Toolkit for women
This site is in Beta and will be regularly updated.
This toolkit aims to help support women in business and links to the many established networks around the county. It also features video case studies from a range of female entrepreneurs.
The toolkit highlights the support and training available to women-led businesses as part of Connecting Cambridgeshire’s Destination Digital Opportunities for Women project. Free training courses on digital subjects are running for women in business across the county.
Cambridgeshire has a remarkably diverse range of hugely successful businesses and the rollout of superfast broadband is supporting their growth.
The Destination Digital Opportunities for Women project is funded by the Government Equalities Office’s Women and Broadband Challenge Fund. It supports actions to encourage women’s enterprise in areas where superfast broadband is being deployed.
For the latest updates follow @ConnectingCambs using #WAB on Twitter.
Congratulations on making the decision to go it alone! Starting your own business or becoming self employed is an exciting time. Translating an idea into business reality is a challenge increasing numbers of women are taking up.
Before you dive in and start ordering business cards, it’s worth pausing and considering some basic steps. A few things to consider:
- Will it be profitable?
- Is there anyone else doing it
- Who will buy your product or service?
- What’s the best legal entity for your business?
- How will you manage your finances?
- Where will you run your business?
- What technology do you need?
- Can you get superfast broadband?
- How will you promote your business?
There is a huge amount of sensible guidance available. A good place to start is GOV.UK which has informative pages on everything from starting your own business, to setting up as a sole trader or establishing a social enterprise.
Getting off on the right foot with HMRC
It’s important to set up your business correctly and register with HMRC, whether you’re planning on being self employed, an employer or a limited company or private limited company. There’s further information on the HMRC website
Paying for advice
Always agree exactly what you want from a business adviser, and how much it will cost (hourly rate, fixed charge etc).
Accountants can help with financial advice, planning and managing growth. You can also appoint one to deal with your tax affairs and submit VAT returns. There are certain types of insurance you may need by law when you set up a business and an accountant is useful to help guide you through the set up process and establishing good record keeping practices. Smarta provide a useful guide to business insurance.
Legal advisers are helpful for the set up process particularly if you are thinking about selling shares and employing staff. They can also get office contracts reviewed and support with employment contracts.
You may find it helpful to talk to other local business women and friends and see who they work with and ask for an introduction or a referral. Cambridgeshire benefits from a wide range of women’s business networks, with training, networking and mentoring available.
Finding a coach or a mentor
Make sure the person is the right coach or mentor for you, the relationship will become a trusted one so it’s important that you feel able to work with them. It may be that you need guidance through the whole set up process, or are looking for mentoring in a certain business area. Check their areas of activity and expertise before you commit.
Mentoring programmes in Cambridgeshire:
- Cambridge AWiSE is a regional network for women in science, engineering and technology in both industry and academia and for women who wish to return to a career after a break.
- The Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning is extremely helpful at Cambridge University
- The Judge Business School accelerate programme has a respected and wide ranging pool of mentors.
- The Future Business Centre in Cambridge not only provide hot desking and shared working environments, but business advice, information on access to funding and marketing support.
- Nwes provide advice, business support, events and training for startups.
- The Social Incubator East offer advice, access to funding and support for businesses with a social angle.
- Women in Rural Enterprise (WiRE) help businesses in rural Cambridgeshire, so you don’t need to feel isolated as they offer excellent support and networking opportunities.
Cambridgeshire has a huge number of business networks. Some are district specific and others are countywide. All of them offer talks and networking opportunities and many offer access to coaches and mentors.
The following networks represent small businesses in Cambridgeshire:
- Beds, Cambs and Herts, Federation of Small Businesses
- BCS East Young Professionals Group
- Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce
- Cambridge Network
- Huntingdonshire Business Network
- Opportunity Peterborough Bondholder
- Peterborough Young Professionals
Many of the networks can be found on Cabume website.
Every network is different, try before you commit, especially if you need to pay. Are the members the people you would like to work with? Do the organisers have a particular agenda?
Funding schemes for startups
Cambridge Enterprise can help university entrepreneurs through the process of creating a new company.
Connecting Cambridgeshire provides small and medium businesses in Cambridge and the wider economic area with up to £3,000 in connection vouchers to install superfast broadband.
Destination Digital Opportunities for Women specifically provides training for women-led businesses on making the most of the latest technology.
Grants4Growth from the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership is a two year package of free, confidential and impartial support for SMEs. It provides practical help and financial assistance to help reduce costs and increase competitiveness and resilience.
