Starting a Business During a Pandemic? Tips and Advice for New Entrepreneurs

starting your own business

As I write this, the World is still very much in the middle of a global pandemic. This has created a huge amount of uncertainty for many business owners and employees alike, with ‘the new normal’ making the continuation of some businesses much more challenging and rendering other businesses completely unviable. From retail stores to restaurants, from travel to training – there is almost no business sector that has escaped unscathed from this.

But with great change also comes opportunity. The products and services that are in demand has shifted, and so has customers expectations and demands. This, along with ongoing job uncertainty, may lead many to actually start a new business venture and seek out a new path for themselves.

So if you are a new entrepreneur at this time and you have just started a business or you are looking to get started, here are some tips and points to think about to set you off on the right path.

1. Follow your passion

It is going to be hard to build a business if you are not passionate about what you are doing. Being a business owner means you are probably going to have some difficult times and will be spending a great deal of time thinking about your business. If you aren’t deeply invested in what you are doing then this is going to be pretty tough going.

This is a double-edged sword however. Turning a hobby or a passion into a business may change your perspective on it and there are plenty of examples out there of people who have come to realise this. What you once enjoyed recreationally is now your profession, and you may find at the end of the busy or difficult day, that you start to resent it a little bit. Make sure that you are prepared for this and are willing to accept this.


2. Do your research

In the current climate, you may well be keen to take action and get started as soon as possible to get first mover advantage, or to fill a gap before anyone else does. That is all well and good and you should certainly act as soon as you can if you feel that you will otherwise miss an opportunity – but don’t let that get in the way of doing your research and doing it properly.

Think about:

Who will your customers be?

How will you reach them and market to them?

Where will you get your supplies from?

What should your price point be in order to strike the balance between acquiring customers and making the necessary amount of profit?

Will you be selling your product online, in person or both?

How will you accept payments?

How will you adhere to current Covid rules including safe working and social distancing?

What insurance or permits may you require?

There are potentially dozens more questions that you will need to ask yourself and comprehensively research the answers (see this article for some more examples). If possible, seek out someone who has previously started or run a business in a similar niche and lean on them for advice and support. This may be in-person but could equally be someone you can connect with online.


3. Get your finances in order

You need to be certain you are financially able to do this. If you are leaving employment to pursue this new venture, then you should probably have money saved up to tide you over in the first few months as you start to get customers and build your revenue streams.

Likewise, you should probably try and clear any debts before you get started, as you may run into big problems with your credit score, if your reduced income means you start missing credit payments.

Equally, you need to be able to meet any cash flow demands of the business. For instance, you may need to spend £1,000 on supplies in order to manufacture or deliver your product. Once delivered, that product may well make you £3,000 and things will be looking rosy– but you need have that money to invest in the first instance.

Business loans or other emergency short term loans are available which may help you get past this hurdle, but you may find that without regular income from employment and little to no business history, getting accepted for one of these may be a challenge.

starting your own business

4. Keep it simple

The biggest and most immediate challenge for any new business is to get the first few customers and get revenue flowing in. So you should perhaps ask yourself, ‘What is the bare minimum I need to get those customers?’

It may be that flashy business cards and an all-singing, all-dancing website can wait. No doubt these will help and you should absolutely look to present your business in the best light, but unless they are critical to achieving your first sales, they may be better placed on the back burner until your business is off the ground.

You may also have grand ideas of numerous different products or services you can provide, but in the short term it may be better to choose one or two of these and deliver them exceptionally well, rather than trying to deliver ten different things and providing a mediocre product or service.

Make sure in the first instance that you are keeping your promise to customers and exceeding their expectations. Once these foundations are in place you can look to grow and expand.


5. Prepare for the worst

You almost certainly know that stats – around 60% of new businesses fail in the first three years. Of course you think and hope that your business will be in the 40% – but it is prudent to have a contingency plan and prepare for the worst. It isn’t negative thinking, it is being responsible. You really don’t want to have to deal with declaring yourself bankrupt.

