Do you want to get paid on time
Sorting out collecting in payments due to your business really is critical as you will spend far too much time chasing outstanding payments (as you may already be finding) and your cash flow may be so adversely affected your business is put in jeopardy.
To make sure you get paid on time, follow these tips below:
Decide Your Payment Terms
Decide when you want to be paid and make this clear to your client. Don’t let the client dictate to you.
Depending on your business you may decide upon 30 days payment, 14 days, immediate payment or payment up front before any work is undertaken.
And you don’t have to stick to just one payment term for all your clients. You can amend them dependent upon who you are working with.
I have used a variety of payment terms in the past (and still do).
For my freelance work with large corporations that I have a good working relationship with, I work on 14 days payment due after the work is delivered. With business advice and consultations with individuals, I work on payment up front before any meetings take place. When I run my local workshop, I allow payment on the day.
For larger projects, you may consider splitting the payments and I do this when I release one of my more expensive courses. I ask for a percentage up front followed by 3, 6 or 12 monthly payments, depending on the type of course I am delivering and its length.
It’s your business, you know your cashflow (or you should!) and you decided what works for you.
Have a Contract
Once you’ve decided what you will be providing and when and how you want payment, you need to get this all written up in a formal contract that will be agreed and signed by your client.
Clearly state the payment details, what you will deliver in return for payment and what happens if a payment is missed or late.
Personally, I add a late payment charge into my terms and conditions and make it clear this will be automatically added to the client account if payment is not received within 48 hours of the due date. I also add that all work will cease until full payments have been received. I put in an explanation that this charge is to cover administrative costs in chasing payments and for not adhering to contracted terms and conditions.
Once you have your contract written up, make sure all details are included such as your name, business name, contact details and client details. Sign it, date it, send two copies to your client and ask them to do the same before returning one to you and keeping one for their own records.
When I first did this many moons ago, I was afraid this may put off potential clients. I know realise this is one of the most sensible things I have done as if anyone does not agree with these terms, I don’t want to do business with them. Paying clients are what I want, not freeloaders.
A contract also helps should there ever be any query about a payment in the future as you can both refer back to the agreements that has been signed by both parties (yes, you must get them to sign before you start any work!)
One of the easiest ways to administer collecting payments is to use accountancy software. I personally use FreeAgent where I have all my payment terms laid out and once a contract is agreed, I create recurring invoices to be sent on due dates. It is also possible to send reminders prior to the invoice due date to remind clients to pay and to automate unpaid invoice reminders.
On each of these reminders, I highlight the fact that a late payment will be automatically added should the payment not be received. This relieves me of having to send individual emails to clients and the yucky feeling that can sometimes be felt when chasing payments. It really is a huge time saver.
After having a few late payments and introducing this system, I have only ever had one defaulter.
Below are a number of different financial software solutions for you to have a look at. There will many more out there but this is a small selection to consider. Yes, there is a cost to these but if it saves you stress and gets your payments in, it will be well worth it.
Package prices start at £19.99 + vat PCM. I heard so many good things about this that I just had to to switch to it myself and now don’t know how I ran my business without it. I just love it. If you want to use it you can get a 10% discount by using this link
A free option for just one client. Package prices start at $19.99 PCM
Pricing starts from £5 + vat PCM for sole traders. Has add-on features such as CRM.
Pricing starts from £9 PCM. A simple calculator to see which package is best for your business.
Pricing starts at £9 PCM for up to 5 invoices. Lots of add-on features
Use the tips above and save yourself time and stress of getting those much-needed payments in and make sure you get paid on time
Do you have any tips of your own on how to get paid on time? Share them in the comments box below
The Small Business Christmas Checklist
Use this small business Christmas checklist so you can tick off all those tasks and have the break you deserve with family and friends.
Firstly you need to decide your last working day and the day that you will return. Next create a checklist of all the tasks you need to complete before the Christmas break. Consider the following:
- Outstanding work
- Stating the obvious, note any outstanding work for customers or clients
- Calls you need to make or emails to send
- Sending invoices and chasing in any outstanding payments due
- Paying any invoices owed
- Writing and scheduling newsletters and blogs
- Scheduling social media posts
- Customer contact
- Sending Christmas cards, email messages or gifts to selected clients
- Send an email to all customers and clients letting them know your availability (or not) over the break, how to contact you in an emergency (if relevant) and the date when normal service will be resumed.
- Set up your emails with an out of office message with the same information as the last point.
Now grab your diary and block out time just prior to the break to complete these tasks. I tend to completely block out the week before Christmas to have a mop-up of all these tasks and to deal with any last minute emergencies.
The very last task you want to do before finishing for your Christmas break is to put an out of office message on your phone and mobile, again, saying the date when normal service will be resumed and how to contact you for emergencies (if relevant).
