Whether you simply want to officially inaugurate a side project, or you have big ideas for a fully-fledged company, registering your business should be the first step on that journey.
Why you need to register with HMRC:
With a number of administrative decisions to make in the early stages, doing the paperwork to register with HMRC may not be front of mind, but this is a crucial step you should not ignore. If you make the shift to self-employment, HMRC needs to be aware of your status so that they can collect the right amount of tax.
HMRC’s deadline for registration is October 5th after the end of the tax year from your self-employment start date. It’s advisable not to leave registration this late though, to avoid an unwelcome and hefty tax bill.
We spoke to Chloe Hawkins of CH Accounting Solutions Ltd to give you the best advice and glean some of her top tips in this step-by-step guide:
Tip one – making the right choice between Sole Trader or Limited Company
The process route for small business owners is different depending on the structure you choose, for example, whether you will be a Sole Trader or a Limited Company, therefore it is crucial to make this decision first. Remember not to shy away from the idea of becoming a Limited Company in favour of Sole Trader status. Many new business owners often believe that Limited Companies are far too complex, but in reality, this is not the case. In fact, opting to become a Limited Company may have many longer-term benefits over sole trader status, so be sure to research your options before you register.
Once you have chosen, you’re ready to register for Self-Assessment with HMRC via the government’s online portal and be sure to keep a note of your personal UTR number (Unique Taxpayer Reference) as you’ll need this for future access.
Tip two – decide who will manage your tax affairs
Remember, if the idea of managing your taxes is daunting or feels like a drain on your time, a good option is to hire a reputable, chartered accountant to manage your tax. Many new business owners will shy away from hiring an accountant for fear of the cost. In reality, paying an accountant could cost you as little as £30 per month, and that cost is more than covered in the savings they could generate for you at the end of the tax year.
When it comes to your tax returns, don’t make the mistake of not completing a Self-Assessment tax return because you have made a loss, you can offset losses against future profits, therefore saving you tax in the future.
Be discerning in your search for an accountant. Check that they have chartered accountant status to ensure they have the necessary training and qualifications and try to choose an accountant that offers a free initial consultation, to make sure you don’t pay over the odds from the off. A reputable accountant will also be able to advise you on what company structure works best for you and your business and can help you along your journey to success.
Tip three – set up a business bank account and keep things separate
If you’re going down the limited company route, remember it is a legal requirement to have a business bank account.
If you’re opting to become a sole trader, it is also worth setting up a business bank account to keep business expenditure and income separate from personal expenditure and income. If you don’t, it makes reconciliation almost impossible and could result in you paying more tax. Make sure you keep those VAT receipts so these can be used to reclaim VAT.
Watch this space for more of our tips from the experts or take a look at our Coupay blog for more pearls of wisdom on kick-starting your new venture.
For small business owners, startup entrepreneurs and creative freelancers alike, building a business plan is daunting, and often, it’s difficult to know where to start.
According to Accountancy Age, two-thirds of SMEs don’t have a business plan in place. That means many small business owners are in danger of losing direction and missing out on valuable financial forecasting, and cash flow planning.
Understandably, many new business owners thriving in the first few months of a new venture fail to see the value of a business plan at all. For that reason, it becomes easier to put off the inevitable or even avoid building a plan altogether.
You may well dismiss the need for a business plan if you’re just starting out, if you are a freelancer, if you’re not seeking investors or if you feel your business model simply doesn’t require a ‘rigid’ or ‘restrictive’ plan.
But, here’s the thing: a business plan isn’t just for those looking to secure financial backing. Realistically, if you are self-employed, using a business plan should be a key part of your routine. Not only does a business plan set you on a clearer path to success, putting your business plan together opens your eyes to risks and highlights opportunities, sparking ideas and giving you a stronger sense of purpose along the way.
What is a business plan?
We’re going to start with the basics. A business plan is, in essence, a roadmap for your business, covering financial forecasting, strategies, tactics, and objectives. Arguably, the most important aspect of your business plan is outlining your goals.
Once you’ve set your business goals, your business plan is a framework which outlines the actions that allow you to reach them in a manageable, tangible way. Essentially, a business plan is a structured document that helps you to navigate through your business journey, helping you to implement a viable, sustainable and goal-focused timeline; and stay aligned with your business objectives.
