Tips for going Self-Employed

Some of you who follow me on social media might know that I’ve gone self-employed and started my own business. I’m now a mobile beautician and makeup artist for my company Becx Beauty. I trawled the internet for tips and tricks for what to do when first starting out, and I thought I’d put together my own tips, as well as information I found helpful or useful.

Make A Business Plan

The first thing I did, was write everything down that I could possibly think of. A lot of what I wrote down is in this blog. From the legalities to branding and prices. I wrote down all my ideas, costs, lists, websites and spent a few months looking into everything in depth. A business plan is probably the most important thing you can have before you decide to go self-employed.

Price Up Equipment & Resources

Before taking the leap, you need to make sure you can afford to do so. Pricing up everything you might need in your day to day work gives you a good idea on whether going self-employed is achievable. Some people take out a business loan to start up and get the things they need, while others use savings. I personally used savings to start up because then I didn’t need to worry about paying back a loan – but there are lots of affordable loans with a low-interest rate and low monthly pay-back costs. I made a large list of thing equipment and resources I needed and worked my way through it, keeping it all under my budget.

Research Local Services & Prices In The Same Industry

I found looking into local businesses in the same industry as me helped a lot. Not only did I see the average price of services which helped me set my own prices, but I saw where services were lacking. Finding a gap in the market and something to make your business stand out as unique or different can really help boost your clientele at the beginning. In my case, it was that there aren’t an awful lot of beauticians and makeup artists that use only cruelty-free products that also have vegan options.

Come Up With Your Services & Prices

Based off of the information I gathered so far, I was able to create my own list of services I want to offer, and how much I’ll be charging for them. I wanted to be affordable, but not undercut all the local businesses too much – that just undervalues what you can offer. Knowing how much the equipment and resources will cost, helps me to understand which services I can offer to start with, and perhaps look into branching out once my business is established.

Look Into Branding & Logo’s

I’m lucky that my boyfriend is a dab hand at graphic design and branding with him being a digital marketer… so he helped me with the design of my logo and branding. But before I went to him for help, I had a mood board filled with colours, images, drawings and keywords, that I knew wanted to resemble my business. Get all your ideas down on paper, some people use brilliant online services to make logos (like Vista) or go to freelance graphic designers, or even do it themselves!

Create An Email & Contact Details

You want a way for people to contact you for business, which is separate to your own personal contact details. I made a basic email with Outlook, and kept it simple and memorable, using the name of my business. Keeping everything separate makes it easier to manage, and really helps me a lot.

Create A Website

There are lots of ways to create a website. The way I found the simplest and most effective was with Wix. I paid for a membership to link my own domain, which is far more professional. There are templates to use, and they’re fully customisable too. Another good aspect of wix is the SEO. The SEO section is very user-friendly and helps get your website into Google searches.

Advertise Advertise Advertise

One of the main things I did as I was setting everything up, was advertise my company. I set up all my social media and posted regularly on them. I had business cards and leaflets made with promotional offers and posted them locally, as well as leaving some in GP surgeries, dentists, hairdressers and gyms. I also posted promotional offers on my social media, to get more clients in. This all helped boost my business at the start.

Plan Your Book-Keeping

One bit of advice that popped up on a lot of articles, blogs and videos online, was to do your bookkeeping regularly. It’s easier to keep up-to-date when you do it often, such as monthly. I have a folder where I keep all of my receipts and invoices, all sorted into each month. There are lots of online book-keeping software, and I’m using Sage. Sage helps to record your invoices, expenses and cash flow in an easy to use way, and it’s only £5 a month.

Register With HMRC

Probably the most important part when going self-employed, is to register with the Government. You can register easily online, and you need to declare your income and do annual tax returns. I haven’t done my first tax return yet. Once I do I think I’ll make a blog all about the process… but from what I’ve read and been told, it’s far easier than you expect.  

It seems like a lot to consider before going self-employed – and it is. But once you get the ball rolling it gets far easier, and much more exciting. Going self-employed has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I am my own boss, and it feels amazing to take the reins on my own career this way. I hope this blog helps someone be able to take a hold of their own reins too! If you are self-employed and have any tips, please do leave them in the comments for people to see!

