The FreeAgent Blog

Hark the business angels sing! (and other ways to fund a business)

Posted on 19 December 2018 by FreeAgent - Jump to comments

When you’re running a small business, at some point you may have to decide whether to expand and grow your venture beyond its startup roots. While this can be an exciting step to take, it can also be an incredibly daunting prospect.

Not only do you have to decide exactly how much money you’ll need to realise your ambitions, but there are also detailed plans and projections to compile in order to demonstrate exactly how your business will use that funding. There’s also the question of how you’re going to secure those funds.

So if you’ve got ambitious growth ambitions in 2019 but you’re not sure how to go about securing the investment you need here are a few suggestions to consider over the festive break.

Angel investment

Angel investment can be a great method for financing a business with strong growth prospects. Investors will consider the future potential of your business rather than looking solely at its current performance. In addition, these investors tend to understand that many small business owners often have limited business experience but these founders sometimes go on to build very successful companies.

If you think angel investment is right for your business, research your options thoroughly by looking at online communities such as AngelList. If you know any entrepreneurs who have already raised finance, ask them for feedback and see if they could give you a “warm” introduction to a friendly investor who may be interested in your business.

Bear in mind that some investors are more likely to invest in a passionate entrepreneur than in a slick presentation - so don’t get bogged down with a stack of PowerPoint slides. Just be yourself and present your business proposition clearly and enthusiastically.

Crowdfunding

If you have a compelling product or service and you think you can highlight the value and potential of your business to a wider audience, crowdfunding could be a good avenue to explore.

If you’re an early-stage business still developing ideas for your full product range, you may want to look at a platform like Kickstarter, where you provide incentives in return for investment (e.g. offering a free product in exchange for a minimum donation). Larger businesses looking for wider growth might want to consider using equity crowdfunding to raise investment.

If you decide to go down the crowdfunding route, make your business case as compelling as possible to potential investors and be prepared to answer some challenging questions about your business. Crowdfunding investors are no different to angel investors - they want to know they’re making a shrewd decision before they reach for their wallets!

Loans and alternative lending

The most obvious place to look for a loan is your bank - but be prepared to face some tough questions about your business aspirations and to have your financial accounts scrutinised.

If you don’t fancy approaching your bank, there are plenty of other organisations which provide finance for businesses, each with their own particular criteria for who they will lend to. There’s a chance that one of these will offer the kind of loan that could right for you. For example, some lenders offer short-term loans based on your trading or your stock.

Take the time to thoroughly research the market and see what options are available to you - or check out a service like Funding Options which will do it for you. Remember not to be disheartened if you don’t succeed at the first hurdle. Keep trying and always seek feedback to help you refine your pitch.

Small business grants

Although not necessarily a method for securing all of the money you’ll need to grow your business, it’s still a good idea to research all of the potential grant schemes available in your region or industry to see if you qualify for them.

If you’re hoping to expand and take on new staff, for example, check whether there are any schemes that encourage businesses who create or safeguard jobs. Alternatively, you could look for a scheme that provides funding for training new staff, or one designed to support businesses who are developing new products, processes and services.

If you’re unsure where to start your search, the UK government website has a host of useful information to help you find potential grant and support schemes. Just remember that there will be a lot of competition for these grants so make sure your proposition is pitch-perfect before you start making applications.

Seasonal Spotlight: Ashley Laird, Support Accountant

Posted on 17 December 2018 by FreeAgent - Jump to comments

Ashley from our support team

This festive season, we’re putting the spotlight on some of the members of the FreeAgent team to find out more about them and how they’ll be celebrating Christmas this year.

Hi Ashley! What do you do at FreeAgent?

I work in the support team as a Support Accountant. My job is to help our customers with any queries or problems they might have, as well as providing guidance on how to use FreeAgent.

How long have you worked here?

I've been here for almost two years now!

What’s your background/what brought you to FreeAgent?

I did a degree in accountancy and finance at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. After that, I worked as an accounts assistant at a construction firm for a while. I processed invoices, purchase orders and managed cheques.

After that role, I decided I wanted to continue down the accounts side of things, but try something a bit different - and that’s why I came to FreeAgent!

What’s it like working in the support team?

I love working in the FreeAgent support team - we’re one big family! There’s a really good atmosphere and everyone’s very positive and happy.

And you always have chocolate!

Yes! We usually have a big tub of Celebrations or Quality Street on the go.

What are some of your favourite things about working at FreeAgent?

I really enjoy working with a variety of different people and customers. I also really like the satisfaction of helping out with a tricky question! I love how close-knit the support team is, and the way that everyone has each others’ backs.

What are your plans for the future?

Well, I'm currently studying to be an accountant. I spend my evenings and weekends doing a course through CIMA (the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants). Working at FreeAgent is really useful for my studies; I’ve gained a lot more real-world accounting experience, as well as learning to understand tons of accounting jargon too!

