Setting up a business is daunting but can be very rewarding, says Charlotte Ashley-Roberts

Setting up a business is daunting but can be very rewarding, says Charlotte Ashley-Roberts

CW - JOBS _careers _125

Charlotte Ashley-Roberts is the RSC’s careers adviser

Q I have been out of work since last April and recently an old colleague called me suggesting there is the possibility of doing some contract analysis for a company he works with. I already possess the major equipment items that would be needed initially to start the work but I was wondering if you could give me any information that would be helpful with regard to starting a business. 

A Starting up your own business can be daunting but ultimately a very rewarding career; in fact, people who work for themselves are among the happiest in the workforce. Of course there are challenges and the level of commitment is high but it can also be an exciting time. 

Interestingly, in a difficult economic climate many more people set up their own businesses. This is because in an economic downturn, although economic activity decreases and there are redundancies and cash flow problems, there are also opportunities. 

In fact, according to the British Bankers’ Association, in 2011 ’January and February saw more than 100 000 small businesses open accounts with the main banks, following the seasonal December [2010] dip in the number of new relationships established’.1 

I speak to many members who want to set up their own business and there are a few things to consider. The first thing to do is work out if your idea is feasible. Here are four things you need to think about:

1 What are the problems and who has the problems to solve? 
2.  Who would be interested in your skills? 
3.  Do you have enough experience in your field? 
4.  Who might your collaborators or competitors be?  

This will involve researching your chosen field and talking to people to see if they would like to buy your product and/or service. This can be asking friends, family, colleagues, in fact anyone who might listen. An easy way to find out about collaborators and competitors is using the Yellow Pages, which is listed by sector. 

Secondly, you should consider how you will market yourself, especially compared to your competitors.  

Finally, you need to consider the risks; for example, what if there is increased competition; what about finances; how much can you afford to lose? Or what happens if x,y, or z occurs? Obviously you can’t take into account every scenario but thinking on some of the basics will help you prepare.  

Once you have done your research, you need to write a business plan. This can be a bit overwhelming but there is a resource to help you: Business Link. This is a site set up by the Government to help people starting a business and covers much of what I have already mentioned.  

Charging clients 

is a common concern for the members I’ve spoken to, especially those who are consultants. If you are thinking about it, then we have a guide to consultancy, which has a section on charging customers and how to go about fixing a price. Alternatively, if you know anyone who does a similar kind of work (freelance or not), it would be worth speaking to them and getting a rough idea of what they charge.  

You can find a mentor through the online site or you may be able to ask someone that you know has set up a successful business to be your mentor if you prefer. You might also want to join our consultancy group as there are many consultants in there who you could talk to and get advice from. It is free to join if you don’t have more than three interest groups on your membership.  

There are some other routes to consider as well should you decide not to go ahead with your business idea, such as interim management. You can find out more on the website.

As always, if you want to talk this through you can email us at careers and we can set up a consultation for you.