For the past 15 years I’ve worked as a self-employed window cleaner.
It has provided me with all the flexibility I have needed to bring up my son and get him through school – never missing a sports day or parent’s evening, which I am very grateful for.
However, now his schooling is coming to an end and his needs are changing, I’m starting to think it’s time for a change. As we all know, a change is as good as a rest sometimes.
My previous career was in scaffolding which I followed for about 11 years. I think the time has come to maybe start my own business once again in this industry.
The demand for such a business seems to be growing rapidly, with health and safety being at the forefront of the construction industry.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated on setting up and running a Limited Company as I have only ever operated as a Sole Trader and wouldn’t want to jump into it ‘blind’ and make fundamental mistakes which can be avoided with the correct guidance.
I want to change my career now my son is older – how do I set up a limited company? Dave Fishwick replies
Dave Fishwick, This Is Money’s business doctor replies: I think it’s wonderful that you have been able to spend time with your family and get the work-life balance right.
Remember, you can sell all your time for money, but you can not buy any of it back at any price! So I feel it is essential to spend your time wisely and enjoy sports days, birthdays and special events that can never be got back.
Being self-employed allows you to work the hours you choose, but it is being a sole trader and just working by yourself with very few overheads which have given you control of your time and your life.
If you can perform the hours you choose and make enough money to cover all your outgoings and a bit more besides, that is a great position to be in.
Running a more significant business with staff and premises is going to be much more difficult, especially if you are trying to achieve the work-life balance which you do have now.
With the extra costs of equipment, vehicles, day-to-day Management of a more significant business, including quotes, invoicing, accounts, health and safety aspects, and insurance, there will be a lot more demand on your time.
It could take you years and lots of capable, reliable staff to get back to the free time you currently enjoy, so it’s worth considering whether you want to spend more of your time at work.
Of course, there will also be advantages, and hopefully, you’ll be earning more, so if you’re keen to embrace the challenges, go for it.
There could be some turbulence in the construction industry and the economy as a whole over the next few years. Still, your scaffolding business should be pretty sheltered from it with the huge custom from all the new houses and commercial buildings currently being built in Lancashire.
Particularly as you mention, the increasing safety regulation in the building industry.
I remember when I was 16 years old, and I worked for Frank Byrne Builders, I was dangled down the side of a building on an old rope to repair a chimney stack.
The rope used was a frayed old one used to tie the ladders onto the back of the truck (This is absolutely true!).
I, for one, welcome the new regulation, where more scaffolding will be needed for safety, which will undoubtedly help your new business.
Whether or not you choose to establish a limited company, it shouldn’t make much difference to the day-to-day running of the business.
Limited could be the right option for your business, though it’s not always clear-cut. Whilst limited companies remain relatively cheap and straightforward to set up, they can offer increased liability protection and some potential tax and cash flow benefits, especially if long-term growth is the aim rather than short-term returns, recent budget changes to Corporation Tax and dividend rules mean that a Limited Company may not necessarily be the right choice for a start-up business.
A limited company is more expensive to run than a sole trader business, with more regulations to comply with. Keeping things simple at the start is often the best way forward.
One of the main advantages of being limited is that the finances of the company will be separate from your finances, so should the company fail, owing money or be subject to legal action, your home and personal savings aren’t at risk as they are if you’re a sole trader.
Of course, you still need public and employers liability insurance and could still be held personally liable for breaches of laws and regulations. I recommend working out your projected earnings based on the size of the business you plan to start and run through the specific benefits and costs of either option with a qualified accountant.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to go limited straight away; you can always start as a sole trader initially and establish a limited company as your income grows.
I like the fact that you have worked within the scaffolding industry in the past, and you will understand many of the challenges that you may face.
You are already self-employed and have proved that you have the discipline needed to work for yourself. I think you will be fine.
Nearly anything you do in business that’s meaningful will usually involve growing in size and taking on more staff and more responsibility, But I genuinely think it’s worth it!
Crack on, and Good Luck!
Ask Dave Fishwick a business or career advice question
Self-made millionaire and entrepreneur Dave Fishwick is our new columnist responding to your questions about business and careers.
Dave has a hugely successful minibus and vehicle business based in Lancashire and rose to fame with his BAFTA-winning television series, Bank of Dave, which saw him battle the big banks.
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In his spare time, he likes to give talks to inspire people to be the best they can.
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