entrepreneur solopreneur

Going Freelance

Getting in control of your life and your numbers

Becoming a freelancer is a big step in anyone’s life.

It means setting up your own microbusiness, finding the ideal customers and learning to make money from your own skills and services.

But if you get it right, going freelance really can change your life for the better.

In this guest blog, Steve Ash freelancer and content consultant gives the lowdown on his freelance life and how cloud tech has created a new way to make a career.

Getting in control of your life and career

I’ve been a freelancer for nearly six years now – and it’s a change in career that I’ve never regretted. For me, being a self-employed ‘solopreneur’ has certainly been life-changing. It’s a way of working, using your skills and making a living that’s becoming increasingly popular. 

More and more highly skilled professionals are opting to explore a freelance career – and it’s no accident that this is happening right now.

It’s never been easier to set up your own business. All I needed to become a freelance content writer in 2014 was a laptop and a few specific cloud apps. If you’re a skilled professional, the allure of turning your back on the rat race and getting in control of your own work destiny can be strong – and the benefits really do look attractive. 

As a freelancer, you can:

  • Work more flexible hours – I love the flexibility of being able to work when I want, and where I want. The traditional 9-5 has definitely gone out of the window. I can now create a work/life balance where I spend plenty of time with my family.
  • Reduce your commute and travel – the ability to work from any location with WiFi means I don’t need to commute to an office. I’m a regular at my local coffee shop and they’re very supportive of the many freelancers who work from this ‘coffice’.
  • Work with a varied selection of customers – my network of customers just keeps growing. I really love the challenge of working with a new business and getting to understand where I can help them. That’s a big part of the freelance allure.

Why you need to take your finances seriously

One BIG concern for people considering the freelance lifestyle is money. In a corporate role, you know your monthly salary will always be there. This gives you the stability of a regular income – something you can’t rely on when you’re self-employed.

If I take on more customers and do more work, I’ll get paid more as a result (not something I can say about many of my previous corporate roles). So, with the right understanding of your finances, freelancers can generate a very healthy income from their skills.

But to make your microbusiness profitable, you definitely need some sound financial management. 

To get in control of your numbers.

  • Keep good records and be organised – it’s not the most glamorous part of running a business, but it’s vital to keep records and to be on top of your bookkeeping. It keeps your finances organised and makes life a lot easier when your tax return is due.
  • Use a cloud accounting app – using a spreadsheet to log your income doesn’t cut it in 2020. Online accounting apps make the whole process of managing your freelance money quicker and easier to do. This means you have more time to work with clients.
  • Stay in control of late payments – unpaid invoices are like Kryptonite to freelancers. So make your payment terms clear and chase up late payers ASAP. Xero automatically chases late invoices, which is incredibly handy.
  • Work with an expert – if you can afford it, I’d definitely suggest engaging a financial expert. Time spent worrying over late payments and tax returns is time lost for the business. A bookkeeper helps you to sort all that out, reducing your financial worries and your stress levels when a letter from the tax office arrives.

How Xero helps me stay in control

It was a no-brainer for me to choose Xero to manage my freelance bookkeeping. I knew the basics of working with an accounting system already, but using the Xero Dashboard to raise my online invoices, chase up late-paying customers (yes, I still get those!) and manage my cash flow has made life so much easier.

If you’re thinking of taking that first step towards self-employment, having the right software and apps to help out makes a big difference. My advice would be to:

  1. Decide on your specialism and start promoting your freelance business
  2. Embrace the latest cloud tech and the benefits of using business apps
  3. Keep in control of your finances and aim to make a profit

Notch Above Bookkeeping has your business up and running with Xero quickly and accurately. We can help you install the software, configure your security settings, import your business data (chart of accounts / suppliers / debtors / employees) as well as set up your invoicing, payroll and taxation requirements.

We also provide advice on the best Xero package for your needs. Contact us today to get Xero, the world’s easiest accounting system setup and working for your business.

Source: Xero
Notch Above Brisbane Bookkeeping

Speed up payroll processing for small business

Is it time to switch to cloud based-online timesheets?

Cloud-technology is rapidly changing the way small business owners do business. It’s making previously expensive technology affordable and accessible to anyone with a mobile phone.

Now your business, no matter what size, can have a state-of-the-art, easy-to-use staff scheduling and time-recording system. It’ll save you hours of admin, improve staff engagement and help you get the most from your spend on wages. TSheets took us through some of the benefits.

Five problems with paper-based time tracking and scheduling

Paper-based systems can get the job done, but they’re far from ideal. They slow you down, introduce errors and distract people from their primary job.