Regardless of what your business model is, who your customers are and what your business does, you will find using a business plan is helpful in keeping you on track and keeping your finances healthy. Here are our top three benefits of business planning, outlining why we believe you should seriously consider getting started with your business plan sooner rather than later:
Viewing your business holistically
Planning your business can help you to see the bigger picture. Whether you’re a home-based baker using a subscription model for your customers, an accountant or a freelance designer, getting all your plans on paper can help you to see any pitfalls or weaknesses that may arise. Documenting risks, threats and opportunities within your respective market can help you to mitigate challenges early and ensure everything is aligned in terms of your marketing, sales and financial planning.
Setting a focus
It’s often difficult to see where your core focus should lie when setting up a new business venture. Having a set business plan allows you to see more clearly where you might want to focus your immediate strategic activity, setting short term goals, then longer-term objectives into manageable timescales.
Remember, every business is different. If you’re a baker, your profit margins will be small and focus will be on reaching as large a market as possible, if you’re a freelance writer, remember you’re selling your time, so you’ll need to ensure each client project brings you a worthy profit in accordance with your valuable time. In essence, whether you’re launching a membership-based coworking community, a sustainable fashion brand, or simply looking to monetise a side hustle, making a profit should be the core focus, so work out what the most impactful strategies and tactics should be in order to reap those financial rewards for the long term.
Preparing for change
If nothing else, the global pandemic has taught us that we can never really predict what challenges may lay ahead of us. Establishing a ‘bottom line’ income, the amount of money you need to make per month in order to live should be a baseline starting point for any business plan, building on this to ensure profit can be made each month. Setting a plan to ensure your business has a financial foundation in place, be it a savings buffer, additional funding, or a secondary revenue stream you might have up your sleeve, agility is key in this new era of change.
Our step-by-step guide to writing your business plan
Step 1: Start with your goals and work backwards
Begin with the end in mind. How do you want your audience to view your business brand? What is your value to them? What is the reason for your business’s existence? From here, establish a measurable, realistic goal. Give your goal a time scale to help make it measurable.
It’s often a good idea to first, define what you do, then set a 12-month goal. From that 12-month goal, break it down into quarterly or monthly achievement aims to ensure you stay focused on working towards your business goal on a daily basis.
Remember, when outlining each of your goals, be sure to make them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely)
Step 2: Draft up an executive summary
An executive summary will form the first section of your business plan, outlining the basics of what your business does, current financials, where you want your business to be within a five-year period and why it will succeed.
In this section, you will need to identify the ‘problem’ your business is solving, your value proposition and your target audiences, but remember, you’ll go into more detail on these later on in your planning.
While your executive summary is the first section of your business plan, it’s a good idea to come back it at the end, to make sure it truly sums-up your full plans. Be sure to make any changes and additions where necessary.
Step 3: Conduct your market analysis
It’s important to address challenges and risks your business may face upfront. Conducting your market analysis is a good way to assess these challenges on paper so that you may be prepared to pivot and mould your plans if necessary.
Market analysis is particularly important if you are looking for funding, as it will help your potential investors to feel confident that you have done your research and you are aware of the changing environment of your industry.
Your research should include details on the industry in general, market size, target market size and your potential market share. In this section, you may also want to conduct a SWOT analysis, outlining strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your business within your market, and the broader economic environment.
Step 4: Profile your customers and outline your marketing strategies
You’re going to need to give a detailed outline of your prospective customer, to give your marketing plans a place to start from. Who is your typical customer? Where are they? What are they passionate about and what kind of disposable income might they have?
Establishing buyer personas in the first instance is a good place to start if you want to build a strong marketing pipeline for your business, so getting a deeper insight into your target audience is an essential milestone in terms of driving new business.
Once you have profiled your perfect customer, put together a plan to attract them- documenting your intended marketing tactics and strategies that might best attract your customer.
Step 5: Financial plans and projections
Being transparent about your businesses financial health from the outset is essential, particularly if you are seeking funding. While your finances section often comes at the end of your plans, it is arguably the most important.
