Being a sole trader isn’t without its challenges, especially after the year that’s been. But for many, bravely going it alone is a chance to live their passion, be their own boss, and work towards financial independence. In this series, the Xero team uncover the inspiration behind what tipped sole traders to turn their dream into reality.
One evening in 2015, Jane Simpson was driving home from the airport when she had a revelation. Having spent every week of the past two years travelling for work, she was tired of the corporate world and the time spent away from her family. She was looking for a new career path that would keep her closer to home – something needed to change.
She explains, “I’d been working in corporate relocations for over 20 years, and I’d reached my limit – I was exhausted. I was coming home from an out-posting, and all of a sudden, this idea popped into my head to do cosmetic tattooing. I’d never been involved in the beauty industry, but somehow, I just knew it was meant for me.”
This ‘aha moment’ is what drove Jane to resign from her job, and set out on an ambitious journey to start her own business, Jane Simpson Brows. According to Xero’s Tipping point research – a new report uncovering what makes sole traders decide to start something of their own – like Jane, nearly 80 percent say dissatisfaction with their former job or career is a key driver to going solo.
With a newfound sense of freedom, Jane began training in microblading – a semi-permanent tattoo technique used to create eyebrow definition. Once she’d learnt the trade, she joined local Facebook groups in her community of Pymble, New South Wales, to promote her business among mums and older women who typically experience hair-loss postpartum or during menopause.
Although Jane’s transition away from corporate life may have happened quite suddenly, her disenchantment with the long hours and never-ending roster of international flights had been a long-time coming. She says, “After wanting to quit my job for over five years, I finally found the courage to do something for myself.”
Finding freedom and flexibility
In almost six years, Jane has achieved some inspiring business milestones. She’s one of just three Sydney-based CTAR-certified practitioners (the highest qualification in cosmetic tattooing), and was awarded Small Business of the Year at the 2019 Xero Australia Awards.
Despite her accolades, Jane says her biggest triumph is making a living by doing what she loves. “The recognition is nice, but it’s the freedom and flexibility that I’m most proud of,” she says. Tipping point reveals that Jane is living the dream of many sole traders, with nearly half (47 percent) aspiring to make their own decisions, and 63 percent wanting to be in control of their own timetable.
As well as her independence, Jane counts the community that she’s built in Pymble as another key achievement. “My business predominantly runs on word-of-mouth referrals – that’s important to me because it takes hard work to build those trusting relationships,” she adds.
Part of her success is in nailing a sought-after market in the beauty industry; “Eyebrows make such a difference to how people look and feel. So many of my clients end up with newfound confidence – especially those undergoing cancer treatment or alopecia-sufferers,” she says.
Getting financially savvy
Starting a new business is both a leap of faith and a financial risk. And from the outset, Jane was careful to spend her money wisely. “I wanted to be sure that I had enough funding behind me to survive the first few years, so I kept my overheads low,” she says.
“In the beginning, I paid people to do my advertising. Then, I invested in training – it’s been so valuable in keeping costs down, and I do a much better job because no one knows my business like I do,” she adds.
According to Tipping point, budgeting for unknown expenses is a key challenge for nearly 40 percent of sole traders in the early stages of their business. That’s why most (70 percent) consider technology to be an important part of managing their finances – including Jane. “I use the Xero Accounting app on my phone every day. I like to keep on top of the numbers, and it means I don’t have to sit down at the end of the month and spend hours reconciling my accounts.” she says.
Technology has also been invaluable in helping Jane manage her clients on-the-go. “I use Timely (an appointment booking software) throughout the day, so I can essentially run my business from my phone – it’s fantastic,” she says.
Reflecting on her sole trader journey, Jane says, “Quite a few people thought I was looney to start my own business.” However, she’s proved the naysayers wrong. “Now, I see returns of up to 40 percent, and I’m adding real value to a vibrant community here in Pymble,” she explains.
From travelling non-stop on a rigid corporate schedule to running a successful local business on her own time, Jane has flipped the switch on her career – “And I’m happy,” she says.