Quick start guide to setting up your business
Have you just qualified as an energy assessor and considering running your own business? Or maybe you have been qualified for a while but want to go down the self-employed route? Read on to find out what you need to get started.
Register your business
First things first, you must register your business as a either a sole trader, a limited company, or a partnership. They all pose advantages and disadvantages depending on your situation, but to sum up:
- Sole Trader: Easy to set up; could be considered more risky as the sole trader is personally responsible for any debt accumulated by the business; some accounting responsibilities.
- Limited companies: Personal and business finances are separate so less risky; the business owner has reporting and management responsibilities.
- Partnership: Up to 20 people can be owners in a partnership, and each partner has equal responsibility – unless agreed otherwise.
Ensure that you carefully consider all areas before deciding which type of business to set up.
When running your own business, it is important to a have a process set up which outlines how customers should pay you, and the timeframe in which they are required to pay you. Some important things to include on an invoice:
- Your company name, address, and contact information
- A unique reference number
- Relevant dates (date that goods/service was provided and the date the invoice was issued)
- Description of goods/services that the customer is being charged for
You can create an invoice manually or use templates online, however many will choose to use e-invoicing/smart accounting software. This may add to your costs, but it certainly reduces the stress and hassle involved with invoicing as well as end of year reporting/tax returns.
Elmhurst members can find out more information about what’s involved in invoicing in our business guide: ‘Basics of Invoicing’ which can also be located in our member’s area on Access Elmhurst. The guide also provides you with an example of an invoice, which can be used as a reference point when creating your own personalised invoice for your business.
A business plan is a document which provides a detailed description of your business. It is commonly used by business owners in order to secure outside investment from stakeholders such as banks and other lenders.
However, even if you think it’s unlikely that you’ll be seeking investment, there are still benefits to creating a brief business plan. It’s a good way of cementing your business idea, identifying your goals and the timeframe in which you want to achieve them; and measuring your progress over time. And who knows, down the line it might come in handy to have a business plan already written up.
Another key factor to consider is having some marketing processes in place. Now don’t worry, you can keep it simple if you want to, but it is advisable that you have a professional online presence for your business. For example, you could set up a social media account, such as a LinkedIn profile, as it is a useful tool to connect with other people working in the industry, other energy assessors, local estate agents, installers, etc.
You could also consider setting up a Facebook account, as this will allow you to make your Facebook ‘friends’ aware of your new business. Facebook is a useful platform to introduce yourself and your business to people in your local area and surrounding areas, using the feature to invite people to ‘like’ your business page.
Remember to ensure that your marketing activities accurately reflect your services and sets realistic expectations for your customers in order to avoid disappointment, eg. Don’t say that you can complete an assessment in 1 hour, when in reality it will take you 2 hours.
To find out more in-depth information about setting up your business, check out our business guide below, exclusively for Elmhurst members. We are also publishing other business guides to give self-employed assessors a helping hand, which can be found on Access Elmhurst under ‘My documents’.
Setting up your business > https://members.elmhurstenergy.co.uk/DocumentSection.aspx?q=PSC
How to market your business > https://members.elmhurstenergy.co.uk/DocumentSection.aspx?q=Competitor%20analysis
Basics of invoicing > https://members.elmhurstenergy.co.uk/DocumentSection.aspx?q=Basics%20of%20Invoicing