Help for Sole Traders, the Self-Employed and Micro Businesses throughout the UK
Someone asked me recently to list the top things a sole trader could do to improve their business. I’ve seen these 10 practical ideas produce great results over the years – when they’re implement!
In my experience, sole traders are highly professional in their conduct, passionate about helping people and excellent at the delivery side of what they do. They’ve studied hard and practiced hard. However, their professional training shortchanged them when it came to the business side of things. They have the ability. They just need help gaining the requisite business knowledge and skills. And the encouragement and confidence to have a go.
So here’s my Top 10 Tips – and a suggestion to help with the implementation bit. And if you’ve been given lots of advice before and it just hasn’t stuck (you’re not alone!) then skip to the last section of this email.
1. Measure something. Anything. In any game, it’s important to keep score and business is no different. There are 2 kinds of measures – activities and results. Calling someone is an activity. Having a conversation with someone is a result. Cash in the bank is a result. Calling someone who owes you money is an activity. Choose something you want to improve and grow. As if by magic, the very act of measuring something will cause it to improve! So what do you want to improve? And how will you measure it?
2. Leading on from the above, activity is the name of the game. Daily activity. An increasing (specific) amount of cash in your bank account might be your current result goal. That money is currently in the pockets of the people who need your help. So what’s the simple, daily activity that’s going to bring you into contact with those people on a basis? The key here is to start small and simple. And measure your activity.
3. Client reviews. Register with Google My Business (it’s simple) and collect client reviews. Start with all those former clients who love you and ask them. If confidentiality allows you, positive client reviews will generate you new enquiries and convert them for you. I’d focus on Google My Business before I focused on a website. Third party endorsement can transform you financial well being!
4. Ask for the business. “So, shall we give this a go?” “When shall I book you in for?” Often we need a little nudge to make a decision. So have the courage to give people a little nudge. The worst that can happen is that they say no. But usually they’ll say yes.
5. Keep control. Never let someone get back to you. Always have the last word. “So, let’s get a 5 minute follow-up call scheduled into the dairy for early next week. Which day and time’s best for you?” And then send a follow-up email or a calendar invite.
6. Schedule stuff. Every inch of your calendar should be full of something. Know when you’re going to be working each week and what you’ll be doing in each and every hour. We tend to put meetings and client appointments into our calendar but not when we’re going to write that blog, review our finances, plan next week, read that article, create that email campaign, go to the gym, etc. We’re far more likely to do something if it’s in our calendar. Client sessions can sit on top of other things in your calendar. If a client suddenly cancels then you automatically know what activity to default to.
7. Prices. Most people undervalue the impact they have on clients. Put your prices up. Remember what you parents taught us all – you get what you pay for! Putting you prices up doesn’t mean you can’t offer a lesser rate to someone (for a good reason) if your roster isn’t full.
8. Focus on outcomes. The people who need our help are usually in some kind of pain and this is what motivates them to approach us. Whilst recognising that pain, we also need to get them to focus on the beneficial outcome of our solution – and ideally put a value on that outcome. What they pay then has some proper context and then becomes an investment.
9. Commit to some after-hours learning and practicing business-related stuff. Read some practical books and listen to some audios – and have a go! Get someone you respect to recommend something simple to get started with. I’d recommend starting with sales as this is where you can make good progress quickly.
…the last section of this email.
10. Recognise that you’re not the only one! And be brave enough to ask for help! Be liberated and relieved by the fact that we’re all going through – or have been through – what you’re going through know. It’s the truth that will set our free! And you don’t have to do this alone. In fact, we’re not designed to operate along. We’re designed to cooperate and collaborate in community – the 3 Cs! Education tends to encourage us to be independent and being a sole trader can accentuate that. We feel that we have to do everything ourselves. Asking for help is a sign of strength. We can all go a little further and a little faster with someone along side us.
My chosen role in life is to get along side business people and help them go a little further and a little faster. Doing that for sole traders and very small businesses is often not commercially viable on a 121 basis. However, here’s a potential solution by operating collaboratively in a tech-based community.
The community would be a group of like-minded sole traders (or businesses owners with just 1 or 2 employees). Like-minded probably means admitting the need for better results, being open to learning business stuff, being open to having a go and a having a mind-set of sharing with and encouraging others.
One of the key benefits on being in a community is that it automatically introduces some accountability. We can’t talk ourselves to better results. We have to commit to doing something. And then we actually have to do it! Knowing that we’ve committed in front of our peers helps precipitate the action required!
The technology would be something like ZOOM Conferencing. This would allow us to meet virtually via a video session. Technology has really moved on and services like ZOOM are a great enabler. We’d also be able to share documents and presentations.
I’m proposing to facilitate a 60-90 minute group Business Coaching Session every fortnight. I’m thinking of a small group numbers. Whilst there wouldn’t be a contractual commitment I’d encourage people to commit to the group for a period of time. I’d help everyone create their own plan before we got underway and would obviously be sharing business development strategies as we went along. The programme would be results focused and designed to be very practical. And simple and easy!
You want to maximise the impact you have on this world – but you also want to pay the bills; build up some cash savings; and have the time and money to enjoy the finer things of life that you deserve for all your hard work.
If you are interested, then simply reply to this email. Replying doesn’t commit you to anything – apart from a conversation to determine if this is the right thing for you. Let me know what you think. Reply to email@example.com