Dean Harris is edging towards his fiftieth birthday and is still on the tools, working at least six days a week in the idyllic Victorian seaside town of Sorrento.He is a third generation sole trader builder and carpenter. Dean’s grandfather, Valentine, was a builder, as was his father Leonard. Houses for sale in the area often have ‘Harris built’, on the for sale board, such is the quality and reputation of the family’s work.Dean says technology has transformed the way he operates his business. An example is his smartphone. At the same time as we interviewed him, Dean was tracking a delivery for a job site. It hadn’t arrived, so he was able to ring and find out where it was.He also relies on his tablet as a great reference tool. For instance he uses it to track the weather, an important factor for builders, given wet weather can close down a job.Dean also uses an app on his tablet that allows him to keep a ledger of jobs he has billed, which clients have paid and which accounts are outstanding."Being able to send an invoice straight away, or check on the progress of an invoice while I’m on a job is a time saver. It’s also so much more efficient having everything in the one file rather than having paper scattered around the office,” he says.
Build a network
His advice for those thinking of going out alone is to make sure you have a good local network where people know the quality of your work and that you are available for jobs.
“Ensure you have contracts, insurance and a financial system in place to cover off how you are going to get paid and be able to pay suppliers.
“Be passionate about what you are doing and be prepared to work really hard, especially in the first 12 months. Also be prepared to ride out the slow times and know that you will be working around the clock in peak periods like Christmas and Easter," says Dean.
“Aim to stay small or go big – I have found there is no in between.
“Years ago I had people working for me, but that just created more stress. So now I work for myself. Stay motivated and remain professional and you’ll go from strength to strength,” he adds.