Do figures make you curl up into a ball and hide away? This isn’t me but my sister won’t mind me sharing that financials and figures scare the bejeeeezes out of her and I know she’s not alone. My time in the online business space has shown me that quite a lot of business owners feel the same. They ask questions like this –
Should I put money away for tax and national insurance?
How do I send an invoice?
My client hasn’t paid me, should I chase payment?
What expenses can I claim for ?
There are loads more, I’m not going to list them all.
But your business finances are hugely important. They give you so much information that you need in order to track your business performance – if you don’t know what state your finances are in, how will you know what state your business is in?
Ultimately, you can work with an accountant to help you – and if you chose to, then let your accountant advise you. But many business owners keep their own records and fill out their own self-assessment. If this is you, then I can’t stress enough the need for being responsible for your finances and so here are my thoughts and tips.
Know who your clients are and what work you carry out for them so that you know exactly what to invoice and when. Have payment terms clearly stipulated in your terms and conditions and if an invoice becomes overdue, have a system in place to chase payment.
This can all be automated with online accounting software, which if you don’t already use, you should be looking into because you’ll be required to submit your returns to HMRC digitally in 2020. If you’re not already aware of Making Tax Digital, then you can read about it here.
If a client still refuses to pay their invoice after many attempts to chase, don’t be shy about picking up the phone to have a chat. It’s money you’re owed in exchange for the work you’ve done for them so you shouldn’t feel bad about asking for it. You also shouldn’t carry on doing work for the client if they’re way behind on their payments to you. Talk to you client and work out a solution.
It’s crucial to monitor your expenses regularly. Be very clear about what you pay out of your business and regularly review if these expenses still serve you. For example, you may have taken out subscriptions for online tools that you no longer use. You may have direct debits set up for item renewals that you no longer use – things like paid plugins for your website, old domain names, trade magazine subscriptions etc.
Be wise to what you’re paying out and challenge yourself to make some savings wherever you can.
Make sure you’re recording your expenses properly. Lots of things can be claimed as expenses but there are other things that you may think are a business expense, but they may not be permitted. If you’re unsure, you can check here.
Tax and National Insurance
I think people fall into 2 camps here, you either put money away for HMRC or it’s a shock when you realise what you owe!
It really shouldn’t be a shock at all.
Reconcile your accounts either monthly or quarterly, work out what your payments to HMRC should be and put money away into a separate bank account that you won’t touch. As a business owner, you have to be responsible about tax payments. You can find further information here but if this leaves you wanting to hide in a corner then take advice from an accountant.
We both know that being self-employed can be a rollercoaster ride. We can have fantastically busy months, but other months may look very dry indeed. Potential clients who were all fired up to work with us may never materialise or clients may suddenly leave us. Things happen. It’s so important to put money away for these harder times.
If you can save some money every month into yet another separate account that you won’t touch until you need it, you’ll thank yourself. There’s no right or wrong answer for how much you should put by – whether it’s enough to cover your for 3, 6 or 12 months – if you have it, it’ll be there if you need it – and hopefully you won’t!
So, keeping good records will help you to
· understand your finances
· see your business growth opportunities – help you plan
· keep things in order in case you are inspected by HMRC
· prepare your accounts / self-assessment
· stay sane – you’ll know exactly what’s going on and if there are changes that need to be made, you’ll be able to act immediately!
As always, I’d love to know your thoughts, please do comment below.