ThinkingI had an interesting message, the other morning, from a friend asking,

” How are you finding being self-employed? What made you do it… ? Name . . . . How did you pick that? Any advice or thoughts before I do go down this road would be much appreciated.”

I had a think, and this is what I discovered. I say discovered because when the words are right in front of you, staring you in the face, I realised how quickly time has passed since Bay Attic started and I became my own boss.

What’s the one advantage of being self-employed ? I can work when I want, until whatever time I want. I choose. You can also over commit and work too much, or get so engrossed in something you suddenly realise you haven’t been over the door or you answer the door and your covered in oil paint – well perhaps that’s just me !

bay attic avatarAs for setting up and becoming self-employed, it can be daunting. As for what made us do it, David and I always wanted to be self-employed, the freedom of choice on how to run your company and work with it, is a big plus point in my opinion. Bay Attic came about because we love art, can be creative – when we have the time, have the ability to produce our own products and the experience from working within the field. We called Bay Attic, Bay Attic because we’re in an attic looking over a bay.

I may still have been an employee within a large company, if the opportunity hadn’t arisen to leave, but I thought if I don’t leave now, I may never do it and I also wanted more time to get back into painting. Bay Attic has been online since 2007, we are now on our second version of the website. Originally we did art, gifts and invitations, but the invitations took up so much of our time it wasn’t productive, so we decided to solely concentrate on art and gifts.

Before you start your own business, decide how your company is set up i.e. sole trader, partnerships, limited company, and if you want to register for VAT. Check out HMRC’s website, visit a lawyer or Business Gateway and bank for advice – I am not a fan of all the paperwork and legalities, but it needs to be done, and the consequences of your choice investigated to make sure you have a business that suits your needs.

Get advice. At that time, I think people felt the idea of a web business without a high street shop strange – we felt that there were greater options available if you wanted to have a businesse on the high street, with a view to employing local people and boosting the economy. This was not how we planned to start out and it would also have required a larger investment, taking our money away from our core idea.

Talking it over with friends and family helps – we had great support from ours. A plan in place for holiday cover, cleaning rotas, everything from ironing to pet minding – it might sound like telling you how to suck eggs but we all got together to discuss how family could help or not, to make sure we were all on the same page !

Decide what you want to invest in for your business to work, what you need for your business and how you will communicate it and get the word out. People always say you need to advertise, but we have been really lucky, its word of mouth for us and loyal customers. We supply art all over the UK and abroad – being web-based means Bay Attic is, in essence, open 24/7.

As for branding and design of our site, we concentrate heavily on the website because it’s our store front, everything we do is online so, Facebook, iContact, WordPress, Weblinks, SEO, ad words, PRWeb, the web design company we use and hosting services etc., are all important because we don’t have a shop front on the high street. There is the Chamber of Commerce and support groups, recognition awards etc., that you can apply for/invest in to get you noticed. Also having a husband that is tech savvy and a research hound is an advantage, so use knowledge from those in the field too !

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There are online facilities/websites you can use and customise depending on what type of business you want to be, but sometimes you are restricted with these sites or they charge insertion fees for things – which all add up at the end of the day and can eat into your cash flow. So we decided to get our own site built the way we wanted it – because the website is our main point of contact, our website is our business, we don’t have a shop as our main point of contact.

People always say check out the competition, yes, there is always competition, but there is also collaboration and I think, a lot of small businesses and start-ups seem to think that if you’re in the same field, you’re a threat. Perhaps we’ve just been lucky as we work with galleries and publishers selling their stuff too !

I hate to mention the word cash flow, but it’s always something you have at the back of your mind when you are self-employed, keep a handle on it and get a good book-keeper or accountant. Honestly, I think accountants are from Mars, they don’t use English terminology, they have their own language. Arithmetic and Maths, not my favourite thing so, that was a steep learning curve, but worth it.

There are times when you make mistakes and things happen out with your control, but you learn from them, supplies late, connectivity problems, shipping problems – but such is life, it can be frustrating and I think because your business is your business, you feel any set back or unproductive day, more. But then you can have a smashing day, everything goes like clock work and customers send you emails to say “Thanks”, and you know it’s worth it.

I don’t expect to become CEO of a global empire, that would eat into all my family time, but I enjoy my way of life and the fact that I have a choice each day, and a business that works for me and my family.