If you’ve worked as a tradesman for other people, then you may have a desire to go it alone at some stage and set up as a self-employed tradesman. It’s a big step, and a scary one too, when you’re making those first, faltering steps on the road to building a successful business. So here are ten top tips for tradesmen looking to go self-employed.
Nothing will put potential customers off quicker than a tradesman who isn’t confident in their abilities. If you’ve put the years in training and getting hand’s on experience, you should be confident enough to tackle any job you’re asked to do. But also have the confidence to recommend a colleague if a customer asks you to do something that’s really out of your ‘comfort zone’.
Get some contract work to get you going
The customers aren’t going to be beating a path to your door from day one, so to get you going and to get your name out there, try and pick up some contract work from other companies and larger firms.
Make sure you register as self-employed
You’ll need to register as self-employed to ensure you stay on the right side of HMRC, so if in doubt, contact your local tax office and they’ll help you get started.
Get your financing in place
You’re going to need some kit to get your business started, such as getting your van sign-written, for example, or getting business cards printed up. Make sure you’ve got the finances to cover those early days (especially as there won’t be nearly as much money coming in as going out!) and do a bit of research to see if there are any small business grants available in your area for self-employed start-ups.
Sort out your insurance
Tradesman’s insurance is essential if you’re going to make sure you’re covered in the event of accidents or damage to a third party’s property. So make sure your cover includes everything from van insurance that covers your tools in transit to public liability and private liability cover. If you’re employing anyone remember that you will have to have employer’s liability insurance by law.
How’s your business plan looking?
Get your business plan sorted from day one. Even if your plan is to just bumble along on your own for a while, a bank is going to want to see a solid business model before they offer you a business loan to upgrade your vehicle, for example. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a Plan A – and if necessary a Plan B and C too!
Trade recommendation websites are now hugely popular and a good way for customers to employ tradesmen and women that have proven their reliability and skills to other customers. If your customers are pleased with your work then ask them if they will recommend you on a trade website.
Don’t just rely on word of mouth
However, whilst word of mouth and recommendations may be one way to pull in new customers, don’t forget to advertise too, especially in your locality. Pick a radius (say 20 miles from your home) and make sure you take advantage of every advertising opportunity in that location (including local online advertising and local newspapers).
Be prepared to put the hours in
Being a self-employed tradesman is not a 9-5 job, as you’ll also be doing your books, ordering stock, doing your promotion and sorting out your finances yourself too. Some nights you may not get to bed on the right side of midnight! But putting the hours in at this stage means that you’re building a solid business foundation.
Don’t rush to get big too quickly
You may want to expand your business as quickly as possible, but remember that if you try running before you can walk, you’re more likely t o stumble! Make sure you can sustain your business growth by taking on work you can comfortably handle. Start letting people down (even with the best of intentions) and you’ll get a bad reputation very quickly.