Foundation East lends money to new and existing businesses, charities and social enterprises that cannot get a loan from a bank or need additional funds to match bank lending. Loans from £3,000 to £50,000 between a six month and ten year period.
Fredericks Foundation helps businesses at any stage of development, from needing startup finance or capital to expanding an established business. Loans are available from £500 – £20,000.
School for Startups provide up to £10,000 for startups and mentoring.
Startup Loans is a Government funded scheme to provide advice, business loans and mentoring to new businesses.
Check with your bank as many offer business advice, loans and local networking opportunities. It also pays to shop around and find the bank that’s prepared to make you the best offer in terms of business rates and charges.
Local authority startup advice
All the Cambridgeshire local authorities have extremely helpful business advice pages. Across the county you’ll find information on everything from local networks to finding business space, to rates and funding. They all offer events and can add you to their business register:
- Cambridge City Council
- Cambridgeshire County Council
- East Cambridgeshire District Council
- Fenland District Council
- Huntingdonshire District Council
- Peterborough City Council
- South Cambridgeshire District Council
Alice Synge, founder of Backstitch, explains how she used digital techniques to start her online haberdashery business. By using social media and digital marketing, she grew her business and was able to open a shop to support her online business.
It may be that you’ve taken a career break and perhaps it’s time to go back to work. The same work you were doing before perhaps, or time to head in a whole new direction. Maybe you’ve been doing the same job for years and want to consider something new? You might have never worked and are now thinking about starting for the first time. Or you may have multiple reasons for wishing to enter or re-enter the workplace. Maybe you took some time away from work to have a family and are considering starting again.
The issue for many women looking to change path or return to work is often concerns about how fast technology has moved on and fears of being left behind. Cambridgeshire is a great place to think about starting again, there is a wealth of support available, much of it at no charge.
A good thing to consider is joining one of the many women’s networks such as Women in Rural Enterprise and online you might find ideas and inspiration online at MumsNet Local. You’ll soon find other women in the same position or who have successfully made that move and can offer helpful advice. Talk to friends as well, chat to the parents of your children’s friends or people you meet at the gym or walking the dog. Networking doesn’t have to be in suits at conferences, it takes many forms and you may find that it’s people you already know who are unexpectedly able to offer help and support.
You will also find that you have skills that other women don’t have and may be able to do a skills swap to help build your skillset and confidence. Cambridgeshire Timebanks is a tremendous resource.
- full time
- part time
- job share
- flexible working
- self employed
- start your own business
Job sharing may well be a good option to explore, Ginibee supports people and organisations in establishing sucessful job sharing arrangements.
Online an issue?
If you’ve never used a computer or the internet before, there are courses available through Cambridgeshire County Council’s Adult Learning Service at your local library.
The following organisations also offer courses to help you brush up on your IT skills:
- Cambridge Regional College, adult learning courses.
- The College of West Anglia, evening classes for adults.
- University of Cambridge, part time and short courses.
- Peterborough City Council, adult learning courses.
Funding and benefits
There are a number of Government benefits and funding available for those in or looking to return to work:
- Childcare Grants for students with families.
- Child Tax Credits are available for parents with children under the age 0f 16.
- Free early education and childcare provides all three and four year olds with 570 hours a year paid for childcare per child.
- New Enterprise Allowance offers up to £1,274 over 26 weeks to help you set up your own business.
- New Enterprise Clubs provide local support to unemployed people to start their own business or become self employed.
- Working tax credits can help people in employement with low incomes.
Locally there is a wide range of support available including:
- Cambridge Women’s Resource Centre offers careers guidance to support women who want to move into employment, re-train or access further education. They can also help with job applications and interview techniques, as well as providing workshops on self image and confidence boosting.
- The Dawn Project helps women get back on track and change aspects of their life they are unhappy with.
Looking for work
The Cambridgeshire media all advertise local vacancies:
The business networking platform, Linked In, can seem a little daunting. But it can prove tremendously useful for linking with other organisations, job hunting and making contacts. Start by setting up a personal profile and this guide by Mashable explains how.
Volunteering can also be a great way of boosting confidence and regaining skills in the workplace. Cambridgeshire County Council offer volunteering roles. Do-it also provide an online bank of volunteering vacancies across the UK.
