Young and free(lancing) - tips when setting up your business

This week is Small Business Advice Week. IPSE will be contributing to the conversation throughout the week by offering articles of advice for the small business community. For more information on Small Business Advice Week visit their website here or follow the hashtag #SBAW on Twitter.

When you finish school or university, it can be difficult to know what to do next. You can find yourself under pressure to apply for graduate schemes or try to get your foot in the door somewhere and work your way up a company. But the idea of working for someone else isn’t always everyone’s idea of a great next step.

School and University leavers are increasingly wanting something else from their career - they want autonomy, freedom and flexibility, and to focus their energy on what really interests them. This is why more and more people are starting to work for themselves.

It can be difficult to know where to begin when considering being your own boss, so here are some top tips to get you started.

Top five tips to set up your business

1. Write a simple business plan – This will help you to consider all aspects of your business idea and keep you on track. Your simple business plan should also outline what services or products you will be offering, what you will need to offer this, what you’ll charge and what your outgoings will be, and how people will find out about your business. A template business plan is available for IPSE members.

2. Talk to other freelancers – Learn lessons from people who are already freelancing. Are there opportunities for freelancers or is your market more limited? Has your new product or service idea been tried before? Explore online forums in your sector and attend networking events.

3. Decide on a trading structure – There are different types of business structures, so you will need to decide which would work best for you - perhaps a limited company, sole trader, limited liability partnership or under an umbrella company? There are costs and benefits to each model, so do your research before making up your mind. IPSE’s Starting Out advice page breaks these down for you.

4. Organise your working environment – Where will you work when your business is up and running? You might want to work from home, in which case you will need to ensure you have a reliable internet connection and that your tenancy agreement and home insurances allow you to work from home. You could work in collaborative workhubs - there will be a cost associated with this, but they are a great opportunity to network and find business. Or you may find it easiest to work at a client’s site, but this may involve travelling longer distances.

5. Remember that you don’t have to do everything alone – there is plenty of information available out there, and plenty of specialists who you can outsource to complete the business tasks that can be intimidating. For example, if numbers scare you, outsource an accountant. If you’re not sure how to write a contract, IPSE members have access to contract templates.

There are many issues to consider once you get started as a freelance business, including how to navigate our tax system and how to win work. But freelancing does provide huge benefits – allowing you autonomy and a better work-life balance – in fact our research only two per cent would ever switch back to becoming an employee. IPSE is here to help you in this journey towards a better way of working. 

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