Next set out some time in your diary either prior or during the break, or at the latest immediately in the New Year to do an end of year review. It may not be your year end accounting date but I always find the end of a year is a good time to have a recap on how the business is performing.
End of year review:
- Review the past year, make a note of what worked and what didn’t.
- If you sell products, do a stock check. What sold well and what wasn’t so popular. What will you plan to sell more of next year and what might you consider dropping from your product line?
- What are industry trends and have they changed? Do some market research to see what predictions are for the New Year.
- Review your outgoings and costs for the past year and consider where are savings can be made (it can be quite amazing how many subscriptions etc creep into our business that we stop using and never cancel or paid advertising that isn’t getting results)
- Set your goals for the forthcoming year
- Prepare your marketing plan for the forthcoming year
Now go take that break! Give your friends and family the time they deserve with you. Make sure you have time with them where you are completely switched off from work. Remember to make memories, not just money!!
There are three key things you need to build a successful business:
If any one of these is lacking, it is going to need to be made up for in one of the other areas.
Let’s take a look at them one at a time.
Building a successful takes time. And it is likely to take a lot longer than you think. All too often we set up our small business thinking we are going to be drawing a full time wage within a month or so. All too often the reality is different. We end up working for nothing for the first 12 months or just drawing a paltry sum that barely covers a pair of tights each month.
And on the subject of time, everything we do seems to take longer than expected. I will just write a quick blog I hear you say. And three hours later you are still staring at a blank screen. I will just make a quick update to my website I hear you say. And two weeks later you are still playing around with the design and the layout. I will quickly set up a mailing system I hear you say. And days later you are still tearing your hair out and wondering what the hell everyone else is on it about when they say it is all so easy.
If you don’t have time, you are going to have invest money to make up for it. You are going to have to spend money on marketing rather than trying to do everything for free on social media. You are going to have to spend money outsourcing all those tasks that area eating up the precious hours in your day.
You are going to need massive amounts of energy to build your own business. The time it takes will easily leave you feeling drained and exhausted and it will be all too easy to feel like throwing in the towel.
One of the dangers of building a business, particularly when working from home, is that we let healthy habits slip. We stop taking exercise as we just want to get one more task squeezed into the day. We stop eating healthily and grab chocolate bars and coffee whilst chained to our computer screens.
This soon leaves us feeling sluggish and out of kilter.
To build a successful business, you need to take of yourself first and foremost and keep your energy levels up. You need to take regular exercise, you need to keep healthy and you need to get enough sleep. If you energy levels drain, you will end up either ill or having to take time out to recharge the batteries.
If you don’t have energy, it is going to cost you more in time and money. It will take more time to build your business or you will have to invest more money to get someone to take over your work for you.
Yes, you are going to have to invest some money! I’m sorry to break the bad news to you but those get rich quick schemes where you only have to put in a few pounds or dollars up front just don’t work. I have had numerous people send me their schemes but when I ask to see their bank details or profit and loss statement to validate their claims, they disappear into the mist never to be heard of again.
You need to invest in the tools to do the job. You can get many free versions of systems and software, but if you really want to build your business, it is the paid versions that you need. You need to invest in yourself and the businesses that really move forward faster than the others invest in a coach. I invested in thousands for a coach for myself. Even though I am a business coach, I still need someone to help me with new ideas and to hold me accountable for achieving results. Without this, my business would have taken vastly longer to be successful.
If you don’t invest money it is going to cost you more time and energy. You can try to build a business on a shoestring but you are likely to end up just running a very expensive hobby for many years to come. And more time is going to take more energy. You really need to look at the potential return on investment and savings in time and energy rather than holding on those purse strings.
Do you have these three key areas covered or is the lack of one of these hampering your success? Let me know in the comments below.
Social media friend or foe
For those of you who have got to know me you will be very much aware by now that I am a stickler for social media etiquette as illustrated in many of my previous posts such as ‘A key tactic when your content is shared on social media’
In my opinion, far too many lose sight of the word ‘social’ when using social media. They rely on auto responders to send messages to followers on Twitter and use auto scheduling software such as Hootsuite and Buffer to post out messages but then fail to check in to reply to comments or questions.
Well Jeeves, it simply is not good enough.
And now there seems to be another abhorrent trend doing the rounds. This has become apparent on Facebook where certain people feel the need to send a personal friend request to some poor unsuspecting victim to then, once the friend request has been accepted, automatically add them to a group without their permission only to bombard them with sales messages.
Jolly bad practice!! And personally, one that I think Facebook should look into banning.
I am selective as to who I accept as a friend as I prefer to keep my personal and professional life separate. But on occasions, where I have built a relationship with someone in a group, then yes, I also will accept them as a friend.
