How to Hire an Accountant for your Startup

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Launching your own business from scratch is a challenging and monumental time. There is enough stress on your plate without you having to worry about your cash flows and costs. Accounting is a critical part of any business, especially in its preliminary stages.

You may be a superstar, but there is a limit to which you can stretch yourself and utilise your energies. If you feel accounting is not your forte and will only take more of your precious time, then you may want to consider hiring an accountant to ease your accounting processes.

No matter what the scope of your business operations are, there are professional accountants available to help you out. However, if you are completely new to this, and need a bit of guidance, then you are in the right place.

What does an accountant do?

Accountants such as Atkinson Chartered Accountants, tax advisors in Brighton are masters of the art of accounting and offer a diverse, wide portfolio of services to their clients. These include but are not limited to:

a.       Deciding whether registration for VAT is required or not

b.      Helping you decide which software to procure and how to set it up, including defining variables

c.       Deciding whether registration for VAT is required or not

d.      Helping you choose which business category you should officially be registered in by assessing and analysing your business situation: partnership, sole tradership, or limited company. This decision will impact your tax requirements and personal liability equation. Hence, it is critical you make the right choice in this matter.

Once you are up and running, an accountant can benefit you in a lot more ways:

a.       Give ideas and advise on how to onboard employees’ payroll

b.      Make sure that you utilise all the possible tax relief conditions that your business qualifies for

c.       Provide guidance on how to reduce tax liabilities in the future

d.      Manage and optimise your company’s cash flows

e.       Assist or lead in preparing fiscal forecasts and relevant business plans

f.        Identify the right kind of finance to be raised and in help in doing just that

g.       Ensure that tax returns are filed within deadlines and that the right amount of tax is paid

When is the right time to hire an accountant?

It is never too early to start consulting an accountant. From the moment your business idea is born in your mind and you begin to formulate a plan, schedule a preliminary appointment with an accountant. He can guide you and help you develop an accurate, realistic business plan with appropriate financial forecasts. Not only that, he will be able to direct you in the class of finance that would best suit your needs. Your accountant will be able to inform you of any legal and regulatory requirements that you would have to meet as well as a start up business. He will provide a complete end to end roadmap that will tell you whom to inform, where to file your business papers, deadlines and a lot more. It will make your work a lot easier and allow you to concentrate on building your business, instead of worrying about bureaucratic and administrative issues.

As stated, your accountant will instruct you which business category to fall under: limited liability, partnership or sole trader. Remember this will impact every dimension of your business operations and change the scope according to the business format you decide to go for. This can include any intellectual property rights you want to patent, your letterheads, paperwork etc.

What do you need to know before hiring an accountant for your start-up?

Preparation

it is always better to compare oranges with oranges and not compare with apples. What do we mean? Seek out accounting firms that are the same scale and size as your business as they are the ones who will best understand your issues and custom needs. Not just that, perhaps you want an accountant who has experience and expertise in your field of business. Of course, that will make a positive difference and probably make you feel more comfortable with him as well. Do assess their reputation in the market as well and check which accounting body they’re a member off. Credibility is everything!

Touch Base

Take your time and touch base with four to six accounting firms that appeal to you. Fix meetings with them and request proposals. Ask them why you should hire them and how they can help your business. Spend some time on this as this is going to be a long term business relationship. Always ask before your first meeting if there are any prerequisite charges or the introductory meeting is free. If you ask for serious advice on a specific matter, you may just get charged.

Hold Meetings

Give the accounting firm you are meeting an overview of your business and what your expectations are from your hired accountant. See if their portfolio of services can cater to your demand. Can they offer any improvements?

If you already have a business plan, get them to review it and share comments. However, if you are looking for ways to raise capital finance, tell them you need a fiscal forecast. Clarify from before what the cost would be and if you can afford it. Check when they expect their fees to be paid and how frequently.

After the Meeting

Suppose you have found an accounting firm you love and you have hired it – you will a contractual letter from them that will outline their working terms and conditions. Once you have signed the paperwork and have made things official, clarify to your accountant that you need his services on a frequent basis, not only at the end of the tax year when fees are due. Tell him he can talk to you and disclose if there are any alarming discrepancies that he identifies in your financial statements as you want to be protected and not find out issues at the last moment.

Develop Your Relationship

 

Utilise your accountant as much as you need and get advise on how to expand or improve your start-up business. There is no harm in doing this! Just do a yearly review of your accountant’s services and make sure his capability is what you need.

