Thinking about going solo? Starting up a new business is a better experience if you've got support from the experts. Here are the most common questions asked about starting up a decorating business. It's not a complete guide, just a starting point - but it should help you on your way to becoming a successful business owner. Good luck!
1. Where do I start?
We can't stress enough how useful a business plan is. Not only can it help you secure financing for your business from organisations like banks and grant providers, it also gives you a road-map of where your business is heading. With a good business plan you will be able to spot problems before they turn nasty, have a better financial structure, focus your efforts and measure your success. So what is a business plan? Basically it's a written document that describes your business, its aims, strategies, marketplace and financial forecasts. Because it is such an important item there are many Business Support organisations that offer workshops to help you put together a successful business plan, many of them free of charge. For further information visit the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies website.
2. What type of business am I?
There are several different legal structures for businesses, including the following; Sole Trader, Partnership, Limited Company and Limited Partnership. Which one you choose will affect things like the tax you have to pay, records to keep, liability and decision making. If you are not sure which best suits your business, get advice from an accountant or solicitor.
3. How do I plan my finances?
You don't need to be a financial wizard to run your own business, but you do need to know the basics and when to appoint a professional to advise (and take the complex paperwork off your hands). To start a decorating business you are almost sure to need money for things such as equipment, a vehicle and advertising. The first thing is to make a realistic assessment of what you need to borrow, and to bear in mind the problems of cash flow - it makes sense to have sufficient capital to cover projected expenses for at least six months. One of the essentials to getting work is charging the right price. Until you get an established customer base you will nearly always be competing for business, so make sure you know what other painters and decorators in your area cost. But remember the price can't be too low - especially if it makes you appear amateurish or means you might not make a reasonable profit. Always put together a realistic price for materials and time, taking account of time spent, and any costs for storing or protecting furnishings.
4. What's the difference between a quote and an estimate?
This all depends on what kind of job it is. Don't forget that if you give a quotation then it is a fixed price offer that can not be changed once it has been accepted by the customer. However, the acceptance point is an important one as once the quotation is accepted by the customer, it then becomes binding on the decorator (i.e. it is not binding on the decorator when the quotation is made, only when it is accepted by the customer). This holds true even if the decorator has to carry out much more work than they originally expected. Therefore, the quotation should either provide a reference to the Job Specification or detail precisely what the quotation covers stating that any variations outside of this will be subject to additional charges. An estimate, on the other hand, is an educated guess at what a job may cost - but it is not binding. To take account of possible unforeseen developments, a decorator would provide several estimates based on various circumstances, including the worst-case scenario. An estimate does not constitute an offer and therefore cannot be accepted by the customer; therefore this is not binding on the decorator. Your quote or estimate will need to be competitive, so make sure your hourly rates are appropriate for the area you work in. Also, always keep up to date with the price of materials and the latest products. (Don't get caught out pricing for your usual paste only to discover the wall covering requires a special adhesive.)
5. Should I advertise my business?
Before spending any money on advertising it's important to spend some time understanding your position in the marketplace. This means knowing where to find your potential customers and knowing the competition. Ideally you'll be looking to give your business the edge - perhaps in price, in the breadth of service, or in quality. Think about the work you want to do and how best to attract it. (You might want to think about choosing a name for the business which reflects your strategy.) If you do a good job then you may well get more work through word of mouth, but sooner or later you are probably going to want to advertise. You can actively seek out work by looking through the planning applications in your local newspaper and getting in touch with the building owners. Direct marketing in general can be a good way to target specific areas you think might have the kind of work you are looking for. To find out more about how to grow your business with social media, read our top tips.
6. How do I keep track of my books?
No business survives long without a basic record-keeping system. At the very least you should always have up-to-date information on the following:
-All amounts received
-All receipts and expenditure
-All goods purchased or sold
There's no reason you shouldn't keep your records on paper, but it can be more efficient to use a digital system. That way you can easily add, delete, amend and share your data. Also the program will recalculate your running totals, saving you a lot of work. You might find your bank offers free accountancy software or you could simply buy the best program for your needs. Some of the most popular ones include Microsoft Money, Intuit Quicken and Sage Instant Accounting. You'll find examples of record-keeping spreadsheets at www.businesslink.gov.uk which can be adapted for your own needs. The Business Link website also offers help in choosing the right VAT scheme for your business, including the Flat Rate Scheme which makes VAT a lot less complex.
7. How can Dulux help me and my business stay ahead of the game?
Your new decorating business now has an opportunity to take advantage of privileges and benefits which, until recently, were only available to established businesses. Our Dulux Select Decorators scheme, which has been running successfully since 1996, now offers the chance for start-up enterprises to enjoy associate membership. This can be a great way to raise the profile of your business and get useful tips and support. To find out if you could qualify please call Dulux Select Decorator's Membership Office on 0845 7626990.
By keeping up to date with the latest product innovations, new decorating techniques and industry legislation you can stay one step ahead of the competition and make sure you don't make costly mistakes. Our courses are an easy way to keep up to speed at all times. They are available throughout the UK and cover a wide range of topics from "Building your business" to "Legislation and you". All courses are free to Dulux Select Decorators, and also available to non-members at a reasonable rate. For further information you can call us on 01753 877192 or visit our website
8. Finding help
A professional accountant will help you put together a financial plan and manage your finances when you start trading. Visit the Institute of Chartered Accountants website for more tips on choosing accountants in your area. Don't mix business and pleasure. Open up a business account right from the start. That way you can get some free financial advice and things will be a lot easier when it comes to tracking expenditure, doing your tax return and business accounts. There is more information on finance for start ups here and you can find a guide to surviving financially in the early days here. There are many organisations that can provide help and support whether you are just starting your business or already running a business. Many offer free services with others at competitive and highly subsidised rates. Some that you may find helpful are:
Business Link: helps your business save time and money by giving you instant access to clear, simple, and trustworthy information. Whether you're starting up, already running a business, or looking to grow and develop, Business Link can help you manage your finances, pay the correct tax, comply with environmental legislation and more.
National Federation of Enterprise Agencies(NFEA): Support for Start-Ups, Micro Businesses and the Self Employed from Enterprise Agencies. NFEA targets pre-start, start-up and micro businesses, helping to develop their ability to start and sustain themselves and to encourage growth and stability.
Business Gateway (Scotland): Practical help, advice and support for new and growing businesses in Scotland.
Flexible Support for Business (Wales): Provides business support to small and medium-sized businesses in Wales.
Invest Northern Ireland: is an independent support agency that provides business support, advice and information to new and existing businesses in Northern Ireland.
British Chambers of Commerce (BCC): The British Chambers of Commerce is the national body for a Network of Accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK.
Federation of Small Businesses: The Federation of Small Businesses is the UK's largest campaigning pressure group promoting and protecting the interests of the self-employed and owners of small firms.