7 of the best ways tradespeople can prepare for 2019

Personal resolutions are a hot topic this time of year, but what about making some New Year’s resolutions for your business in 2019, too?

We thought we’d put together our list of what tradespeople can do to prepare for 2019 – from meeting your tax deadlines to setting business goals.

1. Get ready for Self Assessment

Tradespeople who file their tax return online need to do so by midnight on 31 January. We’ve got lots of tips on completing your Self Assessment here.

Watch out if you’re filing it for the first time, as you need to apply for a Government Gateway login and password – these can take up to 10 days to arrive, so don’t leave it too late.

It’s really important that tradespeople stay on top of tax deadlines so you can pay what your owe on time and avoid penalties. Make sure you put all the key tax dates in your diary and understand any changes to the rules.

To help you plan, we have an article on key tax dates.

2. Think about GDPR

The GDPR deadline was 25 May 2018 – as a tradesperson, it might be tempting to think the legislation doesn’t apply to the majority of what you do.

While it’s true that tradespeople aren’t likely to need to hire a Data Protection Officer (DPO), now’s the time to make sure you’re up to speed with the rules so you aren’t caught out.

Remember that if you process the data of EU citizens, you need to comply, even if you have fewer than 250 employees.

We’ve got a comprehensive GDPR guide for small businesses so you can read everything you need to know about the rules.

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.

3. Stay vigilant about tool theft

Unfortunately, tool theft is a problem that’s not going away. We recently reported on one of the latest incidents involving three van break-ins in one night.

Here are some tips to remain vigilant:

  • Park for prevention. Try to park with sliding or rear doors against a wall or sturdy fence so they can’t be opened. Busy, well-lit areas, preferably in view of a CCTV camera are best

  • Store tools sensibly. It may be best to remove tools from your van overnight as ‘peel and steal’ and electronic key fobs can leave even well-secured vans vulnerable

  • Mark your property. If your tools are stolen, having identification marks on them will help make sure you’re recognised as the owner if they’re recovered

  • Keep a note of serial numbers and other data. Providing information like serial numbers, or at least an itemised list with the make and model of everything taken, will help police identify your tools if they’re found, as well as easing the process of making an insurance claim

4. Check your insurance

If tool thieves do strike, having tools insurance in place can help you get back on your feet quickly. We can insure hand tools, power tools, and plant equipment against loss, damage, or theft.

With us, tools cover is available when you buy public liability insurance, which can protect you if clients, suppliers, or members of the public suffer personal injury or property damage and blame your business.

Other covers tradespeople should consider are:

  • employers’ liability insurance – this is a legal requirement if you have staff, in most cases. It can protect you if an employee gets ill or injured as a result of working for you

  • personal accident insurance – this can pay out if you’re injured while working or outside of work. You can use the money paid out for things like lost income and medical costs

  • plant and machinery insurance – if you use your own or hired machinery, this can cover you if it’s damaged or stolen

5. Plan your finances

It’s essential for tradespeople to plan their finances for the year ahead. Keeping an eye on your income and outgoings can help you budget, and monitor how your business is performing. Here are some things to watch out for:

Late payments

You’ve paid out for materials and completed the work needed, but your customer still owes you money. It’s a big problem for tradespeople and it can seriously affect your cash flow.

Make sure you invoice promptly, including information on when you expect to paid, and follow up effectively with customers who’ve fallen behind. Read our tips on writing late payment letters.

When quoting customers, it’s a good idea to be clear on how much you expect to be paid, setting clear payment terms from the start.

When you’ll be busy (and quieter)

For lots of tradespeople, work can be seasonal, so knowing when your lean times will be can help you prepare for them effectively.

It means you won’t overspend when business is booming, letting you save for times when business is quieter.

How much time you’re spending on your accounts

As a tradesperson, you get satisfaction from completing work to a great standard, leaving behind a trail of happy customers. But some aspects of running your own business aren’t so satisfying – including looking after your accounts.

Could 2019 be the year to hire a professional accountant to free up time? If you have the budget, it might be a good investment. You can focus on picking up the tools and doing what you love. And if you have ambitions to grow your business, time will be valuable as you dedicate proper energy to that goal.

What’s more, it could help make Self Assessment headaches a thing of the past. Work out the cost of the time you spend on your accounts against how much an accountant’s services would cost you.

There’s always accounting software you could look at if you’re not so keen on hiring an accountant. We have an article on the best accounting software apps for more information.

6. Look back at 2018 and set goals for 2019

It doesn’t matter if you’re a plumber or an electrician, a builder or a carpenter – if you’re running your own business, you should be setting goals.

Look at where your business was at last year and work out whether you’ve achieved what you wanted to during 2018. These questions could help you get started:

  • Did I achieve my sales goals?
  • Did I keep my costs within my set limit?
  • Did I get repeat business from satisfied customers?
  • Did my business grow?

What’s more, defining and regularly reviewing business goals will help you meet all your ambitions.

Think about where you want to take your business in 2019. If you want to grow your business by making more sales and winning more customers, write a plan (including key targets you want to hit by certain dates) to help you stay on track.

Then you can work out where you might need help – whether that’s from professionals (like the accountants mentioned above) or from new hires.

7. Reset your marketing

2019 could be the year to focus on your marketing – vital if you want to grow your business.

It might be you’ve been thinking your brand needs a revamp – perhaps your website is a little out of date, or your logo doesn’t reflect your business in 2019.

And how about your social media accounts? Is all your information up to date, and is it easy for customers to get in touch with you and review your services? These days lots of people use social media and review sites to find and recommend tradespeople, so it could be an area to focus on in 2019.

Plus, customer feedback can help you shape your business – there might be a service customers want to see but you haven’t thought about offering. Have a look at the five review sites small businesses should master.

Work-life balance

Finally, make sure you schedule in down time around focusing on your business. Taking time for yourself, and with friends and family, is key to keeping your business in peak condition. Because if you’re stressed, your business might suffer.

For more, 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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