August Favourites 2018

Another month over, and we get closer to the end of Summer. August was a brilliant month for me - a lot happened. From getting my qualification to Eric's birthday bash and setting up my own company. While it's been super busy (sorry for the lack of blogs by the way), I still have some things on my favourites list!

The first thing is The Ordinary Peeling Solution. This handy little thing is a chemical exfoliant which uses Alpha Hydroxy Acid and Beta Hydroxy Acid to remove the dead skin cells on your face. I personally prefer chemical exfoliants over the usual physical ones (which are the gritty type face scrubs). I started using this once a week, and then put it down to once every two weeks, and I love how my skin feels after I've used it. 

Since switching to being cruelty-free, I hadn't found a great haircare range other than Tesco's own until recently. I started using the Noughty Colour Bomb Shampoo and Conditioner, and my gosh they are a godsend. The smell reminds me of refresher sweets, and they're 97% natural with no parabens, petrochemicals, sulphates or silicones. I definitely think I'll be using a lot more products from this brand.

Since I started my own company this month, I've needed to get my arse into gear with regards to organisations. I bought this Leuchtturm 1917 Diary from Rymans when I was looking around at stationary and it's been a lifesaver. I hadn't realised Lechtturm was such a popular brand in the bullet journal crowd (yeah, I watch bullet journal videos on YouTube despite not having one!), but I'm glad I obviously made a good choice. I don't have the time for bullet journaling, so a good quality diary is a must for me. It has a year overview at the beginning and a week by week view. I find it really handy for recording client appointments, as well as my own personal bits and pieces. If you haven't tried this brand for diaries and the likes, you really should!

This leads on nicely to my next favourite. I STARTED A FREAKING BUSINESS. Yes, that's right... I'm a business owner. A self-employed beautician and makeup-artist. My company is called Becx Beauty. I've worked very hard to get to where I am today and I'm very proud of the things I've achieved over the last year, after being so poorly with my chronic illness. At 25 I went back to college to train in a new career path and then I took the plunge to start my own business and it feels amazing.

I usually have some TV or film favourites but this month we haven't really watched an awful lot. We did, however, binge watch all the seasons of The Walking Dead Telltale Series game on YouTube (played by Cryaotic). What an emotional rollercoaster. If you haven't seen the series, you really should watch it. I'm still not completely over the ending of season one... but I'm excited for the new episodes of Season 4 to come out!

I hope you had a lovely August yourself! ❤

Choosing The Best Food For Your Dog

So, your dogs are pretty important to you, right? And you want what is best for them? Well the first place you can start providing the best for them is to address their diet, after all, diet is the foundation of health. 

Before I begin on this post, I would just like to say that I am in no way paid or asked to promote any of the products mentioned in this blog, and have formed my own opinions on them. Any links to references, veterinary or nutritionist articles and scientific papers will be at the end.

Also, please, do not take this blog offensively in any way. I understand how hard money can be for some people, and I completely understand that the 'higher quality' commercial foods are not affordable for some. And of course, dogs need to eat something! So what I always say is, if you CAN afford it, then always try to go for better. I'm just writing this so people can make informed choices, whatever they choose to feed their pets. 

Photo of Daisy & Charlie taken by Rebecca Ashworth Photography
What Dogs Need.

Let's start with what dogs DO need. Dogs need a predominantly meat-based diet. Dogs are considered carnivores by genus but have been found to have opportunistic tendencies, meaning they may or may not scrounge for food to survive on in the wild. This does not mean that dogs are omnivores because they can 'survive' on scraps of food like some believe. They are carnivores, with opportunistic tendencies. 

This is because dogs do not produce a substantial amount the amylase enzyme to break down starches in carbohydrates nor do they produce enough of the cellulase enzyme to break down the cellulose in fruits and vegetables efficiently. They also have carnivorous teeth, a short digestive tract and an acidic stomach PH of 1-2 that all resemble that of their carnivorous ancestors. They are opportunists in that they can, if needed, 'survive' off a diet consisting of starches.

