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The day to day reality of business start-up

5 May

Starting self-employment as a sole trader, whether it’s as a window cleaner or dog groomer is a long process but completely worth it! It can be hard to know what to expect in the early days so we have spoken to Ritchie, a self-employed car valeter to give us some tips.  


Raising funds:
Your new venture may require specific equipment or start-up essentials and you need to find a way to raise the funds. You might start off by selling unwanted personal goods (I’d recommend your games console as you’ll have less time to play it if you’re committed!) or by asking family and friends for support. There are always start-up loans and banks but I was pleasantly surprised by the help I received from those around me.

Gaining new custosprayingmers: No matter what kind of day you’re having or what mood you’re in you must remain polite and presentable with customers. Those first impressions are critical to spreading news of your business and building your customer base.  Never let a customer down by arriving late and remember there are always competitor’s ready to fill your place if you don’t give good service!

Constant commitment: When I’ve finished valeting a car I can’t just make my way down to the pub. I’ve got to think about completing my paper work, meeting new customers, replacing stock and cleaning my equipment. Then there are other duties that might not have been thought of such as visiting the bank, training, buying new equipment and keeping up with industry trends. Just stay on top of your tasks and you will see great reward.

Getting support: It’s ok to not know some aspects of business start-up and there is plenty of support available out there. There are sites such as the HMRC site or organisations like Opportunity Plus (www.opsw.co.uk) that can offer advice or guidance.

It may seem like a lot of work but I LOVE working for myself. I get to meet people from all walks of life, earn my own money and see my business grow. I’m constantly learning new skills and surprising myself without dreading Monday morning!

You get what you put in, persevere through the start-up phase and you will succeed!

Check out Ritchie’s website at http://www.carcareplus.co.uk/

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Google’s Digital Garage

6 Apr

When starting a business, the internet can be your biggest tool especially Google. Google can help you in more ways than you think, and have created a branch of their empire that teaches valuable digital skills – Digital Garage.

Digital Garage is aimed at small businesses and people who want to grow their business, career or digital confidence. The site is free to join and will create a unique learning plan for you based on what your aims are and you are able to explore a range of topics including ‘Get noticed with social media’ and ‘Get started with analytics’.

You can track your progress through modules and when you’ve completed one you will gain a badge; when you’ve completed all of the topics you’ll get a certificate!

If you’re starting a business, want to expand online or learn new digital skills then register now and have a world of wisdom at your fingertips.

https://digitalgarage.withgoogle.com/

Spring clean your social media

30 Mar

 

We all know that this time of year is the time to get the dusters out and begin our spring cleaning. However, if you’re looking for employment then it might be time to clean out your social media before you start on the house.

A massive 93%* of hiring managers are reviewing applicant’s social media before making a hiring decision. It’s important you can give the best impression of yourself, whether that’s through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. You may think that it’s best to have complete privacy on your social media pages just be aware that having a positive page can really work in your favour and make sure it really is set to private.

Facebook profiles canblog be easily accessible to employers and can give a lot away about the person they’ve interviewed. Be aware of pictures that you are tagged in and make sure you don’t have anything that can be seen as offensive. The recruiter can use this as a way of seeing what you spend your spare time doing and probably won’t be impressed by your lad’s holiday in Marbella last month. They’ll also be focusing on the way you communicate so it’s important to check posts and avoid misspelling or ‘text speak’. Don’t forget that on Facebook you can also see pages that a person has ‘liked’, so if you vaguely remember liking something rude or inappropriate a few years back then I would go and double check.

The same rules apply for Twitter, be careful of what you are saying in your bio and tweets. Don’t forget that you can follow the company you are applying for to get up to date information and to show your interest. Twitter has a great feature where you can ‘pin’ your best tweet to the top of your page and really give a good impression to on-lookers.

With LinkedIn employers can quickly see if there is a difference to the qualifications you’ve listed and the ones you’ve put on your CV – honesty is key. If you’re not using LinkedIn at the moment then it’s a great platform for job seeking where you can showcase your skills, experience and connections so have a look at creating a profile.

Remember every tweet, post or comment can affect the employer’s opinion of you and possibly ruin your chances at securing that job! If you’re unsure, then ask a friend or family member to have a look over what can be seen and the impression your social media gives off.

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*https://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/jobvite_socialrecruiting_survey2014.pdf

Do you have goals, or are they dreams?

13 Aug

Author Mary Anne Graham wrote a blog on the difference between goals and dreams, in which she says:

 “Winning the lottery is a dream.  Making a living as a full-time romance novelist is a goal”

Lottery Balls

A dream is a lovely ‘maybe’ place that we visit to escape reality, for example, seeing all 6 of your numbers come out for the national lottery. It’s a great thing to imagine. You plan how you would spend all of that money, who you would help, what you would buy.

