ASPIRING businessmen and women looking to set up on their own can benefit from a new programme of workshops run by Business Link in the East of England. The free sessions, running between April and September, aim to offer guidance and support to those looking to become self-employed. The workshops will be run by business professionals at a range of venues across Cambridgeshire. In the past year, more than 16,800 delegates have taken advantage of Business Link's 1,850 start-up workshops across the country, which have helped get 3,000 businesses off the ground. Pat Smith, chief executive of Business Link in the East of England, said: "We know that 81 per cent of businesses that started with the help of Business Link survive beyond three years. This figure tops the national average by 15 per cent. "This new programme of workshops, supported by web, phone and online advice, enables prospective and early-stage entrepreneurs to get the help and support they need to turn their business ideas into a reality." The workshops focus upon developing the skills required to run a business. They start from making the decision to set up alone and getting the basics right, to more advanced advisory sessions on managing money and making a profit, finding and keeping customers, and maintaining a successful business. INFORMATION: To find out more about Business Link workshops, contact 08457 17 16 15 or visit www.businesslink.gov.uk\/east Working for yourself: Business Link's Top 10 Tips 1. Assess the viability of your business idea - being good at something isn't necessarily a sound basis on which to start a business. 2. Research the market - your customers, your competitors and your business operations. 3. Prepare a business plan - a well thought-out business plan should explain your objectives, priorities and strategies for at least the next year or two. 4. Focus not on what you want to offer, but on what your customers want to buy - identify who you plan to sell to and build a customer profile. 5. Focus on one or two niche markets, be clear about what they want from you, and make sure you exceed their expectations. Trying to sell to too many types of customer is a common downfall. 6. Stand out from the crowd - identify exactly the benefits your product offers that customers can't get elsewhere. 7. Do the maths. Forecast all income and expenditure, and if the business needs to meet other costs, make sure your pricing covers this. 8. Be realistic - getting money into your business can take longer than expected. Build a safety net into your business start-up budget. 9. Let people know you exist - use the most cost-effective media that is likely to be seen or heard by potential customers, according to your customer profile. 10. Get help and support. Starting and managing your own business will involve some tough challenges and difficult decisions, and Business Link may be able to help.