Liz Johnson from the university Knowledge Exchange gave a Rather Useful Seminar on starting your own business today. We had a very good audience which was nice to see. The great thing about a Computer Science student is that they already have a bunch of skills that can actually drive a small business along.
There were some great tips for getting started.
Let people know that you are running a business
People like HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) like to be told if you are earning money. If they find out from someone else that you are working – which is pretty much guaranteed as soon as you get paid something by another company – then they might get upset and give you a hard time. Your landlord might need to be told if you are working from home, particularly if you customers back to your place for meetings. This will also affect your household insurance. If you are driving to customer meetings and delivering stuff make sure that your car insurance covers this. If you are starting a business alongside an existing job, it makes sense to tell your employer. They could get rather cross if they find out, and you might be able to work with them to leverage some useful synergy (proper business talk eh?)
Cover yourself in respect of liability
Perhaps the most important one here. Make sure that you have insurance that will cover you in the event of a dispute with a customer. Nobody starts a job thinking that it could all go wrong and you could get sued, but it can happen and you need to have protection. This is kind of expensive, but you can pay by instalments, or get insurance for each job in turn. The price of not doing this is very scarily high.Of course this insurance will count as a business expense, so you can count it against tax that you would be paying on the work.
Take Care Over Your Name
If you are going to give your enterprise a name, spend some time picking a good one. Practice saying the business name and make sure it sounds good to you. Think how it would sound to someone who rang you up. (I thought this was wonderful advice). See if you need to protect your name, and make sure that you are not using the same name as someone else, that could end really badly.
You will need as much help as you can. Use skills from helpful family members, even if it is just as a sounding board so that you can make sure your ideas aren’t too wacky. There are lots of agencies who can help you find grants and all kinds of other things, starting with the Knowledge Exchange on the university campus. The Platform Expo folks in Hull are also a great source of resources, particularly if you need things like office space and help setting things up. Look up Microsoft BizSpark for free software.
One piece of advice that I heard from another source was that if you are not sure whether or not you need funding, you probably don’t. If you need money, for example to buy a new machine or some stock, you will really know that you need it. Don’t just think you need to get cash just so you can get started. If you have your trusty laptop, a good network connection and can afford to live, then for a developer that is probably all you need.
Do what you like
If your business is a success you are going to be spending quite a lot of time doing it. So try to find something you enjoy doing. If you have a hobby that could become a business, that is not a bad way in, either way, if you do it right you should avoid the “Monday morning feeling”. And maybe even become rich.
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