7 essential tech tools to support your small business

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If you’re a small business and offer services such as commercial cleaning in Glasgow then  you’re likely to be quickly realising that you need all the help you can get when it comes to making your business a success, espcially online.

That might mean taking on staff members, contractors or even unpaid help – but then again, sometimes just a few extra hours in the day would be the most desirable options.

There are no time machines on this list – but if you want to maximise the time you do have, we can recommend some great time and sanity saving tools!

  1. A website designer

Mention web design and you could be forgiven for thinking of complex lines of code and years of training.

In actual fact, there are quicker ways to get an online presence.

Take a look at a tool like Wix or Squarespace. They’re both ‘drag and drop’ style site designers and can see you with anything from a holding page to an online store in literally a matter of hours.

You don’t need to have the eye of a designer either, with a series of great looking templates you’ll find that dropping in your own logos and products makes a site uniquely yours with a fraction of the project management effort needed to get a traditionally coded site in place.

In the long term you might decide to look at something more flexible – but to get you out of the gates, especially when money is tight, these tools can be invaluable.

  1. A project management tool

If you’re putting a team together, whether that’s with permanent or freelance staff, having a central place to coordinate your efforts is worth its weight in gold.

Rather than hoping that everyone’s going to take great notes or read and reply to emails as diligently as you do, you might want to think about a tool like Basecamp, Trello or a similar alternative.

With tools like these you have a central ‘board’ or virtual office space to work from. You can do virtually anything you would in a real office, from having discussion areas, post to-do lists, allocate tasks, share files, invite guests to collaborate and much more.

If keeping everything in one place is becoming difficult, opt for a free trial and see what a project management tool does to your productivity.

  1. Book keeping software

It’s easy to let money management matters go to the back of your head when there are more pressing jobs at hand – but when there are some exceptionally quick and easy tools to use, you really don’t have to – especially when putting that stuff off causes headaches at tax return time (or a telling off from your accountant…)

Take a look at tools like Xero and Quickbooks, they’re modern book keeping tools that, dare I say it, actually make keeping tabs on your finances quite good fun. Both have nice looking and very usable apps with quick functions that allow you to categorise your transactions with a sweep of your finger.

You can link them with your bank accounts and online payment gateways – as well as being able to quickly scan and categorise expense receipts. You can even generate or pay invoices on the fly. It’s incredible how one app can revolutionise your business financial dealings.

  1. Collaboration tools

Although tools like Basecamp and Trello have some collaboration tools built in, you’ll find that true collaboration comes with a tool like Google’s G-Suite or Microsoft’s Office 365.

With these options you can almost entirely abandon your office space and set up online!

Setting up folders that you can share with your team means there’s no doubt where that proposal, brief or invoice is to be found – and when it comes to collaboration there’s no longer a need for emailing versions of files to one another. Instead, you can access a document, spreadsheet, presentation or much more and work on it virtually at the same time.

Then, no need for emailing attachments – just share the file and it’s with someone else in the blink of an eye. What’s more, you can message, call or video call from within the service too, meaning you don’t even have to move your chair to work next to someone else.

  1. Email marketing tools

Despite social media’s rise to the top of most people’s marketing hitlist there’s still an enormous amount that can be done with a good mailing list.

Equally, with the right tools in place you’re going to struggle with the sheer magnitude of putting a mailer out – especially with new data protection laws looming.

This is where tools like MailChimp and Get Response come in. Starting with a list of emails and a drag and drop mail composer you’ll quickly find yourself putting together something beautiful that ticks all the necessary compliance boxes. You’ll find dozens of great templates to work with if you don’t have an eye for design and a few clicks later you’ll have your mailer either sent – or scheduled to go at a time that suits you and your customers.

  1. A central social media desk

If conquering social media is on your list of things to do you’ll quickly realise there’s a lot of logistics involved – not least remembering a massive number of passwords so you can cut, paste and post across them all.

Using a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer takes a LOT of the effort out of your social media activity. Connect your accounts, then send your communication from the one central desk – choosing which of your feeds it’s posted to. You can even handle replies to direct customer interaction too, making it a great way to keep all your social communication in one quick and easy to use place.

  1. An online calendar

Our final suggestion is one that’s easy to use – but also easily overlooked!

Having an online calendar is essential if running a tight schedule is important to your business. Microsoft’s Outlook or Google’s Calendar provide simple interfaces and sync with your mailbox and other apps, meaning missed appointments, double booking and needing to get back to people when you’ve checked your diary is going to be a thing of the past.

You need to work on your personal brand – here’s how to do it

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What does your personal brand say about you?

Don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t have one, everyone does – and even an absence of any information that would build into being a personal brand can speak volumes.

