The FreeAgent Blog

Typeform data breach

Posted on 2 July 2018 by Ed Molyneux - Jump to comments

Typeform, a company that we occasionally use to conduct surveys, have informed us that they have suffered a data breach.

We have conducted a thorough investigation and we’ve concluded that approximately 500 data records have been compromised. All affected users have now been contacted, so if you haven't been contacted your data wasn't affected by this breach.

Please be assured that if you're a FreeAgent account holder, your information and any related bank account information are completely unaffected. They remain as secure and protected as always.

To give you a little more context, this breach has only exposed information entered into certain Typeform forms. None of these forms required passwords or payment details - they were most likely asking you for feedback on our software, or to take part in polls about running a small business. Regardless, we have now disabled all of our active Typeform surveys, and we will not be using Typeform again until we are confident that there is no risk of a similar breach occuring again.

If you’d like to read Typeform’s official response to the incident, please refer to their blog post from this weekend. As the post advises, please be extra vigilant for any spam or phishing emails.

I’m very sorry that this has happened. Please know that we at FreeAgent are committed to continually reviewing and improving our partners, as well as our own processes, to ensure that we offer the safest and most secure experience possible.

Case study: Andi’s got business in hand with the FreeAgent mobile app

Posted on 28 June 2018 by Andrew Bond - Jump to comments

We’ve made a lot of changes to our mobile accounting app recently, refreshing the design and adding various new features. Keen to find out more about how our app is helping real users on the ground, we spoke to Andi Ramsay, the creative director of Aberdeen-based video production company Lumogenesis, to find out how the FreeAgent mobile accounting app helps him stay on top of his finances.

Hi Andi! Can you tell me a little bit about your business?

Hello! We are a visual communications agency with a primary focus on video production. We take care of the entire start-to-finish process, from planning to delivery. We do all of the post-production stuff in house as well as visual effects and motion graphics.

Sounds like quite a wide range of work

Absolutely! I love going from a video project to laying out a magazine to rapid-delivery social video. When you’ve got that variety and exposure to lots of different problems, it definitely makes you more creative and adaptable.

How does the FreeAgent mobile app fit in?

As a business owner, it’s vital to know where your money stands. Being able to look at a single dashboard — especially on the move with the FreeAgent mobile app — means that you have a clear understanding of the state of play in your business. If a new client comes on board, you can see exactly how that’s going to affect you, and if you lose a client you can gain a very quick understanding of what the impact will be.

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What’s your experience been like with the app?

It’s really intuitive. You’ve got your dashboard which gives you an overview of your business finances, then you can drill down into more detailed information. It’s very straightforward; you don’t need to have an accounting dictionary on standby to figure out what things mean!

If you have a client on the phone asking how much an invoice is for, it’s really handy to be able to look it up on the FreeAgent mobile app. Being able to build estimates on the go means you can leave a meeting with a client and send them an estimate or an invoice for the work you’ve just discussed. I tend to build out invoices in draft as the work is ongoing. If the client signs off on it, the invoice can be with them before I’ve left their office!

When and where do you use the app?

I use the mobile app when I’m on the move. Quite often I get the bus into Aberdeen to have meetings and use the mobile app to create an invoice or estimate for what I imagine I’m going to need. Once I’ve had the meeting with the client I can just refine that estimate and email it straight to them. I would never do that on a laptop, but with the FreeAgent mobile app on my phone or iPad, it only takes five minutes.

The app also means that when my family and I decide to take a few days away my business can come with me, accounts and all!

Uploading receipts using the FreeAgent mobile accounting app

So you take FreeAgent on holiday with you?

I do! When we go to see family at Christmas, I know that FreeAgent will help me keep my business keeps running. In those “down days” between Christmas and New Year, it’s nice to be able to keep an eye on things so I don’t get that “inbox shock” in January. If a client emails me and says “I haven’t paid that invoice because I can’t find it, can you resend it to me?” I don’t have to wait a week until I come back to work, I can just send it there and then.

My wife’s a primary school teacher and we’re currently coming up for the end of the school year here in Scotland. She’s off work for six weeks and the mobile app means that during that time we won’t be tethered to the house. If I don’t have access to my desktop I can take my phone and still have my finger on the pulse.

My wife’s actually pregnant — we’re expecting our first in October — so this ability to visit family while keeping my business running will be very welcome!

Congratulations! Will having a child change the way you manage your business?

Yes, I work from home already but I’m going to be shifting toward more design and post-production work: things I can do from a computer without having to be on-site with clients. When I do have kids to look after, they’re going to be somewhat unpredictable to begin with. Being able to squeeze in that little bit of work now and then will be really valuable, so technology like the FreeAgent mobile app will be critical to keeping my work-life balance.

It sounds like your phone is an essential piece of business equipment! Would you go as far to say you could use it to run your entire business?

More and more, I’d actually say I could. If you have the right know-how and the right apps, it’s absolutely possible.

As technology improves and the apps get even better, I think we’re going to see more and more people abandoning their big bulky computers and becoming more nimble using their smartphones.

