Level up in 2021: Three sole traders share their best advice for fellow business owners

sole traders advice

Jarin Baigent, founder of Jarin Street and founding member of Trading Blak.

Now that the dust has settled on 2020, it’s the perfect time to reflect, reassess and regroup for the next phase of your business journey. 

We know you like to stay on top of the latest trends, so we asked three sole traders what they learned from last year — and what advice they have for fellow small business owners looking to up their game in 2021. 

“Let go of your to-do list and learn how to delegate” 

— Jarin Baigent, Jarin Street

At the start of 2020, I was running a very niche small business and still finding my feet online — then two things happened that changed everything. 

The first was COVID-19, which meant suddenly people were looking for things to do in the home — which is where my yoga mats fit in beautifully. The second was the Black Lives Matter movement, which brought the focus to the black economy and black-owned businesses.

I’m also a founding member of Trading Blak, which formed early last year to support Aboriginal-owned businesses, so it was a crazy time, and I had to upskill in so many different areas. I had never run a website before, or a business for that matter.

The best advice I can share is the importance of switching off. Learn to be okay with what you do accomplish on any given day, and let go of your to-do list. You’ll actually be more productive if you rest and tackle leftover tasks first thing in the morning.

Identifying how and when to delegate and outsource is also a skill worth developing. Now the pressure has been eased on things like payments, supplies, employees and payroll, which Xero helps me keep track of and organise much more effectively. It’s a stress-reduction tool for me, and I was mind blown at how easy digital tools like cloud accounting software and apps are to use.

Whether you lead a small team or are going it alone, you’ll find the support you need at Xero’s dedicated resource page – complete with free tools and guides to help everything run smoothly. Xero is online accounting software designed to let you do business beautifully and simply, nab a free 30-day trial today.

“You’ve got to be super organised, especially when you’re a sole trader” 

— Misty Walsh, Misty’s Salted Caramel 

Misty Walsh, owner of Misty’s Salted Caramel.

This is the biggest shift in consumer behaviour we’ve seen for a long time. That means there’s going to be heaps of opportunities for small businesses that can pivot to factor in changes to the way we work, shop and interact. To do that, you really need to explore how your customer’s spending habits and preferences have evolved over the past year.

I was lucky. People under lockdown suddenly had so much more time to cook and visit specialty food stores, so the wholesale side of my salted caramel business grew and grew. I’ve also noticed people are really looking at labels now — they’re wanting to buy from Australian-owned businesses, and they’re willing to pay for it.

If you want to step it up in 2021, you’ve got to be super organised, especially when you’re a sole trader trying to do everything yourself! Going digital can really help pick up the slack – for example, Xero sends out automated invoice reminders, which is great for managing cashflow and saves me from a lot of awkward conversations. Plus, with the support and tutorials, I don’t feel so alone. 

It’s funny, looking back, to think I never wanted this to be a full-time gig. Now I love the flexibility. 

You will work your bum off, but you will reap the rewards, and you can be really proud of what you’re doing. It’s certainly not glamorous — and, far out, some of the days I’ve had to pull! — but it’s all worth it when it’s your own business.

“Monitor your cashflow and make sure your accounts are all up to date” 

— Chris Nayna, Train Station Fitness 

sole traders advice

Chris Nayna, owner of Train Station Fitness.

I’d only had my Armadale fitness studio up and running for about six months when I was forced to close, along with every other gym. 

I’d taken out all the insurances and tried to plan for as much as I could, but COVID-19 was something I could never have imagined coming. It just wasn’t on my radar. 

I couldn’t train clients or even do Zoom sessions out of my studio, so I got a permit to train at the park. Then winter set in and the weather turned miserable. Business was unpredictable, and every time new restrictions were announced I had to readjust. 

Luckily, I’m very risk averse, so I’m always careful to stay within what I can afford, and my rainy-day savings gave me a good buffer.

The best advice I have for other small business owners is to monitor your cashflow and make sure your accounts are all up to date. Embracing cloud accounting software like Xero makes this much more convenient (not to mention simple) as you’re able to view your business’ numbers in real time, and it really paid off under lockdown when I needed to apply for JobKeeper and other cash-flow boosters. 

I was already all up to date, so rather than having to go through spreadsheets to prove earnings, I just linked my accountant to my account and he sorted it out. It was all very simple and straightforward.

NOW READ: Five marketing tips to help sole traders expand in 2021

NOW READ: Attention sole traders: How to carve out your digital space in 2021


Xero is a cloud-based accounting software platform for small businesses with over 3 million subscribers globally. Through Xero, small business owners and their advisors have access to real-time financial data any time, anywhere and on any device. Xero offers an ecosystem of over 1,000 third-party apps and 300 plus connections to banks and other financial partners.

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