Is Self-Employment Really For Me?

There are plenty of advertisements on TV, radio and the internet for becoming self-employed and all seem to highlight the same ideas- More money
- Less & more flexible hours
- Do the projects that you want to do
- Be your own bossIs this really for you? From the lines above I bet almost everyone is saying yes but there will be a few of you who are slightly more sceptical.Like the majority of you I said “yes” too, however I found that there were a number of pitfalls and I eventually had to concede defeat and admit I failed.My aim for this article is not to discourage you from trying self-employment but rather to try and highlight self employment from the other perspective and show the difficulties that can be faced rather than just stating the potential benefits. Hopefully this will help you to avoid the same mistakes I made and really make sure that you are ready for self-employment before jumping in with both feet.Is Self-Employment really for me? – The Job
One of the big selling points of self-employment is being able to do the projects that you enjoy and move away from doing the projects that you don’t enjoy. I was a web developer and I enjoyed the web site and database development but I’m not a good with public speaker and writing user manuals bores me to tears, therefore, when I turned self-employed I wanted to drop off the public speaking and user manuals and focus on the website and database development.This didn’t quite work as I expected because I ended up having to do a lot of public speaking in the form of phone calls and business meetings in order to try and sell my services and get work in. I also had to write up proposals and weekly progress reports about the tasks I had done for my clients.Looking back on it now it would appear that I didn’t drop off any of the work I disliked at all but instead it was all there, all the time, just with a different face on it. I bet that many of the tasks you would like to put drop off will still need done even if you change to being self-employed.In addition to not losing the work you disliked I found that a considerable amount was added on like proposals, invoicing, payroll, accountancy, tax returns to name but a few. This all needs on in excess of the hours you normally work and generally isn’t something you can bill for. You may spend half a considerable amount of time doing a decent proposal for a job but if in the end you don’t get the job you have to re-cover your losses from elsewhere.Is Self-Employment really for me? – The Hours
Everyone who is trying out to be self-employed says the same thing… they want to get away from working the 9am to 5pm and have more flexible hours so they can take the morning off, finish at lunchtime on a Friday or even have more 4 day weekends. I was looking forward to the same thing but 2 years down the line I’m still waiting to see any of these.With the additional work you needing done (as mentioned above) I found I had to do the normal 9am – 5pm on the billable work and then spend evenings or weekends doing the non-billable work. Finishing time slowly drifted from 5pm to 7pm to 9pm until it eventually got to the stage where the only time I wasn’t working was when I was sleeping.I have tried taking the odd long weekend off but for me this is when my clients choose to call you which resulted in the most amount of phone call I have ever received in a single day and it was supposed to be my day off. As a result I had my mobile to my ear for a large portion of the day and quite a few quid racked up at the nearest internet café.I realise it must be tempting to give out your mobile phone number so you’re clients can reach you easily but I recommend against it, or at least get a separate mobile number for your work calls. Giving out my mobile number only resulted in being called anytime a client feels like it including 10pm on a Friday night or 8am on a Sunday morning. Sometimes this would even be about home IT problems which have absolutely nothing to do with the projects I was doing for them. I would recommend only giving a business number out and then you can switch it to the answering machine at 5pm on Fridays and allow yourself a break and time to relax until Monday morning.One of the things we take for granted is the paid holiday that we receive in our employment. Being self-employed means you no longer get the benefit of paid holidays or sick days and you need to bring in enough money not only to pay for the holidays and sick days but to cover the income you will lose out on during these periods. Since my step into self-employment I don’t recall having a properly holiday and the longest I can recall is 5 days and that is including the weekend.Is Self-Employment really for me? – The Additional Expenses
The will be additional expenditure required regardless what type of business you try to start up but some types will obviously require more that others. For me I had the following additional expenditures:– Business Insurance (Public Liability & Professional Indemnity)
- Accountancy
- Reseller Hosting
- Travelling Expenses
- Computers & Software
- Running CapitalThe first 3 amounts to about £200 a month for me and travelling expense varies wildly from month to month and it all has to come out of your pocket (at least initially until you’ve got a project to invoice). Previously your employer would have had to take care of all that and you would just submit your expense claim at the end of the month and got all your business expense back.Running Capital is another problem I faced. Usually I had enough coming in to cover the bills and expenses but if a client wanted a new PC installed I would have to get them to purchase the PC directly as my funds could not strech to have that kind of expense put on it. This poses 2 problems:– This does not give the impression of a successful company
- As the client is purchasing direct you cannot add any mark up on these items.Is Self-Employment really for me? – The Person
One of the other aspects to consider is the personality of the individual going into self-employment. If you get a difficult client that comes back with your invoice and says “I’m not paying that” then are you able to follow through and chase it up and get the relevant collection agencies involved if required or would you just write it off?If you are the latter then you may well find a lot of people will try and take advantage of your nature and push down your rate or demand you cut your invoice total even though there is nothing wrong with the value you quoted. You will have to ensure you are able to commit and not back down otherwise your clients could have you working for peanuts and throwing in extra things all over the place that weren’t part of the original project specification and expect it for free.One of the best examples I’ve come across is when I was doing a few home PC repairs when I was previously employed. My friends would ask me to come round after work and fix problems with their computers and in return I would buy me a pint when we went to the pub. This continued after I became self employed with exactly the same in terms of payment (1 pint) even though I could be there 5 minutes or 5 hours… they had just come to expect it that way even though every job I now did had to contribute to my income that month.At some point I spoke to them about this arrangement and told them I would have to start charging now since this is where my income comes from and from that day forth they’ve never asked me to fix their computer again.This may seem like I’ve lost a potential client but they were the ones reaping the benefits while I got nothing in return and they were clearly not interested in paying for the services they were receiving.Is Self-Employment really for me? – The Sales Call
This is partly associated with the person (see section above) again. About 2 hours after I got my business phone line installed I got a phone call from a business directory trying to get me to purchase their services and they succeeded but as it turns out the service didn’t do my business any good. Unfortunately I was one of the individuals who could be talked into something fairly easily and more than one company managed to get their talons into my because of that.What I’ve taken away from those experiences is a process I now follow with each conversation of that nature.Firstly, if I have the time, I listen to what is being offered and then I take the contact details and tell them I will contact them back at a time convenient with me. This allows me to research the product or services without the pressure of someone trying to hard sell it to me.Secondly I ask the following questions:– Do I need the service?
- Can I afford the service?
- Do they want me to make a decision right now?If the answer to either of the first 2 are no then I don’t bother calling back and if they call me back then I firmly stick to my answer, regardless how they try and spin their product.If they are offering a special discount to try and entice you but they insist you make a decision right now then again that’s when I say no and stick to it. If they are trying to get you to commit to something which is only available if you accept right now then it’s most likely something that not going to be useful.At the end of the day their job is to make money out of your company and they don’t care if you need it or not. Your job is to make money for your company so you will have to learn how to deal with these call very quickly otherwise you will have companies talking you into buying their products even though you don’t have any use for them.Is Self Employment really for me? – The Home Life
I think one of the most important things to bear in mind is to manage to keep a home life too but this can be hard to do, especially if you are working from home. The long hours and stress can put a lot of strain on your home life and create problems between you and the rest of your family so you will need to create boundaries to help keep everything balanced.Although you have to work hard to become self-employed, especially when you are trying to establish yourself, you should make sure that you don’t put the work over the family.Conclusion
Although this seems to portray a negative image of self-employment this is simply highlight some of the problems I encountered as I tried my hand at self-employment. Everyone will have different experiences, successes and failures and I strongly believe if you have the drive to start your own business then you will succeed and certainly no-one should stop you from trying!If you do intend to try self-employment I would like to wish you the very best of luck and I hope you succeed in whatever venture you decide to try. I also hope that this article helps you think about what may be involved and helps you avoid some of the problem I’ve faced.

