A little while ago, we shared some advice for keeping your tools safe from thieves. But if you’re running a trade business, it’s not just your tools you need to protect. Here are some more ways you can protect yourself and your livelihood.
1) Clarify expectations
Do you ask clients to sign a contract before you start work? Not many tradespeople do, but they can help to make sure everyone is, quite literally, on the same page. Because if your expectations and your client’s don’t align, there’s going to be trouble. From having to chase payments to quibbles over the condition a site’s been left in or disputes over exactly what was included in the price, lack of clarity can cause a major headache.
Ideally, make sure every client signs a contract before you start work, that clearly states exactly what will be done, what they can expect, and your payment terms. Template contracts are available online that you can adapt to your needs. If you don’t feel that you can introduce proper contracts, there are still some ways you can protect yourself. State in writing – even if only by email or text message – exactly what work you will do, broken down into each component step. When you provide a quote, do it in writing and include your payment terms, as well as any other terms and conditions. At least then you have a paper trail to prove what was expected if there are any disputes.
2) Get the right insurance policies in place
Make sure everything, from your van to your work, is covered by insurance. Public liability insurance protects you from any injury or damage that might be caused by your work (let’s say, a falling piece of equipment smashes through the neighbour’s window) and can save you from expensive claims. You can take out insurance to protect your van, your tools and any other important items from theft or damage. You can even take out insurance on yourself – income protection insurance will provide you with a pay-out in case you’re unable to work for a long period of time due to illness or injury.
But make sure you read the small print! We know it’s boring, and it goes on for pages, but it really is important. You don’t want to be paying out for months, or years, for an insurance policy thinking you’re covered, only to have a van stolen and find out you’re only entitled to a small percentage of replacement items. Make sure you know what you’re getting.
3) Have a health and safety policy
I know, I know, I can feel your eyes rolling from here. But accidents do happen, and trade businesses are more at risk from them than many other small businesses. Not only do you want to keep everyone and everything safe, but, if something goes wrong and your client’s property is damaged or, worse, someone gets hurt, you could be liable – and that could be very expensive.
You can find lots of templates online to help you create a clear health and safety policy that helps everyone understand their responsibilities and what they can expect. As part of this, you’ll need to be clear on what risks are involved in each job, have a plan in place to manage them, and nominate someone to take charge of making sure the correct processes are followed.
4) Be secure online
Cyber attacks are becoming more and more common, and it isn’t just big organisations that are under threat. As a small business, if someone were to hack into your website, take over your social media accounts or even get into your online banking, that could have a devastating impact.
Always use strong passwords for everything, and don’t use the same password twice. You can use a digital password vault like LastPass to help you generate secure passwords and then store them securely so you don’t have to remember them all!
You might want to buy any website domains and register any social media accounts with names that are similar to your brand name and the names you’re already using to make sure no one can impersonate you. Make sure your domain name is set to renew automatically with your provider so that you don’t lose it!
5) Stay organised
Keeping thorough records is vital to ensure you’re paying the right amount of tax and avoiding any penalties. Keeping everything up-to-date as you go also stops tax return time from giving you a breakdown.
Consider getting a bookkeeper and/or accountant to look after this side of things for you to make sure you’re doing everything by the, erm, book.
6) Look out for scammers
Fraudsters are becoming incredibly sophisticated and have a wealth of tools to trick you into giving them control of your hard-earned money. Be vigilant and use security measures with all your record-keeping and online systems.
Remember, your bank will never ask for account details over the phone, and if you’re unsure whether it’s your bank calling you should ask to hang up and call them back through the number on their website. Don’t click on any links in emails if you don’t know who they’re from, and you can right-click on links and email addresses to check that the actual addresses match up with the display names. Don’t share any bank information, or any personal information at all, with anyone unless you are sure who they are. If in doubt, don’t do it.
7) Act with integrity
One of the most valuable assets of your business is your reputation. Protecting that is worth its weight in gold. If you always act with integrity, treat your customers, partners, workers and suppliers with respect and ensure your work is as good as it can be, then you can’t go far wrong.
When it comes to protecting the tools of your trade, a Get Stowed unit will keep everything out of sight and tidily stored away. We can make a storage unit for absolutely any vehicle, so check out the range we have available or contact us to design a bespoke solution just for you.