This year, both my wife and I have closed our businesses, and for very different reasons. My wife has closed her pet sitting business because COVID has negatively affected it. I closed mine because I don’t want to carry on as a contractor/freelancer. I’m going back to permanent work, and my wife was using hers as a side-hustle.
We both felt differently about closing up. I saw it as moving from one opportunity to another. Unfortunately, my wife saw hers as a failure. She felt as though she failed as a business, and she let all her clients down.
The thing is, neither of us have failed. Especially my wife. She kept a business going through thick and thin. She has dealt with a wide array of clients, and held it out all on her own. It was a success, and she did an amazing job at building relationships and gaining trust. If she restarted at any point, her client base would jump at the chance of having her back. To me, that’s a massive success that many people struggle with.
Running a business is always a huge learning experience. There’s many ups and downs, but the struggle is worth it. Even if you end up closing that business down, you would learn a lot from it. Learning from the business is what makes it a success. If you are closing down a business or have closed one in the past, please don’t see it as failure. See it as a success and just learn from what you did to get it to where it is or was.
So, you want to get into contract development, but you don’t know where to start? Let me explain how to get started, and what you need in order to begin contracting. Strap in, because this is going to be a long one.
Setting up your business
First off, you will need to either set up your own limited company or find a service which offers an umbrella company. There are multiple ways to set up a limited company. You can create the company yourself, or use a service to do it for you. I was personally recommended a company myself called “The Company Warehouse“. They also offer accountancy packages which may suit your needs.
You could also use companies such as Your Side Kick, JSA Group etc. These companies will set up your business and deal with taxes, PAYE etc. If you decide to go alone, then you will need to register on the gov.uk website.
After you’ve set up your limited company, and if you didn’t use a service, then there are extras to consider. These are; PAYE, tax and VAT. All of this can be done on the gov.uk website, but you need to take care to ensure you fill the details correctly.
Another thing to consider if you haven’t used any of the services above is an accountant, they can deal with your yearly taxes and any VAT submissions (should you require it). They can set you up with accountancy software such as Quick Books, Free Agent, Xero etc. Once they set you up, they will help to get you started and can let you go on your own once you’re confident enough to use the software.
Deciding who to bank with
There are so many banking companies out there, even more with the boom of Fintech banks. Personally, I chose Starling which is a fantastic fintech company. They offer 0 monthly fees, they charge £3 fee per money withdrawal at Post Offices. However, you can also choose from the following… Monzo, Tide, Coconut and many more. There are also traditional bank accounts such as HSBC, Barclays, Santander etc.
It is up to you to research each bank and find the one that best suits you. Once you have done this, you should hook it up with your accounts management software or notify you accountant.
Looking for contracting work
You have the business side of things taken care of, now it’s time to find work. How do you do this?
There are tons of options available for you, if you have connections elsewhere, then you can ask them. You can go to Slack or Reddit communities where other devs are already working for companies looking for contractors. I actually found my role through an agency called Nigel Frank on LinkedIn. They are a worldwide agency so there’s plenty of work to go round.
Speaking of LinkedIn, that’s a massive resource which I recommend. You can join communities and connect with like-minded people. People are always advertising for positions on LinkedIn too, so be sure to use the search to your full advantage. Twitter and Facebook may also help, but I haven’t had any luck on there just yet.
Another great step would be to set up your own website to advertise your work and the fact you’re looking. You can create a contact form, add your phone number and share to friends and family who may also share to others.
Hang out at conferences by using MeetUp.com to your advantage while learning new skills. I recommend you go when there are interesting topics, otherwise, you might not have any luck. You may also want to create some business cards which you can hand out to people you meet.
Finding a suitable accountant
Finding a suitable accountant is something else you will need to consider, especially if you’re not sure how to handle the money side of things. I personally used a local accountant which was recommended to me by a friend and you may want to do the same. However, a company I keep seeing and has been recommended by a lot of people is Crunch. These guys seem great and I would definitely recommend you check them out.
This one depends on your circumstances. If you have got a working laptop and all the gear for working elsewhere, then you can skip this. Otherwise, you will need to find a laptop. You may also need some dongles, a mouse and keyboard, earphones or headphones, or monitor cables.
I personally went with the HP Envy 13″ with a USB-C dongle. The dongle has 2 USB-A, one USB-C, ethernet, one VGA and one HDMI ports. My mouse is a Razer (can’t remember the model) and I use the keyboard that’s on my laptop. My workplace offered me a monitor with HDMI cable, but you may want to take your own display cables just in case. I can also connect to their network via ethernet.
It came with Windows 10 pre-installed, but I chose to install the latest Ubuntu software. In hindsight, I should have chosen the LTS version due to software support. I will stick to the next LTS version to avoid this situation in the future.
As far as starting out with contracting, that’s pretty much it. You may also need to learn to invoice your clients although my agency does that for me. However, I still have to fill in timesheets every week in order for them to keep track and I create invoices that never go to them.
This year is our year and we want to start pet sitting
Last year, I wanted to help my wife start a pet sitting business but had no idea where to start. I started looking at ideas on how to get started and found some basics that needed to be fulfilled.
Insurance was the number one item on the list and a DBS check came a close second. Even though a DBS check isn’t necessary, it’s a huge bonus that keeps potential clients at ease. DBS checks are a basic check that certifies you have 0 criminal convictions.
Looking at insurance
We took a look at insurance and which providers would be best for us. Taking a look at comparison websites, but they didn’t offer anything for pet services in particular. Then we spoke to our neighbour who owns a dog training business and she pointed us to PetPlan. It was a perfect solution and the costs were £114 each year. It’s cheaper than car insurance and works out to be £14 a month. Not bad.
The DBS check was fairly simple, we basically submitted some details alongside a filled in form and a payment of £80 (including paperwork review). And now we have a certificate that says we have 0 convictions and if our customers ask, we can happily hand it to them.
Now the basics are covered…
We now need some way for people to find us and a nice attractive logo to reel people in. I started by contacting a friend of mine who is a fantastic logo designer. She designed the logo that you see in the featured image and we couldn’t be happier. Obviously, she gave us mates rates, but she is definitely worth so much more.
For the website, I wanted to make it as easily accessible as possible for both me and my wife. So I decided to go for Weebly, it’s a fantastic drag and drop website that offers a lot of features and a fantastic price of £89 a year and a free domain.
The reason I did this, was because my wife isn’t knowledgeable on websites, so if I’m not here and she wants to make changes, I want her to do it as easily as possible. Weebly is definitely a fantastic service for just this.
I picked a theme, got the logo in and added as much content as possible. We officially launched on the 1st of January and have picked up a couple of clients since. We are still looking for more clients and we’re hopeful for the future.
Of course, we also created some business cards and used Moo for this. They have a great choice of cards and their quality is simply the best.
What’s the focus now?
My main focus is to get the site to page one for keywords like “pet sitting newton abbot” and pet sitters newton abbot” as well as other local places just outside of Newton Abbot. We’re currently sitting on page two for those terms, so hopefully, we can rank higher for them.
We are also advertising online and locally in Post Offices and small shops and will be attending business conferences very soon. The clients we have picked up have loved our services so far and given us 5-star reviews on our Facebook page. Hopefully, we can continue the momentum and even push the momentum further.