First Steps

Since I’m not well enough to work right now, it seems like the ideal time to write the article that has been swimming around my brain a while. However, my brain is, itself, swimming in snot so this may end up being utter nonsense. Here goes.

I’ve been thinking about three topics that I was going to discuss in details in three separate articles, and I wasn’t sure which should be discussed first. However, I think I’ll worry about that later and for now cover the basics of all three topics in this one article. Maybe I’ll even leave it up to you, the reader, to determine what I write about next.

I’d love there to be more odd-jobbers out there, like myself, helping people do the small gardening and home improvement jobs that they can no longer do themselves, but odd-jobbing isn’t for everyone, and there may not be enough demand for it where you live to earn a sustainable income from it, which is why I think the best place to start after you’ve decided that you want to be self-employed is figuring out what you’ll be doing.

The best way to do this is to ask around. Ask people in your community what it is they feel is needed. One of the easiest ways to do this, if you have the opportunity, is to pay attention to local online noticeboard groups. Not every community does it, but you may find, after a quick search on Facebook, that there is at least one Group or Page dedicated to local news, events, and requests.

In my case I found that a lot of people in my area were asking for help with small jobs, but you may find that the people in your town are frequently asking for pet-sitting/walking services, cleaners, carers, piano tutors, math tutors, children’s entertainers or tax accountants. See what opportunities are available, and, if any of them take you fancy, reply that you are willing and able to help.

If you don’t find anything you can do locally, and you’re willing and able to deliver your products and services to anywhere, then spread your online search further afield to see what people in your field of expertise/experience are clamouring for.

Now, there’s a good chance that you won’t be qualified for some of the opportunities available. For example, perhaps you don’t have a degree in accounting, but you do know your way around a tax form. It’s okay to let your potential client know this. Most of the time they can’t afford a ‘professional’, and they don’t really need one. If the job is something they used to do themselves, they may even be able to teach you a thing or two.

I’ve already begun telling you about the next topic. How to find clients. I’ve got most of mine online to begin with, and then from word-of-mouth recommendations after that. I also got one or two from posters I put up in places I expected potential clients to go. I also hung out at the local ‘community hub’ to introduce myself in person while I was between jobs.

Participating in community events and projects will also help you get noticed.

The best way to get clients by far is by word of mouth recommendation, so when you’re doing a job, it helps to bear in mind that you’re also the best form of advertising for your business that you can get. You need to make a great impression, and maintain it. However, you also need to be honest, and be yourself. Some people have the knack to charm people, others, like myself had to learn it. However, it’s going to take more than one article to explore that topic.

The third topic I wanted to mention was money, specifically how much you need to charge. I actually hadn’t figured this out when I started. I knew I wanted it to be more that minimum wage, but I didn’t know what people would be willing to pay. I hoped that people would see my work and pay what they thought it was worth. It turns out that people like to have a number. Your best clients will be the ones that think the work is worth more than you’re asking.

Now, as your own boss, you need to pay yourself a fair wage for the work you’re doing. Ideally it needs to be enough to cover all your expenses even this is your only job. Also, you need to reach the target with just 20 hours per week (or less). As the word spreads and your reputation grows, you should be working more hours than that, but when you’re starting out, it may be a struggle to get that much.

Add up all your monthly expenses, for the whole household, for the year. Monthly expenses rarely include clothes shopping trips and things like car repairs, and you may have to guess how much unexpected expenses will cost you. The more thorough you are, the better, but even a best guess will give you a starting point. You can adjust later if necessary.

It may be mind numbing, but it will be worth it.

Once you have your grand total, subtract any other sources of income you may have (like a spouses, or a part-time job you’ve been doing) to see how much of the grand total you still need to make up. Divide that number by 52 (the number of weeks in the year) to see how much you need to reach per week, and again by 20 hours per week to see how much you should be charging per hour to cover these expenses.

If the amount you have left seems unreasonable, feel free to do the calculations again, and see what you can sacrifice, at least until you get more hours. I myself like to buy games, but I had to put that on hold until the basics were covered. For you it might be cigarettes, or your favourite fast food. Hopefully you won’t have to do without it for long.

Doing this will also show you how insufficient minimum wage jobs really are. Particularly if you don’t have 20 hours spare between caring for children/ other family members and that part-time job you’re doing. You may have to quit that part time job once your own business succeeds. As much as you may like it, you may start to resent how little it pays. Sorry about that.

If you feel tempted to discount your hourly rates to even less, bear in mind you’ll need to work more hours to cover your expenses. One of the biggest mistakes that new businesses make is undervaluing their time and their products. A high price suggests quality, and a low price suggests the opposite. You may surprise yourself to see what people are willing to pay for a good job well done, even if you’re telling yourself you could have done better.

There will be some clients that think you’re charging too much. Some will will insist on getting a flat-rate quote instead of charging by the hour. Be wary of clients like this and replace them with others who like what you do and are happy to pay what you ask (or more) as soon as you can. However, particularly if you’re making products, you may want to offer a price for each item, or project, rather than charge by the hour.

You still need to take into account how much time it will take you to complete the project/product, as well as any materials used. If it will take you six hours, then the client will need to pay you for six hours work, plus the cost to replace any materials you’ve used. Even if you had everything you needed laying around, you will need to buy more for the next one, and the cost should be included in the products price. As does the cost of any ‘free samples’ you’re handing out.

If you can make it and people want it, then do it. πŸ™‚

It’s going to be a struggle at first, but once people start praising you to others, you should be able to cover all of your basic needs, as well as save up for holidays and treat yourself to the occasional fancy meal, expensive gadget, or snazzy new outfit. Though you may find that the first things you spend the ‘extra’ money on is more tools and marketing for your business.

I hope this advice has been useful. Feel free to ask me questions. I’ll be happy to explain anything in more detail, or discuss your particular situation and how you can still be successful despite your personal obstacles. For the moment this is all free because I’m figuring out how to teach all this as I go and your feedback will help me improve my coaching methods and advice.

Thank you for reading, liking and sharing, and have a great day πŸ™‚

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