I set up my phone-answering business in 2004 after realising that I wanted to work for myself and that family life meant that a flexible diary and homeworking were the best way to manage.
When I first set up TelePA my two children, Rosanna and Oliver, were school age, so my time and resources were very limited, but as they’ve grown up I’ve been able to commit more of those to the business to help it grow.
When I lived in the Thames Valley I ran a successful business advising people on their CVs, but as the recession hit there was less call for that, surprisingly in many ways, and when we moved to Wells we found that people weren’t interested in CVs – working life was very different and more about who you know than what you know.
I was still aware, though, that projecting a professional image is really important and that as a business person it’s really embarrassing not to be able to take a call because you’re busy or in a meeting; you can lose business that way.
Small businesses rely on incoming calls as their lifeblood and when I set up TelePA the communications industry was very different with fewer options. Since I set up in the 1990s, home and small office technologies have improved dramatically and, for my businesses, this has opened new doors.
I now rely on internet telephony, or VoIP, for my clients’ calls to be diverted to my lines so that they can be answered in their own company name and their customers don’t know any different.
The costs of starting up a business in 2011 are dramatically lower than they were even ten years ago. I use Gradwell EFM internet and VoIP, which means that I’ve been able to get rid of BT from my communications and been able to buy into the best technology without actually buying expensive equipment, which dates as soon as you’ve bought it.
Before moving to VoIP I did a year’s research into internet telephony. Big business providers didn’t always seem like they knew what they were talking about, but Gradwell were tech geeks that understood what they were doing and were approachable enough not to blind you with jargon!
I didn’t take on any debt to start the business, although I did work with a business partner at the time. I think that working from home is a very good way of starting a business because you don’t have the overheads that you would if you were renting an office – there would be a lot more risk.
I’ve relied almost totally on networking and word of mouth to grow the business and because TelePA is a resource that small businesses can rely upon as and when they need to, I’ve got great customer loyalty. That also helps with keeping the costs down!
I think that if you’re considering setting up any sort of business, look at the costs of internet and calls and any other equipment you have to buy because those aren’t costs you can recoup unless the business is a success. Working from home is great but you need to make sure that your home office is properly equipped – get advice from the experts like I did.
In many ways my business is about doing an old fashioned job in a modern way and I can even do this whilst living out in the sticks!
Judith is delighted to offer Family Friendly Working readers a week’s free trial of TelePA. For more information contact Judith on 01749 685 600.