A goal is a target you plan, plot and work to reach, and the work can be hard and relentless at times. This can be a problem.

It’s so easy when creating another hopefully interesting post in order to gain more ‘likes’ on your business Facebook account, to start looking at what your friends are posting, and dream of lazing on that Caribbean beach that your cousin is posing on, drinking rum cocktails and sailing on your yacht.

That will never happen unless you improve your networking, get out there and sell, sell, sell your product or service, and then work, work, work to get the income and repeat business.

It’s easy when adapting your CV for the 50th time and writing yet another ‘stand out’ cover letter to a company you long to work for, to give up, ask yourself if it’s really worth it, go get a cup of hot chocolate and dream about being spotted in the street by the managing director who begs you to come and work for her.

It’s easier to listen to your won’t than your will.

Mary Anne says that “Sometime, when I wasn’t looking, my goals sneaked back into my closet and put on a fuzzy robe and slippers.”

Does this happen to you? Do your goals slip into dreams and stop you getting that job, or starting that business?

As Mary Anne Graham says:

“Whatever your dreams are – do you want to keep them in fuzzy robes and slippers or do you want to suit ‘em up and put ‘em to work?  And if you think your dreams are already goals – be sure to take frequent time to check up on yourself.  Keep your goals in work clothes because no one ever crossed the finish line in fuzzy slippers.”

Mary Anne Graham is a lawyer in California and a Romance writer. She has published books in her own name and her alter ego Olivia Outlaw. Her blog is called Quacking Alone.  http://www.quackingalone.com

Want help achieving your business or employment goals? Call 0800 043 2440 or email info@opsw.co.uk

Supporting the wider community

26 Mar

In our work with Opportunity Plus, we have come across some truly fantastic community centres and groups, and we want to share some of the great work that is happening out there.

Does your community group need some support? 

Here are some of the things that we can do for you:

  • Create a Facebook page for your community and teach you how to use it
  • Offer free face painting at fundraising and other events
  • Feature you on our blog.
  • Get in touch to see how we could help your centre.

Balloons

Balloons work with bereaved children in the Exeter area to help them through the grieving and healing process.  They have volunteering opportunities available and offer full training.  Find out more at www.balloonscharity.co.uk

The Hub Yeovil

The Hub Yeovil is a community centre working with disabled people.  They run a range of microenterprises to teach members valuable life and enterprise skills.  www.thehubyeovil.co.uk

Healthy Babies UK

Healthy Babies UK provide training to healthcare professionals, children’s centre staff, nursery workers and mothers to support the health, development, and wellbeing of babies and young children.  www.healthy-babies-uk.org

The Money Advice Service

If you have any questions about money – investments, debt, budgeting – then the Money Advice Service can help.  Call them on 0300 500 5000 for free advice and support.

Training

The Education and Training Level 3 course has replaced the old Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Sector qualification, and enables you to teach anything that you are qualified or experienced in to adults (16+).  Information, Advice and Guidance is another useful qualification for the community sector.  Call us or email info@opsw.co.uk for more information.

What community centres do you use?  Why not visit your local centre to find out more about what they do and get involved!  Check out www.do-it.org or your local CVS office to find out if there are any volunteering opportunities near you.

Social Media and Personal Branding

23 Mar

Social Media Stock

Many employers will search for you on the internet before they even interview you. Here are some top tips for making a good first impression through your online profiles.

–       Facebook Privacy settings

You probably don’t want employers looking at your embarrassing photos from last weekend or those status updates about what you ate for dinner last night. Make sure your privacy settings are set correctly by following this quick guide.

–       Websites, blogs and Twitter

Websites, blogs and Twitter are a great way to build your online presence. Your online profiles are an opportunity to make a good first impression and employers will often make assumptions about you based on your profile picture, choice of background and the things you post.

Don’t write anything that you wouldn’t want an employer to see and make sure to check through your old posts for anything which might harm your chances of getting a job.

–       Email addresses.

Make sure your email address sounds professional. Employers will often make assumptions about a person based on their choice of email so the safest bet is to stick to your real name or a combination of initials and surname. Professional sounding addresses will go largely unnoticed but a silly or complicated email will stick out like a sore thumb!

–       LinkedIn.

If you don’t already have one you might want to consider starting a LinkedIn page.  LinkedIn is a professional networking site which allows you to build an online CV which employers can look at.

The Small Business Guide to Social Media Mastery

14 Oct

I found this fantastic infographic on marketmesuite all about using social media as a small business, it’s got some really interesting stats on it.

small-business-guide-to-social-media-mastery1