Leaving permanent employment and becoming a sole trader is a big deal! There are plenty of benefits of being a sole trader, but making the transition is not a decision that can be taken lightly. A lot of planning must be undertaken to ensure the transition is smooth, and there are certainly plenty of risks that come into the equation.
The UK Contracting Support Website is full of useful information for self-employed professionals. However, sometimes writing articles and guides can lack a personal touch. As a result, it made perfect sense for us to liaise with a successful sole trader who has started a new business on the back of leaving a full-time position. Making the switch involves a lot of courage, and Sam has kindly offered to share his experience so that hopefully, he can inspire others to follow their dreams and become the director of their own business.
A background to RD Designs
Having studied at the University of Bedfordshire and achieving a Bachelor of Arts (2:1) in Interior Architectural Design, Sam Hardy (Ampthill) went straight into work as an Architectural Designer. After working his way up the ladder at a local Building Consultancy and becoming a Senior Designer, Sam made a huge, life-changing decision – to start his own business. In 2017, RD Designs was born.
RD Designs is a specialist design practice based in Ampthill, Bedfordshire. As well as architectural and interior design, RD Designs can also assist with planning applications, space planning, building regulation drawings, 3D modelling, and CAD drawing services.
We’ve caught up with Sam and have asked him a series of questions about his journey so far. We hope that his tale will help our readers understand the journey from permanent employment to becoming a sole trader. And, we hope it inspires others to take the leap as well!
An Interview with Sam Hardy – Owner of RD Designs
You became a sole trader in your mid-twenties. That’s young, and very brave! What made you start your exciting journey into self-employment?
I had always dreamt of running my own business one day, and having been to university and gained years of invaluable industry experience, I decided the timing was perfect to make the transition.
What were your biggest concerns about leaving permanent employment?
There were certainly some concerns, but the biggest one was losing the security of a monthly salary! By going on my own, there were no guarantees where the work was coming from. And, if work did come – there were no guarantees it would be consistent! I was stepping into the unknown with nothing to fall back on. However, as daunting as this sounds – it was also very exciting!
Did you have a “starting a new business checklist”?
From the moment I handed in my three-month notice – it was all hands on deck! I made sure I was in a position to start RD Designs on the first day after I left my permanent role. And, I made sure I had the branding in place – ready to start showing to clients. I figured it was vital that from the very beginning – people could recognise my business.
In regards to a checklist as such, there was a large list of things I needed to prepare. These included a website, business cards, business documents, and to learn sole trader tax!
How was your first year? Did it go as you thought it would, or better or worse?
The first year went a lot better than I could have imagined, and I am very grateful. Initially, there was a surge of activity and this was consistent for the first couple of months. Reality sank in a bit after a couple of months as things slowed down a bit. However, I worked on marketing RD Designs and things quickly started to pick up. It’s amazing how powerful word of mouth is, and I’m grateful to everyone who’s spread the word!
How are you finding the accountancy and tax responsibilities? And are you using an accountant, or doing the books yourself?
Accountancy and tax have never been my strong points. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that I appointed an accountant to help ensure the RD Designs books are always in good order.
You recently moved to a lovely office in Ampthill town centre. What was your reasoning for this exciting development?
The main reason I decided to move to an office in the centre of Ampthill was to help separate work from my personal life. Working at home certainly has its advantages, but it was too easy to work long into the night. Therefore, by working in the office away from home, it has helped me be more efficient during the day and my work/life balance has improved tremendously.
I also felt it was important to have a focal point for the business. Work was getting busier and getting an office has really helped take RD Designs to the next level.
What have you enjoyed the most about being self-employed?
Without doubt the best thing about being self-employed is being in charge of your own day-to-day occurrences. It’s great!
One of the main “advantages” of being self- employed is the potential improvement to work/life balance. Have you found this to be the case for you?
Most definitely – until the work comes home for the late evenings before deadlines!
It’s been a very unusual time due to the pandemic, and business owners have had to think on their feet. How has it impacted RD Designs, and what have you needed to do to adapt?
Our industry has been quite fortunate in that we have been able to operate under the construction bracket. We have had to adapt in how we conduct ourselves – for example, wearing face masks for site visits etc. It’s also been important to limit meetings and if face to face interaction isn’t required, I’ve reverted back to the world of Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft teams have been used on a daily basis, which going forward, is something we may continue with. The use of sharing screen to show ideas and change on the spot has been a revelation that I wouldn’t have necessarily of thought previously.
What have the biggest challenges been of self-employment – excluding the coronavirus pandemic?
I think one of the toughest things of being self-employed is planning a work schedule. It can be tricky when you’re not sure what work is coming on a weekly basis.
Where do you see RD Designs in 5 years?
I would be delighted for things to continue you as they are, lots of happy customers and more exciting projects under the belt.
What advice would you give someone who is considering becoming self-employed for the first time?
Have a thorough plan in place and believe in yourself – and everything will fit together and you’ll never look back!
RD Designs information
LinkedIn (RD Designs): https://www.linkedin.com/company/rd-designs17
LinkedIn (Sam Hardy): https://www.linkedin.com/in/samuel-hardy-0552147a/