Case study – Sarah Glover, Born to be Beautiful
Sarah Glover is the founder of Born to be Beautiful, a Cambridge based charity which has expanded through the network built around its Facebook page. She ran a beauty therapy business from her home and wanted to do something different, so she set up Born to be Beatuiful.
She went along to a free Net2Camb meeting and learnt how social media could help her get established. She chatted to the event organiser, and ended up doing a skill swap. As an accomplished beautician, she gave the organiser a pedicure and she set her up a Facebook page and acted as an administrator until Sarah felt able to take it over herself.
She now uses the Facebook page for fundraising, finding and celebrating volunteers, publicising the impact of her charity and sharing relevant articles. Her charity has transformed the lives of young women in India and Africa and has won many awards.
Growing your business
You couldn’t be in a better location if you are thinking about growing and evolving your business. Cambridgeshire has a wealth of expertise available including funding, networking, mentoring, training and there is always someone or somewhere to turn.
Letting your business grow and take on a life of its own can be difficult. You may find delegation and trust harder to manage that you expect. It’s also important to consider your own personal development as your business grows, since you will probably find you need new skills.
Hiring and managing staff can change company dynamics and it is crucial to stay on top of legal obligations to employees. The Government guide to employing people advises on everything from payroll to contracts, health and safety to employee rights.
The Judge Business School at Cambridge University set up the Accelerate programme in 2012 to support business growth and offer mentors, resources, weekends, courses and support.
As your business grows, your need for additional technology will increase, as will the importance of having superfast broadband available. Free business support and broadband connection vouchers are available from Connecting Cambridgeshire’s Destination Digital project for small businesses to use digital technology.
Planning and Growing
There are clear steps to take as you decide the best way to grow your business.
Consider why and how you want to grow your business. Mapping and business planning are crucial exercises to ensure you expand in a robust and sustainable way.
It may be helpful to work with external advisers on growing using facilitated meetings to help you plan and consider ideas and their impact on the organisation:
- Ignite, from the Cambridge University Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, is an intensive, one-week training programme for aspiring entrepreneurs and corporate innovators to trial and prepare business ideas for the commercial environment.
- 50th Generation is for businesses that wish to scope and plan to create 100 meaningful jobs with a purpose.
Funding and Resources
Once you’ve developed a business plan consider what (if any) extra funding and resource you will need. This may be to fund product development, pay for increased staff levels, new premises, technology, training or marketing. A great place to start your search for funding is the East of England Enterprise Europe Network, they prepare regular overviews of different sources of finance.
The GCGP LEP offer Grants4Growth, a two year package of free, confidential and impartial support for small businesses. They also run the Agri-Tech Grants scheme to support the development of new and innovative ideas in the sector in the agricultural technology sector.
Capital and business development grants are available from Anglia Ruskin University. If you’re looking for capital funding to support expansion, loans are available from £500 to £20,000 from the Fredericks Foundation.
There’s also specific funding to help small and medium businesses innovate and grow through the Low Carbon KEEP programme. Businesses can be helped with through university partnerships, knowledge transfer and resource efficiencies.
If your business is a social enterpise, then ClearlySo can help raise capital. Their goal is to grow the social investment marketplace and help build a more social economy. They also offer mentoring, advice, events and a useful business register.
There are many grants and business development opportunities in the county, so working with organisations like the Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce can be helpful.
Sales to Existing Customers
Targeting existing customers to increase sales, referrals and testimonials can be a great way to grow your business. Talk to existing customers about what they value about your business offering. You can also hold your own networking event to introduce customers to one another, Eventbrite, is one of several useful tools for managing events.
Attracting New Customers
Attract new customers by building a sales and marketing plan. This should include:
- online marketing
- social media
Products and Services
Improve, enhance and expand your range of products and services. Act on feedback from existing customers, research the market and talk and listen to your suppliers and distributors. Social media can be useful for gaining feedback, as well as using collaborative working tools to share designs and concepts.
Employing staff can be a challenging area as it means bringing a new dynamic into an organisation, particularly for a small business or a self employed person expanding their area of activity.
There is a wealth of advice and support available from local networks and the business incubators. A business improvement framework such as Investors in People can be helpful as you develop and build your most important asset; your team.
Cambridgeshire County Council has an excellent Youth Support Service for 16-20 Year Olds which can be accessed through their Youthoria website.
Linked In is a valuable tool for recruitment, so make sure your company profile there is always up-to-date and offers applicants compelling reasons why you are a great orgnisation to work with.
