Leaving full time employment and going it alone, either as a small business owner or a freelancer, is a big step. In the current economic climate with 2.7 million people in the UK out of work and 20 or more applicants applying for each job vacancy1 ditching the security of a regular pay check might seem like insanity.
Personally, I would say anybody who has ever thought about being their own boss should see now as the perfect time to make the leap.
To start with, everything is cheaper. This might seem a ludicrous thing to say with inflation between 4% and 5%, but inflation impacts everybody so, relatively speaking, it has no impact on your ability to succeed.
And being a lean, mean, dynamic start-up with no pre-existing supply chain means you are free to shop around and do deals to secure great prices, payment terms or both with suppliers keen to attract and retain customers.
Not only are stock and supplies cheaper but so is money. Whilst there is less of it about, in my experience the banks are genuinely trying to lend to sensible businesses with a chance of making it. So if you find a friendly bank willing to finance your start-up costs and operating expenses chances are you will be borrowing at very low rates.
Even if you can’t find somebody to finance your start-up, you may find that you don’t actually need much in the way of capital anyway. With more than 14% of shops currently stood empty, that figure getting worse2 and business rates becoming payable on most empty premises after just 3-months (6-months for some industrial properties) landlords are more willing than ever to make affordable office space available by offering incentives to get their property filled.
In our quest for premises for CoHub we’ve found landlords with largish vacant units (2,000 to 3,000 square feet) offering incentives of up to 9-months rent free if a 5-year lease is signed.
And if you’re not receiving members of the public on a regular basis maybe you don’t even need your own premises: working from home, renting space from a shrinking business with desks to spare or (shameless plug alert) joining a coworking space such as CoHub could be enough. A decent internet connection is all most people need to get email, update their blog or website or attract new business through Twitter and other social networks.
With regards to advice and second opinions, our experience to date in developing CoHub has been that there are an enormous number of places to turn to for help. Eastbourne Borough Council’s own Economic Development Team have been an outstanding source of advice and assistance.
And you don’t have to look too far to see past the negativity from those who would rather sit on their backsides and complain about the status quo to find individuals and groups with ideas and a desire to actually get stuff done. Far more refreshing than those who simply want to find somebody to blame – and an incredible resource for somebody starting out on their own, if only for the networks and contacts.
Once you’re up and running finding potential customers shouldn’t be too hard either. Established businesses will be under pressure from their owners, management or shareholders to cut costs and save cash. So when you pick up the phone in the hope of securing a new client, chances are the person on the other end will already be shopping around or willing to give you the time you need to pitch yourself.
As a flexible, dynamic start-up retaining customers is essential, but being small, independent and responsive should allow a more personal service than larger organisations and this should go a long way with customers for whom each pound they spend hurts a little bit more.
As your fledgling business starts growing and you need to take on help all those people looking for employment will be yours to pick from. You can guarantee your job advertisements won’t go unanswered. The quality of applicants will be high and include many skilled, talented and respected people who were simply unlucky enough to find themselves on the wrong end of redundancy.
And if you don’t fancy taking on your own staff there are plenty of other small, independent workers out there who will be more than happy to help at reasonable rates. From part time or virtual PAs through to independent accountants, freelance web designers and PR consultants, it has never been easier to get the help you need “on demand” without the overheads and headaches associated with training and keeping your own staff.
It is people who share this vision – or who have already made the move from employment to working for themselves – that I expect to make up the bulk of CoHub’s membership. By bringing these kinds of people together it is my vision that CoHub will become a centre for entrepreneurial excellence and a factory of high tech, high quality start-ups in Eastbourne.
The greatest win for me would be seeing CoHub become such a collaborative place to work that brand new ideas are developed, and ultimately executed to create new and exciting business models. Businesses and brands with the scale and stability to generate new and sustainable jobs and revenues that stay within Eastbourne, the town that I love to call home.
1Source: TotalJobs.com / Channel 4 – http://www.channel4.com/news/applicants-for-each-new-job-up-33-per-cent