Last editedJan 20222 min read
Some of the most famous names in business started out as sole traders, including Alan Sugar. They succeeded in growing their businesses into major success stories and so can you. Here are some tips to help.
Aim for sustainable growth
You need to achieve sole trader growth in a healthy and sustainable way. To make this happen, all the parts of your business need to stay coordinated with each other. If one part of your business starts forging ahead while the other parts lag behind, you could be setting yourself up for a whole lot of trouble.
For example, if you have a great idea for a publicity campaign that could really drive sales, then you need to make sure you can fulfil those orders promptly. You also need to make sure that you can bill for them effectively and provide support to customers who need it.
Automate as much as you can.
Technology is not replacing humans overall. It is, however, capably dealing with many of the mundane tasks humans used to do. This is a huge benefit to everyone, particularly sole traders aiming to grow a business.
What’s more, key technologies have now become mainstream enough to be affordable. In fact, they can even cost less than traditional alternatives. For example, increasing numbers of businesses, especially SMEs, have switched or are switching to VoIP (internet telephony).
VoIP enables small businesses to have access to the sort of call-handling features which were once only available to corporates. What’s more, it integrates with other software for even more functionality. Its close relative Fax over IP has helped to clear fax machines from many offices. The bonus is that it often does all of this for less money and space than legacy (POTS) phones.
Take financing seriously
Just like people, businesses need fuel to grow. That means money. There are basically three ways you can get this. These are your income, credit and investment. Out of these, your income is often the most important since it generally plays a key role in determining whether or not you can get credit or investment at all (and if so how much you can get).
It’s therefore vital for you to make sure that you’re always on top of every aspect of your income. This means every step from pricing strategy to managing the actual process of payment via maximising the value you get from your customers and minimising churn.
Never underestimate the importance of managing your payments effectively. If you’re running an online store, make sure you have an effective checkout system. If you’re billing through invoices, invest in proper accounting software to manage them effectively. Similarly, give some thought to the payment methods you accept.
As a rule of thumb, you want to offer the payment options you think your customers will want but encourage them towards the payment method you want them to use. For many businesses, direct debit is by far the best option. Firstly, it’s very affordable. GoCardless has no set-up fees and attractive transaction fees.
Secondly, it works internationally (and GoCardless offers the real exchange rate). Thirdly, it minimises the amount of time you spend dealing with invoices. You can use GoCardless together with major accounting packages to automate your administration and leave you more time to grow your business.
Even though you’re (currently) a sole trader, you don’t have to do everything on your own. At a minimum, you should be networking (at least online, if possible offline). This isn’t just about getting useful connections (although it certainly helps). It’s also about getting fresh insights and sometimes just a bit of moral/emotional support.
If you have the budget, then think about using some of it to enlist the help of other sole traders. In particular, look for people who can free up your time and/or fill in skills you lack. Depending on your situation, this could mean anything from a VA (virtual assistant) to web designers and content producers to accountants and lawyers.
We can help
If you’re interested in finding out more about the sole trader checklist for growth, then get in touch with our financial experts. Find out how GoCardless can help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments.