Bad news, advice sought.

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Established Member
5 Nov 2009
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Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Hi all,

On Friday I was made redundant from my work, and so find myself looking for work again.
Whilst searching for work I am thinking of working for myself, and although I'm sure of my ability, I am unsure how best to market myself. Does anyone have any advice as to how I could/should go about this for the best?

My thoughts are that although I realise business is tough and never more so than when you are your own boss, I am now out of work and so rather than sit around feeling sorry for myself I could be more productive in the workshop and if things go well end up where I want to be in 2 to 3 years time early.

~Nil carborundum illegitemi~
Difficult to advise on this as you have not told us what your profession was ?

Also are you a hobby wood worker or a skill carpenter

Do you want to start a new profession of continue doing what you were doing ?

More info required

Hope you get sorted with something
Very good points, I am a hobby turner a trained joiner and work(ed) as a cabinet maker having done a sort of conversion apprenticeship kind if thing. I also have made a couple of guitars in the past as a hobby.
My aim is to keep making furniture, but for this I need to get orders, so in the meen time I thought maybe make a couple more guitars to sell, to keep me going as it were.
The problems I face is knowing where to sell things and how best to go about getting furniture orders.

~Nil carborundum illegitemi~
My neighbour retired three years ago. Heavy transport driver. He is the kind of person that would rather work than retire, he reckons he is more busy now than when under 65. He is oddjobbing charging £15 per hour and no doubt if skilled he could get plenty of work involving woodwork as well.

So what have you got to loose?
Firstly, I am sorry to hear of your redundancy. It is not a nice thing and can be very sad, depressing, unrecognised and not respected, and sitting at home.....and the terrible job of visiting the job centre, who if they were honest cannot help much. But you know you are not are better and wanting to get on with things.
So, you need to start making money soon. Devenwoody has touched on Handyman role. This can put you into work with immediate cash paid on completion. No jobs where you wait for your money and not always getting it. One thing leads to another and Handyman could be the short term, but also the longer term role for you with the opportunity to do more exciting work. People need handymen to fit a new lock, a cracked window pane, hang a curtain track, even change light bulbs. Not exciting, but people are often over the moon that their little problems are being fixed at last, and fixed by you. Your keen, presentable, clean clothes, clean shoes, and decent, calling on you will look the part, be respectful to the people and their property and be helpful without being too pushy.
For possible customers or could they become repeat clients in a short time?....... One way to find them is to do a leaflet drop around a number of houses. Keep a careful note of where you go and keep a track of responses. Response can be minimal (a few in a 100) but initially you only need a few. A possible area would be private house in an older area where elderly people live and possibly widows and such as they don’t know where to turn. Responses can come almost immediately or in the future. The leaflets have to catch the eye for the 'this man could do such in such' and so lay it by the telephone. I would suggest using your name and not initials. Be who you are. For the longer term the leaflet must catch the eye so that people hang onto or 'this sounds handy to hang onto'. Work can come from the most unexpected places or by being passed on.
So leaflets can come from a copy shop that does £x for several hundred copies at say A5 ...they go through letter boxes easily loosely folded. For the copy shop you will be coming back for more so you want a competitive price from them. Must be easy to read and not too long winded (like this message). Mobile numbers are useful but people are looking for respectability and some element of being established (in life at least) or at least someone with roots. so a land line (possibly both) is better and even you address as it shows your not a possible fly by night. You are being asked into their home with all that means. Too many treat their customers as they themselves a pig stye. How many plumbers vans do you see with only a mobile, no town, no address. The taillight guarantee boys. A business calling card is also essential and not expensive, same copy shop, with the opportunity for further printing from you. You hand them out like confetti, when you call, when you don’t call, for their friends, etc. It is a way of passing on your details directly rather than trying to find your name they wrote down on a bit of paper. When you do a good job or help someone they can be very good references for you work. Then do a second and third leaflet drop in specific areas and keep records of responses. When calling to estimate, take a note book and always take notes, their name, job, materials, sizes, etc. it looks and is professional. When getting paid, a receipt can be a good idea (yes I know) but carbon copy books are still available and you can jot down whatever it was you did.....nothing to serious. Ink pads are handy to look organised and professional.
Well there you are. I hope this is some food for thought. Best wishes and remember you are on a Forum which likes to help and there is plenty of skills here to give willing assistance. It can get lonely out there when working on your own so use the Forum if you need. Dont feel it’s all getting too much for you. Lets know how you get on and if more ideas or help is sought.
Aplogies for being so long but I wish you well in every way. I have know many people whos turning point was having to change.
I have just remembered that you can do work up to a certain limit and still claim benefits...I believe. So you can do both until you see a future. Justy keep a note of all work done, invoices for materials, travelling, out of pocket expenses, ie cards , flyiers, etc.
Hi Deserter,

Very sorry to hear that the job's gone. However it happens, it's a nasty blow, a serious shock, and something that turns life upside down. However, it can be made into an opportunity.

