Buying a Van for Your Business

You need a van, even if your business is an online one. A van gives you marketing space that people will see as you drive around.

Why Does an Online Business Need a Van?

Even online, people prefer to deal with local businesses where they can; a van with graphics establishes you as local and as being more trustworthy than a random business on the Internet.

Besides which everyone needs a van sometimes, even if it is only to pick up compost from the garden centre. It is also a tax-deductible expense, so it makes sense financially as well.

Van with full body grass wrap

Why Does a Real World Business Need a Van?

Your van is your main marketing medium. It will have your contact details on it, your website address and will tell people what you do. When you park outside a client’s home your van is an ad that all the neighbours will see. Some will ask your client about the job you did and will ask you to do work for them if they hear that you did a good job.

Having graphics and contact details on your van also establishes you as a genuine business with a reputation to uphold, rather than a fly-by-night operation that will disappear at the first hint of something going wrong.

What Kind of Van?

Size is the most important consideration. An online business only needs a small van, which will be a mobile advertising platform and little more. A real world business needs a van that is big enough to do the job.

Your van needs to be large enough to carry all your tools and supplies, but larger vans cost more in tax and insurance, so don’t go bigger than you actually need. Remember though that your van is your mobile office and warehouse; it needs to be large enough to access all your supplies easily.

Cost is the next most important factor and you can buy much more van for your money if you look for a used van rather than a new one. Remember though that your van IS your business; it needs to give a good impression and to look good, with no rust or dents. The best compromise is to buy a van that is 3-5 years old.

Appearance is everything: If you want to appear patriotic then buy a van from a local manufacturer rather than an import. It also needs to match your website colours, which means either having it re-sprayed or paying for a full vehicle-wrap graphics package.

 

Using Your Van

People judge by appearances. They will judge your business by the appearance of your van, so it needs to be washed frequently, as soon as it becomes dirty, rather than just once a week.

Keep it clean inside, too: If you are carrying messy supplies like soil, compost, grass cuttings and cement then invest in a small trailer to keep the inside of your van clean.

The cab also needs to be kept tidy at all times to show people that you are a tidy worker. Avoid leaving coffee cups and newspapers up on the dashboard because it gives a slovenly impression to anyone walking past. Your van needs to be in 100% showroom condition at all times if it is going to bring you new jobs.

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Reasons to Find a Partner in Your Business

Most people who start a business do so on their own. We all struggle to complete the scores of daily business-related tasks ourselves; and very often some tasks are only partially completed. We put off jobs that we know will be difficult until another day and sometimes we just never get around to doing them.

This was how my own online business was, struggling at times. That was until I came across another guy in the same business; we now talk every day, help each other with daily tasks and are there for each other when things go pear-shaped.  Even as a blogger a partner gave me a massive boost.

The same is true regardless of whether yours is an online business or a real world one: A partner will improve the health of your business.

 

Partnerships as legal entities are fraught with difficulties, but even an informal partnership will help you to succeed. My partner and I each have our own strengths, so we each use those strengths to help one another. We both work on our own, but bounce ideas off each other and help each other out on a daily basis.

Another Perspective

It is very easy to lose track of reality if you are working on your own 24/7/365. Having someone to bounce ideas off can help prevent expensive mistakes. Sometimes you just need someone to talk with to make you realise that your intended action is not the best way forward.

Constructive criticism is one thing that any one-man business lacks for. You and your partner can help each other’s business to improve by providing non-threatening and helpful criticism. It is sometimes difficult to see the big picture when you are in business on your own; you can help each other with your business visions and the strategic planning needed to get there.

Extra Knowledge and Skills

I used to think I knew everything I needed to know about my online business. My partner showed me that I didn’t. He helped me to improve my website’s appearance and functionality, showed me how to analyse visitor data and gave me advice on my writing.

Nobody knows everything; ours is a world of specialisms. Each of us has unique knowledge because of things that have happened to us over our lifetime. Each of us has a different skill-set that we bring to bear to solve problems.