Your personal brand is more than just a custom logo design! and If you’re launching a startup there’s every possibility that customers, influencers, and investors are going to be looking a little deeper into who you are, so if you want them to see the right kind of information, you should consider how your current online persona lines up next to these questions:

Who are you trying to appeal to?

We might be talking about your ‘personal brand’ here but don’t be confused, what we’re really looking at is a nuanced piece of the process in which you sell your product or service to people.

Your personal brand is the context that you put around that sales process – essentially pre-empting an important customer question:

“Can I trust this person?”

Now, talk to any old-school sales person and they’ll tell you that a person makes a judgement about whether or not they’re going to do business with you in the first 10 seconds of meeting you – but times are changing – now, a potential customer is likely to know whether or not they’d do business with you 2 weeks before they meet you.

And the answer to that question will be significantly different depending on the person who’s looking – so it’s important to understand that you can’t appeal to everyone.

Hence, you’re going to want to think about who you’re trying to appeal to. Define your audience and understand what makes them tick. You’re not fundamentally changing yourself by adapting to what they want to see, you’re just putting an appropriate context around your sales message.

What do you stand for?

Now you’ve identified the audience you’re looking to appeal to and understand what they’re looking for you need to work on the underlying principles that are going to give you reference points to work from.

A good way to get some understanding of what these should be is to look at other people who are successful in your field. What are they doing? Does it sit well with what you think you should be doing? How do they communicate their values?

Is this person hardworking? Are they successful? Do they support their customers? Whatever it is that gives you the indication that they’re ticking mental boxes for the potential customers that are looking at them note it down – and be very aware that you don’t know anything solidly about them, what you’re noting is just the front line image that they’re portraying.

When you see how easily an image is created, think about what activity you can do to establish yourself in the same light. Start with the principles you want to communicate then consider how a customer will come to the conclusion that you embody those traits.

Are you an authority in your area?

It’s unlikely that anybody expects you to have conducted PhD level research into your chosen business area – but they will expect you to have your finger on the pulse of your industry and what’s happening – and the very best way you can do this is to share knowledge.

There are a variety of ways you can this, so consider the following:

  • How are you going to transmit knowledge? Which platforms do the people you want to engage with use. Think about email marketing, social media sharing and personal blogging.
  • Where is your knowledge going to come from? Do you have enough information stored in your brain to keep audiences happy – or do you need to be sharing information that’s up to moment and from external sources?
  • Do you have any inroads into knowledge that’s otherwise inaccessible for the masses?
  • Is looking for and sharing knowledge a part of your day?

You may or may not have a way with words – and it’s fine either way, if you struggle getting your thoughts down into clear and concise manner you might want to talk to someone about managing your output on your behalf.

Does your social media reflect appropriately?

All this talk of values, principles can leave you social media looking a little contrived if you’re not careful.

If you’re only sharing information that signals you’re the most virtuous person on the planet then people might question whether or not you’re a real person behind the image. With this in mind you should endeavour to make your social media your own.

Got friends and family you care about – associate with them. Been on a great holiday? Share the pictures – no one’s even going to mind pictures of your food or your cat.

The most important thing to remember when you’re using your social media personally is whether or not what you’re doing collides with the principles that you want to underpin your personal brand. Ask yourself the question each time you post and you won’t go far wrong.

Are you a person as well as a brand?

Be wary of using your online presence as just nothing more than an advertisement for who you want to be. If it’s going to stand up to scrutiny then you’ll need to communicate like a real human-being!

What that means to you will depend on how you’re transmitting value. Are people liking, sharing or commenting on what you’re posting? If so you might want to take some time to thank them, reply to their comments or follow what they’re doing in return.

The influencers that are out there making the biggest impact are the ones who occupy a position of authority in their chosen subject but remain accessible. You won’t go far wrong to consider social media a traditional ‘social gathering’ – mingle, chat, show interest, make connections, listen to people’s opinions. It’s this kind of engagement that has people coming back for more and valuing what you have to say.

No one wants to engage with the person who’s standing there doing nothing but talking about themselves.

A Guide To Ranking Locally in 2018

We all know that paying attention to search engine optimization (SEO) is extremely important in today’s business world. Unless you take it seriously, potential clients might never even find your site – in this guide to ranking locally in 2018; we’ll go through how to boost your SEO locally.

After all, if you run some kind of brick and mortar store or are offering a service, you want to attract locals. While it might be nice that someone halfway around the world is able to visit your site, it’s not going to be much good if they aren’t nearby and able to buy from you.