The advice that Twothumbs has outlined is spot on, but if I may, I'll add a thought or two. You' sound like you have a fair idea what you'd like to do with life, so maybe now is a good time to sit down with the family and talk through what you all want from life. Try to work out a goal, a destination, whatever; then work towards it. You don't necessarily have to go directly there - if the place you want to go is on the other side of a huge mountain, you don't have to go straight up and over, you can divert round the foothills, provided you keep in mind where you want to finish up. So, if making a reasonable living as a self-employed craftsman is the final aim, be prepared to take work in another field to start with to keep the bills paid, and use the spare time to work towards self employment.

Track down a copy of 'Marketing and Promotion for Crafts' by Betty Norbury. This is full of down-to-earth common-sense advice about the whole business of making a living from a craft; it's slightly dated as it was written just before the interweb took off, but nonetheless it's gold dust. should yield a copy at a reasonable price.

Keep your costs as low as you can. Don't take on a rented unit unless you KNOW you can cover rent, rates, heat, insurance, security, fitting out, and anything else that crops up. Pay top dollar for the best materials (and tools you really need), otherwise work like Scrooge, at least until you're established. As Twothumbs said, keep meticulous records of money in and money out, including ALL the invoices and paperwork, both to satisfy HMRC if need be (they can be b*st*rds if they think you're conning them, so don't), and to analyse for your own benefit where the money's going.

The best advice I've ever heard about starting a business was from a bank manager. He told me that anyone contemplating the move should do three things - research, research and research. (You've started that by posting this question!) Not all research yields useful information, but no research means you will be totally in the dark, and at the mercy of any passing charlatan.

Above all - don't panic. Think things through, put the work in, take a winding path if you have to, but in the end you WILL succeed.
I'd be asking whether you have been made redundant via correct procedures. As if not, you may be able to claim a week to a months wages.

Have a chat to citizens advice or do a bit of searching on the interweb.

As for going it alone, good luck. I did it myself and have been very lucky in actually being very busy 3 years down the line. The main reasons are by doing a good job and treating my customers and their properties with respect.

Again, good luck and hope it all works out well
Twothumbs advice is spot on.
I would second the idea about passing cards around like confetti.
I am looking for an electrician to lay mains into my workshop and a builder to extend our 'outhouse' but I am very wary of all the cowboys out there and would much rather go by local 'recommendation' than find my own. I have no real way of knowing if the recommendation would be accurate ( or just generated by someone seeing someones card or flier ) but it gives a feeling of security.
sk your first few ( or all ) customers if they are happy with your work and you can use them for references. Most would probably agree.
can you also find a way of making sure that your cards are kept? For example, my small business sells beekeeping equipment for rearing queen bees. On the back of my cards are printed the settings for using an incubator to rear queens, the timetable for them hatching and the marking colours for queens reared in certain years. This is in the hope that they are retained because they are useful. With handyman cards, it is slightly different, but if you could provide some information that make them worthwhile keeping would be an advantage- after all, people have school holidays stuck to the fridge for that reason.

I am not sure what you could put on them, it would depend on what you want to do- i would suggest something that everybody needs but isnt worth you charging for doing so you are not doing yourself out of a job by providing the information.
All good advice. Except the rate. DW's mate may be charging £15ph, but that is on top of his pension. Its nice pocket money, but you are never going to run a business on that. Unfortunately such people make it even harder for "proper" tradesmen to thrive. Take his pension away and then see how he gets on...
As you are unemployed now and i assume will be making a claim for benefits in the interim, ask the benefits advisor for information on starting up your own business.

While you would not qualify for it yet I spoke to my benefits advisor about starting up happy House Cats and she got me on a business development course run by business gateway, that was a 6 months course where I got jobseekers + a tenner a week and had to attend the business gateway every week instead of signing on at the jobcentre.

The course included a selection of useful seminars and one or two day courses in accounting, advertising, e-commerce, taxation, creating a business plan etc etc etc. It helped an awful lot for me, some things more so than others, but the end result is a year later I am managing to make a living from the venture and the reason I am here on this forum is I am now expanding from cat toys (which I now have a european wholesale distributor for and am paying others to make for me) and jackets into cat wheels, wooden beds and cat furniture.

While you will unlikely be eligible for the course proper (get benefits + tenner) it may well be that as an unemployed person you can get onto the the course or at least get some free assistance from Business Gateway or your local equivalent.

When I started the course last June I had been unemployed and trying to find work as a spark for near on 3 years, I was down to my last £200, I started happy house cats with that, well half of that really, but I put 70 or 80 hours a week into it.