Outline what your financial state is currently, highlight your forecasting, and map out how you would like your financials to look in the future. Again, you’ll want to set SMART objectives for your financial growth, making sure your goals are achievable within your set time frame. While it’s important to aim high, don’t set your business up for failure by setting unattainable milestones. Being ambitious while remaining candid is key to setting long term, achievable growth goals.
Putting your plan together
Putting pen to paper in the first instance is the key to drawing out a successful business plan. Try not to get bogged down with the detail initially and break it down into manageable chunks of research and writing, so you do not become overwhelmed by the enormity of the task.
Don’t forget that your business plan, for the most part, will be for your own benefit, so don’t feel the need to use jargon or excessively colourful language. Be specific, stay focused on only the necessary details, and remember you can revisit and expand your plan further down the line if needs be.
In fact, it might be a good idea to start out by restricting your business plan to 1-2 pages, to help you focus on clarity and keep things concise.
Stick to the plan
It may sound blindingly obvious, but many of us are guilty of building a beautifully crafted, thoughtful plan, and letting it gather dust in the annuls of our filing system. It’s a good idea to put regular notes in your calendar to revisit your plan. That way, you will be forced to assess whether you have achieved this month’s goals and whether you’re still on track for financial growth.
Set reminders in your calendar or diary, outlining any deadlines for your short-term and long-term goals too. That way, you’ll ensure these remain front of mind.
Finally: Remember to be flexible
Your business plans are unlikely to stay the same as they were when you started. Two months down the line, you may have developed a secondary income stream, your financials may be above, and beyond what you expected, your target audiences might have changed. The key is to remain flexible, move with the times. Your customer’s needs will often change, which means you need to be prepared to be agile too.
It’s a good idea to wheel out your business plan at least every two months and review it against your current circumstances. Tweak, amend, pivot and flex. The most successful businesses are those that have the foresight and wisdom to change with the times.
Keep an eye on our upcoming Coupay blog posts for more insight and advise on kick-starting your new business, and in the meantime, check out our invoicing services for any support with your online payment processes.
2020 has turned out to be the year to rediscover a love for our own home.
And now, following the new national restrictions announced last week, it looks as if we will all be spending even more time within the confines of our own four walls.
In fact, the housing market seems to have been one of very few industries to thrive in the wake of the UK’s initial confinement period earlier this year, with reports stating that 10% of properties sold for more than the owners’ asking price.
Property renters and buyers are reviewing their criteria when it comes to their new home, with office space and outdoor space now, for obvious reasons, much higher on the agenda.
The exodus from ‘the big smoke’
In fact, the exponential enablement of home working, has had a seemingly huge impact on consumer behaviours when it comes to renting or buying a new home.
While urban property is still in high demand, when it comes to renters who have the propensity for remote working, experts such as Elisabeth Kohlbach, CEO of Skwire, have suggested London may become less attractive with many ‘flocking to towns and cities beyond the capital’
Back in May, The Guardian reported that many buyers were opting to relocate to the country or more rural market towns with good connections to the capital. With many people having started the year with a vague goal to leave the city, a wave of ‘panic movers’ reportedly swept through to some of the UK’s in-demand rural locations.
The challenges for estate agents and landlords in 2020
Despite a fairly positive outlook in contrast to many industries hit by the coronavirus, it’s fair to say it’s been a tumultuous year for Estate Agents and landlords as they try to stay ahead of the curve.
Commercial property downturn
For estate agents dealing in commercial property- this year will have been a particularly challenging one. According to a survey conducted by the RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors), 93% anticipated scaling back their office footprint in the next two years. The inevitable decline of the high street has lead to investors turning their hand to residential market investments instead.
Home buyers postpone
According to Aldmore’s First Time Buyer Index just under half the number of first time buyers (46%) have delayed their plans to buy a home this year on account of the pandemic. That means would-be buyers have turned to renting again to tide them over until restrictions begin to ease and job security becomes more stable.
Mastering The virtual showcase
With house viewing out of the question during lockdown, estate agents and sellers had to hone their camera skills to help showcase properties on the market as government guidance said initial viewings were to be conducted online. Virtual viewings have now become a part of the new normal, with many tips and tricks on best practice for showcasing properties in the best light via online methods.
