For the last year, I’ve been providing freelance Social Media Marketing, Web Design/Development, and Creative Content Production services to a handful of clients, alongside college. It worked as a perfect model: learn something in college, consolidate it in the real world working on a project for a local business, build my portfolio alongside and provide the finances for me to learn to drive and get a car. When COVID-19 came along earlier this year, I took this to the next level, and incorporated APE Technology Solutions Ltd. A VAT-registered, limited company.
The freelance services have always been aimed at improving a business’s online presence, and the Coronavirus forced every business online; it was only natural therefore these services would be in demand. Simultaneously, however, this has been alongside one of the worse financial periods the UK – and the world – has ever seen. Shelling out thousands of pounds to top-tier design agencies and professionals with years of experience just isn’t practicable for most small business owners. That’s where ATS has fitted in well – providing professional-grade services at student-grade prices.
Three months on, I’m so proud of how well it’s going. I’ve also learnt lots, about both myself and the world of work. Here’s my top three discoveries:
It’s not possible to do it alone.
I knew from the start that, for this to be an effective service, I couldn’t do it alone. So I reached out to those around me and have formed a wide, supportive team, ranging from friends who help provide the services, to family members and friends from the corporate world that help me navigate the complex tax/accounting rules, and the legal aspects.
Our systems aren’t designed for 17 Year Old SME Owners.
UK law states that you can be a company director from the age of 16. 9/10 banks require all directors to be at least 18 years old. So, go figure: what happens when you’re 17? Thankfully, banks like Monzo allow you to open an account in the name of the limited company from the age of 16. But there are other areas, such as getting business insurance and business phone contracts, that require you to be 18. I was lucky: I managed to convince my Dad to join me as a 24% non-exec director, who could guarantee everything. But not everyone is fortunate to have supportive parents that are happy to do this – I’ll let you ponder on how many opportunities you think are missed out on because of this?
Linked to this, is that I’m generating and paying taxes each month to be controlled by a government that I can’t vote for. I’m not going to make this political – because there’s no need – but I’ll leave the point here.
Simply put, the model is working – and I’m so excited about that. I’m hopeful for the future. At the end of the first quarter, the bank balance is positive; something must be going right. Over the course of three months, I’ve gone from 5 clients as a sole trader to over 20 clients across a range of industries: gyms and tattoo parlours in central London, restaurants and cafes, wholesalers, training companies, even a high-profile actress.
I go back to College in September – however that will look in the ‘new normal’. It’ll be an interesting challenge balancing education alongside a social life and running ATS, but I’m confident I’ll make it work. I’ve already taken steps – such as having a dedicated work phone – to ensure that the balance can be had, because I’m aware that I can’t loose sight of the fact I am still a teenager, and need to be able to switch off and have fun on a Friday night.