In my last post, I touched on some of the lessons I’ve learnt while setting up my business. I’m going to delve back into the subject in this post, looking at some of the training I’ve accessed, and what happened when I first published my website and contact details.
The name HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) doesn’t always create positive associations. The main reason that the organisation exists is to make sure we all pay our tax – right? Not quite. HMRC do collect our taxes, that’s true. However, they also offer all manner of support services, including a series of free training webinars aimed at small businesses. Having participated in a number of these webinars, I’ve learnt a lot about being a sole trader. I’ve also found the HMRC team to be friendly, helpful, and professional. The webinars are free to attend and can be joined anywhere you have an internet connection. What’s more, they only take an hour of your time. There’s a link here to access information about the full range of sessions. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions during the webinar, and information sheets are available to download.
The Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) network is an excellent source of information for start ups and small businesses. Through the Swindon and Wiltshire LEP, I’ve found the South West Growth Hub and have attended a number of networking events for local businesses. Free of charge, the events have offered opportunities for learning, and for meeting other local business owners. The growth hub also offer training sessions, many of which are also free, and cover topics ranging from accounting to social media strategies.
There are real learning opportunities within local partnerships. They’re there to help and support, and it’s worth taking a look to see what’s available. With each event, I make new connections, and continue to develop connections I have already made.
I set up a pay as you go mobile telephone for my business. Publishing the number on marketing materials and my website felt like a giant step. The details went live, and I waited. And waited. Nothing. It sounds naive reading it back, but I really thought that after making myself contactable, people would get in touch.
Of course, it’s not that easy. Wouldn’t it be great if it was though?! Contact details are a tiny part of the business. Just because you can be reached, it doesn’t mean people know that you’re there. Why would they?
Word of mouth is a wonderful means of spreading details of your business. Networking events are great opportunities for making connections who can help spread information about your business, using word of mouth.
Social media offers different options for reaching a range of people. Initially, I tried to use everything I could. I thought that spreading information on as many platforms as possible would reach the highest number of people. That might be true, but I was spreading my efforts too thinly across too broad an area. I finally settled on a smaller selection, and now use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as my primary outlets.
Nothing beats face to face contact with potential clients though. Whether casual conversation, or arranged networking session, an informative but gentle pitch is something to have to hand for all occasions (see my last post for further thoughts on the pitch). I’m not a sales person and I don’t like feeling pressured by those who see me as a potential customer. Which is why I have my pitch prepared, but am selective over when to use it, and how much detail to go into. This is a personal choice which works for me. It’s not a one size fits all solution and the depth and tone of your own pitch is something which only you can perfect.
There are many elements to setting up your own business. I hope some of the thoughts in my last couple of posts are helpful. Do feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or to share your own experience.