It's that time of year when lots of people talk about personal New Year’s resolutions, but it’s also a great opportunity for you to reassess your business aims and objectives if you're self-employed.
We’ve put together a list of seven New Year’s resolutions for the self-employed – read on for what you should consider as you head into 2019.
First thing’s first, meeting the Self Assessment deadline should be a key priority this January. Read our guide to Self Assessment for small businesses for everything you need to know.
You have to file your tax return online by midnight on 31 January. If you’re filing it for the first time, you need a Government Gateway login and password. These can take up to 10 days to arrive so make sure you apply for one in plenty of time.
Staying on top of tax is an essential part of running any business. Make sure you put all the key tax dates in your diary and understand any changes to the rules so you can pay what your owe on time and avoid penalties.
Read our article on key tax dates to help you plan.
The GDPR deadline was 25 May 2018. If you haven’t already, now’s the time to make sure you’re fully compliant. Under the new rules, it’s really important to be on top of any customer data you hold. Consider your security measures, policies and the nature of any consent you ask for before processing customer data.
For a comprehensive guide to the rules, you can read our article on GDPR for small businesses.
Complying with other legislation, like health and safety and intellectual property rules is also essential to make sure you’re on the right side of the law.
If your business has grown or changed in some way over the past year, take a look at your insurance to see if it covers everything you need it to.
Keeping a watchful eye on your finances is essential to self-employed success. Variable cash flow is a common challenge for self-employed business owners, so it’s good to be one step ahead of your income and outgoings. Things to look out for are:
Late payments can be a big problem for the self-employed. If you’re not being paid on time for your products or services, it’ll seriously affect your cash flow.
Make sure your invoicing process is tight, including how you follow up with a customer who’s fallen behind. Read our tips on writing a late payment letter and download our free template, if you need to.
Making sure you’ve got your finances planned for the year ahead can help your cash flow. Planning for the busier periods and making sure you don’t overspend should help you save money for the quieter periods.
Are you charging enough? The self-employed can sometimes find it difficult to work out what their products or services are worth. Doing your research on what competitors are charging balanced against what you need to live on is a good place to start.
If numbers and spreadsheets aren’t your strong point, it might be worthwhile getting help from an accountant. Work out how much of your time (and energy) you spend on dealing with your accounts. Weigh up the cost of your time against how much the services of an accountant would cost you.
If you don’t have the budget to hire an accountant, an accounting software package could be a better option. Read our article on the best accounting software apps to guide your decision.
Whether you’re an accountant, architect, bookkeeper, or florist, reflecting on your previous year can be a helpful step to working out where you want to take your business. Questions to ask include:
What’s more, defining and regularly reviewing business goals will help you meet all your ambitions.
If you have big growth plans, for example, writing it all down (including key milestones you want to achieve by certain dates) will help you keep track. This may help you identify areas you’ll need help with – whether that’s from other professionals or by taking on staff.
You can tell what customers think of your products or services depending on whether they come back and give you repeat business. But there may be things they’d like you to offer, or things they’d like you to do differently, that you just don’t know about yet.
That’s why actively asking for customer feedback is so valuable to a business. You could do this via social media, such as Twitter, a review site like Feefo, or by simply asking them in person.
Staying connected to your customers is vital to keeping them interested in your business. If you haven’t already, make a plan for how and what you want to share on your social media accounts. Think about what your customers will want to hear about rather than what you think they need to hear about.
It’s also worth reviewing your website to see if it’s giving your customers the information they need to decide whether they want to do business with you, and whether it works well when viewed on mobiles and tablets.
Finally, it’s all well and good working hard to get your business in peak condition, but you’re ultimately the engine of your operations. So if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re essentially not taking care of your business.
Make sure you schedule in down time because switching off is a big part of making sure you're effective when there's work to be done. For guidance on how to go about it, read our article on keeping stress levels to a minimum when you’re self-employed.
What are you focusing on in 2019? Let us know in the comments below.
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