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Starting as a sole trader –
what I wish I had known

I remember how panicked I was when I first started as an entrepreneur. All was new and exciting, but I was very afraid to make any mistakes – especially regarding accounting and financing. I didn’t yet have that many entrepreneur friends, and most of my friends were considering my career moves as a bit crazy. 

It took me a year or so to start my first limited company, as I first was a sole trader. Now, when I reflect on that time, I think my first company was a bit of a side hustle during my student years. I just wanted to sell my web design and graphic design services and make some money, while still figuring out what to do with my life and career. 

Prönö founder Helene Auramo sitting in a cfe

Although working by myself was exciting, and I enjoyed doing things just the way I wanted to, there were some hardships, too. Now, I would love to share some tips with everybody out there who might be thinking of starting out as a solo entrepreneur. Here is what I wish I had known.

1. Figure out who you are and what your passion is

Find your values and purpose. I know this is not an easy task, and it’s not something that you can figure out overnight. However, you should aim to learn these things about yourself so that you can build something personally meaningful.

I love being an entrepreneur, but I also must be honest: at some point, things will get difficult. If you know your WHY, it will be easier when things don’t go according to your plans. Then, it’s so much easier to cope when you remember that you are doing something you are passionate about. 

“I think my purpose with my first sole trader company was to learn, earn money to pay the bills and do the things I love. Curiosity was playing a big role here.”

It is also fine just to try things. I have always enjoyed building something new, but it took me years to find my true passion. As I’ve said before, Prönö is the biggest, hardest and most meaningful enterprise I’ve ever started. 

Getting through tough times is so easy when you remember WHY you are doing this. That’s why you should build on that foundation. And your WHY most likely changes as you grow and learn.

2. Focus, focus, focus

Starting as an entrepreneur is much like taking a photograph, where after seeing the big picture you have to set your focus. Think of what is important to you and your business and keep it at the center. It might be difficult to limit yourself if you see a lot of possibilities, but to succeed, you need to focus. There are experts and coaches who can help if you find this difficult.

You need to understand what the core of your business is. Ask yourself this question: ‘How do I create value?’ When I first started as a sole trader, I created value through my designs and eye for details. You only have a certain number of hours per day, and that’s why you should figure out how to make the best use of your time.

Outsourcing time-consuming administration is a very reasonable place to start. Bookkeeping is a legal obligation, and because it requires paying attention to many small details, it’s a good idea to outsource it. I think what created most of the stress for me in the beginning was everything related to taxes and bookkeeping. I remember even physically going to the Finnish tax office to ask some questions because I was so afraid of doing something wrong. 

Looking back, I wish I had found a better way to handle my finances from the very beginning.

Of course, times have changed. Now you can get the right tools and even professional bookkeeping online. One example is the bookkeeping service for sole traders offered by our sponsor, Holvi. It’s excellent that entrepreneurs can now use these types of services that are convenient to set up, enabling sole traders to get the help they need from the start. Even though you could do something by yourself, it doesn’t mean you should

Suggested digital tools for entrepreneurs

When founding a company or starting a business, you need all kinds of tools. Here are some other examples that are worth checking out. Miro is a great tool for visualizing your ideas and managing different projects. Harvest helps you monitor your team’s time effectively. G Suite and Slack are excellent for your communications and file management. With Holvi’s help, you can easily manage your bookkeeping, business account and invoicing. And when you need new projects or help of any sort, Prönö can connect you with the right people.

3. No one ever created something amazing just by themselves. Find the best partners to work with

‘Find the right people around you.’ This is a guideline I have followed for over a decade as an entrepreneur and as a leader. How have I found the best people? I’ve built on my strengths and identified where I might need help. When you are working by yourself, it’s extremely important to have trusted people around you. I want to find the strengths of my team and help them evolve. And because I can’t have an expert in every field in my team, I trust my network and partners a lot.

Holvi debit card and business account

For example, a bookkeeper is not just a service provider but also a partner – maybe even a mentor. There will be times when you need to focus on the most important things or when you need to talk with someone you trust, and that’s exactly when an excellent bookkeeper can support you.

This article is sponsored by Holvi. Holvi is business banking for self-employed people who want to manage their finances quickly, easily and digitally. It’s an online business account combined with invoicing, expense management, streamlined bookkeeping and powerful real-time business insights. Everything in one place – to calm the chaos of self-employment

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