It’s that time of year when lots of people talk about personal New Year’s resolutions, but it’s also a great opportunity for you to reassess your business aims and objectives if you’re self-employed.
As a small business accountant that has worked with over 10,000 SMEs throughout the last five years, the team at Accounts and Legal have a knowledge of succeeding, and we are ready to share that with you.
Based on that, we’ve put together a list of seven New Year’s resolutions for the self-employed – read on for what you should consider as you head into 2019.
First thing’s first, meeting the Self Assessment deadline should be a key priority this January.
You have to file your tax return online by midnight on January 31st. If you’re filing it for the first time, you need a Government Gateway login and password. These can take up to 10 days to arrive so make sure you apply for one in plenty of time.
Staying on top of tax is an essential part of running any business. Make sure you put all the key tax dates in your diary and understand any changes to the rules so you can pay what your owe on time and avoid penalties.
If you need assistance with registering for, or completing your self assessment tax return, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team and avoid any hefty fines for missing the deadline.
The introduction of HMRC’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT programme, scheduled for April 2019, will bring a fundamental change to the way that businesses submit VAT returns.
To ensure that they are able to fully comply with the new rules and to avoid fines for filing returns incorrectly, it is essential for organisations to start preparing now.
Another stickler for compliance comes in the form of GDPR. While its deadline was May 25th, 2018, it’s worth reviewing in the new year and ensuring you’re fully compliant.
Under the new rules, it’s vital to be on top of any customer data you hold. Consider your security measures, policies and the nature of any consent you ask for before processing customer data.
Complying with other legislation, like health and safety and intellectual property rules is also essential to make sure you’re on the right side of the law.
If your business has grown or changed in some way over the past year, take a look at your insurance to see if it covers everything you need it to.
Public liability insurance – this is a key cover for most businesses. It can protect you if clients, suppliers, or members of the public suffer personal injury or property damage and blame your business
Employers’ liability insurance – if your business has grown so much that you now need someone to help out, this cover’s a legal requirement in most cases. It protects you if a member of staff gets ill or injured as a result of working for you
Professional indemnity insurance – if you give advice or a professional service to clients, this can protect you if you make a mistake that causes a financial or professional loss
Other protection to think about includes business contents for the things your business relies on every day, and business premises whether you work from home or have separate premises.
Keeping a watchful eye on your finances is essential to self-employed success. Variable cash flow is a common challenge for self-employed business owners, so it’s good to be one step ahead of your income and outgoings. Things to look out for are:
Late payments can be a big problem for the self-employed. If you’re not being paid on time for your products or services, it’ll seriously affect your cash flow.
Make sure your invoicing process is tight, including how you follow up with a customer who’s fallen behind.
Making sure you’ve got your finances planned for the year ahead can help your cash flow.
Planning for the busier periods and making sure you don’t overspend should help you save money for the quieter periods.
Are you charging enough?
The self-employed can sometimes find it difficult to work out what their products or services are worth.
Doing your research on what competitors are charging balanced against what you need to live on is a good place to start.
If numbers and spreadsheets aren’t your strong point, it might be worthwhile getting help from an accountant.
Accountants play a crucial part in detecting cash flow problems early and come up with ways to quickly infuse capital.
That way, they help their clients prepare for uncertainty and find solutions before the effect of a negative cash flow can be felt.
The result: a financially stable business and a happy owner, fully in control of their business’ cash flow and their plans for the year.
Whether you’re an electrician, architect, consultant, or florist, reflecting on your previous year can be a helpful step to working out where you want to take your business. Questions to ask include:
Did I achieve my sales goals?
Did I keep my costs within my set limit?
Did I get repeat business from satisfied customers?
Did my business grow?
What’s more, defining and regularly reviewing business goals will help you meet all your ambitions.
If you have big growth plans, for example, writing it all down (including key milestones you want to achieve by certain dates) will help you keep track.
This may help you identify areas you’ll need help with – whether that’s from other professionals or by taking on staff.
You can tell what customers think of your products or services depending on whether they come back and give you repeat business. But there may be things they’d like you to offer, or things they’d like you to do differently, that you just don’t know about yet.
That’s why actively asking for customer feedback is so valuable to a business. You could do this via social media, such as Twitter, or by simply asking them in person.
Staying connected to your customers is vital to keeping them interested in your business. If you haven’t already, make a plan for how and what you want to share on your social media accounts.
Think about what your customers will want to hear about rather than what you think they need to hear about.
It’s also worth reviewing your website to see if it’s giving your customers the information they need to decide whether they want to do business with you, and whether it works well when viewed on mobiles and tablets.
If this is something you need help with, our digital marketing consultant is on-hand to help - jest get in touch.
Finally, it’s all well and good working hard to get your business in peak condition, but you’re ultimately the engine of your operations. So if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re essentially not taking care of your business.
Make sure you schedule in down time because switching off is a big part of making sure you’re effective when there’s work to be done.