You can't do a good job, if your job is all you do!
So you have decided to go it alone – your skills speak for themselves and you have built up a good client base. So what happens next?
The life of a sole trader is demanding and difficult to balance. We live in a world now where businesses are deemed to be contactable 24/7 and the temptation to answer potential business at 11pm at night is high. It can seem that there aren’t enough hours in the day and for many of us there aren’t. Your business will hopefully be steadily increasing, but with that comes the inevitable increase in administration and financials. For many of us when the fabled ‘end of the working day’ arrives, this is when the twilight part starts.
It can be challenging and bewildering when you have trained for many years in your chosen profession, but come to realise that administration isn’t a natural part of your skill set and this is where there is the risk of that work-life balance being disrupted.
Five factors that threaten the work-life balance:
Defining working hours – You want to start at 9 and finish at 5? That just doesn’t happen. If you find yourself working until 11pm every night just trying to tie up all the loose ends from the day, you will burn out before you know it.
Disappointing clients – You promised that client a quote within 48 hours, you also have to pay your creditors, your VAT return is due and you are already in to your fourth evening of 15 hour days. What gives? The quotes of course. Prioritising is important but without clients you will not have a business.
Cash flow – You get the job, you order the materials, you pay for the materials and are then left with a bill that needs to be paid before the work is completed. Deposits and even scheduled payment stages could be looked at to enable you to remain solvent and with a good reputation with your suppliers.
Poor payments - The main problem with a sole trader is invoicing in a timely manner and then making sure the monies are collected. A recent report stated that on average there was a £6,108 loss per microbusiness on uncollected revenue. Over 43% of sole traders abandon the chase as they just do not have the time to chase the cash down.
Loss of interest in your chosen trade – With the overwhelming level of admin it is easy to see why some people ask if it is worth it. Being your own boss is a wonderful thing, but the burden of responsibility can often take away from what you enjoy doing the most.
If we take each one individually we can see where an extra hour or two leaving your business in the hands of a trusted assistant can save you and your business time, stress and more importantly generate revenue rather than costing you for the additional back up support.
Three value factors in hiring a VA for sole traders:
Financial – Without a doubt the cost of a VA is something that you hadn’t factored in to your original business plan, and why consider it when you can “manage” yourself? The point is that you don’t need to. By allowing someone else to take care of the invoicing, banking and chasing you will automatically see benefits in the financial side of your business. Depending on the size of your business, the cost of a VA could be less than the potential lost revenue. With the flexibility of not having to guarantee regular hours with a VA this leaves you with options to use them as sparingly as you need and without the necessary overheads of hiring someone to do the job.
Reputational – It has been said that Sole traders are often over looked in favour of bigger companies- why so when they are able to offer just as good a job? The image of a larger company shows stability and growth, albeit potentially misleading, the fact that there are staff makes it seem a better oiled machine. By having a VA to take calls, contact clients and deal with your suppliers it backs up this perception that if you have staff you must be busier and more organised than they person that doesn’t. While we know that this isn’t always true, any reputation boost is crucial to the growth of a business.
Time – Quite obviously the most significant and important one here. The benefits here are plentiful. Leaving you more time to concentrate on the job you do best. Allowing you to reap the rewards of your hard work by allowing yourself some away from work knowing that the fundamental back office is being run smoothly. Giving you the opportunity to perhaps follow up with clients for that personal one to one touch. Allowing you time to spend developing and growing your business or best of all just some time to put your feet up, recharge the batteries to make sure that your clients are getting the best of you.
As a sole trader your business is yours to nurture and develop. Its success is all down to you, the choices that you make, and the work that you put in. Make sure that your choices are well informed and that the work you do gives the maximum benefit to your business and reputation.