Should You Hire a Property Manager Or Not?

Using a property manager has both pros and cons. There are no hard and fast rules regarding whether you should hire one or not. You have to evaluate the answer based on your own situation. The following are some considerations to take into account before you jump to a conclusion.Time CommitmentA lot of real estate investors have a full time job so they do not have enough time or energy to manage properties. Especially if the house is situated remotely, many investors might feel they cannot manage on their own or do not want to travel. If fact, you can manage on your own.Cost BenefitIf you have several properties or an apartment complex in one area, using a property manager to manage all the property may be economic. The manager will be able to combine expenses and costs. For example, they can purchase maintenance materials in bulk for all the rental units. If you don’t have several rental units in one area, but together with your friends’ or families’ rental units you do. Then you can afford to hire a professional dedicated property manager.The Nature of the Rental Market Where your Property is LocatedIf your rental property is located in an area where renters mostly check out the rentals through the local property management companies, then you have no other choice but to hire the company. This may happen in small towns where there is only a handful of management companies.Tenant’s CharacteristicsSome tenants are not easy to deal with. You may find some tenants that are constantly paying late, asking for a lot of unnecessary repairs, complaining about everything, or having difficulty keeping up the premises. A property manager may handle the situation better than you as you might be emotionally attached to your property and less likely to handle many issues impartially. What’s more, the tenant might try to take advantage of you. They may take it more seriously if they are dealing with a professional property management company instead of an individual.Does your Property Need Frequent Repairs or Maintenance?If your property needs frequent repairs due to its age or other reasons, having a property manager may help you if repairs are a burden. Usually the property management company either has its own in-house repair service or contracts with outside vendors. In any case, you should ask about it before hiring them and understand how much they charge.What Kind of Service do you need from a Property Manager?Do you need a full service property management, which includes placing tenants and ongoing management service? If the condition of your property is good or new and not much repair is anticipated, you may save your money on the ongoing management service part. If you already have a tenant but you are moving out of that area you can use a local property manager to collect the rent and do the maintenance work.Lack of Interest in ManagingSome rental property owners just do not want to get involved in managing the property at all. They rather have someone look after their rental properties so they can enjoy their life doing other things. That is absolutely ok. Enjoying life is also very important.The purpose of hiring a property manager is to free up your time and make your rental investment successful. Nevertheless, hiring a poor one is worse than hiring no one. You can end up spending more time and money to rescue your property.If you hire one, keep in mind it does not mean you have to be a completely hand-offs owner. You should keep in regular communication with your property manager so he understands you do not treat your real estate business lightly. How to hire a good property manager belongs to another blog we will write about.