It may be that you would need to get a temporary or part-time job, or it may be that you need to move back in with your parents, or even ask them for a temporary loan to bail you out. Thinking through this eventuality up-front will ensure that if the worst comes to the worst then you are prepared.

If you find that you don’t have sufficient safety nets should your business not work out, then you should potentially reconsider if now is the right time for you to launch it. It may be better to delay it until a later date when you have cash saved up to tide you over in the eventuality of the business going under.

Hopefully this has given you some food for thought. If you’ve read through this and are still confident of launching your business and succeeding, then best of luck – I’m sure you’ll flourish!

7 Reasons Why Online Tutoring Is the Future of Education

online learning

Online tutoring has become a popular way for children, teenagers and adults to revise their chosen subjects. In the current climate, which sees many being home schooled and revising at home, we have lost the option of in person tutoring and sitting in a classroom. Online tutoring combines artificial intelligence, one-on-one lesson plans and immediate feedback to give students realtime results and education.

Many have chosen online tutoring due to the pandemic but they are now thinking about implementing it full-time in their schedules due to convenience, accessibility and technology. Online tutoring can be all the difference in securing top-tier grades and it takes place in the comfort of the surroundings of your choice.

To explain the benefits of online tutoring and why many are making the switch, founder of The Profs, Richard Evans has listed the 7 reasons why it is the future of education.

1. Convenience

There is a big air of convenience when the power is in your hands. Online tutoring allows you to pick times and dates which suit your schedule, alongside having the option to work from anywhere. This can be useful if you have a set revision plan and only have certain time slots to fit in one-to-one lessons. As well as this, not having to commute to a classroom means you have more time to learn and less time getting distracted and procrastinating.


2. Personalised learning

Online tutoring means that the student can move at their own pace with no time restrictions. This differs to learning in groups where individuals have the match the pace of the class. Spending more time on the same topic can strengthen weaker areas of a subject as they can move at their own speed and ask all the questions they need to. Once a tutor gains an understanding of the students’ strengths and weaknesses, they can prepare tailored lessons and make it a personalised experience.


3. Regular contact with your tutor

In comparison to classroom teaching, online tutoring doesn’t just end when the lesson finishes. Since students are in contact with their tutors via video calling, they have access to regular contact at the ease of a button in between sessions. Students can benefit from the increased communication as they build up a relationship of trust with their tutors creating continuous dialogue evolving in more than weekly sessions.


4. Improved grades

One-to-one interaction with a tutor increases the motivation of students and keeps them more engaged in their lessons. Tutors can closely monitor progress to make sure students are excelling in their exams and academic life. This is effective in improving individual grades as lessons are tailored to suit areas of weakness. Online tutoring also increases a sense of responsibility as they can’t copy work from other pupils or place workloads on others. The sole reliance on themselves leads to a switched on and serious approach in reaching their target grades.


5. Cost-effective

Private tuition can be costly, online tutoring makes quality teaching available at a lower fee and during the current pandemic every student is keen to access tutoring at the ease of their own home. Online tutoring allows tutors to keep prices low since there is no downtime credited from travelling.


6. Choice

Rather than praying to secure a teacher who meets your needs and ways of learning, many online tutoring platforms gives you a selection of tutors to choose from. This feature allows students to focus on how and who they wish to learn from. The broader choice also provides the option of working with multiple tutors who specialise in different subject areas, which ensures you target the lessons you need help with.


7. Organisation

Technology makes everything easier to share. Whilst you can write-up your notes pen to paper, efficient resource sharing can be easy via cloud storage shared folders such as Dropbox or Google Docs. Having one place to store case studies, past papers, sample questions etc provides students with ease of learning which they can use at any time that suits them. More interactivity is possible in an online lesson.

“I was made redundant during lockdown – now I’m pursuing my passion through online learning”

online learning

For Pete Williams, a sales manager from Flintshire, redundancy was a “double whammy” – he was made redundant just six days before lockdown began, leaving him in search of a new job in the midst of a global pandemic.While Pete is not alone among those who have been made redundant during the coronavirus, he is also among the many who have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to develop themselves and their career. 

