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20 Questions: Self-Employment and You

We profile a local entrepreneur and FSB member.


1. Name?

Suzi Brown

2. Age?

3. Business name?
The Smart Bear Websites

4. Located in…?
Urmston, Trafford (Manchester)

5. What do you do?
We build, develop and fix WordPress websites for small business; and offer bespoke training in WordPress alongside social media coaching.

6. When did you become ‘self-employed’?
I became self employed in 2010, however, The Smart Bear was officially launched in 2013. Before that I was doing a combination of photography, art and small website builds.

7. What prompted you to make the ‘leap’?
Having had 2 parents who have been self-employed in the past, I always new I wanted my own business. In fact, at the age of 14 I had two ‘businesses’ - one babysitting for practically the whole neighbourhood, and the other making and selling beaded jewellery. So, for me it wasn’t so much of a leap but a pre-planned destination.

8. Do you miss employment?
Not in the slightest, I wouldn’t go back to being employed by choice.

9. In your personal experience, what’s the best thing about self-employment?
Being in control of your own workload and having the freedom to make your own decisions without having to ask permission.

10. What’s surprised you most about working for yourself?
The amount of support from other self-employed people has pleasantly surprised me. I’ve made so many friends from the business community who have offered me invaluable advice and reassurance over the years. We help each other succeed and grow.

11. What’s the best piece of advice you could give anyone else thinking of becoming selfemployed?
The hardest step to take, but one of the most important ones, is to explore what it is you’re offering (whether it’s a product or service) and then find your USP - i.e. why should your potential customers choose you/your product over someone else's. It’s really hard to sell something you’re not sure of yourself but if you give a clear sales pitch it gets better results from the start. A lot of people know roughly what their business is about when they launch but it’s not until they drill down and find their niche that success happens.

12. What’s the toughest aspect of self-employment?
Being switched on 24/7 is the hardest. When you’re employed you can leave at 5pm on a Friday and not have to worry about anything until you’re next in. When you’re self-employed, the buck stops with you and your brain never turns off. And, you have to be in charge of sales, marketing, finance, IT - everything, whether you have skills in that area or not.

13. Did you know there are 4.8m self-employed people in the UK?
I didn’t know the exact number but I am very proud to be one of them!

14. Does the Government do enough to support people like these?
No. I think Sole-traders get the worst end of the deal, to be honest. SMEs get a bad deal but micro businesses and freelancers get virtually no support or consideration when making legislation.

15. What do you think the Government could do to make it fairer?
I think they should look at the amount of tax sole-traders have to pay as it cripples further growth in a lot of cases. Simply doing our own tax returns means either paying someone or spending hours working it out ourselves (eating into time we could be earning money).

Given we don’t have many of the benefits of employment like contributed pensions, sick or maternity benefits (or 9-5 working hours) etc, I feel this could be reflected in the tax as a form of relief.

16. Is being self-employed worth it?
Definitely but it is hard work and you have to be driven and prepared to work all hours to make it work. It’s a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs, but the highs are the best feeling in the world!

17. Would you ever consider being an employee again?
Not unless there was a desperate need to be an employee again. It would have to be a life or death situation, I think!

18. Have you ever considered ‘the next step’ becoming an employer – i.e. taking on staff?
Yes, we’re looking to make this step next year but at the minute we’re using freelancers/sub-contractors to cope with the increase in workload.

19. What’s the biggest barrier to self-employment?
I think support and advice is the biggest barrier. There are so many things you need to think about when taking the leap and some you’re not aware of until further down the line.

If more startups had this help and advice from the start, they may not make as many costly mistakes. I see a lot of small businesses struggling in the first year to get everything in place and grow because of either skills shortage or lack of funds.

20. Do you think schools should promote self-employment as a career option?
Most definitely, even my university barely touched on the subject although they spent a great deal of time teaching students how to get a job (which of course very useful). But I would love to see Entrepreneurial skills being taught at GCSE level, if not earlier.