If you partner with someone in a related business you will gain access to that person’s knowledge and skill-set. It’s a 2-way street of course; you also get to apply your own skill-set to your partner’s business issues. You are both better off for the interaction, you both benefit by giving.

Extra Contacts

Contacts are vital to any business. If you work with a partner then you double the number of contacts you have access to.

Contacts may be social or professional, it does not matter: Your business is only a business if you have contacts.

How Do You Find a Partner?

If you are working in the real world then you will find related businesses in the normal way of things. Plumbers meet electricians and plasterers on every job they do. Gardeners call in tree surgeons to handle large trees that need bigger equipment than they have themselves. Builders meet architects and quantity surveyors. There is a lot more business done over a few drinks or a game of golf than you could ever imagine.

In the virtual world you will meet people in forums and on social networking sites. Help other people and they will help you. Gradually you will find that you are talking to a few people every day and that you have become friends and partners. It takes longer to grow trust and to develop a business relationship online but if you keep helping others and have a positive attitude it will happen.

Actions to Take When You Lose Your Job

How are you going to pay your bills?

Will you find another job?

Should you start your own business?

Sometimes you know your redundancy is coming and you can start making changes while you still have a day job. Sometimes losing your job just comes as a nasty surprise, perhaps because your employer has gone bust.

Redundancy happens to the best of us and the first thing to get over is the feeling that it is personal. It’s not. Companies run into financial problems, they restructure and some jobs have to go. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

unemployed man

If You Know It’s Coming . . .

Most people know when a company is about to shed staff. They suspect their job will go, but they hope they will be safe. It is better to work on the assumption that your job will be gone very soon.

  • Start to look at your outgoings to see what you can cut
  • Talk to your trade union about what is happening
  • Research the benefits you can expect to get; it’s best to know the worst
  • Start looking for another job, even if it means you lose any redundancy pay
  • Research self-employment ideas, another job might never happen
  • Get contact details of your workmates because they could lead to another job

Preparing Yourself

Stop spending money. Your income is going to be smaller, so your spending must also fall. There is no alternative and the sooner you make the cuts the fewer you will need to make. I know it sounds hard, but I was made redundant myself in 2010, so I know how you feel. Your main priority is to keep the roof over your head and everything else has to take second place to that in your spending priorities.

Phone

If your phone is out of contract then forget any ideas about an upgrade and take out a sim-only contract or even switch to Pay as You Go to get rid of that substantial monthly bill.

TV

Phone your satellite or cable provider and ask if you can cut the number of channels, or even terminate the contract without penalties; there are plenty of free channels to watch.

Internet

You are going to be using the Internet more, whether you start your own business or are looking for a job. However, if you are paying a fortune for a totally unlimited deal that allows unlimited high-definition movie downloads it might be time to ask about a cheaper contract.

Electricity

All your bills have to come down, including your electricity bill. Think twice about using the grill (broiler) or oven, use fewer lights, switch to LED bulbs, take out any halogen spotlight bulbs and take the fuse out of any portable electric heaters.

Heating

You are going to have to buy thermal underwear for the winter, rather than turning up the heating. Wear slippers, jumpers, woolly socks and even hats at home to keep warm.

Turn radiators in bedrooms right down; use the lock shield valve rather than the wheel-head valve to prevent them being turned up again.

Reduce the temperature at your boiler as well as turning down your room thermostats. Fit draught proofing under and around doors; the costs are soon recouped from savings in your fuel bills.

Buy electric blankets and warmer duvets for the whole family to reduce the complaints about bedrooms being cold.

On the Day . . .

Hold your head up high. You have done nothing wrong, so walk away with your pride intact. Make sure you have all the paperwork you need to claim any benefit you are entitled to. You will probably walk out with a redundancy payment; it might seem a large sum, but it has to see you through the next year, so pay it straight into your bank account.