So this means that dogs don't 'need' carbohydrates in their diet, it is not a dietary requirement. So when picking a commercial food, you want foods with a high meat content, and little if any carbohydrates. 

This particular blog is about picking a complete commercial dog food, either wet or dry. So let's look at the ingredients in them, in more depth.

Photo of  Charlie taken by Rebecca Ashworth Photography
Meat Content

Meat, or protein, is THE most important thing a dog can eat, as it is the easiest digested source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Dogs, as a species, have evolved to eat meat and lots of it. 

The first ingredient in any dog food should be a named meat source like beef, chicken, lamb, or any other protein source you choose. I would always advise avoiding any dog food that does not name their meat source - if it says 'meat and animal derivatives', 'meat meal' and 'animal fats and oils' then stay clear. In my opinion, I want to know exactly what my dogs are eating. 

European Law deems that 'meat and animal derivatives' are "all the fleshy parts of slaughtered warm-blooded land animals, fresh or preserved by appropriate treatment, and all products and derivatives of the processing of the carcass or parts of the carcass of warm-blooded animals". Does that make any sense to you? The term is defined extremely vaguely, with no real idea of what your dog is actually eating! These meat and animal by-products are often the cheapest they could find at that time, and often change depending which animals are more available... and on top of that, the meat is generally 'cheap' for a reason. It is likely low in any nutrition and is certainly not chosen for their quality or ethics in how the animals lived previous to slaughter. Some manufacturers even use this term simply because the meat protein names might put some customers off buying the product, which doesn't sound like it would be a good protein source, does it?

Dog food may contain more than one protein source. More commonly seen, is a mixture of a meat source and a fish source, which is great as long as they are both named. Fish like salmon, trout and other oily fish are great, as they contain amino acids and other goodies for a dogs skin, coat and joint health. Containing more than one protein source is great if your dog does not have an intolerance to what may be within that food.

Sadly, because meat is so expensive in this day and age, many of the cheaper manufacturers will substitute meat sources with other protein sources. Let's not confuse meat with protein! So some dog foods contain high amounts of soya, maize and potato as protein sources, to make up for lacking in meat protein. The problem with this is that dogs cannot digest these easily, meaning a higher chance of dietary intolerance, and putting extra strain on their digestive system.

So, when picking a dog food, make sure the ingredients state a named meat source, which is a large proportion of the diet. For example, I've listed the ingredients in two different dog foods below, one is high quality, the other is low quality... which would you pick?

"Chicken 19%, Chicken 18% (from Dried Chicken), Salmon 15%, Herring 12.5% (from Dried Herring), Potato 12%, Chicken Fat 4.5%, Duck 4% (from Dried Duck), Sweet Potato 3.5%, Whole Egg 2.5% (from Dried Egg), Chicken Liver 2.5%, White Fish 2%, Pea Fibre 2%, Lucerne, Chickpea, Minerals & Vitamins, Carrot, Spinach, Apple, Rosehips, Chamomile, Burdock Root, Seaweed, Cranberry, Aniseed & Fenugreek, Fructooligosaccharides (461 mg/kg), Glucosamine (341mg/Kg), MSM (341mg/Kg), Chondroitin (240mg/Kg), Thyme, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Sage."

Or "Cereals, Meat and Animal Derivatives (including 4% Chicken), Oils and Fats (including 0.2% Fish Oil, 0.2% Sunflower Oil), Derivatives of Vegetable Origin (including 2% Dried Beet Pulp), Minerals (including 0.7% Sodium Tripolyphosphate), Antioxidants, Preservatives"

I have highlighted the bad ingredients you need to avoid. The sad thing is, the second list of ingredients, is a major pet food company sold in the UK (of which I will not name), yet so many people do not realise how poor the food actually is. 

Photo of Daisy taken by Rebecca Ashworth Photography
Grains, Carbohydrates and Cereals

In my opinion, any decent dry or wet dog food is completely grain free. But do not fall into the trap of grain free meaning it does not contain any carbohydrates, grain free does not mean carbohydrate free. In particular with dry foods - they all need some form of 'starch' to act as a glue to hold the little bit of kibble together, and to hold it's shape. This means even the highest quality of dry food contains some form of starch. It's unavoidable, so this is something to take into account when decided between wet foods and dry.