With this in mind, we sought an industry expert Tobias Gilbert who offers an SEO service in Miami. To share a few tips that will help local business owners reach new customers through organic search in Google in 2018!

Know Your Target Market

This is where a lot of businesses fall short. They want to appeal to the broadest range of people. They hope that by getting their message across to the maximum number of people, they have a better chance of getting more clients.

The only thing that this does is to dilute your marketing efforts. It is far better to identify your ideal target market and start delivering targeted campaigns to them. You won’t reach as many people, but the people that you do reach are more likely to buy.

You need to identify what it is that your target market needs, how what you offer can help them, what kind of approach is best suited to them and where they hang out.

The more you know about your target market, the more focused your marketing efforts can be, and the more effective they can be as well.

Use Schema Markup

Make your site easy for search engines to understand by including coding in it that describes what your business actually does. This is known as schema markup.

Create a Great Site

This does not mean having a website with all the bells and whistles but rather a website that is easy to navigate, that loads fast and that makes the buying decision easier for your client. Have a contact form put up where it is easy to see.

Also make sure that there are no typos, that the text on the site is easy to read and that everything looks uncluttered.

The faster the site loads, the higher it is likely to rank in search engine results. The more uncluttered it is and the easier it is to use, the more time people are bound to spend on it. These are all factors that have a significant impact on how Google and other search engines rank your site.

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Having an Up to Date Blog

Your website is your business’s formal ambassador. Content will be updated once in a while but, for the most part, it’s not going to change on a regular basis.

Your business blog is a more informal setting. You can upload relevant content and can update it a lot more easily. It is the perfect way to start interacting with your potential clients because it helps give a face to the people working at the company.

This is where you share content that is useful to your target market, like “How To …” articles. It also performs a more social function – you can share pictures of your new baby or share other kinds of community news as well.

Your website sells your product. Your blog is not quite as focused on sales but rather on opening a dialogue and building a relationship with your clients.

Citations

Are there any online business directories you can link up to? Citations online help to improve your SEO ranking and can count as much as a link from an authority site for local SEO.

List your business with every of these. It might be a bit tedious, but it is important. Local directories are usually free to list with and offer a pain-free way to get your details out there.

citations

Get Customer Service Right

This is not directly linked to your SEO but is equally important – the better the service you offer, the higher the chances that clients will want to leave positive reviews. Make it easy for clients to reach out to you if they are experiencing a problem and get it sorted out as soon as possible.

Get Involved Online

This means posting regularly to social media and in relevant forums. Find ways to engage with clients on Facebook without actively trying to sell to them. The more useful the content you post is, the more likely it is that they will share it with their friends and family.

What is key here is to ensure that messages are dealt with quickly and efficiently.

Ask for Reviews

Actively asking clients to leave a review for you online is another excellent way to boost your local SEO. The more good reviews you more credible your site appears to the search engines. Also, people are more willing to trust you if they can find reviews from other customers.

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Local Outreach

You want people in the community to talk about your business and want to get them to help you get more clients. Getting other businesses to promote your services is a great way of doing this, but you might need to lead the way first.

Be sure to post information about other businesses or local community events that others will be interested in. The community will start looking at your blog as a useful resource, and the other businesses are bound to reciprocate the favor.

Building a great relationship with other businesses is an excellent way to boost your SEO. They might agree to guest post for you or vice versa. That means that you get access to their pool of subscribers as well.

Using Keywords Properly

Work out what keywords people will use when searching for your site and include them on your page judiciously. We are not talking about keyword stuffing here, that will just get your site marked down by search engines.

What we are talking about is to use keywords naturally and carefully within your pages. No keyword should have a concentration of over 1.5%. You can keep these figures down by using similes instead of repeating the same phrase over and over again.

It is also a good idea to choose your most important keyword phrase and use that in the first 150 words of your content. Adding a location here is also a good idea.

So, you could use something like “SEO consultant in Miami” to get more targeted local traffic.

Overall, these tips will help you to rank more highly in local searches. Once you have implemented them, the next step is to monitor the results that you are getting to see how effective the changes have been.

SEO is something of an art. The search engines are consistently updating their algorithms to ensure that they get the best search results. If you keep an eye on your website traffic, you are more easily able to track changes that have worked and those that have not.

It may require some trial and error initially, but it won’t be too long before you start getting better results.

The 10 best apps for small business owners in the UK

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If your smartphone barely breaks out of the cycle of checking social media, the news and your email – then you’re not alone, usage statistics show that this is more common than you might expect.

However, if you’re a small business owner, manager or decision maker, you could be missing out.

