Running a business alone

Doing what you love; working for yourself; doing things the way you want them … running a business alone means living the dream, right?

And in many ways, yes it does.

But running a business alone, making all the decisions yourself, with no trusty employer to guarantee a steady pay packet … that can be stressful, worrying and downright lonely too.

So what can you do to make things easier for yourself?

I thought it was just me …

Opus Energy carried out a survey of more than 500 small business owners a while ago, in which three quarters said they were kept awake at night by work worries.

Some 80 per cent said they had made sacrifices for their businesses, including giving up personal time, reducing holidays and going without pay. One might reasonably ask “who on earth are the other 20 per cent?” – surely there isn’t a business owner alive who hasn’t given up some of their personal time to the demands of work.

But no one should be going without pay; nor should 76 per cent of those surveyed be losing sleep over things like money and work-life balance.

Sadly, 38 per cent said they regretted starting their own businesses at all – which, taken as a proportion of the UK’s 5.7 million small business owners, would equate to some 2.16 million people who wish they hadn’t chosen to chase their dreams.

Here, then,is some business advice to help you cope when you go it alone.

1.   Have a structure to your day when running a business alone

Tough as it may be to implement, as a solo business owner, you need to give yourself time away from work. Not only for your own well-being but also because it’ll make you a better business person. You can’t perform at your best, or be at your most clear-headed and creative, when stressed, tired and miserable.

However you do it, whether you like to work nine to five or go with the flow, whether you want to pick the kids up from school each day or have a cast iron ‘no working at weekends’ rule, you need to structure your work so some time is set aside for leisure.

Getting the most important jobs out of the way in the morning, or delegating more tasks, can help you to leave on time. If you’re struggling with time management, spend a week or so tracking how you actually spend your time each day; you’ll probably find at least a few hours of time that could be reallocated more productively.

2.   Use cloud software

Cloud software can be used anywhere in the world where you have an internet connection – you don’t need to be in the office. This is great for helping you work more flexibly – for example, if you want to pick the kids up from school and finish off your work after they’ve gone to bed. Cloud software exists for all kinds of things, from managing your accounts, to updating the content on your website.

3.   Don’t obsess over your mistakes

The only way to avoid making mistakes is never to do anything.

If your business is to thrive, both you and your team need to feel free to try things and therefore to occasionally get them wrong.

That’s okay. Learn from it and use that knowledge to help you do better next time.

Don’t berate yourself, or others, or you’ll kill off the entrepreneurial spirit that got you into business in the first place.

4.   Running a business alone – ask for help

Just because it’s your own business it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone – or, indeed, that you can. Running a successful business requires a whole variety of skills, many of which you will not have; being a brilliant businessperson doesn’t necessarily mean you are also skilled at accounting or marketing.

While it might feel like the obvious solution to do everything yourself to avoid the cost of hiring someone else, that can be a false economy> If it’s going to cost you a whole day a week or month to do your accounts, that’s a whole day you’ve taken away from building your business.

Don’t be afraid to skill swap with other professionals, for example – they could do your accounts if you write some copy for them. The end result is better, quicker, and less stressful for you both.

You can get a lot of support from organisations like the Federation of Small Businesses. They can offer a wealth of information on everything from finance and insurance to employee well-being and cyber-security. Membership offers a range of benefits, including networking events, access to legal advice and representation, and advice on issues like health and safety, business planning, marketing, tax, and accounting.

5.   Make friends

Shared work-spaces, whether you rent a little office in a building with lots of other startups and small businesses, or even rent a desk in an office, can be a great opportunity to meet other business people in a similar situation. They may even turn out to be people you can collaborate with or who need your services!

It also provides you with an office to go to, which many people find helpful for beating cabin fever and for establishing boundaries between home and work.

There are several such establishments springing up around the South East, enabling business owners to share advice, skills, and more. With such support from others, running a business alone is less lonely and you can really benefit from their experience.

As established business accountants in London and across the South East, we at THP Chartered Accountants, can help business owners with all manner of financial and tax-related tasks. Whatever aspect of accounting you may need assistance with, we can provide it. We have offices in Sutton,  ChelmsfordWanstead, and Saffron Walden– just give us a call on 020 8989 5147 to chat about how we can help.

Need further advice on any of the topics being discussed? Get in touch and see how we can help.

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    About Ben Locker

    Ben Locker is a copywriter who specialises in business-to-business marketing, writing about everything from software and accountancy to construction and power tools. He co-founded the Professional Copywriters’ Network, the UK’s association for commercial writers, and is named in Direct Marketing Association research as ‘one of the copywriters who copywriters rate’.

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