8 Top tips if you're self-employed working from home
A Guide to self employment based on my own experience
Some of you may know, I have been a #GirlBoss for some time now, back in 2010 at the age of 19 I started a women’s apparel business called Sian Victoria Boutique . To prepare myself I studied Business Management at college and completed a self-employment course with the Princes Trust. However, these courses did not prepare me when it came to managing my time, having the confidence to mingle at networking events, organising and managing stock, getting my brand out there, how to deal with customers in the digital age and finding the most affordable yet safest way to post my products.
So, if you have just begun your self-employment journey, then here’s a few things I’ve learnt over the past seven years that I wish I had known from the start.
Take benefit of pallet racking & storage options
Back in 2010 I started selling my re-worked vintage clothing on eBay and once my brand become popular I then began selling on ASOS Marketplace and BigCartel as I had 1000’s of items of stock at this point so being on different marketplaces allowed me to reach a wider audience all over the world. As I was working from home and buying job lots of vintage stock – 500 units at a time.
One thing that I didn’t consider until it got overwhelmingly too much - was my lack of storage space. I had boxes piled up everywhere and it was a nightmare. Something I regret not doing is purchasing extra storage space for the seasonal stock I didn’t need to work with at that time. From companies such as Warehouse Storage Solutions who provide pallet racking in Derbyshire based on the individual needs of your business, the custom-made pallets/racks lower the price of storage costs and ensures a smooth running of your items when you need them. Pallet racking can help you decrease that extra storage cost that eats up profits.
Manage your time effectively
As I was so passionate about my little online vintage shop, I allowed it to literally take over my life and because my bedroom was also my office space it meant my brain never switched off. I worked ridiculously long hours, even on weekends and because I sold garments for the festival season it meant I never had the time to go out and enjoy the summer for myself – hence the multiple holidays a year I’ve been taking recently to make up for it as I've mentioned in my post 'Looking back on 2015'.
So, what I’m saying is it's vitally important to create a work/life balance – buy a diary and organise your time well to ensure you don’t neglect friends or family or most importantly yourself. Take breaks to walk the dog, cuddle the cat, go to the gym, meet a friend for coffee, visit an elderly relative for a quick chat, read a book, do some home cooking and freeze a batch for the week ahead so you’re not eating convenient food – for those days you say to yourself ‘I’m too busy to cook’. Having regular breaks to give your mind and body a rest should make you a lot more productive when your back at your desk. Having at least 8 hours sleep a day is so important - there was one point I was living off three hours sleep a day which made me constantly ill and exhausted so that's when I knew I had to slow down.
I also find writing to do lists effective as I love being able to tick them off at the end of the day as it motivates me to carry on. I start with the most important tasks first and then work my way down to the none urgent ones. I know that some people who work from home get distracted with watching daytime TV and scrolling Facebook and before you know it the day has gone. So do your best to avoid the sloth trap – or accommodate some time in your schedule to do this during your breakfast or lunch break but as soon as the time comes put your phone or remote control down and get back to your desk and start ticking stuff off that to-do list. Never overwork yourself - always give yourself time to enjoy life and have fun because otherwise what's the point - reward yourself occasionally for the hard work you have done.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
I considered my shop as my little ‘baby’, it was my brand and perhaps I was a little too overprotective of my brands image - so much so that I was running every aspect of the business myself, from sourcing vintage stock, listing products, photography, writing the shop blog, web design, bookkeeping, customer service, social media, researching current trends and postage and packaging etc. Gaining positive feedback from my customers was important to me and as I’m a bit of a perfectionist I didn’t ask for help because I didn’t want anything to go wrong and spoil all the hard work I had done to get where I was.
So, if the professional hiring service site Bidvine was around back in 2010, then I would have felt a lot more comfortable about asking for help to take the stress and load off my hands – because the professional individuals on Bidvine are all striving to receive the best feedback, therefore, they are more likely to put their all into any task you hire them for – such as bookkeeping or photography.
