Contractors' Questions: How to boost Plan B's credibility?
Contractor’s Question: Is there anything I can do to make my ‘Plan B’ business venture more creditable-looking? It will run separately from my contracting business but I want it to appear just as professional yet currently, at this early stage, it looks like little more than a business card!
Expert’s Answer: There are indeed a number of basic steps you can take to give your second business a professional ‘look and feel.’
Firstly, consider choosing a limited company or limited liability partnership (LLP) structure. Either of these two will lend authority to the business or, if you want to be a sole trader, ensure you adopt a trading name rather than using your own name.
In this digital age, an online presence is extremely valuable, so having a professional-looking website should be your second consideration, even if it only serves as a holding page.
But don’t neglect more traditional business props, such as a formal letterhead, brochure of your goods/services, business logo and customer agreements. As well as their practical advantages for you and your clients, these materials will cement the substance of the business.
When it comes to providing prospective clients with contact details for your business, avoid using a mobile phone number as the main or only number for them to get in touch, as this suggests the business does not extend beyond you. Enlisting a professional phone-answering service with a business number is an affordable way to add credibility to the venture.
In terms of email contact, opt for a tailored address for the business rather than using an obviously personal account. But importantly, remember that business emails for limited companies and LLPs must, by law, contain certain statutory information, so include these in your email signature. These details are the company name and number, place of registration and registered office, and should also be available on the company’s website. It is not sufficient to merely put a link in your email signature to provide this information.
If you are still struggling to make the venture look professional and substantive, consider registering for VAT; getting a business address, appointing another director, and forging an alliance with a respected or established business supportive of your sector.
The expert was Jon Sutcliffe, partner at chartered accountancy firm Kingston Smith LLP.