These days mobile businesses don’t just take the form of greasy burger vans and sticky donut stands. Many modern entrepreneurs are seeing the advantages that come with taking their business out on the road, resulting in more and more mobile enterprises.
Travelling businesses can range from hairdressers and popup boutiques, through to cocktail bars and fine dining experiences. There are a surprising number of options that can go mobile, and escape the restrictions of being fixed to a permanent site or long-term premises.
It’s a great solution for anyone who wants to become a business owner but doesn’t have a great deal of expendable cash to splash on business rates and bricks-and-mortar. So, if it’s something you’re considering, keep reading for our insights on taking your business mobile.
The benefits of taking your business mobile
Why is mobile business ownership so appealing to the contemporary entrepreneur? There are certainly some clear advantages.
Reduced costs and overheads
The most obvious benefit is the opportunity for lower outgoings. This includes startup costs, running costs and all the overheads that come with launching and owning a business.
A mobile business tends to pay significantly fewer bills, what with not worrying about rent and, in some cases, utilities. It might even help you deal with those expensive London business rates, and launch your business more cheaply!
Getting your business in front of more eyes
When your business is free to move around, it’s much easier to get your brand or service in front of more people. From festivals and markets to weddings and events, your business can be much more easily exposed to a wider audience. You can move around in a way that bricks-and-mortar businesses who are tethered to permanent premises can’t.
Flexibility that fits around different lifestyles
The beauty of a mobile business is that you can up-sticks whenever you need to. If you need to be somewhere else, you can operate your business from another location relatively easily.
The business can work around your life, rather than the other way round. It’s an advantage that is particularly beneficial for the likes of parents, pet owners, and caregivers.
Convenience for the customer
As well as the benefits to you as the business owner, a mobile business can be more convenient for your customers, too.
For example, a nail technician, hairdresser, or personal trainer visiting a customer at home can help those with busy schedules work together.
Valuable face-to-face interaction
OK, so operating your business as an online enterprise is another way to overcome the responsibilities of a physical premises. But what that doesn’t afford you, is the valuable in-person interaction with your customers that a mobile business does.
What does it cost to run a mobile business?
The answer to this question will vary significantly from business to business. It depends on the nature of what you do and how you do it. For example, one business might need to buy and manage stock, while another might need no inventory at all.
That said, there are some general costs to consider that are typically incurred by a mobile business.
Vehicle or transport
A form of transportation is something every mobile business is going to need. From purchasing to maintenance, repairs, and fuel, this comes at a (necessary) cost. Buying preowned, whether it’s a fleet of vans or a single bicycle, will save you money.
Or alternatively, you could consider leasing. If your mileage is going to be low, you could also consider an electric vehicle. You’ll be able to reduce your carbon footprint while you’re on the move that way, too.
Whatever you choose, you might want to get the vehicle branded up so you can be recognised out on the road and stand out from the crowd. You might also need the vehicle adapting for specific needs relating to your business (e.g., running water, ventilation, or a service hatch). All of this, of course, will also require more initial expenditure.
Registering the business
Setting up a new business comes with a variety of fees that will need to be paid out. Some of this will be one-off, but some will be recurring payments so factor these into your ongoing budget.
Point of Sale
You’re going to need a Point of Sale (POS) system so that customers can pay for your product or service while you’re out and about. You can, of course, take cash payments, but it’s generally better to offer both options.
Mobile business owners can opt for an electronic card reader, which requires you to buy hardware and then subscribe to the software that enables you to use it.
Does a mobile business need to have a license?
Just like other kinds of businesses, mobile enterprises are subject to various licensing requirements. These can be diverse, so we can’t cover all of them here, but what we can recommend is Gov.UK’s handy License Finder. Use this tool to establish exactly what licenses you’re going to need to operate your business safely and legally.
These licenses are generally granted by local authorities, so if you do plan to move around the country (or indeed, the world), you’ll need to make sure you’re adhering to all local regulations. Failing to do so could result in financial penalties, or even business closure.
Don’t forget about parking permits if you plan to park up somewhere for any length of time!
What insurance does a mobile business need?
Again, this will depend largely on the nature of your business and the liabilities involved. Many of the standard business insurance categories in your industry will likely still apply, but there may also be additional cover required for a mobile enterprise in your sector. This also includes things like vehicle insurance and personal travel insurance where necessary.
Public Liability insurance is a must-have for mobile businesses as this will cover you when you’re interacting with the public. If you employ staff, you’ll also need to have Employer’s Liability cover by law.
Why hiring an accountant will help your mobile business
All of these rules, regulations and requirements are a lot of take onboard and manage. Doing it all yourself, especially as a new mobile business owner, is no mean feat. That’s why we’d always recommend hiring the support of a qualified accountant and below are just some of the main reasons why.
Registering the business and getting set up
An accountant’s expertise is a beneficial resource when it comes to setting up your business and registering it in all the right places, including Company’s House and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). An accountant can take this burden away and ensure that all the necessary information regarding your new business is all present and correct.
Once your business is up and running, an accountant will be able to keep you on the straight and narrow in terms of tax. They’ll advise you on what allowable expenses you could be claiming, and where you could be taking advantage of other tax relief opportunities.
Protecting your cash flow
With oversight of your income and expenditure – past, present, and future forecasts – an accountant will be able to show you where you can streamline costs and improve your cash flow. A healthy cash flow is the lifeblood of any successful business.
Submitting tax returns
An accountant will take on the responsibility of submitting your returns for you. Not only will this allow you to preserve your own valuable time and energy, it also ensures that you never miss an important deadline and that your accounts are as accurate as possible.
Improving your business plan
With extensive knowledge about the numbers that make your business tick, an accountant is a great resource to tap into when it comes to writing and developing your business plan. Having the input of a professional will also give you more confidence when using your business plan to pitch to investors or other funding bodies.
Access to funding
Not only will an accountant instil you with more confidence when it comes to pitching for investment and funding, they’re also best placed to point you in the right direction of where to find these cash injections.
They have contacts and industry knowledge that you can use to your own advantage, whether that’s through the family and friends’ route, or via investors, traditional bank loans, or crowdfunding.
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