Stress and the Sole trader

28.10.19 01:26 PM By Paul Lewis-Brown

Business and mental health

On the 10th of October every year we have 'World Mental Health Day'. It seems that in an age where negative press sells that our metal health is suffering the 'death of a thousand cuts' where each new negative news spin adds to the general malaise of life. Throw in some kids,  some mortgage debt and the 'problem management' that work brings every day I am genuinely intruiged to know why most of us are not rocking in a corner sucking our thumbs! 

 All that is true but to use Mr Donald Tusk's words 'There is a special place in hell' for the sole trader. The amount of work involved in running your own business is immense and not for the faint hearted. The up sides of success can be great but the down sides are 'Oh so down' and mental health is always a risk especially in the first five years. If you have decided to start your own business here are some tips to help you reduce the stress:


It is tempting to run at every apparent opportunity and be 'all things to all men' when starting off. Write a tight summary of the scope of what you do, keep it simple and brief and if you can't sum it up in a sentence then you have not got enough focus. 


Remember you are only one person and you cannot do it all. There are a lot of freelancers out there on sites like Freelancer, upwork, Fiverr and many more that you can pay to help you with websites, admin or marketing. They will probably be cheaper than the cost of what you get paid and more importantly they will free up lots of time for you to get the business rolling.


Now I am not suggesting that all marketing companies are taking money for nothing but its a tricky one ......I am sure that if you are Coca Cola and you have a $2billion worlwide marketing budget you are probably going to have no problems and their success speaks for itself. Conversely billions of dollars in losses were endured by Gillette after their 'Toxic Masculinity' adverts concocted by a huge New York based marketing company! 

    You do not have the budget for such luxuries as large marketing campaigns. Look at direct routes for selling your product on Amazon or other platforms or try the mushroom selling approach i.e. sell into your local area (Maybe on facebook local groups if you sell a service) and work your way out to further fields. Once you have sold some product or service you can work out what the cost of sale is and then replicate or amplify this. 

Beware of anyone telling you if you spend X we will guarantee you get Y in sales, In fact run a mile setting off at the work 'Guarantee'!. Nobody can guarantee anything and as a small business' you will always have this Marketing dichotomy;

                                                                             You can't afford a marketing budget until you have lots of sales 


                                                                                     You can't sell anything without some kind of marketing.  

I may be tempted to do a whole blog on this alone!


SEO or 'Search engine optimisation' used to be a 'thing'. When I say 'Thing' I mean there was some skill with interpretation of the google algorithm for how it ranked your site. This is near useless now as Google does not look at just keywords or metatags but looks at the content of your site and how interesting or pertinent that is to the person searching for what you are selling. They look at the changes in content from the last time it searched your site and how active the social media links are that route back including how easy all the content pages are routed from your home page. Don't get me wrong the keywords have to be correct and the alt text on your images needs to be meaningful but this is not something I would pay for. There are various free sites out there that will do an SEO health check and report back to you.


When I say 'Non-Geographic' I mean do not use any system in your business that roots you to an office or location. If you have an email system make sure it is office 365 or gSuite or equivalent that allows you to have your documents in the cloud. If you have gSuite you have the whole office software like Sheets (Excel), slides (Powerpoint) or Docs (Word) equivalents. If somebody steals your laptop or your hardware breaks then you have not lost any data. The same thing goes for accountancy packages, choose something like Xero, Quickbooks or SageOne do not use software that you have to install onto a computer. The final area is telephony, use a Voip service that allows you the flexibility to move handsets to different sites or twin your desk phone with your mobile when your clients ring your landline number. It will give you freedom from your desk and will enable you to never miss a call.

6. CRM or not to CRM

CRM means 'Customer relationship management' and this is a system for managing your sales leads and keeping a list of your clients and managing sales all the way to invoice if needed. You may not need a CRM system as there is a lot of overlapping scope now with accounting platforms such as Xero. You may just want to keep a list of your clients in Xero accounting and keep a diary and/or notes in your email system like Google Gsuite. The only circumstances that you would need a CRM is when you are starting to grow or you have such a complicated process that you require procedural management. There is a miriad of CRM platforms out there some are priced reasonably and some are astronomical so don't dive into a CRM lightly.