For tradespeople, working for themselves can be the ultimate dream. When you are the one in charge, you can choose the jobs that you take on, choose the prices that you charge, and choose when and where you work. Having your own trades business can be immensely rewarding but it is important to remember that it is a lot of hard work.
If you don’t do a good job or you let customers down, then it can be hard to get any more customers. For that reason, there are a number of new businesses that do actually fail. If you are looking to go it alone in your industry, and want to know how to best set your trades business up for success, then here are some of the things that you can do to get your business off to the best start possible.
Build up a good reputation
At the end of the day, your business can only grow and succeed if you have customers wanting you to do their work for them. Local people will ask local people for recommendations, as recommendations from previous customers is a great way to get work, as you can usually trust someone you know recommending a particular person or service for some work. With trade businesses, around 70% of all work that people get is from word of mouth recommendations, or having work done by you previously. So creating a stellar reputation for yourself is of the highest level of importance.
If you have worked for someone else, then you do have that experience to learn from. However, if you’re starting out, then it is a good idea to take some time to do some private work on evenings and at weekends. This way you can build up a good reputation and a demand for your work, before you commit to going full-time with your business.
Be fair to customers
As a way to build up a good reputation with customers, it is a good idea to make sure that you are being fair to your customers. This starts with doing work for a reasonable price, as well as setting out any expectations. People like to know what a price is all-in, rather than telling them halfway through a job that they will owe you a couple of hundred more. Communicate well, and be clear and transparent with your customers, not just about the cost either. Timelines can vary from job to job of course, and things can come up from time to time. But people want to know when they can expect you, and how long they should expect the job to take.
These days, if someone is looking for a local gardener, electrician, or painter, they are likely to look online. Even if they have been recommended to you by a friend, they are still likely to look you up to see what you are all about, and if there are any reviews of you online. For that reason, having an online presence is really important.
Having a website is a really good place to start, as it can help you to get found when someone searches online. You could ask customers to leave reviews on your Google page, your experteasy profile as well as on social media channels, like Facebook. Channels like Instagram could be used to demonstrate before and after images, depending on what your business is. Just make sure that you are out there, and it will make it so much easier for people to get in touch with you.
Speaking of which, it can be a good idea to look to get a premium virtual office location when you’re starting out. Obviously, when you work for yourself, you work wherever the work takes you. But it can mean that your home address can be on invoices and on other documents. Not everyone wants this, so that can be one reason to get a virtual office location. Second of all, having a virtual office means that as a business owner, you can work anywhere, but the virtual office service will help with some of the business functions, such as emails or phone calls. If you’re out and about a lot, it can be hard to keep track, which is why it could be useful for someone else to keep track of them for you.
It can be easy to get in a bit of a jumble with your business if you are new to business and have not had to deal with a lot of paperwork and invoices. But as simple as it sounds, you need to stay on top of it all, and keep track right from the start. If you have to spend a lot of time and a lot of effort sorting it all out, then it can be time taken away from doing the work that will actually make you more money. There are a number of tools and services that can help you, or you could consider outsourcing to someone experienced in bookkeeping, if that becomes an option for you. When you can invoice in a timely manner, you can be paid in a timely manner.
Be on the right side of the law
For any business owner, there are a number of legal things that you need to be doing, in order to be on the right side of the law. For example, you should be registered as a business, and registered for VAT, if applicable. This means that you will be paying taxes in the right way, and keeping things straight down the line. Insurance is another must, especially for a business in a trade. If you are a plumber or an electrician, then having your correct qualifications is a must, as well as making sure that you are Gas Safe Registered, or any other registrations. There are also a number of health and safety requirements that you'll need to be aware of to keep yourself safe, as well as your customers.