in the house - but it's really tricky getting her 9 year old daughter into the car, even with a swivel car seat) Charging people for OT services is never going to make £1k a day...but, getting a patent for a product that works and solves a problem for eg. the NHS or a charity working with dependent kids? That's where you can make money.

Right. Who wants to be ma pal oan linkedin?

DolomitesDonkey Wed 22-Aug-12 06:10:29

WillSelf Be careful not to fall in to the trap mentioned on the "1000 quid" thread of wanting everything "perfect" before you start. My ideas have been continuously evolving and I've learned so much - just even seemingly innocuous things like if you use Adwords (and your chamber of commerce will likely give you a free voucher) - then don't let people in India/Gambia/Egypt click on your ads - they are not going to use your service and yet you pay for them clicking your bloody link! So much to learn!

And can I say, you are an expert. You're a university lecturer right? Exactly who do you think is 'better' than you? It clicked with me the other day that I've spent 12 years + doing what I do in international environments for household names - of course I'm qualified! Next week as part of my day job I'm giving a presentation at the global HQ of a household name who is my current client. And getting paid considerably less than 1000 quid for it... sad So yes, I am and you are perfectly capable of this.

Is anyone up for a private fb group to link up there/twitter/linkedin etc? If yes, please PM me your details and I'll set up a group.

Fwiw (I'm no health care professional) I see enormous amounts of money in healthcare and I will probably target it myself at some point in the future. You only need to see what people will pay for a doula/private midwife/etc. I live overseas and private companies like the ones you suggest are contracted by the health insurance providers and seem to do very well. From a personal pov I'd much rather the head of such an organisation actually comes from a medical background!

Xenia Wed 22-Aug-12 07:46:07

I agree. Things will never be perfect and you just have to get on and do it.

Just one point for those still employees read your employment contract really really carefully.

1. Check what it stops you doing whilst you are still employed.

2. Look at what it prevents you from doing after you cease employment.

3. Be careful about taking any confidential information or intellectual property from the employer when you leave too.

DolomitesDonkey Wed 22-Aug-12 08:36:01

Good point! I spoke to my manager and legal before doing this - had there been objections I might've set it up in my husband's name...

MmeLindor Wed 22-Aug-12 08:37:05

<marks place>

MmeLindor Wed 22-Aug-12 09:55:39

Am ready to be inspired.

I am trying to set up a business as Social Media Consultant. I have been 'working' in this area for a couple of years now, but on a unpaid hobby basis, and I do think that there is a market for it in my area. I am in Scotland, so there is not quite the same competition as in London area for example.

I have written a book and am holding one of the MN Academy courses next month. One thing I would say is that if you are doing a course look carefully into it. I decided to offer a course here because a friend went to a free one from the Chamber of Commerce and said it was pretty useless.

So, yes - investigate if there are free courses in your area, but also consider if shelling out some money will get you a better course.

I chatted to a friend recently and he was telling me that he signed up with Yell and that they running his website. Turns out it is a v basic website, that he is paying a lot of money for and it is not even personal to his business - no photos of his work, just generic pics. He was also saying that he really needs someone to run the website, eg putting pics on there, but also answering emails because he doesn't have time to do this.

My idea is to offer a service where I set up and run a website - charging the same as Yell but offering personal services such as the answering of email enquiries, telephone enquiries, posting of photos, little articles about what the company is working on etc. He is v interested and thinks that a few of his colleagues would be too.

Combined with the occasional course, I think that this could be quite profitable. I am not aiming to make millions, but to be able to help to support the family. And it is something that I enjoy doing.

DolomitesDonkey Wed 22-Aug-12 10:00:08

I think you've got a good point there MsLindor - I wouldn't trust the chamber of commerce to be cutting edge with social media/SEO - however, they're bang on the money with the tax ones and the one I went to had 2 representatives from the chambers' and two from the tax office - so we had real experts there to grill.

How did you get to do the mn academy course? I did take a quick gander at the academy site but didn't see any button to press entitled "I'm an expert, let me speak!".

Xenia Wed 22-Aug-12 10:05:28

Perhaps you should aim to earn millions. May be that is the problem too many women have, low expectations and aiming low. Anyway good luck with it. It is certainly a growing market. We met someone abroad whose adult son was brilliant at maths, set up a web optimisation and in a year had 30 staff working for him (this was in Canada).

MmeLindor Wed 22-Aug-12 10:12:40

I had been thinking about offering courses, so when I saw the Academy was being founded, I emailed and asked them if they were interested, with a brief resume of what I have done so far. One thing I was impressed by when I was starting all of this was
This will be my first course, and tbh I would earn a lot more doing it myself but it is good exposure.

this video of Steve Jobs. It really helped me to find the confidence to just ask.

