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Guest Blog: Chris Measures, Taking the plunge – setting up your own creative business- Part 1
Career progression in the creative industries can be limited. In a sector such as PR, you work your way up relatively quickly to a senior role and then find that you’re spending more of your time sitting in meetings or managing other people rather than doing what you love. Of course, developing the next generation of talent can be very fulfilling, as is getting involved at a more senior level with clients, but for many the itch to get back to full time ‘doing’ (whether that is designing, creating or talking to the press) needs to be scratched.
That’s when you have to make a big decision. Do I carry on working where I am, swap jobs to work for someone else or go it alone and set up on my own? As someone who took that plunge over three years ago and hasn’t looked back, I wanted to share my tips for making a success of it. As there’s a lot to cover I’ll split it into two parts – starting up and then keeping the momentum going.
Creating your own company and working for yourself is a big step, but actually isn’t as difficult as you’d imagine. The paperwork for registering your own company can all be completed online and it can be a very tax-efficient way of operating. So here are my top five tips for starting up successfully:
1 Weigh the pros and cons
We all have bad days/weeks at work, but on its own that’s not enough to decide to leave and work for yourself. Tempting as it is to tell people where to stick their job (with diagrams) look at both sides of the argument before doing so. On the plus side you’ll get more freedom and what you earn goes directly to you. However you need to find your own clients, taking time off for holidays or illness can be difficult and you’ll normally be working by yourself all day. Do you have the skills and mindset to thrive or will you sit around in your onesie all day watching Cash in the Attic? Does it fit with your current life situation? Is your partner fully on board with the idea? For example if you’re about to start a family can you juggle both home life and a career?
2 Talk to everyone you know
When I was thinking about my next step I had some excellent advice from a lot of people who’d set up their own business. This ranged from the high level to the day to day, but all of it was delivered with enthusiasm and a genuine helpfulness. So ask your friends, ex-colleagues or contacts, in confidence if necessary, about their experiences and normally they’ll be very happy to help.
3 Mine your contacts
Starting a new business with zero clients and zero revenue is daunting. So make sure you’ve got a wide pool of potential work by getting back in touch with all your contacts – both at companies and agencies. Tell them what you are doing and offer to have a catchup over coffee or a beer. Do bear in mind any non-compete clauses in your old contract though when it comes to current clients. And don’t expect to be working fully from day 1 – make sure you have the money to live on if nothing comes in for a month or three.
4 Find a good accountant
A good accountant can save you a lot of money in both the long and short term. Many are happy to have an introductory meeting and help get you started relatively cheaply. You can handle most of the book keeping and leave the more complex things (such as company accounts and annual returns) to them. Ask around for accountants that have worked with similar businesses as it will give them a better understanding of the pressures and issues you’ll come up against.
5 Have a Plan A and a Plan B
Setting up your own company and taking the majority of your income in dividends is remarkably tax efficient, particularly if you have a partner that can be a co-director. But you still need to be earning. Analyse your own budget. How much money do you need to bring in every month to pay household bills and how much have you got in savings? I gave myself six months – if nothing came in I’d head for Tesco to stack shelves or go to work part-time for other PR agencies. It never came to that, but having a target and a plan that I needed to hit focused my mind, and provided some reassurance to my mother (!)
Working for yourself is not for everyone – it can be lonely and worrying, so you need to be sure you want to do it before jumping in. You may not work for an annoying boss, but you still have demanding clients to deal with. However the creative and financial benefits of independence are great. Think it through, talk to lots of people and then make your decision – I’ve never regretted setting up on my own.
Next month I’ll talk about keeping momentum going in your creative business, once the initial excitement has worn off and real life kicks in………..
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