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One Year On – tips for your first year of trading

Following on from our networking event in October, we have put together this handy little guide with tips to help you get through that crucial first year of trading. And who better to share their advice than fellow Outsetters who have started their own businesses from scratch.

At the event we were privileged to have our own expert panel – four Outset clients who have completed our courses, and passed that first year milestone.

Our thanks goes to Zsofia Bundai from Stick in Mind, Colin Eade from Bespoke Event Bars, Iain Chaffey from Crimson Goose Design and Lydia Chaplin from Fresco Artistic Decorating for their invaluable tips and advice.

Building your client base

  • You’re only as good as your last job – word of mouth and recommendations can be really important when you are starting out and building up your clients. Many people will choose to work with people who have previously been recommended, and you can also use quotes from previous clients as testimonials on your website.
  • Whilst it’s important to have a structure and specialisation, you should also be flexible. During your first year there will be many opportunities to learn and grow your services in ways you may not have foreseen at the start.
  • When you’re talking to potential new customers, make it seem like market research instead of a sales pitch. It’s much harder for people to say ‘no’ face to face, and meeting someone will allow you to answer questions straight away. Start by arranging a meet-up, follow this up with an email a week or so later.

Money

  • Discipline yourself to keep a separate pot of money aside to pay yourself.
  • Know the minimum amount you are willing to work for. If someone tries to push you lower, it’s ok to say no.
  • Consider doing work for free only if it will benefit your own business in the long run. Sometimes it can be great for building connections and lead to future business. Make a judgment and ensure you avoid a loss.
  • It’s alright to say no sometimes. Don’t feel like you have to take every job at any cost. Customers appreciate honesty. Even if they do choose a cheaper option, they may remember you for future work.
  • Customers don’t always realise the amount of time and effort that goes into producing something. Be transparent and educate them so they understand why it costs what it does.
  • Review your prices every 6 months or so and change them if appropriate. In some cases it may be appropriate to review prices by job. You can also consider charging different rates for larger commercial or domestic jobs.
  • Provide written contracts with a clear cancellation policy to ensure you aren’t left out of pocket.

Marketing

  • Always have business cards and leaflets to hand, you never know when you’ll meet someone potentially useful.
  • Professional promotional videos are a great way to showcase your business and can be used on websites, social media, Amazon and You Tube. They only need be 60 – 90 seconds long to be affective.
  • As well as traditional leaflets, branded stickers can be a fun promotional material to give out too. It’s all about getting your brand known by as many people as possible.

We asked our panel what three things they would say to themselves a year down the line, and they agreed: be flexible, don’t under-price and manage your time affectively. And remember at Outset Bristol our Advisors are available to provide support and advice even after you start trading.

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