We recently spread some seasonal cheer by holding a virtual Christmas party on Facebook for the ‘elf-employed’. Loads of small business owners and freelancers joined us for a day of online festive fun and frolics.
During the event we asked the partygoers what their small business resolutions were for the year ahead. Here’s a few of the excellent responses we received and some tips for turning best intentions into reality.
"Do tax returns on time!"
If you’re currently eyeing the 31st January Self Assessment deadline with a creeping sense of dread, a great place to start is our Self Assessment checklist - everything you need to take you through the Self Assessment process step by step, right through to filing.
Going forward, a basic but effective way to get organised is by putting your tax return paperwork somewhere safe as soon as it arrives. Buy a box file and use it to keep important documents for each tax year, such as interest certificates from your bank, dividend vouchers showing money received on shares, and so forth.
Make sure you’re also keeping on top of your day-to-day business accounts and your expenses too, as this will help save you time and hassle when it comes to filling your Self Assessment tax return next year. With the right system in place, you can keep your records up to date and accurate in just an hour a week, so why not block off this time in your diary starting from January?
"Pay for a flu jab. Done it every year since becoming self employed. Guess what happened when I didn’t this year?"
The absence of sick pay has traditionally been one of the downsides of being self employed - a survey showed that a huge 82% of micro-business owners have worked through an illness because they felt they couldn’t afford to take time off*.
Making sure you build a decent buffer into your rate to cover yourself is so important. You can set aside this extra money as your own personal insurance policy, whether it be for illness, maternity/paternity cover or even just downtime between jobs.
Insurance products like an income protection policy could also offer you some cover. Usually income protection insurance covers a wide range of illnesses and situations and has the potential to pay out for many years. As with any insurance, getting the right policy for you and your specific circumstances is key – so it’s worth seeing an independent financial adviser or broker for advice.
"Take a holiday for the first time in years!"
Being cooped up with the relatives, watching terrible TV, ferreting through the Quality Street tin to avoid the fruit creams - the Christmas holidays aren’t always as enjoyable as they could be. You need a proper holiday to look forward to!
Unfortunately when you run your own business it’s not always easy to feel you can step away to enjoy some well deserved downtime, but there are some straightforward ways to make sure things keep ticking over while you’re away. Automated responses to messages, either through an automatic out-of-office email responder or a social media automation tool like Hootsuite, can really pick up some of the slack. If you want your clients and suppliers to receive a more personal response, you could even consider outsourcing some of these tasks.
When it comes to staying on top of your cash flow, FreeAgent’s automatic email reminders will chase outstanding invoices for you. You’ll enjoy that piña colada even more knowing that late payers aren’t being let off the hook.
"To actively go client hunting"
If you’re on the prowl for new clients, you could ask the existing clients who you enjoy working with to refer you to their friends. You might even want to consider setting up a dedicated referral scheme, so that your existing clients receive a reward for every customer that they successfully introduce to your business.
You could also consider introducing a special offer or discount for new clients. Offering them a percentage discount on their first purchase from you or a multi-buy discount may seem like you’re taking a hit to your bottom line, but it could be worth it - especially if it encourages them to use your business again in the future. As a bonus, you could extend the discount for a normally quiet period, hopefully boosting your cash flow.
If you’re ready to revolutionise the way you manage your small business accounts this year, give FreeAgent a try today for free. From expenses, payroll, and time tracking to estimates and invoices, FreeAgent helps you take care of business day-to-day. You can get on with enjoying an awesome 2018!
*Survey of FreeAgent customers conducted in January 2017 with 366 total respondents.
This article was originally published on 4/1/2018 and last updated on 7/1/2019