With the spread of the coronavirus making it easier for many businesses to close rather than re-open, the economy has taken a heavy hit this year. 

Despite government intervention, studies suggest that nearly one in six businesses will face the loss of 10% of their employees, with 9% of those businesses risking the loss of up to 49% of their employees over the coming months.

For Pete Williams, a sales manager from Flintshire, redundancy was a “double whammy” – he was made redundant just six days before lockdown began, leaving him in search of a new job in the midst of a global pandemic.

“Looking around for work was…soul-destroying. Due to COVID-19, it felt like recruitment was a slow-go… The only things that my CV matched were other sales management roles and I was adamant this was not what I wanted to do with my life” said Pete.

While he had earned excellent money in sales, he felt that being told that he was a ‘surplus to requirements’ was a rude awakening, and decided he wanted to change his career path to a role in HR – as a people manager.

“Watching new starters develop and take control of their own career was the most rewarding part of my previous role and I had a ‘eureka’ moment. This is what I wanted to do…I just needed to find where to start!”

After looking at formal university courses, Pete quickly realised that he didn’t want to wait until a new school year to get started, and as a young dad, he needed a better solution to learning that gave him the flexibility to take on work and study around childcare.

When a friend recommended an online course with ICS Learn, Pete did some research and found that it was exactly what he was looking for.

“They took time to explain how the modules worked, the support options available, and how I could spread the cost of the course…That day I signed up for a CIPD Level 5 Diploma in HR.”

After spending a few weeks studying the course, Pete added the fact that he’s working towards his CIPD qualification to his CV and was soon shortlisted by three potential employers.

“This has reaffirmed that what I want to do is work in HR and ICS Learn has given me the confidence that going back to studying at thirty-seven is not too late. It has given me purpose… and most importantly it will lead me to a career that I know I will be successful in.”

While Pete is not alone among those who have been made redundant during the coronavirus, he is also among the many who have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to develop themselves and their career.

With online education and an abundance of other resources at your disposal, there’s no time like the present to pursue your passion and achieve something meaningful.

Easy Ways to Boost Your Job Prospects in a Crowded Market

job candidates

Does it feel like you are constantly being overlooked for jobs? Are you having a hard time standing out, and really making your mark against the competition? This is a common complaint that job seekers have, especially in these times where the job market often seems crowded and incredibly competitive. So, what can you do to boost your job prospects? How can you turn things around so you are no longer overlooked?

The good news is that there are a lot of steps you can take that will not only increase your odds of getting noticed by a potential employer, but land and interview, and get that dream job. Sometimes it’s just a matter of making one or two small changes in your approach, whereas other times will call for more drastic steps to be taken. So, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can increase your job prospects even in a crowded market.

mock cv

Add a Little Creativity to Your CV

The first step is to look at your CV with a critical eye. Is it basic and bland, does it look and read like everyone else’s CV? Is there anything unique that stands out? Is it really the best representation of you, your skills, knowledge, and experience?

A CV is your first impression and you want to be sure you don’t waste it. Take the time to find ways to add a little creativity to the CV, make sure it is brief and concise, and ensure you’ve got all the most important details included without going overboard. You can even have a friend, family member, mentor, or CV service look over it for input. It could just be a few simple changes that it needs.


Further Your Education and Credentials

Another tip is to further your education and credentials. Any time you can beef up your CV with this kind of content and skills, it’s going to help to set you apart from others. Some employers will be looking for specific degrees, certificates, and credentials to even be considered at all.

A great example is a PgCert, which stands for post-graduate certificate. Just what exactly is a PGCert? Well, you can think of it as a “mini master’s” that you pursue after completing your undergraduate degree. It takes a shorter time to complete than a Master’s and therefore is worth 1/3 of that of a Master’s. This translates to 225 university contact hours.

What it does is elevate your level of knowledge and understanding, and prove to employers how much of an asset you’d be, and how serious you are about your field of study. It’s an excellent way to have your CV stand out.