But if they are then so rude as to add me to their group with no explanation or introduction it just illustrates to me what an unprofessional person they are and one that I never want to do business with. They have used an unscrupulous practice to entice me as a social media friend under false pretences.
Due to my selectiveness with my friends, this has only happened to me on a couple of occasions but I know of others who have been bombarded with new found ‘friends’ not only adding them to wholly unsuitable groups but also posting on their own personal walls!
This is the height of bad manners and I suspect started from some low-level MLM pundit or desperate business coach (and before you start I am not anti-MLM, far from it as there are a few very good companies out there). It is exactly the same as me accepting to meet a new friend for a coffee only to be taken completely unexpectedly to a timeshare talk. Not the way someone should treat a friend in any way, shape or form.
Which are you? A social media friend or foe?
If you are an offender and guilty of this practice may I suggest you cease it now? There are far better ways to market your services and this is not one of them. You will only end up getting yourself a bad name and believe me, bad news travels fast.
Do you wish you could be more productive in your working day?
Did you get up this morning and before you had finished your first cup of coffee, had already started to feel completely overwhelmed. You knew you had so much to do and so many tasks to finish and you just didn’t know where to start.
Does this sound like you? Yes? Well first and foremost, if you are a regular reader of my blog posts and a member of my Facebook group and see my daily tips, you will already know that I always suggest taking a few minutes at the end of each day to tidy up your workspace and plan ahead by writing down your top three priority tasks for the next day. That way, each morning you can then come into your office or workspace and know exactly what you have to focus on for the day which will, in turn, help you to be more productive
The psychological effect of a timer
But even so, at times, you get up in the morning and still feel completely overwhelmed. So here is my tip. Get yourself a timer. This can be a kitchen timer or an app on your phone but make sure it has a decent ticking noise. There is something quite powerful in that ticking sound which creates a sense of urgency. No, I am not talking the gentle ticking of a Grandfather clock but the urgency of the tick tock you hear on the timer of Countdown (for UK readers) or the tick-tock from the crocodile in Peter Pan that made you aware of imminent danger. Hearing that noise can have quite a psychological impact to somehow propel you to get your work done as quickly as possible.
When you get up each morning, make sure that you have your three key tasks in front of you and your timer. Then sit down and work out how long it is going to take you to complete each task. Once you have done this, you need to then break down any longer tasks into 15 or 20-minute chunks. Therefore, if you have a task that you believe it’s going to take two hours, simply break it down into six lots of 20-minute chunks. Doing this will make life so much easier and keep you focused for short bursts of time rather than getting overwhelmed thinking you have to work for two hours solid where you are more likely going to faff about wondering where are you going to start and actually getting not a lot done for a least first hour.
For instance, if you’re writing a section of a workshop such as I was yesterday morning, or creating content for your website, break it into bite-size sections. The first 20 minutes will be for mapping out the content. The second 20 minutes will be pulling together all the resources and relative articles that are needed. The third 20 minutes will be bullet pointing into a PowerPoint keynotes and pulling images together etc. The next three chunks of 20 minutes will actually be writing the content.
If you are making a product, your first 20 minutes could be getting all of your materials together setting up your workspace. The second 20 minutes will be putting the basic items together that form the framework of whatever you are making.
If you are a web designer or graphic designer, your first 20 minutes could be something such as choosing colours and fonts in order to be ready to move on to your next 20 minutes of sketching out an initial design. Think of all the things you have to do and keep breaking each area down until they fit a 20-minute time slot.
The key trick to be more productive and get your work completed
The key trick to getting your work done is to take regular breaks so when that timer goes off after each 20 minutes, you need to take a two-minute break. You may think this is wasting time if you are in the flow of things but I promise you it’s not. It gives your brain a rest just by moving your body around, just walking from one room to another, stretching and grabbing a glass of water.
Taking these regular short breaks will keep your mind fresh so you feel like going back and doing the next 20-minute task. This can be so much more effective than just trying to go at something for hours on end and losing momentum and motivation along the way.
You can apply this principle to anything. Try it with your housework (I do all my housework in 20-minute dashes). Try it with your fitness rather than feeling you can’t achieve something. If you think you’ve got to go out and do a 1-hour run but you really don’t feel like it, break into 20-minute chunks. Go run for 20 minutes then stop and walk for two minutes. Run for another 20 minutes, stop and walk for two minutes. Have a final run of 20 minutes. Doing it this way stops you feeling overwhelmed by thinking you have to run for a full hour. By breaking it down and having a rest in between, you have achieved what you set out to do without losing motivation part way through.
At the end of each hour of work, yes, you have taken more time as your one hour of work will have taken one hour and six minutes, but by giving yourself breaks it helps you get refocused and keeps you motivated.
Try it for yourself and tell me in the comments below if it helps you be more productive or not.