Making way for Gen Z renters and buyers
2020 was set to be the year that many businesses made way for the Gen Z demographic entering the workplace and the consumer landscape on a much greater scale. While this year’s events have thwarted many small business’s strategies and plans, a move for estate agents to take a more online approach to marketing their property portfolio has become an inevitability. That being said, there is still a long way to go for high-street agents to ensure that the property market engages this tech-savvy generation to create a customer journey they would want to repeat. An article by Estate Agent Today argues that features such as VR tours and online customer portals will shape the future for high-street estate agents.
While many Gen Zers will be too young to buy a home just yet, they are already prevalent as renters and will most likely choose smart, modern homes over the traditional counterpart. It’s also said, that these savvy youngsters will be climbing the property ladder earlier than millennials, mostly due to a fierce sense of independence along with avoiding student debt.
Taking one-off customer payments
One bug bear for many consumers when it comes to renting or buying a new place, is the amount of admin. With paperwork upon paperwork, and often multiple one-off payments at various stages of the process, agents want to make sure their payment processes are friction-free. With late payments staling the property buying or rental agreement processes even further, agents are striving to streamline and fine tune the amount of admin for the customer, particularly (but not exclusively) for the increasingly attention-poor Millennial and Gen Z consumers.
How Coupay is shaping the future of one-off payments
Students in particular find the lettings process complicated. From challenges such as sourcing a guarantor as a first-time renter, to collating funds for the large deposit of an entire household, students have a rough deal when it comes to juggling rental agreement administration in addition to their studies. Speaking to the Coupay team, a number of students spoke out about the key challenges of renting as a student. Many of these young adults referred to the anxiety of paying such large deposit payments via bank transfer, a process prone to human error.
Where card payments are costly in terms of the commission charges, property agents have largely relied on traditional bank transfers to extract payment for large, one-off amounts such as deposits. In addition to the fractious customer journey these bank transfer requests present for consumers, they also pose challenges for the agent. Late payment can cause frustrating and disruptive delays for estate agents, but this issue is rife if agents fail to present customers with a quick, easy, and stress-free payment process.
Significant developments in open banking mean that deposit payment angst could be eradicated. Businesses no longer need to request payments via a bank transfer process that many renters and buyers view as an archaic, labour intensive system.
Solutions such as Coupay allow estate agents to request one-off payments from their client buyers and potential tenants in a quick and friction-free way which connects automatically to their bank account. Coupay’s Smart Bank Transfer can be used by agents or landlords looking to take one-off payments for deposits and other one-off or administrative fees.
How it works:
1. Sign up your estate agent business with a free trial of our Smart Bank Transfer software courtesy of Coupay.
2. Once your customer agrees their purchase or the rental agreement, generate your unique Coupay payment request by entering the transaction amount via our easy-to-use dashboard.
3. Send your payment request via your customers chosen channel (email, invoice or text message)
4. Your customers can choose to pay on mobile in an instant, or via their desktop using the payment request which takes them to their personal banking app, allowing them to make payment quickly and securely within just four clicks
Students have had it pretty rough over the last few months. With universities across the country closed due to the nationwide lockdown and freshers week as good as cancelled in anticipation of an imminent second wave, virtual learning has been the order of the day and zoom parties had to replace house parties, gigs and gatherings.
Now the future of university life is under the magnifying glass as the pandemic’s second wave sweeps across the nation. With all this along with an economy at breaking point, it’s no wonder the UKs future students will be set to think twice about a future tarnished by hefty student debts.
Some savvy students, however, have been living in the now, embracing student life and even channelling a little entrepreneurial spirit during their down time. It’s fair to say, the students of our time have learned a lot more than what they enrolled for.
Jamie Macfarlane, founder and CEO of Creator Fund, Europe’s leading investor in university startups said, “Cov-19 has not slowed student founders down, they have invested their extra free time to work on their ideas. The entrepreneurial ecosystems in universities up and down the country show us the plethora of world-class, international, diverse talent working together to deliver innovation.”
And it seems that business founders are starting out at an increasingly young age, with an increasingly principled agenda. We spoke to Danielle Brown, Alumni officer at the national enterprise education charity Young Enterprise:
“The entrepreneurial spirit we see in young people is incredible. Their ability to adapt to our rapidly changing world, or think up creative new ideas really sets them apart. A noticeable trend is the number of Gen Z entrepreneurs who are driving socially responsible objectives forward with their businesses; it’s not just about making a profit but making a difference to their communities and the wider world we live in.”
