You’ve decided this is the year to ramp up your business as an independent support worker. So, what are some tips for being really professional as you go about it? We’ve put this together based on questions from independent workers on the Better Caring platform.
1. Get back to basics
Do you remember watching the Beginners Guide to Better Caring? It’s worth watching again as a refresh of some core business principles.
We’re online, but we’re also social, so don’t forget that your potential client is a real person and your goal is to develop long term, successful relationships. That starts by making a good impression online. Make sure you always reply within 24 hours, don’t promise what you can’t deliver, don’t start work until your agreement has been approved. And most importantly, make sure everyone is safe.
2. Setting your hourly rate
Do your homework. What is everyone paying in your area for your skills? What’s your ideal hourly rate if you take into account tax, super and holidays? Bear in mind you can choose to charge more over weekends and public holidays, and you may have to charge less per hour on longer shifts and overnight. You can always ask your peers through the Better Caring Community of Support Workers Facebook group, too.
3. Negotiating the terms of your agreement
If you’ve worked in the sector, you may be used to cancellation terms. Because this relationship is between you and your client, it’s up to you to set your own. If your shift is cancelled at short notice, do you want to charge for an hour of your time to cover travel? Or will you waive that charge in the interests of developing a long-term relationship with your client?
You’re in charge of this conversation. Equally, if you’re unhappy with working shorter shifts you can either set a minimum shift time or price accordingly. Just bear in mind that many workers will happily accept shifts of only an hour or two. While you are still building your client network, it might pay off in the long run to think about what your peers might be offering.
4. Nice to meet you
We encourage workers to offer an initial hour free for an interview. If you do meet face-to-face, or if you don’t, read our tips to make a great first impression. Bring a copy of your documents for clients to verify. Have your ‘pitch’ prepared. You can base this on what you’ve written in your profile. If you really want to rock the interview, you can prepare answers to the questions clients are likely to ask.
5. Wearing a uniform
We’ve been asked about this a lot recently. As an independent worker, determining dress code is entirely up to you. Feedback from many clients is that they don’t want workers to wear uniforms as this then identifies them as someone being supported rather than someone hanging out with a friend. If it’s important to you to be dressed for purpose, you could buy a few sets of matching shirts and trousers – whatever’s neat, comfortable and does the job.
6. Marketing is everything
Everything you do in a shift is a way of marketing yourself. Going above and beyond, enriching your client’s day, bringing along a buddy who can cover for your shifts. It’s the little things that make a big impression, like turning up a few minutes early, remembering the names of family members and regular visitors, making suggestions for activities. It also pays to know your stuff, everything from consumer rights for clients to how funding works.
7. Working the room
It’s up to you to kickstart your business in your community and a great way to learn the secrets of the professionals is to hang out with them. Our Facebook group is very active but nothing beats a meet-up with other independent workers. We organise a number of meet-ups throughout the year but there’s no reason why you can’t start your own. The great thing about groups is that you discover that everyone else has the same challenges and questions, and you can work out the answers together. To find out how to get set up, ring 1300 73 65 73 to talk to someone in our friendly Community Engagement team.