This is a great time to look for support from a business coach or mentor. Cambridgeshire has a wide range of mentors. A good place to start is the Judge Business School, at Cambridge University.
As well as mentors, there are business incubators which help challenge, nurture and grow businesses. Some such as the St John’s Innovation Centre offer office space to members, as does the award winning Alconbury Enterprise Centre, with advice, mentoring, networking and support opportunities.
The Social Business Incubator East has supported many inspiring and successful new businesses
National membership organisation, Institute for Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship (ISBE), is a network for people and organisations involved in small business & entrepreneurship and offers a range of resources to help your business grow.
What’s Working Locally
The local business landscape can provide inspiration and partnership opportunities. Cambridgeshire Insight offers up-to-date, well researched business intelligence reports and local area studies, together with information on business expansions and closures.
Enterprise Tuesday, a programme of free events from the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, showcases outstanding local (and national) businesses and offers inspiring talks and debates from thought leaders and a chance to network afterwards.
Shona Kitchener, Director of Barefoot Birthpools based in Peterborough, explains how she developed her website to include a booking system for her customers. She also explains how digital technology has helped her to spend more time with her own young family.
Setting up your office
Startup companies frequently begin from an office at home, and many self-employed people are also home-based. If you have the space this might be a separate room, but for many, the office is anywhere there is a wireless internet connection (Wi-Fi).
Before you start, think what you need, a mobile/landline phone, a broadband internet connection? The more you get in one go, the greater the discount and flexibility you will have. Crucial for all successful connected businesses however, is a high speed broadband connection.
Some people are able to work anywhere there is Wi-Fi. They can get online to work, check emails, link up with their office network, browse the internet, using a smartphone, laptop or tablet. This might be in the library, coffee shops, a shared working space, someone else’s offices or out and about linking to many of the widely available wireless networks.
All phone providers offer deals on different packages and it pays to shop around.
A recent report by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) stated that 94% of small business owners consider a reliable internet connection to be critical to business success.
GO ON UK also reported that for small businesses, higher turnover is positively correlated with more frequent use of the internet.
In order to work, research, market, promote, engage and succeed in business you need to have a good broadband connection from your office (home or elsewhere).
Broadband Connection Vouchers
Small and medium sized companies and charities in Cambridge and the wider economic area can get connection vouchers from Destination Digital worth up to £3000 to install superfast broadband to their building, including home-based offices. Many small businesses are benefiting from using the free broadband connection vouchers, but hurry as the funding ends in March 2015.
Faster broadband speeds mean businesses can:
- Boost productivity – download large files such as complex graphics, photographs and videos rapidly even at the busiest times of day
- Get reliable, consistent service – allowing many employees to access the internet at the same time from one place
- Access the latest software and services – use cloud computing services to take advantage of instant data back-ups, security, storage and software upgrades
- Connect in new ways with customers and suppliers using internet telephony (VOIP) and high definition video conferencing
- Do business anytime anywhere – seamlessly access applications and information in the office, at home or on the move using virtual private networks and cloud computing
- Save time and money – work from home to avoid traffic congestion, parking problems and reduce fuel costs through reduced travel
- Reduce your carbon footprint – reduce energy costs with cloud computing, remote hosting and innovative ways of working.
broadband.co.uk has a useful guide which goes into more depth on the benefits of broadband to your business.
As with the other basic utilities there are many offers available. Shop around, check for discounts up front and then look for any hidden catch:
- Are you locked in to the contract?
- Are there uploading and downloading limits?
- What speeds do you currently get and what do you need?
It may work out cheaper to get a combined phone/tablet/broadband package.
Sam Knows is a great site that will tell you about broadband availability where you are. Also check out our coverage map to find out when you can expect to get superfast broadband through the Connecting Cambridgeshire rollout.
The following consumer choice websites may be helpful in deciding which package to go for:
Phones and tablets
Choosing which phone, tablet and computer to buy can be a daunting proposition. As with the broadband provision there is a wide range of choice available to individuals and businesses.
Before you rush out and get the latest phone, stop and reflect on what you want it for and how it is going to help your business. Do you wish to do any of the following:
- check emails,
- surf the web,
- take good quality photos,
- record videos,
- compatibility with Mac based hardware,
- compatibility with Google software (email, back up, document sharing),
- use business related apps,
- and transferring data to other devices.
Once you know what you want, it can be useful to visit a phone shop and see the different options: something that looked great online might be too heavy, too thin or be harder to operate if the keys are very small.