The rise of the sustainable startup
The Creator Fund report suggests many student founders are looking to alleviate some of the socioeconomic and ethical challenges todays enterprises face, with diversity and sustainability at the fore.
One such sustainable, student-lead startup is DeMoo Jeans. Founded after a lightbulb-moment charity shop haul close to their student home in Durham, twin sisters Saskia and Jessica Patel and their friend India Taylor-Smith, set about their project, recycling and upcycling denim to make custom fit jeans and headbands to take a stand against fast fashion.
“Sustainability is at the core of DeMoo. It is estimated that over 300,000 tonnes of clothing ended up in landfill between 2017-2018 (The Times, 2018). Charity shops often cannot cope with the sheer amount of denim waste, resulting in shipping to landfill sites. We know what we do isn’t much, but at least by purchasing DeMoo’s up-cycled jeans, our customers are on the right path in moving away from throw-away fast fashion.”
Paving the way for smoother payments
With student startups on the rise, and side hustles turning serious across the nation as a result of COVID-19, entrepreneurs of all vintages are looking to find new ways to take payments more easily online, at little or no cost to their business.
With card machines for small businesses offering a convenient yet costly way to take contactless payment, and bank transfers proving a time-consuming endeavour, small businesses have had to review their payment methods. Many product-based startups have turned to platforms such as Etsy or Depop to showcase their online store and streamline their transaction processes.
New payment technologies driven by Open Banking, like Coupay are offering innovative solutions to address the payment challenges faced by many business startups. With subscription fees starting at just £3 per month (and a free 1 month trial), business founders can accept payments online for free or at a fractional cost to their startup business.
If you’ve launched a new venture during lockdown, or you’re dabbling with a side hustle, check out how Coupay could help you take payments faster and more securely with our smart bank transfer link.
Has COVID-19 sparked a rise in the side hustle economy?
The global pandemic has put the economy into turmoil. With around 9.6million job roles furloughed and over 190,356 made redundant as a result of COVID-19 and the subsequent economic downturn, many are waiting to return to work or are still seeking alternative employment.
At a time of such unprecedented uncertainty, with higher powers dictating our options when it comes to employment, some of those left in a state of limbo shrewdly made use of the extra time to reflect and seized the opportunity to create their own slice of income.
One such millennial was Hinterlands Beard Oil Founder Josh Overton. While working full time as a Product Designer, he experimented with making organic beard oils in his spare time.
“Before the lockdown I made the beard oils primarily for myself and sold offline to a few friends occasionally.
Then all of a sudden, we all found ourselves stuck at home pretty much 24/7. Once the lockdown hit I decided it was long overdue to try and launch this as a side hustle for real.”
Making waves while flattening the curve
Whether it was pivoting an existing business to fit around the changing consumer needs during lockdown, or simply channelling a deeper creativity, many Living Room entrepreneurs have emerged from these times of crisis with new and forward-thinking ideas. Forming business strategies which have found relevance as a result of the unprecedented circumstances we now inhabit, many entrepreneurs who have launched a new business during the pandemic have carefully considered the very new set of consumer needs. During this time we have seen some truly astute individuals who have completely pivoted their priorities to react to a totally new age of customer experience.
At a time of turmoil for the Events and Hospitality industry, Founder of Cock and Tail drinks, Fred Campbell flexed his business to launch a new cocktail delivery brand at a time when events were strictly off-limits.
“Customers are reviewing their priorities now and are looking to support those who are being creative or are pivoting their strategy in times of crisis. If you’re present and active on all your channels rather than waiting to see how things pan out you stand yourself in good stead for the longer-term simply by being proactive as well as reactive.”
Founder of Bunhead Bakes, a baked goods delivery brand serving South London, also found this new calling during the pandemic:
“I was delivering bakes and stuff to friends and family at a distance and then someone suggested I start selling them so I put an ad out on Instagram, my sister designed the logo and it’s just shot off from there really. Now I’m delivering sourdough buns and more to your door all across South London.”
