Being a Sole Trader Small Business Owner
The Ultimate Multi-Tasker and Ringmaster of Chaos!
Being a small business owner is no mean feat, especially when you're a sole trader.
It means you're responsible for everything from sales and marketing to administration and customer service. It can be overwhelming at times, but it's also incredibly rewarding.
In this blog, I'll share some of my experiences as a small business owner, and how I've managed to juggle everything while still finding time for family life, caring for an elderly relative, creating content, and managing social media.
The buck stops here
Let's start with the obvious: being a sole trader means you're responsible for everything. From the minute you wake up until the moment you go to bed, you're thinking about your business. And even then, you might be dreaming about it too! It's hard work, but it's also incredibly fulfilling. When you enjoy what you do and you see all your hard work pay off, there's nothing quite like it.
There’s never enough time
One of the biggest challenges I've faced as a small business owner is time management. There are only so many hours in a day, and when you're trying to do everything yourself, it can be hard to find the time to focus on what really matters.
For me, what really matters is seeing clients and creating content. Without clients there is no business, and without content there is no way to attract them. So, I've had to learn to prioritise and delegate.
Get someone else to do the things you can’t or don't want to do (without feeling guilty!)
When it comes to delegation, there are a few things I've learned.
Firstly, you have to trust the people you're working with. Whether it's a virtual assistant or a web developer, you need to know that they're capable of doing the job to the best of their ability.
Secondly, you have to be clear about what you need. There's no point delegating a task if the person you're delegating it to doesn't know what's expected of them. And then you have to be prepared to pay for it.
Delegation is an investment in your business, and if you want to grow, you need to be willing to invest.
Sorry, I can’t come to the phone right now
Of course, there are some things that you can't delegate, like seeing clients and keeping up with CPD and training. This is where time management comes in. I've found that setting boundaries is crucial.
I try to schedule my days so that I have plenty of time to see clients, but also enough time to take care of everything else. It's not always easy, but it's helpful to give me time to focus on the admin side of the business.
One of the most difficult things for me was letting voicemail take the calls. I want people to contact me obviously, and voicemail feels impersonal. But if I’m already with a client, or in the middle of something important, I can’t take the call much as I’d like to. It just amazes me how many people won’t leave a message.
I guess that's my cue to delegate to an answering service to take messages!
Making your business stand out when you’re the only one standing
Another challenge is marketing. For me it’s crucial. Without it, I won't attract new clients, and without clients my business wouldn’t survive. But marketing takes time and effort, and when you're trying to do everything else, it can be hard to find the time to focus on it.
One thing that is important for me is social media. I've found that social media is a great way to market my business without taking up too much time. Once I decide what I'm going to post I use scheduling tools which not only saves time but means I don’t have to create anything in a rush just before posting.
Of course, social media isn't the only way to market a business, but it's a great place to start.
When it comes to sales, I've learned that it's all about building relationships. People buy from people they like and trust, so I make sure to focus on building relationships with my clients. I take the time to get to know them, understand their needs, and offer solutions that meet those needs. It's not about being pushy or salesy; it's about being helpful and adding value.
I can’t help but care
Let's think for a moment about family life and caring for an elderly relative or children. This is something that many small business owners have to deal with – it may even be the reason for starting a business in the first place - and it can be challenging.
When you're trying to run a business and take care of your loved ones or children, it can often feel like you're being pulled in so many directions. I have first hand experience of this again now as, although my children are all grown up and long fled the nest, my Mum came to live with us when we moved to North Wales in November 2021.
For me, it's all about balance. I make sure to prioritise my family time and my Mum, but I also know that my business is very important.
It’s good to talk
It's a fine balancing act, and communication is key. I make sure that everyone knows my schedule and what I need to do for my business. That way, we can work together to find a way that works for everyone.
If I don’t take care of me, who will?
And let's not forget about the importance of self-care. As a small business owner, it's easy to get caught up in your work and forget about taking care of yourself. But self-care is crucial, especially when you're juggling so many things.
For me, self-care means taking breaks throughout the day, going for walks, and spending time with Mum. It also means knowing when to say no to things that aren't a priority.
I've also learned that having fun is part of the self-care. When things get tough, a break, a good laugh or a great conversation about something completely irrelevant to work can go a long way.
That’s why you’ll often find me walking along the beach, or taking Mum out for lunch at a local café. Apart from quality family time, it’s also supporting another small business. We all win.
Keeping it real
As a therapist, I deal with real people with real issues, and sometimes it can be tough to listen to their stories. Also, as much as I love seeing all of my clients, there are always going to be the difficult ones. It can be frustrating, but it's also an opportunity to learn how to handle difficult situations effectively.
Making the connections
Connecting with other small business owners is hugely helpful too. Being a sole trader, especially if you work from home, can feel isolating. You’re making all the decisions and often have nobody to really discuss them with.
Local business networks are great for connection and support. I’m a member of Network She, a local women business owners’ network. We meet for a coffee morning regularly, and help and support each other in between via social media, with events and group walks too. And of course, it means you’re never short of someone to grab a coffee with or call for inspiration or advice.
There are plenty of other more formal and regional and national networks too, but as most of my therapy clients are local, I find the local approach best for me.
Don’t get sucked in
One of the difficulties with doing your own promotion and marketing is getting distracted by social media! It's so easy to get sucked into social media when you're trying to manage your business's accounts. Before you know it, an hour has gone by, and you haven't accomplished anything. It's a good reminder to stay focused and schedule your social media time.
Warning: side effects of being a small business owner may include insomnia, caffeine addiction, and an irresistible urge to high-five yourself
So being a small business owner, a sole trader is not so easy. It requires hard work, dedication, and a lot of juggling. But it's also incredibly rewarding.
With the right mindset, time management skills and a sense of humour, you can successfully run your business while still managing your personal life.
And if you're finding it difficult, I know a really great therapist who can help you create the right mindset…
Being a successful sole trader without losing your mind
In a nutshell, the keys to being a successful sole trader business owner are to prioritise, delegate, communicate, and take care of yourself along the way. And most importantly, do something you enjoy – or better still something you love - and have fun!
If you'd like help creating a more effective sole trader/small business/entrepreneurial mindset