With thousands of people affected this year by redundancy, and competition for existing job vacancies on the increase, many people are considering starting up a business.

Business Link, the government’s free business advice and support service, offers all would-be entrepreneurs support from the earliest stages of planning through to the launch of a business and beyond. Business Link Adviser, Chris Simpson says; “If you have only ever worked in full-time employment, you might never have considered working for yourself, but for those with a sound idea, a realistic approach, the right skills and the willingness to put in the hours, starting a business is a plausible option.”

While it may not be easy to recover from the surprise and shock of being made redundant, many of those who have overcome adversity by starting their own enterprises say they have never looked back.

James Fenton, a Systems Engineer, had worked for the same IT company for 12 years before he was made redundant at the end of 2006 due to a restructure. At the time, his wife was expecting their second child, and they had recently relocated to the south coast, so he was under considerable pressure.

“My reaction to losing my job was complete shock and fear, quickly followed by excitement,” he said. “Starting a company wasn’t the first idea that went through my mind but I’d always helped people by fixing their computers, so it was a logical step.” Having failed to find a job without a long commute, James realised he could offer his services to small businesses who lacked IT capacity, both locally and remotely. “I spent weeks on the internet, researching the competition and building a picture of what small IT businesses charged and the services they provided.”

He used the Business Link website (www.businesslink.gov.uk) to find out more about setting up a business. “The site answered all the questions that I had, but I also wanted to meet someone face to face. I had confidence in my idea and knew it could work as a service, but the hard thing was to find clients and get paid.”

James attended several free workshops and networking events arranged by Business Link before setting up Fenton IT. “Not only were the courses good for learning about accounts and how to run a business, but I was also picking up clients – it was a great stepping stone for me to build a client base. Within three months of starting, I had ten clients.”

Business Link provides up-to-date information and advice about all aspects of starting a business, from writing a business plan to finding customers and employing staff, both through its website (www.businesslink.gov.uk/startingup ) and through workshops run by the Business Link regional network.

“Running your own business can be a bit scary, but in some ways it feels the same as working in full-time employment as I’m dealing with people and their computer problems in just the same way. Working for myself is so much more rewarding, and I just wish I’d started earlier.” said James.

James’s top tips for starting up a business:

• Be prepared to work longer hours than when you were being employed
• When considering how much to charge for your services, avoid working long
hours for low pay by making sure you factor in time you will spend doing necessary jobs such as travelling, invoicing and other administrative tasks
• Be prepared to use overdrafts until your income becomes reliable
• Don’t underestimate the importance of face-to-face networking. The internet
is great as a research tool but nothing beats meeting people and talking to them about your business
• Make sure you balance and prioritise your workload – for example, by using
sub-contractors to cover periods of sickness or holiday leave

Go to Business Link now to find out how the service can help you to set up a business. Visit www.businesslink.gov.uk or call 0845 600 9 006 to find out what is available from your local Business Link.

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