You have successfully navigated the setting up of your business in France. You are full of enthusiasm, you are raring to go. There is more to being self employed than getting stuck into your trade, profession, skill or craft. It is easy to start up a business but it takes dogged determination to manage one! It is vital that a business owner understands the basics of managing a multitude of skills effectively.
There are many functions that will resonate with every business: business & financial planning, sales, marketing and advertising, cash flow and customers, managing of time and stress. How these functions are managed will be different from one business to another. Some of these skills you will bring to your business and others you will have to learn as you go. It is not uncommon for a new business owner to be over awed at the thought of having to sell their products or services. During the course of your week, month, year you will be wearing juggling many plates and at times this can easily become overwhelming.
Where there are knowledge gaps, join Facebook groups that are geared towards either your niche/market or for self employed, freelancers, micro entrepreneurs. Don't be scared to ask questions. Talk to your Chambre de Métiers, or Commerce, many around France offer a variety of support and activities and your involvement will be dependant on your language skills. Network and meet with other small business owners, we have all been through similar phases in our own businesses and many of us are happy to share our knowledge and experience.
Some key functions for managing your business in France
If you have committed to setting up your business and it is the only source of income you will be wise to create a business plan. Business plans are not just for the big boys or for applying for funds from a bank. A business plan will help you understand your business better and map your future through committed courses of action. It will help you keep an eye on circumstances that could impact your business in the short and long term [think Brexit]. You may have an idea of where you want your business to be in 5 years time, but how are you going to get there. In the same way you wouldn't embark on a road trip from one end of France to the other without a plan.
While for some of us there is no need to keep accounts, we are obliged to keep proper paperwork in the event of a 'controle', or your business needs to change to a new regime. Reviewing your financials regularly helps you see what income comes in and goes out month by month and prepare for financial surprises. It's not the most fun activity, but it is essential. Make sure you have the right processes in dealing with payment collections. There is nothing worse working your socks off, handing out a facture only for an issue to arise with being paid. It's vital that your T&Cs are watertight and that you understand the process in the event of things going wrong. Make sure all of your business related expenses are accounted for in your planning. For example, after 1st year of trading you are liable for business CFE, even though you pay a variety of taxes on your home residence. Are your earnings heading toward some kind of retirement fund? Again another topic that is a minefield and the sooner you get to understand what this means to you as a small business owner in France the better.
You cannot rely on word of mouth or recommendations alone. You need to actively create awareness of your business online and off 365 days of the year and be aware of feast or famine and fill those gaps. Marketing activities will take up a large chunk of your time time particularly digital activities such as social media marketing, which for many small business owners is a huge drain on time. You will need to think about how you are going to reach your audience, what are you going to say and how are you going say it. Some campaigns and activities will work, some won't, you will need to make time to review and adapt. Campaigns and activity that you had planned at the start of the year may not fruition yet opportunity may have knock on your door when you least expected it. So expect the plan to be more fluid than you thought. Have a marketing plan run along side your business plan and you will see how they sit nicely along side your financials. Never ignore marketing activity, no matter how successful your business. There are factors beyond your control that could have a marked effect on your business and having built some kind of awareness will enable you to quickly fill in some earning potential gaps before it becomes too late. Cash flow is like quicksand. You will get to know when the feasts and famines occur. Keep the momentum going so that those famines are short term blips and not something that keeps you awake at night.
There are 168 hours in the week and we don't want to be using all of them for our business. Being organised in your small business is crucial. Making time to do your admin tasks; prepping your devis, purchasing supplies, getting your income in, and keeping up to date with your basic book keeping records. Making time for marketing and working on your business. Then there is taking time to enjoy why you moved to France. You will begin to see that being self employed is hard work not only doing your trade, craft or profession but also time to manage it and keep things under control. If outsourcing is an option then delegate the tasks you can't do or don't have time to do. Bear in mind that as micro entrepreneur there are no business expenses deducted, you are entitled to 50% allowance on your tax form, therefore these kind of expenses need to be factored into your financial planning. If delegation is not an option, then being a good time manager is a must. While there is no such thing as a 35 hour for a self employed person in France many of us are able to enjoy a better quality of life.
Our businesses just do not exist without them. While building and growing your business takes time and effort, the flipside is that growing to quickly to soon can also be detrimental. Unfortunately, as a micro entrepreneur in France you cannot employ other people to work for you. So knowing what's going on in your business from end of the day to the other is important. Your communication to customers is vital. There may be times when you will have to push back, manage client expectation or say no you are unable to help. Work overload is not good for you or your customer in the long run. This is where understanding your financials comes into its own. Is your business ready for the next regime? Can it handle a sharp increase in cotisations, can it handle the bureaucracy and financial implication of having additional staff?
For readers based in France, what have been your experiences? Is your business where you want it? Can it be improved upon? Need help with marketing and improving awareness of your business? Feel free to contact me for a chat.