It’s okay to be “just” a sole trader

We’re small and right now we’re hurting. It’s been tough (and still is) for sole traders to be recognised as operating entities in some states during this pandemic. That has made business ownership especially hard and even more isolating than it might be otherwise.


Perhaps it’s time to:

1. Check the pronouns.

If you are a soloist, tell people! Check your website – does it say “we” or does it say “I”?  Does it say “you” will contact a potential client or “someone on our team” will contact a potential client? If more of us felt comfortable using “I” in marketing we might educate others that solo doesn’t mean unreliable. In fact, we know the opposite is true – it means personalised service, extreme client care, project deadlines honoured (often at any cost) and strengthened local connections.

2. Personalise your business.

People buy from people. It’s all about know ⇒ like ⇒ trust. Put your face out there and encourage people to get to know you. Once there is a personal connection (and not just a fancy website for example) customers may begin to appreciate the work you do and capacity to meet demands. In addition, if people connect a person to a business they are more likely to develop empathy for the small business and want to support you by ordering from you or making sure they pay your invoice on time.

3. Think carefully about GST registration.

Yes, I know this topic is delicate, especially given the challenges with access to financial support of late, however, make sure you have good reason to register for GST if you are clearly still well below the threshold. Many businesses are below (25% of all last year in fact) but there is a pressure to register just to “look bigger and serious”. Personal connections will signal your ability to get the job done much more than the ability to charge GST on an invoice.

4. Tell people you are a sole-operator whenever you can.

In an effort to encourage timely payment of my invoices nowadays I print on the bottom that I am a soloist and cash flow is critical to my business success. I want the people who pay the bill to remember that they are paying a person, who in turn is probably paying a mortgage or buying weekly groceries. I’m not just an ABN with a fancy invoice template. I also explain my payment terms with potential clients before we work together.

We are the largest business group in the country and our numbers are growing. Let’s take a collective stand using our solo voices.

Leanne Faulkner

runs Fortitude at Work, a consultancy that advocates for more mental health support services specifically for small business owners. In addition to training services,she consults on the development of resources for this topic. Connect with Leanne on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram


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