I’ve been self employed in the UK for over 20 years. In that time I’ve also worked for conglomerates and set up my own limited companies. In that time I’ve picked up quite a few tips I’d love to share with you. Here are my top 10 self employment tips in the UK for 2018.

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This has been a really hard list to write. I’ve changed it around a load of times and removed the obvious stuff like being nice to your customers and having the ability to sell your services. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world or what sort of work you do, these are 10 of my personal favourite self employment tips.

#10:  Customise Your Workspace

Tweak your workspace to suit you. Work somewhere more motivational if you need a change in scenery and just move stuff around to make life easier for yourself. Whether it’s files on your desk; desks in your office; offices in your building or buildings on your business park. You run the show, you’re in charge, make your work space and time work for you. You need to make your workplace a pleasant place to be because you’re probably going to spend more time there than you do at home!

#9:  Know Your Numbers

This might sound like an obvious one but you’re in charge of your own business and you should know everything about how it’s performing. All of the time. No excuses. Before even thinking about setting up a business for the first time you need to crunch the numbers. That might take a couple of hours or it might take a couple of months. But you need to have a good handle on how much your business can realistically make.

  • What are the overheads?
  • What will your turnover be?
  • What will your profit margin be?

If you have no idea how to find out that information, literally camp outside similar businesses and work it out for yourself. Count the customers going in each day. Work out roughly what they’re spending. It’s not hard to work out a ballpark figure just from seeing how your competitors are doing things. You’ll also be amazed at the number of businesses who you think are successful but are actually making next to nothing.

#8:  Get a Good Accountant

A good accountant is worth their weight in… accountancy fees! …and a lot more! They’ll almost certainly save you more than what they cost you and you’ll be able to sleep at night. On a similar note, don’t let yourself get bullied by the tax man. Keep good records from day one and you’ve got nothing to hide.

#7:  Buy Local

It’s amazing how many connections you build up by speaking to pillars of your local community. Whether it’s shopkeepers, tradesmen or other local businesses, visit the shops, make yourself known, drop off piles of business cards. Your local community is one of the most important markets to crack when you’re first starting out. Even your competitors would rather see a thriving high street than a world entirely owned by Amazon.

#6:  Learn to Walk Away

Sometimes you’ll have good ideas. Sometimes you’ll have bad ideas. It’s just part and parcel of running a business. If you know in your gut it’s a dead duck, walk away. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve already invested in it – you stand to lose a lot more by flogging a dead horse. On a similar note, give all ideas the sobriety test. If you come up with a good idea one night after a drink… make sure it still seems like a good idea the following morning when you’re sober!

#5:  Make Lists

This is a big thing for me since I’m a bit OCD when it comes to organising stuff. Google Keep has transformed how I organise my life. I use it on a daily basis. For you Apple users out there you’ll need to make do with TurboNote or something like that. Whatever you choose, pick your poison – whether it’s:

  • Google Keep
  • Post-it Notes
  • Spreadsheets
  • Note Books
  • Dictaphone
  • Whiteboards

You can’t keep everything in your head and you can’t prioritise properly if you don’t have a clear idea of what needs to be done. Some examples of things you might want to track:

  • What needs to be done today
  • What you want to achieve this week
  • Your goals for the year
  • What you need to buy
  • Where you need to go
  • Business ideas

You will have lists coming out your ears and that’s where apps such as Google Keep come in to their own.

#4:  Talk to People

Not by e-mail, not by Messenger, not by Snapchat… whatever that is. Pick up the phone and have an actual conversation. Whether it’s a sales call or some sort of issue that needs to be sorted out, I guarantee it will be sorted more quickly if you just talk to the people involved. Yes, there’ll be confrontational situations to deal with – that’s part of running a business. If you’re not comfortable with communicating with people either face-to-face or over the phone then forget about running your own business.

While I’m at it, beware of the keyboard warrior. They will suck you dry. Anyone launching in to an e-mail diatribe or a torrent of abuse on social media, don’t bite, cut it dead and here’s how to do that. Just ask them to give you a call and 9 out of 10 times that will be the last you ever hear from them.

#3:  Have Downtime

I guarantee when you’re in charge of your own time you’ll end up working more hours than you’ve ever worked before. You’ll take less holidays and you’ll never switch off. It’s so important to power down every now and then and take a proper break. That means going on holiday and leaving your mobile phone switched off… and not constantly ‘checking in’ on your business. It will still be there when you get back and you’ll be much more productive after a proper break.

It takes me a couple of days just to switch off and as soon as I read an e-mail from a customer I feel like I might as well be back at work. Just tell your regular customers that you’re having a bit of time off and they can get in touch when you get back. Switch off and give yourself a proper break. It’s been scientifically proven that boredom can lead to some of your best creative thinking. You can’t make good decisions when you’re tired and you’ve earned it!

#2:  Think Profit not Revenue

Remember you’re in business to make new money. Not just to move money around. It genuinely amazes me how many people in business are more excited about turnover than profit. If you buy a T-shirt for £20 and sell it for £20… well done, you’ve made £20 turnover but have made no money whatsoever.

Turnover is Vanity

Profit is Sanity

Cash is Reality

#1:  Don’t Burn Your Bridges

Trust me when I tell you this. As a business owner you’re going to be biting your tongue a LOT. Sometimes it’s going to be very tempting to tell people where to shove it. DON’T DO IT! No matter how seductive it is to wield your power as a business owner, burning your bridges can have catastrophic long term consequences. Keep your head held high and rise above the situations. In the immortal (and probably mortal) words of Ozzy Osbourne:

“You meet a lot of people on the way up. Don’t f**k them ’cause you meet them on the way down as well. I love ya!”

– Ozzy Osbourne, 1988… ish

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Last Updated on 14 September 2018 by Andy Mac