Ways to Grow Your Business With Videos

Videos have become a must for businesses of all sizes. As the cost of video production decreases and the popularity of this form of advertising increases, even the smallest companies are using videos to reach out to current customers and target potential customers, both online and in-store. A well-made video by one of the growing number of corporate video production companies will more than pay for itself in new business. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that videos can be used to grow your company.

Marketing Videos

A 2011 Nielsen study found that videos are fifty times more likely to appear on the first page of search engine results than other types of content. Many potential customers would prefer to watch a short video to learn about a business’s products and services than read through pages of text on a website or in a brochure. A video is a good way to introduce yourself and your employees as well as allow people to see the faces behind the business.

You can show numerous examples of your work in a short, entertaining format that is more viewer-friendly rather than asking a customer to scroll through numerous pictures. Remember that online videos should be short – no more than two or three minutes. Most people will not watch much longer than that. It is better to have several short, engaging videos than one long one. Leave them wanting more – not less.

Instructional Videos

Online videos are an excellent way to demonstrate how to use your products. Step-by-step written instructions can be overwhelming, and many people find it easier to follow visual instructions. If someone feels confident that they can assemble and/or use a product easily, they are more likely to purchase it and then to keep it and recommend it to others. Even if you do not sell something that requires instructions, you can demonstrate the variety of ways to use your product and get the most out of it. Good video editing is key to keeping the piece at an optimum length and easy to follow. A video production company with experience in this type of piece can help you make a how-to video that will inspire customers to purchase and use a product.

In-store/Lobby Videos

Never miss an opportunity to market to current customers – even if they are already in your place of business. While they are waiting, give them something to look at besides their iPhone. As people’s attention spans grow ever shorter, more businesses are finding ways to entertain and inform customers, whether they are in a check-out line at the grocery store, or pumping gas at a gas station. You can use an in-store piece to promote special offers and new products that your customers may not know about or to tell them about something that your business is doing to help the community.

Customer Testimonial Videos

What better way to present customer testimonials about your business than on film? When a potential customer sees a person extolling the virtues of your business, the impact is more powerful than if they read a written testimonial. They are the next best thing to a face-to-face recommendation from a friend or family member. A few short customer testimonials from different types of people that cover a variety of products or services and how they met the customers’ needs can be an effective marketing tool.

Optimizing Video Viewership

Keywords: If your video is online, it is critical to capture people’s attention with a catchy title that also lets people know what your business does. Keywords are crucial in helping anyone searching the Internet for a service or product to find your business. Place keywords in the title and description box. Be sure to include your website at the very beginning of the description.

SEO: Search engine optimization (SEO) is an entire industry unto itself. Many corporate video production companies have professionals who know all the SEO tricks to get videos in front of the right people.

Social Media: Put your videos on all of your social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+) in addition to your website. Use a service like TubeMogul to share them across multiple video platforms. If you have a YouTube channel, include a link to it on your website, and include it on your business cards and printed marketing materials. Don’t forget to send them to the people on your e-mail contact list as well.

Branding: Every video is an opportunity to get your brand out there. Your company name and logo should be clearly visible in every one.

Video is truly becoming a necessity for building a business. Don’t be intimidated by the idea. No one is expecting Spielberg-directed films. However, they should look professional in order to give potential customers confidence in you and your business. An experienced video production company can ensure that your business is presented in the best light, and that it gets in front of the maximum number of people interested in what you have to offer.