Job, schmob: Local man explains how he never has to go to work again
No, I haven’t won Lotto (free, related personal finance tip: don’t buy Lotto tickets). But barring some very unforeseen event (or wonderfully attractive offer) I don’t plan to spend another day employed for the rest of my life.
That’s not to say I don’t work. In fact, there’s not really a day of the year when I don’t do at least something that earns me money. But, like a heap of New Zealanders now, and a heap more in the future going by current trends, I’m paddling my own kayak, and have been for six years now.
It’s a situation you can end up in lots of ways. Some people know from the outset that they’re going to be self-employed. For most small business owners, though – and I meet heaps of them doing what I do – it comes after a long period of working for other companies, and sometimes happens pretty suddenly.
If you’re faced with the terrifying prospect (or, depending on how many coffees you’ve had, thrilling opportunity) of self-employment, the following tips could come in handy.
Register for GST, and if you think you’ll be more than just a sole trader, register a company. One of the great things about doing business in New Zealand is that both these important steps don’t take long and are free (GST) or cheap (company registration).
Why register for GST? Two reasons: firstly, it magically means every single thing you buy to use in business is 15% (ish) cheaper. It’s like the whole world is on sale! Secondly, keeping records and filing returns is great discipline and sets you up well for tax time.
The most common way for a small business or sole trader to bite the financial dust is through not having enough in the kitty come tax time. The IRD has plenty of advice for startups… and it’s really not that hard. This guide gives a great overview of all sorts of things to consider (not just tax).
And by that, I mean make the most of the cheap or free software tools out there that can help you work smarter. Office 365 (cheap) or Google Docs (free) are a great starting point. For storage of your business documents and records take a look at Dropbox (free to a point), Google Drive (ditto) or Microsoft OneDrive (comes with Office). Online accounting systems like MYOB are great too if you prefer the DIY approach.
Review your internet and mobile phone plans and make sure they’re right for what you plan to do. You’ll usually save money switching from even a year-old plan. Ask people in your industry how they use social media to connect and advertise. LinkedIn and Facebook can get your name out there for next to nothing.
This is the hardest one for most of us. We get so busy doing what we’re doing that there’s no time to set a course for the business. Long term, that’s going to involve how it ends (hopefully happily!). If you just plan to be self-employed, earn money each year and are happy with that stopping when you do, that’s fine. If you want a business you can sell or attract investment into, that’s a different story.
Remember why you did it
A smart bugger once said that owning your own business gives you the complete freedom to work every hour of every day. So if you find yourself working at 5pm on a Sunday when you really should be out in the sunshine walking the dog, put down that laptop and pick up the leash.
Speaking of which…
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