Many businesses now don’t have a landline number, instead they work entirely with mobile phones and with VOIP (making phone calls over the internet).
You can make video phone calls over the internet or on your phone, tablet or comptuer and are usually free. Examples include:
Sometimes you can use a landline number for incoming calls and their mobiles for the externally dialled calls. Broadband.co.uk is a handy guide to the different options that are available and the savings that can be made.
Tablets and netbooks are extremely useful for travelling with, they are very accessible and have a massive range of apps available. Having said that, it may be that a smart phone and an office based computer or a laptop may offer you more flexibility. As with the smart phone it is advisable to ensure the tablet will work (and sync) with your phone and your computer. For example, Apple products do work best with other Apple products!
Mac or PC, laptop or notebook?
You may find that you want to have a large screen and a computer with a high speed processor available in a fixed location (such as a home office). The decision then to go with Mac or PC should reflect your other hardware to ensure maximum compatibility.
A laptop or notebook may be more useful if you are going to be working virtually from hot desk locations, client offices or public spaces.
All the comparison websites offer helpful advice and also guidance on price and potential benefits and pitfalls.
Other hardware to consider
It’s always good to have a back up drive to protect your data and content, or to use as an external hard drive if you are travelling and need to plug into other people’s computers. A rule of thumb is three copies, one on the device, one on an external drive and one on the cloud
Note on the cloud: If you save your data to the cloud it means it is saved to a trusted online back-up facility, securely hosted and not on your computer or phone. Many devices now have the facility to automatically back your photographs, documents and so on up to the cloud). Freak accidents do happen and losing data is unnecessary and traumatic.
Your computer hardware or email account may give you access to cloud storage and back-up services. This is worth using, but check you know where everything is and check the size of the storage available. Also check if you will need to pay for the following years, particularly if you change device or product.
Wireless printers are tremendously useful in a shared office or in a very small home office, as they don’t have to be in the same place as the person doing the printing.
Printers are often incredibly inexpensive, but ink can be costly, so it’s worth checking the price of a new cartridge when you look at the printer. Also, going to a cartridge refill stockist, is much cheaper and you’re doing your bit for the environment.
Many printers now act as multifunctional devices and can scan and photocopy.
You may need to scan documents, but you can also photograph them using smart phones, tablets and cameras. Again if you scan a document you can save it directly to your computer via a Wi-Fi connection or more broadly via a VPN (internal office network).
It may be that your business requires more specialist equipment such as a 3D printer or kit to support product prototype design, the space and the environment for it. 3ders provide this handy guide on the basics. 3-D printers are becoming more accessible and there are desk top models available which allow you to model items in many different substances (including chocolate).
If you don’t have the space or conditions available then, Makespace in Cambridge is a great resource. It is a community run space, that houses manufacturing and prototyping kit and provides the surroundings to meet, work, build, socialise and do amazing things. It operates on a subscription memberhship basis and there are public events publicised via their MeetUp group.
You may require a card reader so you can take payment. There are also apps and small hand held devices that can do this so look around for the one that best suits your needs.
Make sure that chairs and tables are the correct height and angle to support your wrists and back when you’re sitting at a desk. There are companies that come in and do ergonomic checks on your working space and is also more important when you start hiring people.
However much you back up to the cloud or store online there is always a time when you need to print documents out, and when you are sent documents, invoices, bills and receipts.
Your paperwork needs to be filed in a way that makes it accessible and easy to find. Storage boxes can also be useful here to save documents from different years.
Room to move
Make sure you have room to move in your office, to stand up and stretch or go for a walk. Sitting in front of a computer for long stretches can lead to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and severe back and wrist pain.
Essentials have long included Word, PowerPoint, Excel and an accounting package, but more businesses are using the free software and programs provided by online services such as Google Drive which allows for document, presentation and spreadsheet preparation.
Microsoft Office 365 (and numerous others are all available on the cloud) allow for shared ownership of documents, storage, document creation and real time editing. DropBox is also great for file sharing.
There are many different ways of buying software, some are licensed for an individual computer, or a number of computers or devices. Others are through subscription as a cloud based service.
It’s apps that steal the day in terms of usability and creativity. There are apps available for managing traditional software and almost anything you could possibly need including;
- time management
- staff recruitment and management
- stock checking
- managing social media accounts
- sending out mailshots
- conducting surveys
- sharing content, information and data
- collaborative editing
- social media
- and the list goes on…
Talk to other self employed people or small business owners as everyone has their favorite!