And Christmas is almost here! Do you have any plans?

All of my family are coming up to our house, my mum will be making Christmas dinner and I’ll be making the pudding as usual. I always make cheesecake - I think this year it’ll be raspberry and white chocolate . After that, we’ll probably watch a Christmas film, have our traditional Christmas piña coladas and then fall asleep!

Holidays are coming! 5 pieces of pre-Christmas admin to tick off for a stress-free break

Posted on 12 December 2018 by FreeAgent - Jump to comments

A pair of christmas socks are seen on a blue background

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The life of a small business owner can be demanding and a relaxing holiday season surrounded by friends and family could give you the breathing space you need after a hard year’s work. But before you take that well-deserved break, a little bit of pre-Christmas admin can go a long way! These five tips are designed to help you finish up 2018 in style and give your business a flying start in 2019.

1. Let clients know your availability if you're planning to take time off

If you want to have a proper holiday over the festive season, the last thing you need is a stream of emails and phone calls flying in while you’re trying to relax! Make sure you give your clients, suppliers and anyone else who may need to contact you plenty of warning before you down tools. Whether you set an out-of-office message on your email and phone or contact people individually, you’ll be far less likely to receive an unexpected call over your turkey dinner if you let everyone you work with know your availability.

2. Chase remaining invoices to get paid before Christmas!

If you’re planning on taking time off at Christmas, it’s highly likely that your clients will be doing so too - and that’s not great news if you’re still waiting to be paid! If clients are dashing to get everything done before the holidays start, they might overlook the outstanding invoice on their desk, which means that it could be well into the new year before they finally get round to paying you.

Start chasing these invoices now to make sure you get the money you’re owed before the festive break starts. If necessary, get on the phone and request payment in person but if you’re not comfortable having an awkward conversation about money at this time of year, FreeAgent’s invoice reminders which will automatically email clients and request payment for you! Find out more about invoicing in FreeAgent.

3. Set some goals for 2019

The run-up to Christmas isn’t just a great time to prepare for some much-needed downtime, it’s also a chance to get your business set for the year ahead. So, in addition to getting the last bits of work done before the holidays, why not carve some time out to set yourself a few 2019 goals?

Think about what you want to achieve once the new year gets underway. There might be a new business opportunity that you’ve always wanted to try, a new direction you’ve considered taking your business in, or you might just want to get more organised with your admin! Make a list now and start thinking about how you can turn those goals into realities when you return to work after the holidays.

4. Make a plan for January to get the new year off to a great start

If you really want to hit the ground running when you return to work, consider making a plan for January before you down tools in December. Unlike your aspirational goals for 2019, these should be specific tasks for you to complete when you’re back at your desk.

For example, you may want to get your tax affairs in order or tidy up all of those important documents you need to file. Or maybe you could finally set up that new business bank account you’ve been considering for the past few months? Whatever your plans are, write them down and leave them somewhere handy to give yourself a really productive return to work in January.

5. Make a start on your Self Assessment- or maybe even file it!

Even the most relaxing of festive breaks can be overshadowed by the looming spectre of Self Assessment season. So if you don’t fancy another stressful January where you’re racing against time to log your expenses, dig through your finances and get your tax return filed before the 31st January deadline, why not take some time now to get it out of the way?

Take a look at our Self Assessment guides to see what information you need and then make a start on gathering the data and filling out the necessary sections of your tax return. You might even find you can file it early! That way, you’ll be able to spend more time on your business once January gets underway.

A trio of trophies for FreeAgent!

Posted on 10 December 2018 by Kevin McCallum - Jump to comments

A bottle of champagne is popped open and laid out on a blue background.

The festive season is just starting, but here at FreeAgent Towers Christmas has come a little early this year. Over the past week or two we’ve been dusting off our posh frocks and joining in the revelry at some fairly prestigious parties - where we’ve scooped some shiny new trophies to deck our halls with!

Last week, FreeAgent was named “best new innovation in solving problems for small businesses using account aggregation” at the Financial Data and Technology Association (FDATA) 2018 Open Banking Awards, which recognise the many innovative ways UK companies are using Open Banking to help their customers. Ever since we received our Account Information Services Provider (AISP) registration from the Financial Conduct Authority earlier this year, we’ve been working hard on bringing Open Banking into FreeAgent, so we were honoured to receive this recognition.

But that’s not all! We also had a successful night at the recent 2018 Computing Technology Product Awards in London, where we we were named Best Business Software Provider. And earlier this month, our co-founder Ed Molyneux was delighted to be crowned CEO of the Year at the Scottish Tech Startup Awards.

2019 is gearing up to be an even bigger year for FreeAgent - so watch this space! In the meantime, why not learn more about our award-winning accounting software

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