The FreeAgent Blog

4 ways to keep your business ticking over while you travel

Posted on 17 August 2017 by Fiona Hendrie - Jump to comments

Sun, sea and… spreadsheets? If that combination just made you feel a tad queasy, then - a) I’m sorry and b) don’t worry.

There is absolutely no need to lug your laptop with you when you head off on holiday, especially if you’re just looking to keep one eye on your business. So when you're next killing time whilst travelling, take a break from the never-ending Insta-scroll and check these satisfying FreeAgent Mobile tasks off your to-do list instead.

1. Explain transactions ✅

Explaining transactions might just be one of the most satisfying things you can do with your phone. For the uninitiated, explaining transactions is a way of categorising all the transactions FreeAgent has pulled through from your bank account.

Categorising your spending like this helps FreeAgent to auto-populate your Self Assessment tax return (which is a HUGE time saver) and helps to build cashflow insights. To explain transactions in the mobile app, simply head to ‘Banking’, and then with just a few swift taps, your transactions will change from a mildly unsettling red, to a lovely, soothing green. Find out more about explaining transactions in our Knowledge Base.

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2. Create a bill ✅

The word ‘bill’ might not inspire feelings of joy from most of us, but FreeAgent Mobile is here to change all that.

While you don’t want to be worrying about admin on holiday, it’s still handy to be able to keep on top of what you owe. If you receive a bill, for example from a supplier, you can easily log it in the app, no matter where you are. All you have to do is enter the amount, due date etc, and then it will appear on your ‘Bills’ screen. Done.

Then, when you’re back on home turf, you can view all of your upcoming bills at a glance - no risk of forgetting to pay anyone, no matter how jet lagged you are.

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3. Record expenses ✅

There’s nothing worse than a wallet clogged full of old receipts, so why not make room for some exciting new holiday currency instead?

Whip out good old FreeAgent Mobile again, and tap ‘Add a new expense’. From there, you can snap photos of those old business expense receipts that you’ve been clinging onto, and store them digitally in FreeAgent instead. Once finished, you can safely discard those old bits of paper and fill your wallet with something much more exciting. Like Euros, Kuna, Krona, Rupee, Yuan...

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4. Create estimates & invoices ✅

Is one of your super keen clients champing at the bit for you to start a new project for them - while you’re just trying to top up your tan? Create an estimate of the work you’re going to do for them in FreeAgent Mobile, and you can email it over without leaving the app. Similarly, if you forgot to fire off an invoice before you began your break, you can take care of that in FreeAgent Mobile too.

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Now that you’ve checked in on your business, shouldn’t you be getting back to more important things? Now, where is that sun cream?

Business on the beach: five holiday reads for freelancers

Posted on 10 August 2017 by Adrian Mather - Jump to comments

Looking to kick back and kick your small business up a notch? If you’re lucky enough to be heading off on holiday soon, here are five books that will keep your brain ticking over while your body unwinds. Grab a cool drink and get refreshed, revitalised, and most importantly - get reading.

Eat That Frog! Get More of the Important Things Done - Today Brian Tracy

As Mark Twain once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first”. By ‘eating the frog’ and getting the tasks you most dislike out of the way first thing, you’ll start your day feeling accomplished and productive. This helpful book gives you 21 practical and doable steps that will help you leave procrastination behind and become your most focused, productive self.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg - Facebook COO and one of Fortune magazine's Most Powerful Women in Business - explores the topic of women and ambition in this bestselling 2013 book. Drawing on her own experience of working in some of the world's most successful businesses, she looks at at what women can do to help themselves, and explores how making small changes can cause a huge ripple effect.

A Field Guide to Freelancer Finances FreeAgent

We may be biased, but we think this free ebook by FreeAgent is super useful! This collection of business finance tips tells a story about not just surviving as a freelancer, but thriving. It’s a handy guide that includes first-person advice, industry research, survey results and expert tips. There are over 30 contributors to the book, giving an inside view into how they’ve overcome problems such as chasing payments to succeed as independent freelancers.

How to Style Your Brand: Everything You Need to Know to Create a Distinctive Brand Identity Fiona Humberstone

Whatever your business, your brand is key to getting clients’ attention. Drawing on her experience of developing hundreds of identities for companies worldwide, Fiona Humberstone walks you through the process of styling your brand. From finding your focus, creating an inspirational vision and unlocking the power of colour psychology; Fiona aims to help you discover the design details that will make your business irresistible.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference Malcolm Gladwell

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. If you’re interested in the psychological side of marketing and promotion, this book is for you.

Self Assessment: what you need to know about payments on account

Posted on 24 July 2017 by Emily Coltman - Jump to comments

If you’ve recently had notification from HMRC saying that you have a second payment due for the year 2016/17 on 31 July, this is known as a ‘payment on account’.

Each payment on account is half the amount of Income Tax and class 4 National Insurance that some business owners have to pay to HMRC for a future tax year. If your Income Tax and class 4 National Insurance total more than £1,000 for a tax year and you don't pay tax at source on more than 80% of your income, you'll have to make payments on account.

Here’s what else you need to know:

It’s easy to find out what you owe

If you haven’t received a letter and you’re unsure how much you owe, you can find out by logging into your HMRC online account and viewing your Self Assessment statement.

