Takeaways from our ‘Starting Your Small Business from Scratch workshop’

Missed our recent Freelance Heroes workshop, ’Starting a Small Business from Scratch: A Checklist’, hosted by Jade Sims, small business owner at Olla Emporium? Well fear not as we asked Jade to tell us some of her top takeaways from the session.

If you would like to watch the workshop and download the PDF checklist and guide, head to the bottom of this page and input your email. Make sure to let us know whether you’d like to sign up for our fortnightly newsletter too – jam-packed with freelancing news, inspiring links, community content, and more.

Now, let’s get started.

1. Branding your business early on will make social media marketing easier.

For many freelancers and small business owners, the idea of spending time ON your business instead of IN your business can seem like a daunting task. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day client/customer work and neglect important tasks like content creation and social media marketing. However, by avoiding these critical activities, we may be limiting the growth and success of our businesses. So, why do we avoid them? Often, it’s because we lack direction and don’t know where to start.

You can create simple branding elements, such as logos, colour palettes, tone of voice, fonts, and values. By then putting these elements together visually on a template, you can easily refer back to them when creating social media content. Building a consistent branding style provides a solid foundation for your content, allowing you to effectively communicate your message to your audience. So, what are you waiting for? Start crafting your branding elements today and watch your social media content soar!


2. Just because it’s there, it doesn’t mean you should use it!

The world of social media has expanded to include dozens of platforms for businesses to advertise and connect with their audiences. However, with so many options available, it can be overwhelming to decide which ones to focus on. The key is to identify the platforms that align with your business and content the most. By doing so, you can use your time and resources effectively to create engaging content that resonates with your audience. So, don’t try to be everywhere at once – instead, be strategic and intentional in choosing the platforms that will benefit your business the most.

Here are some simple platform characteristics to help you choose the right social media for you:


  • Great for forming relationships with your customers.
  • Used for communicating brand news.
  • Not so great for product marketing.
  • Only 280 characters, so make your point fast!


  • Great for selling products that have a visual appeal.
  • Link your website shop to your Instagram profile.
  • Video format is preferred for the algorithm.
  • Not always the best if you’re a location based business, as your audience can be far reaching.
  • Heavy influencer culture.


  • Great for starting community groups or joining niche groups – like location based or interest based. You can then market your product to this niche audience if group rules permit.
  • Has a ‘share’ culture. Competition posts do well here as each share can be seen by a whole new set of people each time. Has an inbuilt marketplace which is very popular with local services and low price/second hand products.
  • Has an inbuilt event page which is also very popular.


  • The main platform for building your professional network and finding new clients.
  • Build relationships with leading industry experts.
  • Opportunities to demonstrate your expertise in your industry.
  • Great for marketing a B2B product or service.
  • Not good for marketing a B2C product or service.

Other social platforms to consider:

If you like Instagram:

  • Tiktok
  • Pinterest

If you like Twitter:

  • Reddit
  • Quora
  • Mastodon

And give your customer the chance to review you: It’s a given that you are going to say great things about your business but it can carry so much more weight when it comes from your customers or clients instead:

  • Google My Business
  • Trustpilot
  • Yell
  • Facebook reviews


3. Think about where you want to make money

So you’ve nailed your branding and marketing strategy? But now, you’re faced with the crucial decision of where to sell your product or service. With so many options available, it can be tempting to try every platform under the sun. However, it’s important to remember that not all sales channels are created equal. As with your branding and marketing strategy, you need to be strategic in choosing where to sell. Just because a platform exists, doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for your business. So, take a step back and evaluate which channels align with your business goals and target audience. By doing so, you’ll ensure that you’re using your resources efficiently and effectively to drive sales and grow your business.

Some questions you may want to consider:

Do I want to have my own website?

Gone are the days where you needed to be a coding expert to create your own website or online shop. With the rise of website builders such as Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, Bigcartel, and Weebly, anyone can easily create a professional-looking website. These platforms offer easy drag and drop or template features, allowing you to upload your own content and publish with ease. The best part? Prices start from as little as £5 for a domain connection and a simple template, and up to around £20 for an online shop. However, it’s important to note that prices can vary depending on the platform you choose. So, be sure to shop around and find the platform that meets both your needs and your budget. And, don’t forget to take advantage of any discount codes to save even more!

Alternatively you can build a simple WordPress website which gives you more flexibility; this would require some coding knowledge though, and can get tricky in some areas if you aren’t acquainted with this sort of tech.