These businesses born during an economic downturn are said to be more resilient. Designed to thrive in times of crisis, they pave the way for the future of small businesses and often flourish in the long term. Here’s hoping the new wave of gritty, future-proofed small businesses are set to emerge from the ashes unscathed.
If you launched a new venture during lockdown, or you’re planning ahead with a new side hustle, check out how Coupay could help you take payments faster and securely with our smart bank transfer link.
The world is making way for the new age of Gen Z customer. Just as marketing teams, software designers and customer service departments had to make way for the new demands of millennials entering the consumer space, it’s time to welcome Gen Z on a huge scale.
Reportedly set to make up 40% of all consumers as of 2020, Gen Z already have a bad reputation as screen addicts with super short attention spans. While this may be true in relative terms, as a generation who have grown up knowing nothing of a world without the internet, can we really be surprised?
What does the Gen Z consumer really look like?
The generation born after 1995 are known for being social-media-savvy digital natives. While they are often dismissed by older generations as being ‘double screeners’ or ‘always on’, it’s not just all about TikTok and Snapchat for these young consumers. They do their research when it comes to brands, they are an ethical generation who care about making change in the world and they are particularly health oriented, and technologically advanced.
Ask Gen Z what a fax machine is, they are unlikely to know the answer. Born after the painful days of dial-up tones, MSN Messenger or the Nokia 3310, they will struggle to fathom how the world was once not in an always ‘connected’ state. They will however, probably be able to tell you the exact rate of deforestation in the Amazon and they’re also much more likely to part with their money on brands and products that have trusted eco credentials, are the most authentic and ethical on the market.
How to attract, engage and retain a Gen Z customer base
Set to represent 82 million people, making up the largest group in the US consumer population by 2026, Gen Z will undeniably introduce new challenges to the table, but rather than fear the influx of the new modern consumer, it’s time to just get to know your Gen Z audience. As the newest, brightest-eyed and bushier tailed members of the consumer landscape, Gen Z’s for the most part, haven’t formed loyalties yet in terms of their chosen brands. That mean’s now is the time to look at your business continuity, strategize to future proof your processes and pivot to attract and captivate your Gen Z audiences.
Gen Zs, having grown up as true digital natives, surrounded by constant messaging and information, have developed an internal filter to help them drown out some of that constant noise. While they reportedly have an attention span of only 8 seconds compared with the millennials 12 seconds, this means you and your marketing teams have to be prepared for the extremely discerning, fast paced consumer behaviour of this new Gen Z audience.
Make sure your brand can withstand the rigorous research, and sometimes short patience of a discerning Gen Z consumer. This generation are cynical, and they are more likely to respond to personal recommendations of friends and family than they are to be influenced by traditional advertising methods.
What does a good customer experience look like for Gen Z?
With a reported eight second attention span, user experience for Gen Z audiences needs to be seamless, streamlined and glitch-free at every touchpoint. These young adults are the Connoisseurs of User Experience, so now is the time to truly fine tune your consumer contact points by future proofing your payment methods and processes, as well as your customer service and marketing endeavours.
When it comes to customer payments for example, you can be sure that your Gen Z customers will balk at the idea of having to manually input data or spend time painstakingly entering bank details online.
According to Business Insider, 75% of Gen Z consumers use digital payment apps or P2P apps, with contact-free payments apps such as Zelle and payment sharing platforms such as Venmo proving increasingly popular with Gen Z users in the US.
Businesses with a high concentration of Gen Z customers are looking for new ways to take payments or introduce payment methods that are more engaging and friction-free for this short-attention-spanned audience. For example, letting agents in university towns across the UK are seeking ways to ensure that they can easily take recurring payments and one-off payments from their student renters in the manner that suits this younger consumer; quickly, efficiently and without having to input extensive bank details manually.
By implementing a Smart Bank Transfer payment method such as Coupay’s streamlined payment requests, businesses can receive payments online for free (or approximately 20p per transaction) and generally make the payment process more friction free and agile for customers, empowering them to make payments via their chosen device whether that be on the move, or at their desk.
With Coupay’s Smart Bank Transfer, customers simply click on their digital payment request, when, transported through to their own banking app, they can make your payment within four easy clicks. No muss, no fuss, and no bank detail entry needed. Take a tour of our Coupay use cases to see how you might future-proof your payment processes for the impending influx of Gen Z.