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Access to Work – What equipment will i need for my business?

Before applying to Access to Work it’s a good idea to do some research on the support you need. If you are applying for equipment, knowing what is available will help speed up the application and get you the equipment which will best suit your needs.

The first thing you need to do is identify what you need. Will your new business mean you will be doing more reading, answering the phone, taking notes, etc… Modern equipment can make these jobs easier and more efficient, enabling you to concentrate on your business.

Have a think about the tasks you will be undertaking and make a list of the jobs you will struggle with.

A good place to find the right equipment to enable you to run your business is an organisation who specialises in your disability. E.g. if you were visually impaired I would contact the RNIB or your local charity. If I was dyslexic I would speak with a local dyslexic support organisation. These organisations should have lots of information on equipment which could make your business life a lot easier.

Another place to look is the internet. Doing a search such as, “deaf equipment” or visual impairment equipment” will bring up companies who specialise in disability solutions.

These companies will arrange demonstrations at your home, which will give you a good idea if it suits your needs.

It is important to remember that the person who best who understands your disability is you! Any equipment people recommend will need to be tested to see if it’s suitable for your business. Remember, before trying out the equipment take with you what the equipment will be used for. For example if I was looking for equipment which would make it easier for me to read, I would take with me some business documents which i would be using on a daily basis.

Another place to view equipment is a trade show were companies show off the latest products. These events tend to be very busy, so it could be difficult to get a decent demo. If you see a piece of equipment you like, try to arrange a demo at home.

Then all you need to do is contact Access to Work and arrange a meeting.

Is my business viable? Will I qualify for Access to Work? A strong business plan will help

One of the conditions of a successful self employment application to Access to Work is that the business is viable .i.e. likely to succeed. Many disabled entrepreneurs starting up new businesses have difficulty in proving how profitable their business will be, as they only have a business plan, which is partly theoretical.

The problem Access to Work have is that it is difficult for them to determine if a business is viable when they don’t have any business advisers to judge it. Let’s not forget, some Access to Work applications run into several thousands of pounds. For Access to Work not to waste tax payers money, they must be sure the grant will be put to best use.

One way to help Access to Work is to inform them of other organisations you are working with to produce your business plan. It’s a good idea when starting a business to work with lots of organisations, as not only they can give you advice, they may also have a start up grant available.

Working with many organisations and securing grants from them will give a lot of strength to your business plan and help to prove that your business will have a good chance of success. The more qualified people you can get on board the better and if they are financially backing you, it will be further proof of your business’ viability.

Another way to prove viability is to get letters of support from business support organisations such as Business Link. These, combined with an endorsed business plan, will give your business idea credibility and may convince Access to Work that your business is viable.

Business blogging – get it right from the start

Blogging has become big business and for some it has led to quitting their day job and blogging full time. For some disabled entrepreneurs, blogging could provide the flexibility to work from home, to put in the hours that suit their disability, and has very low start up costs. Sound appealing? There is a catch. Blogs are hard work and it could take years before you can make enough money to take a wage.

So, what is a blog? A blog is similar to a website, it can be on any subject but unlike a regular website, it is updated regularly with articles or posts. These posts appear on the top of the homepage and as new posts are added, the older ones move down the page. Once the page has 10 or so posts they are archived and are found using a search facility, categories bar or archive page. The front page of a long standing blog is usually the tip of the iceberg, showing only the 10 most recent entries. The rest of the blog may have hundreds or even thousands of posts, all about one subject.

Anyone can start a blog; the software used to power them can be as simplistic or as complex as you need it to be. Blogging software such as “Wordpress.com” and Google’s “Blogger” are free to use and have lots of online support.

The three main things you will need to make money from a blog are;

1. A topic that you are passionate enough to write about on a regular basis
2. A topic which is financially lucrative (I will explain this later in the post)
3. A topic which is popular (lots of people searching for it)

If you don’t have all of these factors then you will find it much more difficult to make money online.

So how does it all work? Well one of the main theories behind making money with a blog is to get a lot of useful articles about a chosen subject. Then through SEO (search engine optimisation), you get lots of traffic or visitors. Once you have all this traffic there are 4 main ways you can make money from them;-

1. Selling advertising banner space to other companies
2. Affiliate advertising – Advertising individual products; when a visitor clicks the ad, it will take them to another company’s website. If they buy the item then you would get a percentage of the total cost.
3. Having a blog with loads of articles will show off your expertise and will encourage people to use your own services.
4. Having Google ads on the blog will get you a percentage every time a visitor clicks one.