We’ll run you through 10 of the best smartphone apps for small business available in the UK right now – and tell you a bit about how they might change your smartphone world…

  • Evernote

Although well established, Evernote has never lost it’s place as an absolute must for anyone who’s taking it more than their brain can reasonably remember!

The app allows you to make notes, photos, to-dos and much more – then save it quickly to your phone or device – with it instantly available across all your other synced devices – as well as anywhere you can access a connected web browser.

Evernote also has some really smart tools that make going back to your info simple too – with a great categorisation system that means you’ll never be left wondering where a note is again. The clipping tool that saves websites as images is a huge time saver too – snipping notes down to just the essentials – cutting out any adverts or other distractions.

  • Paypal

The PayPal system is really popular with small businesses and freelancer contractors – especially given how quickly and easily funds can be requested and sent.

When combined with your small business website, the app gives you a chance to glance real time information about how your e-commerce site is performing – and lets you quickly juggle money between accounts.

  • QuickBooks

If you want a full view of your finances, QuickBooks is the answer.

The app allows you to do a huge number of financial tasks for your small business – and depending on your level of requirement – you can go from self-employed tasks, all the way through to small business level, allowing you to manage payroll and much more.

Quickbooks is also great at logging expenses – with a camera function that allows you to snap your receipts and add them to your calculations quickly. You’re also able to connect your bank and online payment accounts too, meaning every penny that goes through your business is quickly and easily allocated and catagorised – with reports that your accountant will love.

  • Pages Manager

Lets say you have a business page on Facebook where you promote the latest range of Atlas Ceramics range of grouts then Pages Manager will take away a lot of the frustration that business users often attribute to the standard Facebook app.

Pages Manager allows you to access numerous business pages if you have them, switching quickly between them. When you’re in, you can look at all the activity taking place on the page, from advertisement management – to the responses you send to messages and comments made on your page.

Facebook is quickly developing toward being a CRM style piece of software that sits behind your page and lets you manage your business with the maximum effect. Pages managers let you – and others, take full advantage of this functionality – meaning your social followers are never left wanting.

  • Basecamp

If you’ve ever had a headache that relates to how your team communicates then Basecamp could be the painkiller you’re looking for!

The latest incarnation of the tool, Basecamp 3, is a dream to use – and allows an online space where you can create project, allocate roles within those projects, share ideas, have discussions, set tasks, collaborate selectively with guests – and much more.

A paid subscription runs a little more expensive than most of the other apps on this list – but the time, effort and frustrated communication that it saves would probably leave you happy to pay double!

  • Dropbox

Dropbox is a superb and extremely simple to use application that lets you share files quickly and easily wherever you are.

While file sharing might not be anything new, Dropbox does it so seamlessly you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s not just a native part of your device or operating system’s function. Access your files anywhere you have an internet connection – and quickly share files and folders with anyone in just a couple of clicks. An amazing time saver.

  • Headspace

Although Headspace isn’t about business directly, it’s a sure-fire way to improve your personal business performance.

Some of the most successful managers, CEOs and business owners say that their habit of reflective thinking, mindfulness or meditation is one of the most key parts of their on-going ability to perform – and Headspace is at the top of the game.

With guided breathing exercises that take just 10 minutes a day to do, you’ll be amazed at how your motivation, mood, productivity and general business performance improves if you’re willing to give your busy brain a few minutes too cool off each day.

  • Trello

Although similar to Basecamp, Trello is arguably a more simple concept – working as a note-board of sorts, with digital sticky notes divided up in a sections or projects. Click on each and it opens up, allowing you to keep tasks, to-dos, notes, files and much more on each one.

Trello’s most basic functions are excellent – and free to use. Ideal for collaborating with your team or others!

  • Skype for Business

When asked, most business executives say they’re just as happy (if not happier – based on some city’s traffic levels!) to meet via video call – rather than in person.

Skype is the original video messaging service – with stable connections and almost unlimited call participants – no matter where you are in the world. If you’d prefer to have your meeting from the comfort of your own desk (or home!) – then Skype is well worth giving a go.

  • Hootsuite

Whether you’re managing your company or personal brand, it’s really useful to have a tool that posts information across all your social media pages from one control panel.

Hootsuite does exactly this – and more.

Whether you’re using it from your app or on a desktop – you can integrate all your social media accounts and post to them all at the same time. What’s more, you can go well ahead into the future and schedule huge chunks of social media activity. Your business partners might think you’re sitting at your desk doing nothing but social media work – but the truth is, Hootsuite takes all the effort out of the job!