  1. Paper schedules are inflexible and difficult to update
    A work schedule is right at the time you post it, but things change quickly. People take leave or call in sick and there’s no way to fill those shifts without getting on the phone and ringing around. None of your staff knows that a shift has opened up.Plus paper schedules can sometimes cause confusion for workers. In the mess of names, dates and times, it’s not unheard of for employees to mix up the dates of their shift, or confuse their starting times with someone else’s.
  2. Paper timesheets leave your business vulnerable to time theft
    Paper-based time tracking systems are prone to guesswork and the generous rounding up of hours. According to a survey from Software Advice, nearly half of all hourly workers admit to exaggerating the amount of time they work each shift.Overestimating a few minutes here or there might seem harmless, but that time adds up. A study by the American Payroll Association found that over the course of a year, time theft can cost a business up to 7% of its annual gross payroll. With a paper-based system, there’s no way for you to monitor – or address – this behaviour.
  3. Your employees hate the paperwork
    Time recording can become a job in itself. Staff members who’ve had a big day don’t like the extra administrative burden of filling out forms. And when they treat it like an unwanted chore, the data can get sloppy. The guys at TSheets have heard of uncooperative workers handing in their time on a paper cup.
  4. Small errors can have large repercussions
    Manual time tracking relies on employees writing down their hours, which you – or your payroll manager – must enter into a database. But this system can be undone by something as innocent as misreading an employee’s handwriting. A three might look like a five. A two might look like a seven. And then there are keystroke errors that sometimes happen when data is being transcribed into payroll. If a dispute arises, it can be hard to find where things went wrong.
  5. Manually processing timesheets slow down your business
    Staff often need a nudge to complete and hand in their timesheets. Then the numbers have to be punched into payroll. That double handling chews through a lot of time. It’s either a distraction to you, or it’s costing you a lot of unnecessary wages. Manual scheduling is also complex, difficult and time-consuming.

Paper-based time tracking systems are prone to guesswork and the generous rounding up of hours. Nearly half of all hourly workers admit to exaggerating the amount of time they work each shift.

The advantages of online timesheets

Smart time-tracking software won’t just give you an accurate record of hours worked, it will also give you powerful scheduling tools. All-in-one apps, like TSheets, make smart use of your employee’s mobile devices by enabling:

  • you to post staff rosters to their phones and make updates as things change
  • employees to clock on and off, and request leave, using their phone

These systems don’t require you to install any hardware and they can dramatically improve how you manage your human resources.

Real-time scheduling
A smart online timesheets package will include scheduling software that lets you publish employee rosters to their mobile phones. You can even assign jobs to individual staff members, which they receive via a phone notification. If someone needs time off, they can request it via their phone and you can advertise the open shift to the rest of your employees using the app.

Accurate mobile time tracking
Employees who use online timesheets can clock on and off with their mobile. This eliminates paperwork and guesswork. The system captures the precise start and end time so you have an accurate record of hours worked. GPS stamping shows where each employee is when they clock on and off, so you can make sure they’re actually at work.

This needn’t be seen as a tool for micro-management or surveillance. The real-time communication works both ways. Staff can easily record their breaks, submit timesheets and request leave.

Better communication with your staff
Cloud time-tracking software can alert you or your employee when their hours are approaching overtime or when a timesheet is ready for approval. With instant message alerts, you can notify your team as soon as you’ve published a new schedule or a new shift becomes available.

See where your investment is going
You can see how staff spend time by having them enter specific job and client codes into their online timesheets. This allows you to itemise your bills, or justify your invoices if they’re queried. It can also reveal if employees are getting stuck on certain tasks. The information could help you identify workflow problems that are wasting time and costing you money.

Seamless integration saves time on administration
The right online timesheets system will integrate with your other business software to automate a whole bunch of jobs you may do manually at the moment. The data can flow into your payroll system, which will calculate the tax and pay for each employee. And online timesheets can also update your accounting software, so you see how much you’re spending on wages day by day and hour by hour.

Forget manual scheduling and paper timesheets

Online timesheets with built-in scheduling functions make staff management so much simpler and far more accurate. That high-quality data becomes really valuable when you integrate it with other cloud accounting software. You’ll be able to automate payroll, and gain new insights into how efficiently your business runs. You’ll see if:

  • customers are being charged appropriately
  • internal bottlenecks are wasting staff time

Consider how this sort of convenience and knowledge could make your business faster, smarter and more profitable.

Thanks to Xero for allowing us to share this article with you.

Free Bookkeeping Systems Check-Up

Take our quick quiz to find out how to get more cash and time back in your life.
Start the Quiz

Specialising in Xero bookkeeping, Notch Above is a Brisbane bookkeeper and BAS Agent located in Alderley that offers Xero setup, as well as training and ongoing support. Notch Above can take care of all the bookkeeping tasks you would rather not do, like bank reconciliations, supplier payments, payroll services, debtor control and BAS returns.

Like us now on Facebook

Follow us now on Twitter

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Visit our Website

cloud accounting Notch Above Bookkeeping Brisbane

What makes a good cloud accounting provider?

Making the move to cloud accounting makes sense for your business, but it’s important to understand that not all cloud organisations have the same standards. Consider the ten factors in this guide to ensure you pick the best cloud accounting provider.

What is a cloud provider?

The cloud is part of the internet. For example, cloud storage simply means storing your files on a company’s server, with a secure connection over the internet to your computer, smartphone or other device.

Cloud providers are similar, but they let you run applications instead of just storing files. The advantage with cloud providers is that you don’t need to keep everything on your own machine. You can log in from any device using a browser or an app, and have instant access to your software and business data.