Claim Your Benefit Entitlement

You have been paying social security and taxes all your working life; now it’s payback time. Claim every penny you are entitled to, fill out the forms, smile at the clerk behind the window and take the money that the government pays you back from the taxes you paid in better times.

Debts

If you had redundancy protection insurance on any of your debts then now is the time to make a claim. It usually covers your  payments for 12 months, after that you are on your own again, but 12 months’ respite from your monthly payments is definitely worthwhile.

You should use your redundancy payment to repay anything you owe that are not covered by insurance. The company is not going to go away; you borrowed their money so you have to pay it back, end of story.

Pay off any credit card debts you have and cut up the cards. If you cannot afford to pay cash for something you need then you cannot afford it. You need to become part of the cash economy.

Daily Routine

Keep to your normal routine in the mornings. Shave or put on your make-up every day. Dress smartly, as though you were going out to do the grocery shopping.

If you ever get into the habit of lying in bed until lunchtime and wandering around the house in jog pants wearing three days-worth of facial hair, it becomes very difficult to break it.

Update your CV and send it off with a few job applications every day. Always answer your phone as though it is a prospective employer on the other end; stand up, smile and be positive. (Standing and smiling both make you sound better at the other end of the phone.)

Bear in mind that you are not necessarily going to find a paid job; you will probably have to make your own job, to become self-employed. It is best to start thinking about self-employment from Day One.

You may even be eligible for financial support if you set up your own business while unemployed. Even if this only means a payment equal to the unemployment benefit you would otherwise be getting it is definitely worth having because it will help you to pay your essential monthly bills and reduce the drain on your bank account.

Are You Serious about Working from Home? You NEED an Office

Do you work from an armchair? Or the dining room table?

Do you find you forget things and find it hard to concentrate?

It is very difficult to stay organised as a home worker unless you have a dedicated space, ideally a dedicated room. And by dedicated I mean dedicated to your work and exclusively yours; sharing your creative space is rarely a good idea.

 

The Armchair Office

If you have a laptop computer this feels great, but there are problems, not least with your health. It is difficult to get the uninterrupted quality time you need when you are working in the family living room, too.

The Kitchen Table Office

When I started working online this is where I worked; it’s a disaster. No peace and quiet, having to clear away every meal time and being tied into everyone else’s routine.

 

The Desk in a Bedroom Office

You can make this work if the bedroom is tidy. A spare bedroom is fine; one you sleep in is not. The desk ends up as a dumping place for clothes, money, junk and receipts.

The Shared Home Office

This is no solution at all. You share your space, have other people’s stuff dumped on your desk, have noise when you need silence and you are unable to organise your space as you want it.

The Spare Room Office

This is the only way you can make a success of working from home. If you are serious about working from home then you need to set aside a room for your exclusive use while you are working.

Having a dedicated room as your working space also means that you can walk away to chill out at the end of the day.

My Perfect Office

I have a dream of setting up a garden office in a timber building in my back garden. It will be about 20ft x 10ft with a bathroom in one corner and windows on 3 sides. It will have a sink and kettle for making tea.

I will have 3 workstations at different desks, each dedicated to a different part of my online work. There would be a 28in monitor, wireless keyboard and trackball at each desk. There will only be one chair, because nobody else will be allowed in and more than that would look cluttered.

There will be blinds on the windows for when the light is too bright and two multiple LED spotlight fittings in the ceiling to give plenty of light in the winter at a low cost.

Most important for me are whiteboards for short-term and strategic planning purposes, to-do lists and to keep track of where I am up to in each project.

I would keep one for flow charts that can be photographed quickly. These would give me unique images in my blog posts and be genuinely helpful to me and to my readers.

I can use Excel for planning, but prefer to be able to see everything at a glance while I am working, so whiteboards work best.

Your Office?

What does your dream office look like?

Where do you work now?

Is your work suffering because of your poor work environment?

Please share your frustrations and dreams by commenting below . . .

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