If you have the determination you can make it, find a niche and provide a quality service - that includes turning up on time, answering calls and questions, treating people with respect and you will find word of mouth will quickly bring you enough work. Turn up late, don't answer the phone, do a less than perfect job and word of mouth will very quickly ensure you get no work. To be honest from my experience of tradesmen and stories I have been told by customers it is not really too difficult to shine brighter than most if you put in a bit of effort ;)

By the way, I think you will find leaflet drops the least effective means of advertising, 99.5% of leaflets dropped through doors will go directly into the bin without even being read, I know of two people who did leaflet drops of 5,000 leaflets and one got 5 jobs from it the other got 3.

Although elderly neighbourhoods is a good place to find handyman/ tradesman work, and you will find if you get one or two jobs in such areas you will very likely get called upon by others in the area - I do quite a few odd jobs and bits and peices for elderly people who live near my workshop, mostly I only ask them for a token amount as they are really more neighbours and friends but they always offer what would be a very reasonable wage if I took it - Another bonus being bacon rolls, meals, cakes, cups of tea and coffee, bless em :D

Good luck
Steve Maskery":2rj2niha said:
All good advice. Except the rate. DW's mate may be charging £15ph, but that is on top of his pension. Its nice pocket money, but you are never going to run a business on that. Unfortunately such people make it even harder for "proper" tradesmen to thrive. Take his pension away and then see how he gets on...

It is still a good deal better than £65 a week jobseekers allowance and the degrading ritual of standing in line with the dregs of society once a fortnight ;)
Simple calculation
Number of billable hours per year ~1000
(Yes, yes, I know, there are more working hours than that. I'm talking about hours for which you are actually likely to get paid. 1000 is good estimate.)

So turnover = 15K.

Take from that all your expenses and capital purchases and NI and tax and insurance.

What's left is what you have to live on.

If all you want is being marginally better than being on the dole, then go ahead, good luck. But if you want to run a proper business then do the calculations realistically and plan your business accordingly.
Lets say 20 hours a week..

20 * £15 = £300
Tax liability on that would be £300 - tax free allowance = £190
Tax & NI liability would be 25% of £190 or £47-50 + weekly contribution which is about what £3-50 so lets round it up to £55

In your pocket for 20 hours work £245 or sign on benefits and get £65

Other expenses for materials etc would be chargeable on top of the hourly rate and you would probably add a markup on those too. Then of course as a business you can legitimately claim a lot of things as expenses which you cannot claim PAYE - a portion of rent/ mortgage, council tax, gas, electricity, vehicle expenses, tools expenses, telephone charges, internet charges... These all add up to lower the tax liability.

Obviously £30 or £50 or £100 an hour would be a lot better, but to be honest I would sooner work 40 hours a week and end up with £200 in my pocket than not work at all and go back on benefits.

People have to start somewhere and £15 an hour is somewhere rather than nowhere, the OP has been made redundant and so has zero income at the moment, if a few odd jobs brings in £15 an hour then it is a start at least :)
Louise-Paisley":3u6jp3q7 said:
In your pocket for 20 hours work £245 or sign on benefits and get £65

I suggest that that is totally unrealistic. When I say expenses, I am not talking about materials. Advertising. Phone bill, petrol, bad debt, insurance and a thousand other things you haven't allowed for. I repeat, you are not going to end up with £245 "in your pocket" for 20 hours work. I'm willing to be proved wrong, but it simply ain't that simple. It it were we would not have the unemployment problem we do have!

And it's not just a question of choosing 15, 25, 50 or £100 per hour. One's work has to be worth that much in the market place. I'm just pointing out that if you expect to earn 25K by charging £15ph, it ain't going to happen. Just show me someone - anyone - who does that.

DW, did you read anything I wrote earlier? That is just about the most niaive calculation I've ever seen.

I'm not going to get into an argument. I've been self-employed for 20 years, through thick and thin (rather thin these days, I'll grant you). I do know what I'm talking about. Whether or not anyone listens is not my responsibility.

As for the dregs of society..... Jeez.

PS I forgot. Very best of luck with your venture, Deserter, I hope it goes well for you.
mack9110000":6e028kr1 said:
Louise-Paisley":6e028kr1 said:
the degrading ritual of standing in line with the dregs of society once a fortnight ;)

So thats what the unemployed are, how nice!

I don't recall saying that the unemployed were the dregs of society, perhaps you could quote the post where I made that connection?

What I said was "the degrading ritual of standing in line with the dregs of society once a fortnight" which is exactly what I had to, stand in like with drug addicts, alcoholics, neds, scum bags that have never lifted a finger in their lives and fully intend to continue in that same way, spitting on the floor, every other word being a swear word, tin of strong larger in hand..

Yes, the dregs of society, maybe you should open your eyes and take a look at some of the scum that make a career of living off the welfare state!

Or are you just attempting to stir up some rubbish with me for some reason, if so then maybe you better start reading what is written rather than what you wish to read otherwise you will just get shot down in flames ;)