Govt launches sole trader online support

Monday 1 December 2014

A new package of support designed to help sole traders and limited companies expand their presence online had been launched.

This package, titled the Do More Online campaign, has been fronted by £2 million of funding provided by the government as part of its plan to help micro-businesses compete and grow. Help for this small businesses should, in turn, help to strengthen the economy.

This funding would be provided to 22 projects through Local Enterprise Partnerships as a means of helping small businesses increase their digital presence.

Among the projects that are set to receive support are a digital TV channel in Manchester that provides advice to businesses that is easy to access and cost-effective. It would also be supported by events, advice and networking sessions.

A business support helpline has been set up for Do More Online at 0300 456 3565 that provides resources and advice.

The government is also working in partnership with Go ON UK and has made specific resources available for small businesses to use. These include how-to guides that are available to read on the private-sector backed website

A dedicated website has also been set off for Do More Online, which carries articles on building a website, marketing it online and using social media. In turn, it is supported by the helpline.

Speaking about Do More Online, business and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock said: "Thousands of potential customers are searching online for local small businesses and without an online profile businesses will lose out.

"To make sure consumers get the best deal and small businesses spread their nets far and wide, the government is investing in a range of advice to help them do more online. I am committed to making the UK the best place in the world to start up and grow, and this is integral to achieving that."

A number of businesses have also endorsed the campaign, including Exact UK, Microsoft, HP, The Coalition for a  Digital Economy, Telefonica and Virgin Media Business.

Entrepreneur in residence at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Simon Devonshire, emphasised that it is now more important for businesses to have a presence online than it is for them to have an office landline telephone number. He went as far to say "online is the new landline."

In spite of this, research shows that two million businesses in the UK are not online. What's more, two-thirds of businesses that do have a presence online are not transactional.

Mr Devonshire added that his belief is that businesses who set up an online presence are expanding their opportunity to reduce their business costs, scale up and potentially export aboard. This last point would also help to boost the UK economy.

He said: "I cannot think of a business to whom being online is not now vital to their trade, irrespective of their ambition to grow."

With 31 per cent of small businesses in the UK lacking in basic digital skills, they are less competitive than a lot of their peers, said chief executive officer of digital skills charity Go ON UK Rachel Neaman.

By Victoria McDonnell

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