Don’t struggle on alone when your business needs help

It’s not always just a great business idea that leads people to start a small business of their own – especially those who start off as a sole trader.

It could be all sorts of other reasons too, from a need for more flexible working hours, to a desire for some personal freedom and the sense of being your own boss.

For some people, it’s the independence that comes from not being part of a team, and relying on your own abilities to get the job done.

But while independence can be a good thing when you’re a talented and capable individual, it can also be a pitfall if you make the classic mistake of not reaching out for help when you need it.

Earning money as a sole trader might not need a lot of external help, but as your business starts to grow, it’s important to know when it’s time to ask for third-party assistance in a professional capacity.

Outside investment

Business growth often relies on funding, and if you’re trying to expand just using your earnings as a sole trader, that can put a limit on your potential.

You might be limited by the number of hours you can actually physically work, or by the cost of running your household – and if these things are holding you back, outside investment could be the answer.

Getting help from investors, or even just a business development loan from the bank, doesn’t have to mean losing control of your business at all.

Just look for like-minded individuals who know a good opportunity when they see one, and who are willing to help you advance your business to its next evolutionary stage.

That might mean investing in some high-quality software that helps you get the job done better and, importantly, charge more for your time, or for the services or finished product you provide.

Or it might mean expanding by taking on your first employee, so that you are no longer limited to just one person’s total output or earnings potential.

In-house employees

If you have plenty of orders in the pipeline, you might be ready to take on employees even without the need for external investment to cover the costs of doing so.

You can start quite cheaply by taking someone on part-time or even offering an internship or apprenticeship – know what your budget is and how many hours you can afford to pay someone for.

Once you have them on board and working for you, they should soon start to pay their own way in increased earnings, and you can look at expanding their role if they want more hours.

In the early days it’s a good idea to have at least some of the workload already on order before you take on a new member of staff, so you’re not paying them while still drumming up enough business to keep them busy.

But it’s crucial to know when you reach that tipping point of actually needing someone extra to help you out, so you don’t put too much work on yourself as a sole trader.

Remember there are always contractors, freelancers and agencies to pick up the slack if you don’t think you need an in-house member of staff right away – so don’t feel obliged to do absolutely everything yourself if your business is expanding beyond one person’s abilities.

Admin assistants

Finally, one area where many small businesses make their biggest mistake is admin. At first, especially as a sole trader, you’re likely to be responsible for everything from invoicing through to debt recovery, but if you have a lot of individual transactions to bill for, this can get very complex and time-consuming.

The last thing you want is to carry out work for someone and then to not get paid – especially if you’re so busy that you don’t notice the invoice is overdue – so consider getting an assistant to keep an eye on the finances while you worry about your main business activities.

You can hire someone in as mentioned above, or outsource credit control and invoicing to a professional company that specialises in doing all of that.

Alternatively, look out for people who work as ‘virtual assistants’ online – these may be self-employed individuals working from home too, often with good experience in business, and who can take care of things like invoicing and accounts remotely to free up your valuable time for business expansion.