Being a sole trader isn’t without its challenges, especially after the year that’s been. But for many, bravely going it alone is a chance to live their passion, be their own boss, and work towards financial independence. In this series, the Xero team uncover the inspiration behind what tipped sole traders to turn their dream into reality.
Following the birth of her second child, Lisa Turner – a Queensland-based BAS agent – decided it was time for a much-needed lifestyle change. That’s when she left the world of corporate finance to go it alone with her bespoke bookkeeping practice, Accounted For You.
Lisa explains, “I hated dropping my son off to daycare at 6.30 in the morning. While my boss was flexible, it was hard to get the work-life balance right at home. So when I had my second child, I knew I needed something that allowed me to be flexible as a mum. And that’s when I decided to start my own practice.”
For Lisa, taking control of her schedule meant more family time. According to Xero’s Tipping point research – a new report that uncovers what it is that makes sole traders decide to start something of their own – that desire for flexibility is what pushes nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of sole traders to fly solo, including many of Lisa’s clients.
The flexibility that comes with running her own practice is something she wants to help other working mothers achieve – taking care of the numbers so they can focus on what’s important. “I want women in business to be able to do the same thing for their family as I’ve done for mine,” she says.
Finding strength in support
Starting a business in the midst of raising a young family takes fierce determination, and for Lisa, it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of her husband and best friend.
Our Tipping point research reveals that having people in your corner is an important part of being a sole trader, with over a quarter looking to a romantic partner, business associate or friend for moral support.
“My husband said, “Do whatever you want to do – I’m 100 percent behind you.” He’s never questioned anything,” she says.
As for her best friend, Lisa explains that she was one of Accounted For You’s first clients; “We started our businesses around the same time, so we’ve grown together. She’s referred so much business to me and has really encouraged me to do what I love.”
Building an online presence
As a remote practice, Accounted For You’s online presence is an important part of its brand identity. But for Lisa, establishing a digital business didn’t come naturally at first. She explains, “I know how to be a great BAS agent, but I didn’t know anything about the other things like social media or building a website.”
For many sole traders, this is a common hurdle; just 37 percent claim to have a website, and of those who don’t, only a quarter consider it a priority to launch one. However, with more Australians shopping online than ever before, a lack of a digital presence can lead to missed opportunities in sales or new customer acquisitions.
Harnessing the power of technology
As Lisa’s client base has grown over the years, so too has her confidence in leveraging digital tools. Recently, she started a private Facebook group for her clients to come together and share their experiences. “I thought an online group would be a perfect place for them to connect,” she says.
Technology has been key to running Accounted For You remotely. Like most sole traders (87 percent), Lisa says cloud accounting software was especially important throughout COVID-19 and the events of 2020. “With Xero being completely cloud-based, I can help clients from anywhere. It’s been invaluable during the pandemic – especially with JobKeeper and all the other legislation changes. I wouldn’t have been able to keep my business going if it wasn’t for Xero’s tools – and neither would my clients,” she adds.
As an early technology adopter, Lisa has seen first-hand how digital-enablement supports small business growth. “When businesses understand the power of knowing their numbers, they can make better business decisions by re-investing their money more wisely. When a lot of clients first come to me, they haven’t reached the threshold to register for GST – but it’s not long before I help them get there. So once they achieve that milestone, it’s a moment to celebrate,” she shares.
Around 70 percent of sole traders consider a positive outlook to be a key attribute in people that successfully go it alone. As an eternal optimist, Lisa tells us, “Working from home, I’m in a good position to cope with whatever comes my way. This year, I want to continue to help my clients grow and work out where they’re heading. And, of course, spend more time with my boys.”
For more insights, you can download the Tipping point report here.
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