Making money with Google Ads;-

Having a blog with hundreds of articles still won’t guarantee financial success if you’re blogging about the wrong subject. To be really successful you need to be blogging about a subject which is profitable and to find this out you can use a tool called “Google keyword selector”.

https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

This is the best place to start to see if you have a profitable blogging topic. You can type your keyword into the tool and it will list the amount of traffic that particular keyword generates on a monthly basis. Not only that, there is a drop down box “Choose columns to be displayed” which gives you the option to see how much the average CPC (Cost Per Click) would be. This figure is the average cost that a business is prepared to pay to get on Google’s “Sponsored Links”. The higher the amount the company is prepared to pay, the higher they will appear on the right hand side of Google when the relevant keyword is searched.

When you create your blog you can display these ads within each articles. If someone clicks the ad, Google will charge that company and you will get a percentage, regardless of whether the visitor buys something or not.

This is commercial blogging. Yes, you might be an expert in model areoplanes, but if there is no money in the keyword then there is no point trying to make money from it. Yes, do it as a hobby, but if the average CPC is 4p, you will only be getting a percentage of that amount. It will not matter if you get 100,000 visitors as only a small percentage of these will click an advert.

If you can pick a subject which is profitable e.g. “plumbing”, you might be able to get a percentage of £3. You can see that a percentage of this amount would mean far less visitors to achieve the same revenue. You also might be able to see a conflict of interest. If you are a plumber do you write about lucrative subjects such as “emergency plumbing” CPC £4.33 or “leaking plumbing” 4p? The answer is if the subjects are both relevant then do both and don’t compromise the integrity of the blog.

In summary this is how it all works;-

1. Create a blog
2. Write lots of articles on your chosen subject.
3. Read about SEO for blogs and apply to your own blog
4. Through a combination of lots of articles and SEO, you will eventually climb up Google
5. Visitors will come to your blog
6. A visitor clicks on a Google ad
7. You get a percentage of the CPC for that Advert

For a video/audio tutorial on commercial blogging have a look at Courtney Tuttle’s blog;-

http://CourtneyTuttle.com/2008/06/26/why-almost-everyone-should-be-starting-a-blog/

Albert Thomson wins Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year at Radar’s People of the Year awards

entrepreneur albert thomsonAlbert Thomson was awarded Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year at Radar’s People of the Year awards.

The People of the Year Awards are a pan-disability event celebrating the achievements of individuals and organisations, who together are making the UK a better place for all.

Albert formed Action Amps in 2005 after becoming severely injured, which resulted in the loss of his left leg above knee, while serving in action. He left the Army as a Colour Sergeant in October 2005 having served 18 years.

Albert used his recovery time in hospital contemplating how he could turn this life-changing negative impact on his life into a positive. He was aware that without the quick-thinking and level-headedness of the Army medics and doctors, who were first on the scene, following the horrific injuries he sustained, he would not be here today. Read the rest of this entry »

Business awards. No losers, only winners – The benefits to an entrepreneur

business-awardBusiness awards are organized by various national and local organisations to honour and recognize the achievements of businesses and the people behind them.

Have you overlooked awards as a marketing tool to promote your business? If you haven’t considered putting your business forward for award nomination you may be missing a trick.

Entering an award usually requires a brief essay and description of your business, some contests may require financial records.

Even if you don’t win, there are benefits to be gained by being a finalist. Here are our top reasons to enter:

1. Entering an award as part of a marketing strategy is an untapped marketing tool by small business owners.

2. An award win or nomination often acts as a 3rd party endorsement, added credibility which can be very powerful within your business.

3. Award success presents a great story for all types of the media.
Many award organisers actively arrange press coverage on your behalf, opening up your business to new audiences.

Read the rest of this entry »

There are many reasons why a disabled entrepreneur should not start a business – fear of failure should not be one

disabled person scared of failureIn my experience the fear of failure is the number one reason why disabled people do not embark on self employment. Breaking this down further, they are worried about the business not making enough money to pay their bills, how will they manage with the accounts? Will they be able to cope with there disability and if they can afford to start up in business?

But what is the real cost of failing in business? Does it really matter? Will people laugh and mock me for the rest of my days? Well speaking from experience the answer is no!

