Moving on: Setting up your own business

This month, we’ve written a further article for InsideTime ‘Through the Gate’ Section which focuses on setting up your own business following release from prison.

A copy of the article can be found below.

Many of us have thought about starting our own business at some point. However, not many people get around to trying and for those that do, it’s not always as easy as they think it’s going to be.

However, for people with a criminal record, disclosing a conviction to an employer can mean that they don’t get invited to interviews or are turned down for jobs and this can lead people to seriously consider running their own business.

Having a good understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of being self-employed, rather than being an employee, is really important.

Advantages

Less chance of discrimination

It’s unlikely that you’ll be asked to disclose your criminal record to the majority of your customers unless you want to take on certain types of contract (for example Government contracts).

Independence

You’ll be able to set the hours you work to fit around other commitments; for example, attending probation appointments or completing courses.

Job satisfaction

Working for yourself means you won’t have to get involved in office politics or worry about colleagues finding out about your criminal record. Also, you’ll reap the rewards of your own hard work.

Salary

Your earning potential could be higher, but you’ll need to be prepared to work hard.

Disadvantages

No employee benefits

You won’t be entitled to sick pay or holiday pay – if you take time off, you won’t get paid.

Long hours

Your working day may be longer and more irregular and, as you concentrate on getting your business off the ground, you may spend less time with family or friends.

Unpredictable finances

Your income may initially be irregular and it may be a while before your business starts making a profit.

Questions you should ask yourself

Although your criminal record will have less of an impact if you’re self-employed, there are still some key questions that you should be asking yourself before you take the first step(s) to setting up your business.

  1. All the time your conviction is unspent, you’ll need to disclose it to insurance companies. Try to find out what the cost of business insurance is likely to be and whether you’ll have any difficulties in getting insurance due to the nature of your offence. Unlock has a list of commercial insurance brokers who can provide policies to people with a criminal record.
  2. If you want to set up your business as a limited company, make sure that your conviction does not disqualify you from being a director. You’ll usually have been told at Court if you are disqualified.
  3. Consider whether you want your name attached to your work. If details of your conviction were featured in the media, you may want to consider changing your name before setting up your business.
  4. If you’re thinking of working as a contractor, then you may be asked to provide details of your criminal record and you may need to have formal criminal record checks.

What support is available?

There are many organisations that can offer support and mentoring to individuals looking to set up their own business. Details of these are available from the Unlock office.

If you’re claiming job seekers allowance or universal credit then you may be eligible to apply for a New Enterprise Allowance. You’ll be put in touch with a mentor who’ll give you advice and support to start your business and help you put together a business plan. Once your business plan has been agreed, you may be entitled to a weekly allowance to top up your salary and/or a loan to help with start-up costs.

If you have willpower, determination and self-discipline, and enjoy making your own decisions, then self-employment could be worth considering.

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Debbie Sadler