The Captain and the Team

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report that documented business activity through the first 37 weeks of 2020 (i.e., 3Q2020), COVID-19 related business closures, some temporary and some permanent, have resulted in an unexpected outcome. Counterintuitively, there have been relatively few personal bankruptcies but rather a surge of legal entity applications filed by Freelancers and entrepreneurs who will likely to hire employees. It is clear that lay-offs and furloughs have convinced many former American workers to trust their own skills and ambition more than the uncertainty of being rehired.

Applications to obtain limited liability company or corporation status by Freelancers increased 16% over the same period last year, according to Census Bureau data. Might the urge to become one’s own boss be fueled not only by doubts about re-employment, but also the infusion of stimulus money? The price of entry into self-employment is low for B2B service providers and stimulus money is a natural for bankrolling start-up costs.

Still, self-employment as either a Freelancer or business owner and employer is no cakewalk. The biggest challenge to self-employment success will be acquiring clients; savvy and consistent marketing and your relationships will go a long way to help the business, but selling a product or service that has an adequate customer base is the deciding factor.

2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that 20% of small businesses fail in the first year of operation and only 50% or so will survive into year five (there is no data collected for Freelancers, sole proprietors or those with a legal entity). There is a lot to plan for when launching a business, plus Key Performance Index metrics to monitor, interpret and act upon (or not).

First, know there is a sufficiently deep market for the products or services. Second, know how to access the customers. Third, devise a sustainable and appealing business model. Fourth, secure adequate funds to provide working capital that allows the operation to cover expenses and otherwise function.

Another important resource for Freelancers and business owners is a team of experts from whom you can seek advice and guidance. Freelance consultants and even small business owners are responsible for all decisions. The stress can be overwhelming. It’s impossible to be highly knowledgeable in several fields simultaneously and qualified to make wise decisions all or most of the time. It is very helpful to put together a stable of specialists on whom you can rely when important decisions must be made. Below are professionals whose guidance and advice nearly every Freelance consultant or business owner will need from time to time.

Accountant

An accountant will make sure that the business quarterly estimated taxes are acceptable and filed on time, so that the annual April 15 filing will not result in a surprisingly expensive tax bill due. A good business accountant will also review the financial statements and can make useful fiscal management suggestions. An accountant will also advise you on whether to incorporate the business or form a limited liability company. Finally, if obtaining a loan or taking on investors or partners is a possibility, your accountant will provide invaluable advice. Yes, a business attorney can advise you well on the choice of legal entity for the business and also the matter of taking on partners or investors, but will not prepare tax forms.

Graphic Design

Maybe you’d like to update your business cards or some other marketing collaterals, such as a stand-out Capability Statement that makes the company appear highly reliable and trustworthy, a real asset when approaching a prospective client. Or maybe updating the look of the company newsletter or blog is the goal. Knowing a good graphic design specialist is always useful.

Human Resource

Have you read your medical or dental insurance policy lately? Hire an H.R. benefits specialist to look it over and verify that you’re covered in the way you intended. You might also speak to an H.R. guide about your retirement plan or employee retirement plan options you offer. If outsourcing a function or hiring an employee are decisions you are pondering, an H.R. job analyst and design specialist will figure out the type of employee you and the organization need. An H.R. compensation specialist will help you set the pay scale.

Insurance

If you had met with an insurance agent 12 months ago, perhaps you would have known to purchase business interruption insurance for your organization and the COVID-19 shutdown would have been less financially damaging. The type of business you operate will determine the type of insurance it would be wise to buy. Be advised that the business legal entity does not protect a company from every type of liability.

Mentor

Whether things are going swimmingly or the world feels as if it’s crashing in, having a trusted peer to talk things over with is so reassuring. Strictly speaking, a mentor is someone who is more experienced than you and is positioned to make beneficial recommendations and introductions. In practice, you may find a mentor (or two) who is likewise in business, is successful and is your peer and good buddy. If your mentor can make a good client referral every once in a while, it’s a special blessing. If you can return the favor, so much the better.

Technology

If the business has employees, it is almost guaranteed that several computers will be used and that requires a professional to install and program the computers and also ongoing network support. Disaster recovery services to save company data in the event of a system crash, data breach, or other type of hacking incident is another necessity. Maintaining website functionality is yet another requirement. If the company plans a virtual webinar or meeting of some type, bringing in a specialist to do the technical set-up and keep it operating is more important than you may know.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Kim Clark

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