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Self-employed debt advice

Starting up a business. Useful resources for the self-employed.

If you're self-employed it can often be hard knowing how to make the most out of your business, especially if you haven't done it before.

This page has resources we think you'll find useful if you're self-employed, from writing a business plan to hints and tips on how to generate new business. 

Creating a business plan

Before you even start looking at things like marketing your business you need to make sure you've got a good business plan in place and a workable business budget to follow.

A realistic business plan is vital as it can help you secure investments or loans from a bank, and it can help you convince potential customers and suppliers to support you.

A business plan is a written document that sets out what your business is and what its long term goals are. It should include:

  • Your objective: What will your business provide? For example, you currently work as a hairdresser in someone else's salon, but you want to become a self-employed hairdresser so you can use your current skills to target a specific group of people that will appreciate your artistic flair
  • Your strategy: What's your long term aim for the business? For example, you want to build up a network of mobile hairdressers in the Leeds area, with you as the overall manager
  • Marketing tactics: How are you going to market your business? For example, through social media, promotional hair-cuts, or organising showcasing events to highlight the services you offer
  • Your financial forecast: What do you expect to make and how are you going to pay for the business? How is this going to rise every year?

Writing a business plan will help you get a clear idea of what you want your business to be. It'll also help you spot any potential problems you  come across. This way you can have a strategy in place to deal with them before they even happen.

Let's go into more detail about what you need to include in each of the sections of your business plan. 

It’s important to let HMRC know that you’re self-employed as soon as you can. If you don’t you might have to pay a penalty.

Useful links to help you start a business plan

  • The Start Up Donut - A step-by-step guide to writing a business plan
  • Google Docs - Find a wide range of business plan templates to give you a framework to start from

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What are your business objectives?

Before embarking on a new business you need to make sure you’ve got your objectives set out. This gives you a basis to work from and a clear idea on what you’re going to do.

Here are a couple of the things you need to consider when thinking about your business objective:

What's your background?

  • How long have you been thinking about and developing your business?
  • What experience do you have in that particular area?
  • What work have you done in preparation?

What’s your service?

  • What are you offering?
  • How’s it different to other similar businesses out there?
  • Who will be your target audience? (Will this be based on age, gender etc.?)

When you’re writing your objectives remember to make it easy to read. You don’t need to use overly long words or lots of business jargon. Your business objectives need to be understood by people who aren’t involved in that particular area, like a bank manager if you’re planning to get financial help to get your business started.

Tip: Get a friend or relative who doesn’t know anything about your business to read your business plan. If they understand what your business is and what you want to achieve then you’ve cracked it!

Your business strategy

Every business, no matter how big or small has a strategy.

This gives you a goal to work towards and should be the central idea you refer back to whenever you make a decision about your business.

By including your strategy in your business plan, the reader will be able to see what you’re aiming for and how you plan to get there.

The strategy and overall goal will be specific to your business, and it might take a while for you to decide what yours is, but here are a a couple of examples from the experts:

Marketing your business

Marketing your business is one of the best ways of generating new customers. Whether you're a window cleaner, a landlord or a builder marketing can work for you.

There are various different ways of marketing your business, however social media is (importantly) free to use. You don't need to pay an expensive design agency or digital guru to use it, and if used correctly it's a great way of spreading the word about your business. 

Here's some information to get you started:

If you’ve got a question on using social media for business ask our MoneyAware team. They’ve got bags of experience in working with social media and helping small businesses with getting more out of online.

Financial forecasts and creating a business budget

Your financial forecast

This covers what you expect certain areas of your business to cost and what you expect to generate from your product or service.

In your financial forecast you need to include:

  • How you’ll price your service or product: How does this stack up against similar products or services in your area?
  • What financing you need: Do you need to get a loan from your bank? Are you using your own savings? You need to include information on how you’re going to cover the initial start-up costs before you start generating an income
  • Your profits and loses: Try to work out what you think you’ll spend and what you think you’ll earn over the next couple of years.

You need to be realistic when you’re working out these figures. Don’t be too optimistic or use figures that you think will impress your bank manager, as this will lead them to question just how realistic your business plan is. 

Creating a business budget

To keep track of your business spending, a realistic business budget is essential. This will help you work out what your costs are and identify areas where you could cut back and make some savings to increase your profit.

4 simple steps to get your business budget underway:

Step 1. Decide what timeframe your business budget is over. It's normally best to do this on a calendar monthly basis, but you could also do it weekly or daily if that makes it easier for you to work out what you're spending.

Remember a calendar month is not the same as 4 weeks (otherwise there would only be 48 weeks in a year!). To change a weekly figure into a 'calendar monthly' one take the weekly figure and times this by 52 (the number of weeks in the year) and then divide this by 12 (the number of months in the year).

Weekly to monthly calculation

Step 2. Before you fill in your business budget write down a list of all the business related costs you have like petrol, telephone bills and stock. This way you can make sure you've covered everything before you put your business budget together. 

Step 3.  Download a business budget template. Some of the areas might not be applicable for your business but just fill in the costs that you have. 

Step 4. Track what you spend. If you're spending more or less than the amount in your business budget you can update it with the actual costs after a couple of months.

Dealing with business debts

Setting up a new business can be difficult and expensive. It's important to plan your budget carefully to try and avoid any problems or unexpected costs.

If you're struggling to manage your business costs or personal debts, please contact Business Debtline if you live in England, Wales or Scotland. They offer specialist help to the self-employed, including advice on tax implications, court proceedings and business liabilities. They also offer help for personal debts.

Call them on 0800 197 6026. They’re open Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm. 

If you live in Northern Ireland, please get in touch with Advice NI. They offer a range of services including free, independent and impartial advice on business and personal debts. 

Call them on 0800 083 8018. They're open Monday to Friday 9.30am to 5.30pm.

Our self-employed debt advice page also provides information on what business costs you need to pay first, whether you're a sole-trader or a limited company and what happens if you don't pay tax, VAT or National Insurance (NI).