Being sociable and having the confidence to mingle at networking events is something I am still struggling with today. However, the only way you’re going to boost your confidence and grow as an individual or brand is if you get yourself out there and throw yourself into situations you would usually run away from. When I first started my business and this blog I would avoid all sociable events because I thought I’ll just embarrass myself and look stupid. I got to the point where I just had to give myself a slap and I started saying yes to every social event I was invited to. What really helped me was dressing the part, walking into the room and acting like I was confident and coming prepared with business cards. Although I’m still socially awkward AF, I’m getting there and I’m feeling a lot better about myself for it – you may find that you’re not the only one who feels like it.
Being self-employed is stressful, you can have periods of making no money at all and then suddenly be inundated with sales or freelance opportunities etc. When I first started the shop, I had times where my eBay notifications would be going ‘kerching kerching’ all day long from sales all over the world and then I could go a fortnight with just one or two – it can be frustrating when starting a new business and having bills that need paying. But if you are truly passionate about your business, and there’s a market for your product or service then there’s no reason why you can’t succeed. Just be positive and don’t give up - you just need to work hard, network, get your brand out there and engage with your potential customers and have an online presence on social media that you update regularly.
Most millennials these days have more than one income. We tend to dabble in lots of different things, so don’t limit yourself, if you have more than one passion – go for it, consider other ways of making money to create multiple revenue streams.
We now live in the digital age and anything we do or say can easily be screenshot and shared across the internet in a matter of seconds – so make sure when you reply to a customer or client be professional and respond quickly and politely in the way you would expect to be spoken too.
Make sure your website stands out from the crowd, for example I use Square Space to create this blog – it’s expensive and was a nightmare to set up - however since investing in the platform my blogging opportunities have tripled, this could be because other blogs like mine are using Blogger and WordPress so it’s likely that the difference in layout and how I arrange the posts have made my blog stand out compared to how my blog looked previously when I was using Blogger.
And finally, if you create digital content for your business I would highly recommend using the website Canva for creating eye-catching posters, invites and social media headers etc for free. Another free tool that I have found invaluable is Grammarly because my spelling and grammar is terrible however with this I’ve felt a lot more confident about publishing the written content I am creating.
Shop around for postage
When I first started my business, I used Royal Mail for everything I posted and until about a year in I hadn’t even realised that I could be saving so much money/profit by simply taking advantage of the ‘large letter’ option. So instead of folding up the dresses so they were a bulky parcel I bought large letter postal bags and folded the garments as flat as I could so I started saving loads on postage – I’ve mentioned this in my ‘Depop selling tips’ post. For medium/large heavy parcels I used Parcel2go - a comparison site that finds you the cheapest delivery deal. Although don’t always go with the cheapest option, go with the safest option that comes with tracked delivery if it’s an expensive item. When I first started using it I would pick Yodel because they were the cheapest but unfortunately, they were also the most unreliable for my customers – so pick wisely.
Clear your mind and your desk
Like I've said previously write to-do lists and use a notebook or the memo app on your phone to write any ideas that pop into your head. It's a lot better to write things down then relying on yourself to remember things, it's also a great way of clearing your mind. Another thing that really helps me get motivated and have a productive day is by cleaning and organising my office space. I also love having natural light coming into my room and having lots of plant pots around me - as you can see from the photo my desk is quickly turning into a jungle.
As well as plant pots I also find having photos around my desk space to be motivating and helps to cheer me up - such as the photo of me at the Grand Canyon, it inspires me to work hard to achieve my goals and complete my bucket list. And finally listening to motivational speakers on YouTube is something me and my boyfriend do often when we begin to slump or even uplifting music as it helps us get us back on track.
I hope my experience has been helpful to any new business start-ups out there. If you have any more helpful business tips feel free to leave them in the comment section.
Disclaimer: All photos and words are my own, based on my honest experience of being self-employed for the past seven years. A collaboration with Warehouse Storage Solutions has inspired me to create this post.