Some things to consider when choosing to build a website:

  • It can be a pricey monthly outgoing if you haven’t made any sales.
  • You will have to work on your SEO (insert info link) if you want customers to find your business via a search engine like Google. Or you will need a strong social media strategy to be able to divert customers from your social platform and onto your website.
  • You will need to purchase a domain if you’d like to personalise your website address.
  • You may need to buy and set up hosting unless using a platform like Wix and Squarespace that will do this for you.
  • You will need to consider if/how you take payment. Does the website have a built-in payment provider like Stripe? Would you like to offer Paypal as another payment option? Would giving the customer a chance to use a “Pay Later” option like Klarna boost your sales?
Do I want to sell through a marketplace?

Are you looking to sell your products or services online, but don’t want to go through the hassle of creating your own website? Fear not, as there are ready-made marketplaces that you can tap into, which already have a large and established customer base. While Amazon and eBay are popular options, they may not be the right fit for your business. For bespoke items, you might want to consider platforms like Etsy, Not on the High Street, or Folksy. If you’re selling freelance services, Fiverr, Upwork, or Revolancer might be more up your alley.

But before you jump in, here are a few things to consider.

  • Firstly, while these marketplaces come with an existing customer base and built-in marketing, you’ll still need to perfect your listings or profile to stand out from the crowd.
  • Additionally, while there are no monthly fees, the fees for listing your product, making a sale, and taking a payment can be hefty. It’s also worth noting that while listing your products or services on marketplaces can be faster and easier, you won’t have full control over your store.
  • Marketplaces can issue refunds on your behalf and even close your store without warning.

However, many business owners find it beneficial to have both a website and marketplace presence to tap into multiple traffic sources and reach new potential customers. So, weigh up your options and choose the path that best aligns with your business goals and target audience.


4. Keep on top of your finances

If you have earned £1000 this tax year already, you need to register with HMRC. How you register with HMRC is relevant to how your business operates. Take a look at the business types here. Most people starting out will register as a sole trader, and trade from a business name.

While filing your tax return can feel daunting, if you’ve done the preparation in advance it can take as little as an hour to complete on your own. Here is a step by step guide to filling in return. Alternatively, you can request the help from an accountant.

Jade’s easy tax return tips:

  • File it early: The tax year ends on 5th April and you have until 31st January to file your return. The deadline for payment is on the 31st January. If you file in April, you have nearly 10 months to pay your bill and can even spread the cost with a payment plan. If you file on the 30th Jan, you have 1 day to pay it.
  • Keep physical and email receipts for everything that’s related to your business. You can expense these for a discount off your tax bill. For a list of what you can expense, check out https://www.gov.uk/expenses-if-youre-self-employed. Keep track of these figures and separate them into categories e.g. fuel, bills, raw materials. This will make it easier when it comes to inputting your expense amounts. Be sure to click “detailed expenses” when filing to add these figures in by category and not total expenses. Doing it by category may save you extra money on your bill.
  • Do your bookkeeping digitally. While it can be tempting to revert back to the ol’ pen and paper, anything physical can get damaged or lost. By keeping track of your finances via bookkeeping software like these (insert link to comparison list) or even using free online spreadsheet software from Google or Microsoft, you can ensure that everything is backed up no matter what device you access it from.
  • Beware of payment on account. Payment on account is a nasty little surprise for someone filing their first tax return. HMRC will take your tax bill and add another x0.5 onto it, to make you pay in advance for a predicted bill the following year.
  • Finally, put 20% of your earnings away each month in advance. You probably won’t need the whole of this 20% but at least you know it’s covered for when you get to filing.


Let’s Recap:

Branding, social media marketing, and online selling are important components of any business’s growth and success. Branding your business early on makes social media marketing easier, and a consistent branding style provides a solid foundation for effective communication of your message to your audience.

Choosing the right social media platform is also crucial, as it allows you to use your time and resources effectively to create engaging content that resonates with your audience. Finally, when it comes to selling your product or service, it’s important to be strategic in choosing the right channels that align with your business goals and target audience.

Whether you choose to have your own website or sell through other platforms, it’s essential to consider the costs, SEO, and social media strategy to help drive traffic and generate sales.

By taking all these factors into account, you can create a strong online presence that will help your business thrive. And once you’ve started your business, just make sure to keep abreast of what your HMRC obligations are and keep on top of them.

If you’d like to watch the video and download the PDF checklist guide from the workshop, you can do below by inputting your email into the form and letting us know whether you’d like to sign up to our fortnightly newsletter – jam-packed with freelancing news, inspiring links, community content, and more.


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