When I was 22 I started my own business, well I had my own business thrusted upon me. I was working for a company which suddenly closed. I was left with no job and no finance to start up my self. Left with the prospect of being unemployed, I went to the Prince’s Trust and got a loan and grant for £2000 and started my own clothing shop.

After 3 years of working 6 days a week I realised that it was not going to buy me the house and car I wanted and decide to call it a day. I tried to sell the business and get out of my lease, but it ended up costing me £3000 to leave.

The loss of money did not really bother me at the time my major concern was the dent in my ego. Coming from a small town, I dreaded bumping into old aquatances and customers and being mocked for failing. As I said, this did not happen, in fact the opposite happened. People would say “Hey, didn’t you have that shop. I wish I had the bottle to start my own business” or “I’m thinking of starting my own business, can you give me some advice”

Running my own business tort me skills in, negotiations, finances, penny pinching, DIY, travel, importing, advertising, security, time management, I.T., project management, networking, creative accountancy, point of sale and a whole load more.

Failing in business has made me realise that I could have done all these skills a whole load better. But, where could I have learned all these skills and put them into practical use in such a short period of time? Not from being employed, that’s one thing I am sure of.

I feel running my own business has made me a better person and failing in business made me a better adviser. I can understand people’s worries about financial pressures and the day to day running of the business, especially with a disability. These worries should be tackled head on and addressed before you start up in business, ignore them at your peril.

If you are worried about if your business will be successful enough to pay the bills, Test Trade, go on Permitted Work or Working Tax Credits. If you are worried about the accounts, do a free course. If you are worried about, if you will be able to manage because of your disability, contact Access to Work. If you are worried about failing, join the club, but from my experience it’s not such a bad thing.

Buying advertising, Buyers beware! Guide for disabled entrepreneurs

Business contractWorking with entrepreneurs, it never ceases to amaze me how many of them get taken for a ride when it comes to advertising. Like all businesses, when it comes to advertising companies there are the good, bad and downright ugly! The problem is that there are no regulative bodies governing advertisers. Nowadays anyone can set up as an advertising company, ranging from a local magazine to an internet marketing agency, but what do you really know about them?

Most entrepreneurs’ first point of contact with an advertiser comes via the telephone. Here you will be given all sorts of promises, from the number of readers their publication gets, or how high they can get you up on Google search results or the number of leads your advert will generate. But, can you really believe their businesses claims? How do you know if they are telling the truth? The answer is you can’t and you don’t! There is only one way to be sure that you’re not handing your money over to a crook and that is to do your own research!

The first thing you need to do is request a copy of the thing they want you to advertise in, whether it be a brochure, magazine, calendar, menu or whatever crazy thing they have come up with. If they don’t have one or it’s, “brand new” then be very wary. Personally if they were a new company, I would not use them.

The next thing to do is have a look for an advert which is similar to your business, but not in direct competition e.g. if I was a plumber I would look for an electrician’s advert. I would then contact the electrician and say to him that I was thinking about advertising in the magazine and does he get much business from it? I have used this method time and time again and have had numerous responses from “We get loads of business from it, our customers always mention the magazine” to “Oh my God, don’t use them, we are taking them to court!”. See why this method can be useful?

One thing is constant; I always get a friendly response and have even got business from the conversation. As long as you are not in direct competition with them I find people are willing to help and have even recommended other advertising companies they use.

Need money for your business? Soft loans, the disabled entrepreneur’s friend

Soft loans are another source of finance when starting up a business. I would always advise people to first try and obtain a grant but if your business has a large amount of start up costs then a soft loan may be unavoidable.

For any disabled entrepreneur taking on a loan should not be done lightly and careful consideration should be given to the interest, the size of the repayments and the overall cost.

Soft loans are usually offered to disabled entrepreneurs by national and regional organisations like the Prince’s Trust and charities who work with the visually impaired, deaf, those in wheelchairs etc.