You never know - DH is always telling me to aim high. I am hoping that the book will be successful. The publishers are looking to sell it to foreign markets, so that would help.

DolomitesDonkey Wed 22-Aug-12 10:32:13

I would need to consider if my service is actually appropriate for mn at large - certainly the working mums, but not the SAHM's.

I have a good & thick question for anyone who might know - yesterday I went to the cash & carry (makro) for the first time. There were two prices on the shelves, one without VAT and one with. I mentally totted up using the price with. When I got out and checked my receipt every single item on the list was LESS than had been on the shelf. WTF?

MmeLindor Wed 22-Aug-12 10:39:37

They are not just looking for courses that would suit mums, so worth thinking about. You can always drop Patrick and email and ask.

WilfSell Wed 22-Aug-12 12:02:55

MmeL, I thought you were in Switzerland?! I've been away too long!

Yeah, good point about the contract. Mine is VERY clear that making use of what is effectively the university's IP without them taking a cut is Not Allowed, which is why I'm thinking of a spin out with them first, to test the idea. And unless officially part-time, I'm not really allowed to take on additional employment without their permission. There are also all sorts of rules about using software, resources etc intended for educational use that may not be used for commercial use so I need to be careful about the boundaries.

Yes, I am an expert, but I don't yet know the value of my expertise outside of academic settings. I think this, combined with some of my softskills (training/teaching, management, marketing etc) makes it a reasonable proposition though.

Empusa Wed 22-Aug-12 12:06:38

I like this thread!

After health problems that mean I've
a) been off wok a long time
b) can't return to my previous type of job

I'm hoping to start my own business. It sounds terrifying but I figure it'll be more rewarding and will be good for DS

WilfSell Wed 22-Aug-12 12:08:12

I'm on annual leave right now: if only my children would entertain themselves I could do a bit of planning! grin

Xenia Wed 22-Aug-12 12:19:03

It might be worth our putting here a link to women earning £1000 a day thread on this thread too as there was some quite interesting material on it.

On this question:
"have a good & thick question for anyone who might know - yesterday I went to the cash & carry (makro) for the first time. There were two prices on the shelves, one without VAT and one with. I mentally totted up using the price with. When I got out and checked my receipt every single item on the list was LESS than had been on the shelf. WTF?"

If the item is an item VAT is charged on (it is on adult's but not children's clothes, on some food but not (hence heated pasty issue in the press)) then in theory if paper costs £10 plus VAT (£2 VAt - 20%%) so paper including VAT as you might see it in WH SMith will be £12. The only reason they leave it off at makro is that if you are registered for VAT which means you must charge it to your customers (it is not charged on all services I think - some medical ones are exempt) you can claim it back.

So if I send a bill to a customer for £288 (which is an hour of my time) that includes VAT of £48. If they are in business that costs them £240 and they can claim back the £288. If they were not in business it would be an extra cost to them with no chance to claim it back. In fact it was in the press this week that perhaps we should not charge VAT on intermediate transactions as it has led to so much VTA fraud. You might get 6 consultants down a line of supply each charging VAT an then claiming it back - think of all that wasted time in the economy . Would be better if only the ultimate customer had to be charged and pay it although even that is painful (thinking of the almost £1k VAT I have to pay on our new gas boilers). Better get back to work....

There is a generla law that if you do not say if a price includes VAT or not it is deemed to include it (so always best to tell people if your price is plus VAT and it is sensible for people to take some advice on when it is worth registering for VAT (you can claim it back but have to charge it to customers - so if your competitors are not registered you will be 20% more expensive than they are) and when you have to in law - there are turnover thresholds and if you supply something that is exempt.

Empusa Wed 22-Aug-12 12:22:56

Oh god.. give me some fairly complex computer coding and I'm happy as anything, but reading all that about VAT fried my brain! confused

Xenia Wed 22-Aug-12 13:03:14

It certainly wasn't very well written by me. The basic points are easy:-

1. If you earn over £77k and we are trying to get women earning £1k a day which is about £250k a year, then for most services and sales of goods you register for VAT. This is not difficult and costs nothing and means you can claim back all the VAT you spend on things you buy for your business like paper, phone bills etc So basically you get money out of it.

2. You also then have to charge your customers VAT which is not a problem if they are other businesses as they claim it back too and can make you look more professional. If you don't charge VAT they all know you don't earn much is under £77k.

So do not be put off in registering. You can register under £77k too if you want to as then you can claim back the VAT you are paying when you buy things.

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