You can read more about a PgCert here with Uni Compare’s blog that answers the question “what is a PGCert?” Here you will learn what the levels are, why you should get one, and all other important details. This website can act as a great resource for anyone looking to obtain career guides, and university rankings, with the ability to compare courses and schools, and more.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

It sounds like a cliché, but this saying is true when it comes to job hunting. Sure, you may have your hopes and dreams pinned on one job with a particular employer, but it’s not an approach that is advised. Applying to multiple jobs that interest you helps to increase your odds of getting hired. It’s simple maths – the more you’re out there, the higher the odds will be that you find something.

If you plan on applying to multiple jobs, it’s also a good idea to keep a list, or some sort of record of each job, the employer, the position, the date you applied, and so forth. You want to be sure you remember each posting should you be contacted and asked in for an interview.


Start Networking – Any Amount Can Help

Finally, you want to be sure you’re networking as much as possible. This can start off small with your circle of friends and family; put the word out that you’re looking for a job and see if anyone has any leads.

From there you can get onto LinkedIn, which is the perfect way to make connections within your chosen industry. Many people have found a lot of success on LinkedIn when it comes to job hunting – at the very least, it can help you to expand your network. Just be sure your profile is professional and speaks to the field you have your eye on.

It Is Possible to Stand Out in the Crowd

By using these tips, staying consistent with your efforts, and keeping a positive attitude, you will be able to stand out in the crowded market and finally land that job you had been dreaming about.

UK Jobs On The Up: Sales And Education Vacancies Rise 26%

  • Sales & trading and education & training both reported a 26% increase in hiring last week
  • The number of people applying for sales roles has doubled since the beginning of 2020
  • Overall, hiring across the UK is up 20% following the PM’s ‘build, build, build’ announcement

Demand for sales staff and education professionals spiked last week as hiring across the country saw the first positive increase in weeks, with the number of jobs posted across the UK up 20% last week. That’s according to the latest real-time statistics from the world’s largest network of job boards, Broadbean Technology.


Sales staff and teachers in demand

The beginning of July saw the number of sales and trading roles advertised rise 26% week-on-week as more brands began to open their doors to customers and organisations continued to get back to work. However, Broadbean Technology’s data further revealed that the average number of people applying for sales roles has doubled so far this year, with around 65.5 candidates applying for each position. This is indicative of the number of people out of work in the sales arena since the pandemic forced many businesses to close.

The data also revealed that education and training saw a 26% increase in the number of vacancies added in the week ending 5th July as schools continue to struggle sourcing enough teachers ahead of the mandatory re-opening of all education institutions in September.


Permanent vacancies increasing

While all contract types saw an increase in hiring, permanent vacancies are up for the first time in three weeks following the Prime Minister’s ‘build, build, build’ speech. In light of Boris Johnson’s unveiling of plans to soften the economic impact of Covid-19, the number of new permanent jobs being advertised rose 19% week-on-week, indicating an uptick in positivity across many UK employers.

Alex Fourlis, Managing Director at Broadbean Technology commented:

“It’s incredibly encouraging to once again see vacancies growing across the board. The uptick in permanent jobs in particular indicates a level of positivity in the UK economy that is welcome news for businesses and individuals alike. With more companies able to once again reopen, and shops and schools welcoming customers and pupils back, we certainly expected to see some demand for new staff. However, while this is good news, employers in these specialisms face different challenges. For education institutes, the on-going shortage of teachers is still hampering hiring, with the number of jobs being advertised remaining relatively high throughout the crisis. Before lockdown began, headteachers were reporting that they were struggling to find enough staff to keep schools open, and this increase in vacancies suggests the problem is prevailing as they gear up to welcome all pupils back in September.

“Those employers seeking sales and trading staff might welcome the news that more people are applying for jobs, but this poses an additional problem of finding the right individual for the role. With an abundance of candidates putting themselves forward, the challenge for employers now lies in ensuring they find the person with not just the right skills, but also the right fit with the company so they don’t make the costly mistake of hiring the wrong person in the long run.”

Should I Invest in Peer-to-Peer Lending?