10 top tips for running a home business
Running a home business has a whole set of challenges of its own. You are solely responsible for being disciplined in your work and not drifting off to do a spot of housework or accepting friends in for coffee who turn up on your doorstep.
If you are running a home business, here are my top 10 tips to help make the difference between treating your business in a professional manner in order for it to be successful, or letting it slip into the realms of an expensive hobby.
1. Create a separate workspace
Make sure that you have a separate home office or area for working so that you can keep all your paperwork and work related items in one place. This helps to shut off at the end of the work day rather than having bits and pieces all over the place. It is important to let other household members know that this is your sacred space and not to be interfered with on pain of death!!
2. Get organized
The amount of time it takes to get organised in the first place will repay itself tenfold (or much more) further down the line. Get files and organise a filing system for your workspace. Clear away non-essential items that are causing unnecessary clutter. Make sure you have all the necessary items for doing your work close to hand to save time hunting in the back of cupboards and drawers. Treat your workspace with the importance it deserves. Remember, you are running a business, not a hobby.
3. Define your working hours
One of the biggest failings of women running a home business is not setting working hours. This results in either working a straight 15 (or more) hours with no break or working intermittently and fitting in household chores between work tasks that distract and disrupt the workflow. Firstly, determine when you are most productive and then at what times you need to be available to clients. Decide how many hours you are going to work each day and stick to this!
Running your own business from home gives you the flexibility to decide when you are going to work and it doesn’t have to be all in one chunk like a traditional 9 to 5 job. You may want to do a few hours in the morning, take the afternoons off and then do a few more hours in the evening. Having some sort of structure to your day can make you much more productive than just working on an ad hoc basis.
4. Have a support network
Constantly talking to yourself and losing your grip with what is going on in the outside world is all too easy when working from home which can easily lead to losing your motivation. Make sure you remove yourself from your home once in a while to network with others to make new contacts, pick up new ideas and realise you are not alone.
5. Get into a routine
Having a routine and putting some structure into your day can make you so much more productive. Create a monthly, weekly and daily routine where possible. Block outset days/hours for marketing, admin, checking the finances, networking, calling new prospects etc. Have set hours for checking emails and social media so that you don’t keep dipping in and out constantly which will take up far more time in the long run and keep distracting you from your key work.
6. Plan your work
The old adage goes ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’ and this is so true when running a home business. If you just get up each morning with no clear plan of what you intend to do for the day, you are likely to dip in and out of different tasks with no clear direction and end up not getting a lot actually completed.
At the end of each day set out your three priority tasks for the next day. Make sure one of these is a key task that is going to take you, at least, one step closer to your end goal. When you complete these three key tasks, you can then move on to a more fun task that you love doing but isn’t high on the priority list. Working this way will help keep you motivated to complete the necessary tasks first with the reward of doing something more fun at the end.
If you find that you are not completing your three key tasks, move any unfinished item over to the next day and put a red dot next to it. If it doesn’t get completed on day 2, move it forward and add another red dot against it. If you get to any item with three red dots you have to stop everything you are doing and either just do it, delegate it to someone else who can do it or delete it as it simply cannot be that important.
7. Take time out
Working from home can become all-consuming and we forget to take time out to recharge and refresh ourselves. We keep trying to squeeze in just a bit more work and then a bit more which leaves us frazzled, irritable and resentful. Schedule regular breaks from your workspace to do something non-work related such as going for a walk, reading a book or going out to lunch with a friend. As they say, ‘a change is as good as a rest’.
8. Schedule family time
A danger of running a business from home is starting to neglect your family. Just because you are at home and they can see you, doesn’t mean that you are spending time with them if you are constantly working. Make sure you set out your working hours and allocate time out each week to focus purely on the family. No taking calls or dipping into emails. What is the point of working so hard if you can’t have some quality time with the ones you love?
9. Set expectations with family
When running a home business, it really can become a struggle balancing your business with having family around. To help ease frustrations, set expectations with your family. Set yourself specific working hours and let your family know that during these hours you will be working.
If you work from a separate room let them know that if the door is closed, you are not to be disturbed unless in an emergency. Also, extend this to friends so they know they cannot just pop in for a coffee and a chat when they feel like it. You need to be able to communicate with friends and family so they understand that just because you work from home does not make your work any less important than if you were out working for a large corporation.
10. Have fun!
It is all too easy to get so caught up in the nitty-gritty of our business that we start to lose the passion and forget the fun we had in starting up. Recapture the passion and love for your business by taking some time to have fun. This is both by booking time out and also looking for ways to have fun in your business day. If you can start to enjoy it again, you gain more energy and the creative juices start to flow once again.
Follow these tips for running your home business and if you have any tips of your own, please share them in the comments box below.