So, you’re thinking about setting up in business? Here are the top 10 tips from the advisors at the Disabled Entrepreneurs’ Network:
1 Take things one step at a time
Many disabled people start a business so that they can make money. In fact, for some people starting a business removes the barriers to work they face, for example, access to the environment, if they cannot work nine-till-five, or if they need to take a rest during the day. Starting a business is not easy, but if you start small and build up, you can do some trading to see whether goods or services are selling. After all, you want to make a profit.
2 Where can I get money for the business?
Many people need a small amount of money to start up. However, grants and loans for your business are difficult to get, especially at this time. They also often depend on your postcode or region, your age, trade and why you need the funding, so a business plan is essential (see next tip).
If you are on certain benefits (e.g. Jobseekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance), you may be able to get New Enterprise Allowance, which is made up of a benefit and a repayable loan, to start up your business. More information is available at www.gov.uk/new-enterprise-allowance. Another way of earning money is to use another skill you have, whilst you create the business.
3 What exactly is in a business plan?
You should write a business plan, which tells the story of what you want to do in your business. The business plan should include information about your idea and how you are going to find out, or have already found out, whether there are customers, the goods or services you are offering, money – your estimated sales and expenses, where you will locate the business. (This may be at home or at another place) and the people you may want to work for you.
A bank may need to read your business plan before you can open a business bank account.
4 Where can I get customers?
There are many ways to market the business and to get customers. You can have face-to-face meetings, make leaflets and fliers, etc or you could use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Youtube. These websites are great ways to network and to get your business known. The best thing about it is that it’s free. Remember though, you can spend too much time on networking, without getting any business, so be careful.
5 What if I need equipment or support to work?
If you are self-employed, you may be able to get help from Access to Work (which is operated by JobcentrePlus). This could be for things like: assistive equipment (such as a screen reader, adapted keyboard or magnifier), travel to work costs, if you are unable to use public transport and a support worker, to assist with work related activities. This can include a personal reader, communicator or interpreter, or an assistant to help with personal needs in the workplace.
More information about Access to Work is available at: www.reallyusefulstuff.co/?portfolio=a-really-useful-guide-to-access-to-work
6 What about working from home?
Many people, including disabled people, consider working from home to start up in business. In fact, for many disabled people, working from home is the only option for them to make money, because of impairment related issues (some people may need to take a rest during the day). If you do decide to work from home, think about having a separate room and telephone line for your business, to avoid distractions from the family.
7 All work and no play…
Time with family and friends is important, but when you start up, you will have to put in the hours. It’s a good idea to make sure you keep some time aside to spend with your partner, family and friends. (This might be scheduling time at weekends or sharing an evening meal.) Think about having an answerphone and leaving your mobile phone, texts and emails for a little while. Everyone needs some rest and it gives you an opportunity to refresh yourself for the time and days ahead.
8 Any hints and tips for meeting with a business advisor?
Remember, this is your idea! If you decide to meet with a business advisor, make the most of the time by preparing notes of questions to ask. If you do not understand information, ask and keep asking until you do understand or it is written down. If you feel that it is too much information, ask the business advisor to put it in chunks or tasks for you. You need to be prepared for difficult questions, as often advisors are putting themselves into the shoes of those people you might approach for funding and telling you in their opinion whether you need to make changes for the business to succeed.
9 Any hints and tips for dealing with the tax office?
Self-employed people have to pay their own tax and National Insurance contributions. If you are starting a business, you need to contact the tax office. HMRC’s website has a lot of information, including a guide called “Thinking of Working for Yourself”. The information has become more user-friendly, but unfortunately some of it is still difficult to understand. Don’t forget that if you’re working from home, you can claim for some of your electricity, gas and water usage.
10 What if I need someone to talk to?
There will be times when things don’t seem to be moving forward or when things go wrong, especially when you first start up. The key is to be prepared, learn from the experience and keep going. You need to be prepared to adapt. After all, change can be an opportunity – you just need to make the most of it. There are various organisations that offer mentoring support. The Disabled Entrepreneurs’ Network (DEN) has experienced disabled advisors, many of whom run, or have run, their own businesses. If you need some support, you can contact DEN by email at: start.
Written by Jane Hunt (Volunteer Advisor) and Kath Sutherland (Equalities Consultant) at START Ability Services.