Daniel Tannenbaum, Tudor Lodge Consultants
Expert Opinion Piece by Daniel Tannenbaum, Tudor Lodge Consultants

Peer-to-peer lending is a form of borrowing and investing that has grown in immense popularity in recent years, with an estimated transactional value of £6 billion per year in the UK.

P2P companies or platforms act as middlemen between borrowers looking for loans and individual investors looking to earn a healthy return.

Whilst sticking with your ISA can be a safe option, the interest rates of 1% to 2% per annum are not overly attractive – and this has given way to a more technology driven peer-to-peer industry where annual returns range from 3% to 15% per annum.

Similar to ISAs, you will maximise your returns by keeping your money locked in for as long as possible and avoid making any instant or early withdrawals.

What are your investing in?

With peer-to-peer lending, you are investing in a pool of other anonymous people who are looking for loans and who are applying online using the P2P platform provided.

The majority of peer-to-peer lenders offer unsecured loans of just a few hundred or thousand pounds (Zopa, Ratesetter, Fund Ourselves). Some providers extend their proposition to lending through business loans, against property assets, corporate debentures and personal guarantees.

Your potential return is based on your level of risk that you accept, with good credit or safer customers offering a lower return on investment. If you wish to maximise your return, you can opt for riskier borrowers who may have bad credit. The typical option is to diversify your investments, using the tools provided by the lender.

What are the advantages?

The main advantage of investing in peer-to-peer is that the potential returns are some of the highest around when it comes to investment products.

Market-leader Zopa offers rates of up to 6% per annum, significantly higher than your average ISA or bond – and other new lenders such as Fund Ourselves offer as much as 15% per annum.

As a borrower you can choose your level of risk, by potentially investing in people with bad credit to yield the highest returns.

The peer-to-peer lending industry is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and this ensures measures are in place to protect both investors and borrowers – meanwhile investing in something like cryptocurrency comes with no centralised banking system, regulation or any form of protection.

What are the risks?

Your investments through peer-to-peer are not covered by the financial services compensation scheme, meaning that you cannot recover any losses up to £85,000 immediately. There may be some compensation in place if bad advice has been given, but this may not be applicable to each provider.

There are chances that some of your loans are not fully repaid and you could earn less than expected. Certainly if you wish to take out your money early or make a withdrawal, this will lower your expected return.

However, the lender will typically have procedures in place to recover any potential losses, with customer service teams to chase bad debt and provision funds in place.Even in the event of the company going under or into administration, by law, they will take measures to reimburse investors. In the case of Lendy who ceased trading last year, they continue to follow up on any bad or outstanding debts from customers so they can continue to pay back any investors.


The Rise in Robo Advisory Services During Covid-19

The coronavirus and its associated pandemic have sent the whole world into a frenzy. It is affecting global economies, stock markets, small and large businesses, and the entire human race negatively. However, it is essential to note that during the pandemic, the robo-advisory industry has experienced a massive surge. While the coronavirus pandemic has closed down many borders, slowed down economies, and beaten down the global markets, it has allowed the robo-advisory industry to prove its worth among the tumultuous times.

The signups for robo-advisory services have surged like never before. The account numbers soared to an all-time high in the first quarter of 2020, with an average rise of 3.1% across all providers and platforms. Individually, Vanguard reported a 14% growth in assets and 35% surge in customer numbers while PensionBee also saw an increase of 14%. AJ Bell Youinvest and Hargreaves Lansdown were not far behind with growth in assets of 13% and 7.4%, respectively.

The reasons for the surge can be many; however, analysts speculate that the sudden rise can be due to the large number of millennials taking advantage of the buying opportunity in the bear market. Such investors have a longer time horizon and have a higher tolerance for economic damage. Amidst the crashing equity markets, the do-it-yourself investors are relying more on the advice of the automated robots than their shaken knowledge and experience.

Benefits of Robo Advisors During the Pandemic

The digital advice or robo-advisory platforms collect financial information from their clients online, analyse the data, offer advice, and invest automatically. They offer several advantages over the traditional modes of investment and advisory.