A big thanks to Andi for a really insightful chat. To find out how FreeAgent can help you run your business on the move, download the mobile app.Get in touch with your accountant to find out what Freeagent mobile can do for you.

Reading to recharge: 5 small business books for your summer holiday

Posted on 11 June 2018 by Andrew Bond - Jump to comments

Summer is almost here! After months of harsh winter it’s time to pack up your suitcase and head somewhere new and exciting. Whether you prefer to relax by the pool or live large on a city break, a good book can be a welcome addition to any holiday.

Enjoy these books for small business owners during your holiday downtime and come back ready to tackle any challenge!

Want to get more organised?

The Organised Mind by Daniel Levitin

Modern life is chaotic. Our phones are constantly buzzing, our calendars are constantly full and our minds are constantly racing. How can we quieten some of this noise while managing to lead productive lives? Neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist Daniel Levitin believes he has the solution.

Drawing on work from both academia and the business world, Levitin suggests ways we can organise our minds and our lives. Diving into topics such as the makeup of the brain and information overload, Levitin gives practical tips to help us tidyup our messy lives and bring order to our chaotic schedules. Levitin has an academic background and is able to combine plentiful knowledge with an engaging writing style.

This would make the perfect audiobook for an early morning drive to the airport.

Image of Daniel Levitin book the organised mind

Want to get more comfortable with selling?

To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink

No matter what kind of work you do, as a small business owner you’re likely to find yourself doing a bit of selling at some point. Whether you’re an IT contractor pitching for work or a web designer trying to convince a developer to work with you, being able to present a case clearly and convincingly is a skill that’s definitely worth taking the time to hone.

Writing with a witty flair, Pink argues that selling isn’t a “dark art” but something we’ve been doing unwittingly our whole lives. Drawing on academic research and psychological studies, Pink shows that selling doesn’t have to be deceitful or sleazy and can be carried out in a more honest and human way.

At 140 pages this book is impressively concise – a great read to brighten up your flight or a tedious wait at the terminal.

Picture of Dan Pink To sell is Human Book

Want to get on top of your finances?

A Field Guide to Freelancer Finances by FreeAgent

As a freelancer, managing your business finances may not be your favourite thing to do, but there’s no doubt it’s important. We might be a little biased, but we think our Field Guide to Freelancer Finances is a great addition to your holiday reading list, especially if you’re keen to get to grips with your business finances once you return to work.

We’ve included everything you need to know about your finances as a freelancer or small business owner, including credit control, pricing your work and invoicing. Combining many unique perspectives of those working in the field of freelancing – from a web developer in London to a chartered accountant who specialises in working with small businesses – the book is also a great source of guidance and inspiration.

We recommend that you read this on a sunny terrace on a lazy afternoon! If you prefer to read on kindle, you can access that here.

Image of freelancer finances book

Want to become more comfortable in new situations?

Rookie Smarts by Liz Wiseman

Does facing a new challenge in your business ever leave you feeling a bit out of your depth? While stepping outside your comfort zone isn’t always easy, leadership expert Liz Wiseman argues that it’s actually a great place to be. In Rookie Smarts, Wiseman proposes that those who are new to things, “rookies”, often excel as they bring an attitude that’s open to new solutions and continuous learning.

Even if you’re not new to a subject, Wiseman urges readers to take on a “rookie mindset”, staying fresh and curious in a world that’s constantly evolving. One way she recommends doing this is spending time with rookies. So even if you’re a veteran in your trade, hiring an intern for a while may freshen up your thinking.

While those around you listen to music on the beach, take your chance to get stuck into Rookie Smarts!

Image of Rookie Smarts book by Liz Wiseman

Want to gain more general business knowledge?

The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman

Josh Kauffman’s The Personal MBA provides an entertaining and comprehensive overview of all the business topics you might need to get handle on as a small business owner, from sales, to finance, to setting up repeatable and scalable business systems, this book has it all.

The appendix recommends 99 other books for further reading, so you can continue your learning long after the holiday is finished!

Image of the Personal MBA by Josh Kauffman

Now you know the books you need, the only thing left is to go on holiday. So pack your suncream, hunt out the sunglasses and don’t forget to take some of these delightful reads with you!

Keeping your account secure

Posted on 1 June 2018 by Richard Grey - Jump to comments

We recently introduced a new feature to improve customer password security. We included a new strength meter and we also began checking newly entered and reset passwords internally against publicly-known lists of common, weak or previously exposed passwords.

Unfortunately, we identified an error that stored these passwords visibly in our internal logging system. While access to this data was only accessible to a restricted group of FreeAgent engineers, we took immediate action to rectify the problem.

We have identified all the customers who could potentially have been affected and have emailed them to let them know. If you’re a FreeAgent customer and you haven’t received an email about this issue, there’s nothing that you need to do.

We are very sorry this happened and we remain committed to reviewing and improving our processes to ensure that similar incidents do not occur in future.

Richard Grey is Head of Information Security at FreeAgent. He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional with over 15 years' experience managing personal data across various software solution providers.

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