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Based in Galway - working with clients across Ireland.

Running a small self employed service business

Logo for Donncha Hughes StartupHughes.comA self employed person running a professional services business has a different outlook to most other businesses. I think that somewhat different Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) apply when you want to track how the business is doing so that you can plan for the future.

 

 

Here is my review of my business in 2013:

 

#.1 One third less miles travelled in my car

73% of the 19,000 miles that I travelled in 2013 related to business use. It was 90% of 26,000 miles in 2012 so that gives me a lot more free and productive time. I take the train to Dublin a lot also.

#.2 Increase invoice value by 3%

The profile of my work improved dramatically in relation to evening work (late home after the kids go to bed) in 2013 so maintaining turnover level was a major achievement. I don’t like to track these particular figures but probably worked over 50 evenings/saturdays in 2012 and reduced this to under 10 in 2013. This followed a conscious decision to forego a lot of this work unless absolutely necessary.

#.3 Increased customers

Issued 43 invoices to 20 separate customers. Retained 5 important customers and added 13 customers that I had never worked with previously. This compares to 35 invoices to 8 customers in 2012. I was not asked to get involved in as much subcontract work as in 2012 so this suited me fine. I also made a conscious decision to increase my rate per day. The general trend is that the daily rate for training has reduced dramatically in the last 5 years (it was probably very high in the boom years but I am only in business 3 years). I have lost some tenders purely on price but again that is fine. I lodged my final 2013 related cheque in the bank in the middle of January – 100% payment by all clients last year [not getting paid for good work by clients is soul-destroying but it happens].

#.4 Reduced costs by 20%

In general, I have a low cost profile and this cost reduction was directly related to reduced expenditure on diesel.

#.5 Tax Clearance Secured for another year

All taxes paid. I registered for VAT at the beginning of the year and managed the limited administration during the year – ROS is excellent. And I am ready to do my 2014 Tax Return in the coming weeks. I look after my own accounts and am disciplined about entering details of receipts at the end of every month.

#.6 New Initiatives

a. Early in 2013, I set a goal to increase my profile online by requesting to join the Business Network blog Tweak your Biz. This year I wrote 8 articles, 2 of which featured in the top ten most popular articles of the month.

 

b. Developed a new website www.startupwebtraining.com in June 2013 to specifically promote Website Creation and Social Media Training. Google Analytics lists 751 visits from 557 visitors in the two months Nov and December. This is a bit of a vanity metric but as it was not an especially busy period (5 blogposts) it sets some sort of a baseline for future tracking.

 

c. I also redesigned my website www.startuphughes.com in December. Google Analytics lists 1,364 visits from 1,095 unique visitors in the two months November and December. A comparison between November 2013 and January 2014 shows an increase in visitors and visits with a very high bounce rate and less time spent per visit on the site. I am not an expert in Google Analytics so that is an area I must delve into this year.

Google analytics startuphughes

Social media Twitter followers is another vanity metric (in that it has no relevance or influence for my business in attracting new customers) but it is easy to track. For the record I am following 320 people and had 240 followers as of the beginning of January 2014 – so I found a lot of good people to follow this year and increased my followers from under 100 at beginning of 2013. And I have 650 connections on LinkedIn which is another good way to keep up to speed with what is happening. BTW, as I was writing this post, my favourite blog author Seth Godin wrote about Measuring Nothing (with great accuracy).

 

d. Joined SCCUL Mentor Programme and was asked to be a judge on SCCUL Enterprise Awards which was held yesterday in NUIG. Congrats to all the businesses that took part – it was a great showcase for entrepreneurial talent in Galway.

 

PLAN FOR 2014

 

It is important to plan but I don’t need a business plan document!

#.1 Turnover/ Income

It is extremely difficult to predict revenue for the year. I have a decent pipeline at the moment which is enough days to keep me busy for the next 3 months while having the capacity to slot in new projects. The lead-time from enquiry and discussion to starting a project can vary from days to weeks. As such I am not putting a number or precise figure on turnover for the year but am working towards hitting a range where I have sufficient income whilst not affecting home life balance. The upper range realistically is to replicate my Public Sector salary from a few years ago which I have not managed yet! One key to hitting my targets is keeping in close contact with my existing customers so that I get asked to deliver the training that I delivered last year.

#.2 New Clients & Projects

Repeat work is great but I really enjoy new challenges. Last year, I delivered a review of a Startup Management Development programme which proved extremely interesting – in total the project took nearly 3 months to undertake. I had never done anything like the review but I knew I could do it and I was very happy (and so was the client) with the end result. Deciding on the approach and putting a plan in place and delivering to that plan was very rewarding.

 

This year I am undertaking a Strategic Review for a charitable organisation and so far the process has been fascinating. The sector is facing challenges but the people ‘at the coalface’ are excellent so I hope my input will help them to develop a focus for the next two years. This opportunity is not something I could have envisaged but I got a call and met the people involved, and said Yes, I can do that.

 

Startup Galway Digest is my first new initiative for 2014 – my most recent blogpost explains that the Digest is a compilation of all startup related events in Galway as part of a global movement. I have volunteered to curate the Galway edition. I am hoping for assistance to spread the word so that the Galway Digest is both comprehensive and useful (without taking up too much of my time).

 

Why share this?

 

I have been working on my own for 3.5 years. The business has gained a level of certainty and clarity over the last 18 months. I find it helpful to put things on paper in order to think about the business and its future direction. As such this is a blogpost for me but maybe someone finds it useful.

 

Best regards

donncha (@donnchadhh)

3 Responses so far.

  1. Hugh says:

    Donncha you’ve no idea just how much this post has helped me – I’m in the creative sector and business techniques and methods are pretty alienated yo me. Currently I’m doing a short course on business for the creative sector and I’ve been trawling for KPIs relevant to my experience as a self employed person. While we’re in different sectors, your post still applies to me.

    Thanks, hope you don’t mind me plagiarising you for my homework 🙂

    Hugh

    • Delighted Hugh that you found the blogpost useful. I have a strong interest in Services Marketing and believe that KPIs are indeed different. Best of luck with your business. You have a nice website. regards. Donncha

  2. […] the beginning of 2014, I wrote an article reviewing 2013 and setting out my business ambitions for the year. I wrote it firstly as a planning and review […]

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