Many apps can save you money such as:
- WhatsApp allows you to send photographs and messages at no charge through your smartphone.
- Hootsuite allows you to monitor your social media and schedule posts
- Surveymonkey is great for undertaking surveys and opinion polls.
- MailChimp is an excellent platform for email lmarketing.
There are a variety of cloud based accounting packages available, for example Quickbooks, Sage, and Xero. If you are simply keeping track of expenses and receipts, spreadsheets works well, but there are many expense managing apps as well.
Online banking is an important and time saving resource to set up and apps are available to manage everything direct from your phone. Talk to your bank about the best way to go about it and you might also consider setting up a PayPal account to take and make payments quickly and easily.
That terrible moment when your computer goes wrong or you manage to lose data can be a very trying time. Apparently, some 53% of younger people (under 30) would rather lose their sense of smell than their technology. IT issues can be catastrophic.
Check the warranties on your hardware and also with your insurance company. Some bank accounts also offer IT support and cover.
Many online networks offer software support as well and there are thousands of online resources to help you realise you’re not alone, and increasing numbers of people use social media to look for quick answers to issues.
There are many IT support companies, if you need to pay for external IT support look for a personal referral or ask for a referral from one of Cambridgeshire’s business networks
Dr Elizabeth Hill, founder of Collis Enterprise, explains how she is using a 3d printer and open source software to grow her specialist hobbyist business. She also discussed how superfast broadband is essential for her company.
Social Media and Online Marketing
“For every £1 spent in social media, £3.34 of additional sales are generated”
Internet Advertising Bureau research 2013
The term social media elicits pretty much every emotion from excitement to fear, everyone has an opinion about it and it’s often seen by those who don’t use it as a very daunting area of activity.
Love it or loathe it, however, social media isn’t just an excellent marketing tool, it’s become an essential element in growing a successful business.
Key social media platforms are:
- and Instagram.
Destination Digital offer regular free workshops and events for women entrepreneurs around the county on the use of technology to benefit your business.
It’s sensible to approach social media from the perspective of thinking about your business and your customer base.
- What is your business all about?
- Who are your customers?
- Where are your potential customers?
- What response do you want from your messaging – what is your call to action?
- What are you looking for? (funding, media attention, networking opportunities, new business partners, new business, staff, advice, promotion and so on)
Some of the statistics Eric Qualman, the US based Social Media guru come out with in his respected Socialnomics video are quite mindblowing, but they do reinforce the point that social media and particularly Twitter and Facebook are where people are and therefore where your business needs to be.
The best way to start is by looking. Have a play, think about what you’re interested in and look for information on that subject. Look to see how your competitors or those you aspire to work alongside are using social media, everyone learns through watching what other people are doing.
Choosing a name
With so many people and organisations using social media, you may find your name or company has already been taken and you need to think laterally. It’s good to use the same name across social media platforms to reinforce branding and for ease of use.
You can use letters and different characters, a Twitter username (or handle) has to be 15 characters or less. These are the names displayed with the ‘@’ symbol; e.g. @CambsCC @CamCitCo. The brand name can have spaces and is allowed 20 characters, so you might make the username something unique or add in the service you offer or your location, e.g. @backstitchshop @CamSatchelCo.
With Facebook there is no limit to the page name, but again it is good to use the same format as Twitter if you can.
Facebook allows you to set up a profile page for your business, in much the same way as you’d set up a personal page.
As with all collateral, make sure that the images, branding and words are consistent with your other materials and sites.
It’s a good idea to use videos and images, as they gets far more likes and shares than text based content.
Make sure your page is full of compelling content and isn’t simply broadcasting and selling. Use it as an opportunity to listen to existing and potential customers and to share information. Show the personal side of your business as well. If there is something you are particularly interested in or a news item that is topical and catches your eye then share it. It all helps to build customer relationships.
With Facebook you can add in tools such as surveys or opinion polls. You can also connect apps and platforms such as Shopify to create an online shop.
You should drive traffic from Facebook to your website. It’s important to make sure that you link to your Facebook (and other social media account) pages from your website, blog, email footer and paper collateral.
Twitter is a social media platform that allows 140 characters per post.
You can use Twitter to:
- link to content on your Facebook page or your website,
- tweet photos, infographics and other images,
- inform and listen to your audience (followers).
As with all social media, be polite and don’t say anything you don’t want in circulation on the internet. You may start with a small following but that will grow over time, never be tempted to buy followers.