  • Unaffected by emotions: The most significant benefit of robo advisors is that they are unfazed by emotions. The decisions made by robo-advisory platforms are based on real-time statistics and not short-term occurrences, black swan events, or any biases. Furthermore, the digital advice platforms put together the portfolio of investors based on their investment horizon, risk tolerance, financial goals, and balance sheet. Thus, the impact of illogical behaviour, poor decision making, and spontaneous buy or sell decisions is eliminated, which is critical during the current times of uncertainty.
  • Invest in variable risk profiles and stable companies: Another benefit is that most of the robo-advisory platforms offer products catering to varying risk levels. The investments created in high, medium or low-risk products all depend on the risk appetite of the investors. Also, most of the digital advice platforms invest in blue-chip companies like Apple, GlaxoSmithKline, and HSBC, that are not heavily impacted by the current pandemic.
  • Long-term investment horizon: A noteworthy benefit of robo-advisory during the pandemic is its long-term horizon. Most of the investments made through the digital advisory platforms are for a long duration. It is important to consider that the pandemic has caused temporary downturns in the economy; however, the long-term horizon remains secured. The long-term investments made through robo-advisory platforms will again gain momentum after the pandemic is over. The unnerving news is that the Dow Jones dropped 6.7% in ten days during the pandemic, the S&P 500 lost 8.1%, crude oil hit the negative numbers for the first time in history, and the Nasdaq fell by 12.3%. However, the long-term view offers a ray of hope wherein the Dow Jones remains at a gain of 181% over the last ten years.
  • Re-evaluations: It is necessary to know that the evaluations done by the robo-advisory platforms are not permanent. The portfolios are reevaluated and rebalanced with the changing economic and market conditions. The effect of volatility on the investments is mitigated through tactical interventions by the digital portfolio managers who add the human touch to robo-advisory. Thus, robo-advisory is not completely devoid of a holistic approach and does not entirely depend on numbers.
  • Low Fees: The robo-advisory platforms are also beneficial during the pandemic because of their low-cost fees, usually from 0.25% per year, compared to the conventional stockbrokers and other alternatives. During the times of financial instability and uncertainty, investors prefer to pay low fees and require low opening balances.

According to reports, the robo-advisors with unique strategies, holdings, and asset allocations performed well during the first quarter of 2020. The traditional portfolios suffered a setback and reported negative returns in the same period. For instance, for March 2020, robo Titan Invest generated a positive return of 8.02%, while the S&P 500 was at a negative 13.79% for the same duration.

Thus, the robo-advisory portfolios with more high-quality corporate bonds and Treasury bonds performed better than those holding high-yield and emerging market bonds, and so did the portfolios with a neutral growth/value spectrum. During the pandemic, the robo-advisory portfolios hedged with a short position in the overall equity market performed better, besides the portfolios holding all individual equities that benefitted from tactical trades into the ETFs, shorting the S&P 500.

The portfolios that performed better than others also included socially responsible investing portfolios and the ones with a higher allocation to domestic equities by using total stock market ETFs that favour large-cap technology stocks and other high-flying stocks.

Research and reports show that despite the crashing markets, investors’ appetite remains high. The trading activity remains vigorous across the DIY investment platforms and robo-advisory platforms, and the numbers are expected to grow further into the second quarter of 2020. The robo-advisory industry will hit $1.4 trillion in assets under management in 2020, reporting a 47% gain year-over-year. Financial analysts expect the number to jump to $2.5 trillion by 2023.

The industry has historically gained during any financial crisis and should do the same during the current pandemic and economic crisis. In terms of the number of users, the robo-advisory industry has 70.5 million users, equivalent to the 3.1% gain in the first quarter of 2020, majorly owing to the pandemic. Analysts expect the number of users to grow to 123.5 million by 2022 and 147 million by 2023.The current coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that the robo-advisory industry is also not immune to market volatility. However, the surge in signups, asset under management, and the number of customers indicate the industry will continue to evolve as the future belongs to digital. The market adversity has taught many robo-advisory platforms to learn from their mistakes and apply the lessons in their future. This will only lead to more balanced millennials and more mature and stable robo-advisory platforms in the future.