That is one of the reasons I would personally choose a high-quality wet food over a high-quality dry food, though some may have other factors to take into account (shelf life, storage, packaging etc). Another reason I would personally pick a wet food over a dry food is the moisture content. Dry foods are very low in moisture, and can 'swell' in the stomach, increasing the risk of bloat. Some lower the risk by soaking dry food before feeding it, some lower it by not feeding dry foods at all. 

The main issue I have with carbohydrates in a dogs diet is their capability of digesting them. As I said above, dogs lack the necessary amount of the amylase enzyme to efficiently digest them and gain anything from them. While dogs may live a perfectly healthy, and long life on a carbohydrate-based diet, there are some that don't. Some do not cope, whether it be shown through allergies and dietary intolerance's, digestive issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and other gastric problems, or through something more severe like liver disease. If dogs show any kind of 'issue', the diet should always be considered as a factor, even if it may not be the cause at all, just to rule it out.

Photo of  Charlie taken by Rebecca Ashworth Photography

In this section, I will list the worst additives that can be in a dog food, and why it is something that should be avoided. The first one is artificial colourings. Even in the 1950's artificial colourings have been linked to behaviour issues in children, and this can be the same for dogs too. Ever asked that hyper dog's owner down the street what they feed their dog? A hyperactive dog means a dog that has a shorter attention span, is harder to train, harder to handle and just generally a bit of a 'nuisance'.

Many people have seen a considerable difference in their dogs' behaviour once change to a higher quality food (including my own dog). So, if a dog food says 'colourings', 'e numbers', 'sunset yellow', 'tartrazine', 'ponceau 4r', or 'titanium dioxide'... avoid! I'm pretty sure a dog doesn't care what colour their food is, as long as it tastes good. 

Another ingredient to avoid like the plague is Propylene Glycol. This ingredient is hands down the worst ingredient in any pet food, despite that it is approved for use in pet foods. It is most commonly found in 'semi-moist' foods. This ingredient is basically a 'cousin' to Ethylene Glycol... which is antifreeze!

Dry Foods and Wet Foods I recommend (and would feed to my own dogs)
  • Acana
  • Eden
  • Pure Pet Food
  • Taste of the Wild
  • Applaws
  • Orijen
  • Simpsons
  • Barking Heads
  • Canagan
  • Fishmongers Finest
  • Forthglade
  • Naturediet
  • Lily's Kitchen
  • Millie's Wolfheart
  • Natures Menu
Photo of Daisy taken by Rebecca Ashworth Photography
Moving on from commercial foods, you could always feed a fresh food diet, which is nutritionally going to be the best, but that's for a whole other post!

I hope this blog post has been useful to anyone that needed help with picking a decent commercial food for their dog. Again, I want to stress that I am in no way paid/sponsored to name any of the products in this blog and that I am in no way claiming to be a professional on this. This blog is formed from my own reading a research.

Here are some links below I would recommend, for further reading and research:

The Best and Worst Pet Foods, by Dr Karen Becker

Three Major Reasons to Feed Your Pet a Homemade Diet, by Dr Karen Becker

Grain Free Dog Foods: Solving Yeast and Skin Issues, by Dogs Naturally Magazine.

The Truth About Dog Food and Supplements, by Dana Scott, Dogs Naturally Magazine.

Dog Food: Ten Scary Truths, by Jan Rasmusen, Dogs Naturally Magazine.

What is in Your Dogs Food? by Dogs Naturally Magazine.

Why Most Manufactured Foods Should Not be Fed to Cats and Dogs, by Dr Michael Fox DVM, Dogs Naturally Magazine.

How to Select Top Quality Canned Dog Foods, by Nancy Kerns, Whole Dog Journal.

Pet Food Research, by Fiona McCann, Canine Health Concern.

Ingredients Glossary, by All About Dog Food.

Dog Feeding Guide, by All About Dog Food.

The Ingredients List - Seeing Through the Smoke and Mirrors, by David Jackson, All About Dog Food.

Dry Dog Food: The Cost of Convenience, by David Jackson, All About Dog Food.