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Some tips for self-starters

Some tips for self-starters


01 Dec, 2016

In the current ‘difficult’ economic climate, self-employment can seem like an attractive option. Quest looks at the challenges of going it alone …

Are you tempted by the idea of being your own boss? Do you have a solid business idea, and the drive and tenacity to succeed? If so, self-employment could be very rewarding. You’ll need huge dedication and hard work to build a customer base from scratch during a recession, but don’t be perturbed, as mentioned in our main feature elsewhere in this issue, ‘Running your own business’, a record number of people have already taken the plunge into self-employment.

Whether you have plans to be a gardener, security consultant, clerical worker or personal trainer, by approaching your target customers independently, it is possible to generate varied and interesting work – and the perks of being able to manage your own time, and not being tied to a single location, can be very appealing.

Get to grips with the basics

To be self-employed, you’ll need to work through some of the challenges, though …

  • Define your offer and explain why people should buy from you, or use your services rather than someone else’s. What makes you competitive or the best in your field?
  • Who makes up your target audience and how are you going to generate business from them?
  • Are you sufficiently disciplined and motivated to succeed in a tough, competitive environment?
  • Can you survive on a lower income while you build up your business? 

It’s very important to have a clear target audience and a regular mechanism in place for communicating with them. Many people who become self-employed spend around 50% of their time trying to generate business in the first year. That’s 50% of your time unpaid! But, as you start to get regular work, the whole process becomes much easier. 


The personal attributes of someone well suited to self-employment include:

  • drive and determination
  • self-discipline
  • tenacity
  • independence
  • self-motivation
  • a strong commitment to delivering projects on time, to specification and to budget
  • personal budgeting and organisational skills.

Remember, there are tax bills to pay, so you can’t spend all your income – and you need to keep your paperwork in order for HMRC inspections.

Earning highs … and lows

In the early years you might earn less than you would expect to achieve in full-time employment. But, in the longer term, if you’re successful, your earnings are entirely dependent on the work you put in. That’s hugely motivating. It’s like performance-related pay – with all the rewards and none of the bureaucracy.

On the downside, payment dates may be erratic. Are you financially robust enough to deal with slow payment periods? If you need a regular pay cheque and/or cannot budget effectively, you need to give serious thought to whether this is the right path for you.

Are you a ‘people person’?

Depending on your field of work, self-employment can be lonely. Apart from needing the drive and motivation to get started every morning, you should consider whether your chosen profession provides enough ‘people contact’. If you end up feeling lonely and isolated, or you lack motivation, this route may not be the right one for you.

Be aware of the obstacles

There are many obstacles to self-employment – potential clients often want to know about your experience or your track record, or to see a portfolio of your work. The cost of specialist equipment can be prohibitive, and many companies have preferred suppliers making it hard for you to even get through the door. However, persistence can pay off, and many of these obstacles can be overcome with a little initiative. 



Career Transition Partnership (CTP)

t: 0121 236 0058




Federation of Small Businesses

t: 0808 20 20 888




The Prince’s Trust

t: 0800 842842




Regular Forces Employment Association Ltd

t: 0845 873 7166



The Royal British Legion

t: 0808 802 8080




t: 0800 307 7545 



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