Build slowly. You can set up a private account and look to see how other organisations are using it. Start to follow people or businesses that interest you and their tweets will appear in your newsfeed (so only you see them). Some people will follow you back, others won’t, don’t be concerned if they don’t..
Share information, updates, successes, great stories and listen to what people are saying to you and about you and your brand.
Use # hashtags to follow trends or keep up with news or make specific searches. They are a great way of following events and by using them you can raise your profile. Just a word of warning with hashtags, before you create one, make sure it isn’t already being used for something you don’t want your business associated with!
There are scheduling tools to enable tweets to go out at regular intervals or if you are away from a desk or device.
Linked In is a business focussed social media platform. It allows you to generate a profile outlining your career to date and offering the opportunity to get recommendations from past colleagues and employers.
Many organisations view personal Linked In profiles in the same way they review a CV. The flip side of that is that many potential employees, clients and suppliers will be looking at your company profile to find out what you’re doing. So it’s important (and very simple) to keep it up-to-date.
You can join industry specific groups and read discussion threads. It’s also possible to advertise (and look for) jobs by location, type and salary. Link out to your website and other social media accounts from Linked In and make sure your staff add your company to their profile.
Websites and Blogs
A website is where people will go to find out about your company, who you are and what you do. A website and a social media presence are essential for a competitive and successful business.
Keep the website clean, clear and concise. Make sure that your contact details are easy to spot. A contact form can be helpful, but some people prefer to email or phone.
Be factual and informative, if you sell products make sure the call to action is clear to the customer and the journey they go on is intuitive and straightforward.
Ensure the website links to all your social media platforms. If you’re a sole trader do get someone else to give it the once over. If you’re at the heart of the business, sometimes its hard to articulate its aims clearly in a way that is totally obvious to someone who has no idea about what you do.
A blog allows you to give a ‘personality’ to your business and to build relationships with clients, customers, partners, suppliers and new business leads. Use infographics to illustrate points and videos – it doesn’t have to be professionally produced, a smart phone takes a great video, and highlight successes, discuss risks or issues. Invite feedback to accompany development from your readers. Try and manage the blog yourself and write in your own voice, it makes it far more meaningful and authentic. You might choose to highlight case studies or invite guest bloggers, such as other staff members or clients, to contribute. Invite users to subscribe and then they will receive updates every time you post.
WordPress and Weebly are two great free tools to help you build a website or a blog, but there are many other platforms available. Try and keep the site url (address) and blog name consistent to make sure they are easy to find.
You can set up a website entirely by yourself, or you can use a web developer to design a site for you. It may be appropriate for your situation to work with a web company to develop and manage the site, but it’s always useful to maintain the option of editing it directly. Be wary of being locked into a long term contract and losing ownership of your content, and make sure there isn’t a charge to correct every typo.
If you decide to do it yourself, the platforms themselves have very useful support and helpful advice, including user forums. There are many courses available as well as online tutorials and webinars.
Use social media to direct traffic to your website through:
- audio file sharing tools such as AudioBoo
- summarise great events by linking to a Storify (online stories or timeline of web activity)
- sharing images and articles on Pinterest (create visual collections of images and items)
- improving the rankings of your website with a profile on Google +.
Social media can be a dominant task master so keep it in check, make sure you constantly reassess what you are using it for and what you want from the time you invest.
MumsNet, NetMums local sites and BritMums forum are also useful places to promote services, your blog, and to advertise jobs and to ask advice or make recommendation. As with other social media platforms don’t simply broadcast, join in discussion and share information and listen as well. The Talented Ladies Club is also a useful resource which collects case studies from women-led businesses.
Google Analytics is a helpful way of measuring reach, traffic and visibility of blogs and online content, there are other tools and apps available (Facebook activity logs are useful for monitoring who is looking at your page and seeing popular posts and WordPress has it’s own internal stats measures).
Paid for advertising
Online advertising is very straightforward to measure and can be inexpensive in the first instance. Putting your brand or product where people are, with a clear instruction or compelling message will have a positive impact on your bottom line. With any advertising, don’t just do it for the sake of it, include it as a part of an integrated marketing strategy, with clear aims, targets and measures.
Advertising on Facebook is worth exploring. You can tailor adverts in huge detail, for example, all women aged 25- 30 within a 20 mile radius of Cambridge who are interested in knitting. They are cheap and straightforward to set up, you can set the amount you spend on a daily basis.