The total relates to your previous year's tax and class 4 NI bill

The amount you have to pay for this payment on account is half of your previous year's tax and class 4 NI bill. So if your tax bill for 2016/17 was £1,500, then each payment on account you’d need to make in respect of your 2017/18 tax bill would be £750.

You’ve got until 31 July to pay

The deadline for payments on account to reach HMRC is 31 July. Different payment methods take different amounts of time to reach HMRC, so don’t get caught out.

Payment type How long it takes for the payment to reach HMRC How you can pay
Online or telephone banking (Faster Payments) Same or next day By using the bank details listed on gov.uk
CHAPS Same or next day By using the bank details listed on gov.uk
Bacs Three working days By using the bank details listed on gov.uk
Debit card online Same or next day Online via gov.uk
Credit card online Same or next day Online via gov.uk. A non-refundable fee applies if you pay by credit card.
Cheque through the post Three working days By writing a cheque made payable to ‘HM Revenue and Customs only’ followed by your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number. It should be posted along with your paying-in slip to HMRC, Direct, BX5 5BD – no street name, city name or PO Box is required.
Existing Direct Debit Three working days By setting up a Direct Debit from your HMRC online account. (Note that you have to set up a new direct debit every time you wish to make a payment).
New Direct Debit Five working days By setting up a Direct Debit from your HMRC online account.
At the Post Office (only an option if you get paper statements from HMRC and have a paying-in slip which they sent you). Same day (Monday-Friday only) By paying a maximum of £10,000 by debit card or cash. Some branches will let you pay by cheque made payable to ‘Post Office Ltd’. You need a paying-in slip from HMRC to pay at a bank, building society or Post Office.
At your bank or building society (only an option if you still get paper statements from HMRC and have the paying-in slip they sent to you in the post) Same day (Monday-Friday only) By paying cash or writing a cheque made payable to ‘HM Revenue and Customs only’ followed by your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) followed by the letter ‘K’. You need a paying-in slip from HMRC to pay at a bank, building society or Post Office.

You can apply to reduce your payments on account

If you know your tax and class 4 NI bill will be lower next year - for example if you've lost a big customer or you pass State Pension age and no longer have to pay class 4 NI - then you can apply to reduce your payments on account. However, be careful when doing this: if you reduce your payments on account too far, HMRC will treat it as unpaid tax and will charge you interest, so do leave a margin for error when you work out the reduction.

6 reasons to file Self Assessment right now

Posted on 20 July 2017 by Adrian Mather - Jump to comments

There are a lot of perks to being self-employed, from flexible hours and being your own boss, to the privilege of working from home in your pants. There are definitely some drawbacks to freelance life though, and one of these can be the annual filing of the Self Assessment tax return.

Unless numbers are your jam, chances are that bookkeeping is not the highlight of your working week (unless you use FreeAgent, of course). Keeping your accounts in order is vital for the smooth running of a business though, and leaving them to the last minute can be a recipe for disaster. So this year, tackle your books on time, and experience the pure bliss that is filing your tax return early.

1. Money in the bank

If you leave your Self Assessment until just before the January 31st deadline, then you run the risk of receiving an unexpectedly high tax bill, with not enough savings put aside to comfortably pay it. Aside from being out of pocket, you’ll be liable for a £100 fine if you’re even a day late. The earlier you deal with your taxes, the more time you’ll have to budget for them. January can often be a month where the purse strings are especially tight, so do your sanity (and your bank account) a favour, and get that return filed ASAP.

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2. All the time in the world

Completing your tax return requires you to get an awful lot of figures, reports and certificates together. Leaving this to the last minute runs the risk of you not being able to find some of these important documents, and potentially having to file late. On top of this, HMRC registration can take up to 10 days to provide you with your UTR confirmation code, so it’s in your interest to get that paperwork ready nice and early. This way, there will be no last minute scrabbling for files, and you can get things done in your own sweet time.

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3. The joy of being organised

As the best-selling book by Marie Kondo testifies, there is joy to be found in being utterly and completely organised. If you can check Self Assessment off your list sooner, rather than later, it will be a huge weight off your shoulders. No longer will you spend the year dreading digging out those old documents, as it will be already done and dusted. Along with the feeling of sweet relief, you will now have freedom to fully focus on what’s really important - your business.

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4. Freedom to enjoy the festive season

No-one wants taxes to be looming in the back of their mind while they’re tucking into turkey. The annual January 31st deadline for Self Assessment submission leaves a lot of freelancers fretting over the Christmas holiday. Get your taxes sorted well before winter, and you’ll be free to focus on much more important things, like eating your body weight in chocolate.

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5. Time to find a great accountant (if you don’t have one already)

While you don’t legally require an accountant to help you file your Self Assessment, it can often be a good idea to let an accountant check over your work. Although FreeAgent automatically populates a lot of your tax return for you, by letting a pro take a look you can make sure that you haven’t missed anything out. Accountants are notoriously busy in the run-up to the Self Assessment deadline, so find one you like now, before everyone else books them up.

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6. Self Assessment smugness

The final - and most important - reason of all to file your Self Assessment now, is the complete and utter smugness you can radiate from the moment you’ve filed. While your self-employed pals are complaining that they’re going to be bogged down in their books for the next few months, you can hit them with a ‘Self Assessment? Oh, I filed that months ago…’.

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