A soft loan is like any other loan, such as a personal loan or a business loan offered to a person with a disability. Basically you borrow an amount of money to eventually pay back, in regular payments, plus interest. The main differences between a soft loan and a regular loan are;-

1. Soft loans tend to come at a lower rate of interest than your standard business or personal loan. On some soft loans rates are even at 0%, but often there is an administration fee.
2. There is usually a holiday period from when the loan hits your bank account to when you have to start your first payments. This can be up to 6 months.
3. Sometimes organisations supporting the disabled entrepreneur will offer holiday periods if the person gets into trouble paying back the loan. This can be useful to a person with disabilities if their business is on a downturn or illness is dictating how many hours they are working.
4. The biggest advantage of a soft loan is in some circumstances if the business stops because of ill health or lack of business, it can be possible for the debt to be written off by the organisation who granted it. This would be at their discretion and the person with the disability would have to show that they have really tried to make the business a success.

The other thing to remember when being granted a loan is to include the repayments into your business plan and cash flow. This way you will be able to see if you can really afford it.

Assessing your bank or choosing for the first time, what a disabled person should look for

banking for disabled peopleAs a small business owner how satisfied are you with your bank? Is the service you are receiving adequate or are you totally unhappy? The Disability Discrimination Act (originally of 1995) should ensure that within reason you should receive access to your banking requirements. Given the ‘Credit Crunch’ banks are under pressure to cut costs to shore up their balance sheets. Borrowing from a bank may become more expensive and the service may become affected.

Here are some basic points to consider when evaluating a bank’s service:

A Limited Company must open a business account. Sole Traders may use their personal current account for business activities.

You should consider a bank which has a dedicated small business team and enquire whether there are facilities for your disability. This may be for example if there is a disability officer available to provide you with dedicated support or if there is wheelchair access at your local branch. Try to ascertain how many businesses your bank manager or bank advisor looks after and try to ascertain if you will be dealt with face to face at the bank or through a call centre. If you have straightforward requirements another option is to use internet banking if you are able to use access technology.

Does your bank manager know the requirements of your business? A good bank manager will spend time getting to understand your business. You should be able to make contact as frequently as you require and each contact should add value to your business. A good bank manager may be able to make valuable business introductions on your behalf.

What are the interest rates on business and business savings account? For borrowing facilities there are sources of funding other than banks. Sources such as family and friends, regeneration funds, equity funds from business angels, factoring, asset finance, invoice and trade finance, equipment leasing, stock finance and payroll finance all have pros and cons which merit investigation dependent upon individual business circumstances.

Check the fixed charges the bank levies on business accounts for transaction fees and overdraft fees. Check if there is a fee-free period for new customers. Does the bank offer other services such as credit cards, charge cards, free statements and do you need them?

The Forum of Private Business conducts a bank survey among 5,000 small firms every two years. The Report Private Business assesses banks across the following 18 factors:

whether knows business, knows industry, knows market, offers advice, range of services, availability of credit, competitiveness of interest rates, competitive charges, realistic collateral, tailors finance, deal with one person, access to loan officer, speed of decision, efficiency, reliability, friendly staff, convenient location and convenient hours.

The top 9 banks of the survey, with AIB ranked first and Barclays ranked ninth, were:

1. AIB
2. Yorkshire
3. Clydesdale
4. HSBC
5. RBS
6. Bank of Scotland
7. NatWest
8. Lloyds TSB
9. Barclay

Correct for 2004

More financial support for Disabled Entrepreneurs, Return to Work Credit

return to work credit moneyReturn to Work Credit is available from Job Centres in the “Pathways to Work” areas (ask your Disability Employment Adviser if you qualify). It is a tax free payment of £40 directly into your bank account for up to 52 weeks. This could mean a disabled person starting their own business could be in line for a payment of £2080 whilst they are on other government schemes. Read my article on Test Trading, Working Tax Credits and Permitted Work.

Usually a person will qualify for Return to Work Credit if;

1. They have been claiming one, or any combination of the following for 13 weeks or more;-

Incapacity Benefit (including credits only)
Income Support (because of your incapacity)
Severe Disablement Allowance
Statutory Sick Pay for 13 weeks or more and now claiming any of the above benefits

2. They are working more than 16 hours a week.

3. They expect a personal annual salary before deductions to be £15,000 or less per year (What you are paying yourself?).

4. They expect the business to last more than five weeks.

Return to Work Credit is a great way of contributing to your wage when on Test Trading or claiming Working Tax Credits. Many disabled entrepreneurs manage on these schemes during the first year of trading. This gives their business a great chance of survival, plus they can concentrate on running the business instead of stressing about how they are going to pay themselves.

Does a disabled person need specialist support to start a business?

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