Pay per click advertising, such as Google Adwords, is another way of promoting a specific product or service either geographically or locally (tied in with what people search for in Google), this article explains how it works.
You can also use banner ads on high traffic sites, but it’s best to stay as specific as you can to gain maximum value. Some sites may have high traffic, but if the people visiting them are not the target market for your product or service then there is little point in being there.
Wikipedia offers a useful explanation of display and banner ads, pop ups, floating ads, towers and the many other types of paid for banners appearing on a third party site. The banners generally have to be very specific industry standard sizes and are most often negotiated and placed via the site’s agency.
Featured content, is another option. You might ask for a review on a blog, or have key words highlighted in a piece on someone else’s website or perhaps pay to have your content featured on a third party website.
Helen Neale discusses how she uses a range of social media platforms to grow her business, Kiddycharts. She also explains how she works flexibly in ‘coffices’, an office in a coffee shop.
Employment options and rights
Flexible working is a way of working that reflects the employees needs (e.g. flexible start and finish times, or working from home). Every employee now has the statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of employment with the same employer.
As an employer you must deal with the request in a ‘reasonable manner’. acas have a good online explanation on how this effects businesses. As an employee, all you need to know is in this Government guide to flexible working.
Flexible working can be undertaken in a number of ways, including:
- working from home (or homeworking as it’s also known),
- compressed hours,
- annualised hours,
- part time working
- and job sharing.
In order to apply for specific flexible working conditions, an employee has to go through a Government procedure. You can only make one application for flexible working per year.
If you are not happy with the outcome of the application you no longer have a legal right to appeal, but if an employer offers an appeals process it supports the fact that they are handing the application in a ‘reasonable manner’.
Self employment or working freelance
Setting up as a sole trader or self employed freelancer may also result in remote working and flexible hours. Indeed many women returners choose to work for themselves as it allows them the flexibility to work hours that suit their needs.
There are legal obligations around being self employed such as filling in tax returns, paying National Insurance and keeping records. There’s further information in this guide on starting up or returning to work (either a business or as a sole trader).
Ways of working
A jobshare involves two people working together on the same job at different times. It may be that one employee has different skills to the other, but as long as they compliment each other, this arrangement brings much more than one person could to a role . It may be a good option if you want to apply for a full-time role, but only wish to work part-time. Cambridge company Ginibee offer a matching service for those interested in job sharing.
“Balancing a career with life outside of work is a constant juggling act. If you are looking to achieve a better work life balance, why not consider a Jobshare?” Sara Horsfall, director Ginibee
Co-working is another option that allows you to share an office space with other companies. Remote working can become challenging at times, as you may crave company as you have no colleagues around to bounce ideas off.
There are a number of co-working spaces in Cambridgeshire including:
- Cambridge Business Lounge
- CamJelly – monthly coworking event in Cambridge.
- Eco Innovation Centre
The opportunity to work around other people has benefits in terms of networking, sharing ideas and forming partnerships, seeking referrals and learning about uses of technology that you may have been unaware of.
Just because you’re working remotely, doesn’t mean that you have to miss company meetings or lose access to your corporate documents and diaries. Superfast broadband enables effective access to collaborative working tools such as Skype, Google hangout, and Dropbox. You can join your company VPN (virtual network) which will allow you access to all your files remotely. There’s further information on remote working in this guide in the setting up your office section.
Child Tax Credits are available if you are responsible for children under the age of 16 (or under 20 and in approved education or training) and you can claim between £545-£2750 per year, which is paid every 4 weeks. How much you are entitled to will depend on your circumstances. Child Tax Credits sit alongside Child Benefit.
Working Tax Credits are also available if you work a certain number of hours a week, get paid for your work and your income is below a certain level. You don’t have to be a parent to apply for Working Tax Credits, but if you do you may get extra toward the cost of childcare.
With Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits, you can only back-claim for a limited time, so don’t delay as you might miss out on financial support that you are legally entitled to.
There’s also help for parents with young children, as all three and four year olds get 570 hours a year free Government childcare. Some 2 year olds may be eligible for this funding as well.
In the Starting again section of this toolkit, you will find information on support for parents who wish to start their own business or undertake further study.
Sara Horsfall, founder of jobsharing website Ginibee, discusses flexible working and her favourite digital tools.
Digital technology is constantly evolving. Help us keep the toolkit relevant by letting us know how digital technology has helped your women-led business: email@example.com