We want to give our members here in the East of England a platform for telling us all about their experiences of self-employment and their reasons for being a member of the FSB. We spoke to serial Entrepreneur James (Jim) Randall of Wootten in Bedfordshire who operates under the name J Randall
“In 1969 I was an engineering design draughtsman with an engineering apprenticeship behind me and HND in engineering by the time I was 21.
“The drawing office I worked in then closed offering me a place on the shop floor. I declined and went self-employed. I took the design of a twin web feed for Waterlows printing that the business were doing at closure and finished the project at home. They then manufactured and installed it. From then on I taught myself skills and took courses in building techniques, engineering, architecture and design to be able to create my own and customers projects.
“My motto is "master of all and jack of none" a phrase that has served me well. This must have worked as I have had a word of mouth career with a 2-year waiting list for the last 20 years apart from during the 80's recession when it went down to three months. Some of my skills are architecture, signwriting, plastering, bricklaying, joinery, French-polishing, engineering, 3D modelling, veneering, aircraft remodelling, electrical, and software writing.”
“I have built houses on my own and about 30 extensions, though I always seemed to come back to furniture and kitchen design, manufacture and installation as a preferred occupation interspaced with bathrooms as it became more common to have built-in furniture as part of the design. I was constantly in demand and to this day have daily calls for new projects. I have also taught DIY on stage at "The little theatre Dunstable" to teach the public and scene/set builders new skills.
“All this said, my mind-set at 21 was to pursue my hobbies and do them with excellence to the point they were in demand. This meant taking on more and more hobbies, and it still goes on. It has been a lifetimes business philosophy.
“My best advice is to "go do it", and early before you have too many commitments. The toughest aspect of being self-employed, and it is getting tougher all the time, is the individual bodies set up to test each trade. I never had that till Corgi. It should be that once qualified you have to read up the next set of regulations and have spot checked to make sure you are doing it right. We are all able to read these days and self-employed people can't afford to take time out to go on courses where in my experience I was told to help others as I obviously knew what I need to do.
“The Government need to look at the crazy VAT laws that don't line up with our financial year rather than 12 months starting at any month. I was caught out with two big payments in separate financial years but lumped together in one year by the VAT Bods. I was unregistered as under the annual limit and that took me over and in a financial mess. A fairer option would be to allow the VAT opt in limit to be over the financial year of the self-employed person. I believe the tax would be easier as they will have all the figures before you do and all we will need to do is check and sign.
"I could not be employed again as I am too used to making my own decisions so I doubt anyone would have me. The biggest barrier is the person with all the talent taking the step, it is so easy to say next week, next year, and oh well it’s too late. But it never is.”