But the industry of cloud services is a relatively new business. Most of the smaller cloud service companies, and the cloud departments of larger organisations, are just a few years old. This can make it hard to judge which cloud service provider is right for you.

So to help you make that decision we’ve come up with 10 factors that your cloud service provider should be willing to share with you. We’re concentrating on cloud-based accounting providers in this guide, but the points covered can be applied to other types of cloud service provider too.

The advantage with cloud providers is that you don’t need to keep everything on your own machine.

1. Show that their systems are stable and robust

If you’re going to trust your financial data to someone else’s software and servers, you need to know they’re going to look after it. They will need to have the following systems in place:

Data encryption
Your data should be encrypted so that if it should fall into the hands of hackers, they won’t be able to make any use of it.

Solid security
Access to the service should only be possible through password authentication or other secure means.

Backup strategy
Hardware inevitably fails from time to time, and so does software. With a sensible backup strategy that doesn’t have to be a big problem.

Disaster recovery planning
Disaster recovery (DR) is a vital part of running a cloud business. If the unforeseen happens, such as an earthquake, cyclone or other disaster, whether natural or otherwise, the business should be able to continue with minimal interruption as servers in another location take over.

These are the basics of good cloud service delivery. If you find yourself talking to an organisation who doesn’t have all these systems in place, walk away.

2. Demonstrate that their company is financially healthy

It’s a commitment to decide to work with a cloud provider because you will rely on their service to always keep your business data accessible and up to date.

Just as if you were buying off-the-shelf accounting software to use in-house, you’ll need to know the supplier is financially healthy and able to provide ongoing support. You’ll want to make sure your hard work won’t be wasted, and that the company will be around for the foreseeable future.

So check out the company’s balance sheets, annual reports and other financial information. Talk to an accountant if you need help to make sense of the figures.

3. Make your information available across devices

A cloud service provider should be able to allow access to their application through a variety of devices and operating systems.

The more types of device that are supported, the easier it will be for you and your team to access. So look for a cloud provider or service who can ensure your information is available on:

Apple iOS devices
For iPhone and iPad users.

Android OS devices
For a wide variety of tablets and smartphones.

Windows PCs
For desktop and laptop machines, and some tablets, running Microsoft’s operating systems.

Apple Macs
For desktop and laptop machines running Apple’s operating systems.

Depending on the way your business is run, you may need support for other platforms too, such as Linux or Java.

4. Value their users and provide good support

These are difficult points to measure. However, most cloud accounting providers will have online community forums where people meet and exchange thoughts and ideas about the company.

They will also ask questions and, sometimes, make complaints. You can get an idea of how the company treats its users by reading through these forums and seeing how it responds to suggestions. Then look at how those suggestions are handled or resolved. You’ll be able to tell a lot about customer loyalty as well from these forums.

If the forum support staff are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable, the company is likely to value its customers.

5. Maintain good uptime

A broad range of features is of no use if the system keeps going offline or crashing. The amount of time a cloud service stays running and accessible is called its uptime.

The uptime percentage should be over 99.95% in the best cases: that’s less than an hour of downtime per year.

Achieving good uptime depends on various factors. These include having the right staff with the right skills, providing investment for new servers and infrastructure, and understanding the business need for reliability.

6. Have scalable infrastructure

As your business grows, you need your accounting software to be able to grow with you. Your chosen accounting product should:

Be able to scale
When it comes to processing power and data storage, the infrastructure needs to scale to meet your and their growing needs.

Preferably have their own data centre
Otherwise you’ll be dependent on another company that you don’t directly interact with.

Be open about updates and upgrades
An upgrade and update timetable can be useful, especially if it involves down time. You won’t want to lose a connection during an important client meeting.

7. Seamlessly integrate with third-party applications

You will want to be able to compare one cloud accounting provider with another, which means you’ll need to know exactly what services each one offers. Most of these providers will include that information on their website, but if not they should be able to supply it in document form for you.

But the big advantage of cloud services is that the list of features doesn’t have to stop there. Most providers will have deals with partner companies and some will also allow third-party providers to create third-party applications or ‘apps.’

This works a bit like the apps stores for smartphones, or plug-ins for web browsers. It means you can get much more out of your software. So ask for a list of third-party suppliers, partners and add-ons. In some cases there may be hundreds to choose from.

8. Provide detailed billing plans

Each provider will have a different pricing structure. Find out what they will charge as you grow your business, because your requirements will grow too.

Take a look at your existing requirements
Determine where you are today. Then you can work with your provider to forecast how things might change in the future.

Ask about their existing clients
See if they’re willing to share information about the growth of their clients who are comparable, in terms of size, to your company.

Make sure you receive a clear written schedule of costs
Then study it carefully. A low up-front initial cost might not be so appealing if the costs rise exponentially as your business grows.

Make sure any additional costs are included
For example, access to cloud accounting services should ideally be through your own internet connection. If you have to use a dedicated data connection instead, that may lead to unexpected costs.

9. Confirm that you can have your own data at any time

You might not want to be tied into one cloud provider forever. Circumstances change and businesses evolve, so you may want to switch providers at a later date.

Make sure you will be able to export your business data from their system whenever you want to, and in a file format that can be used by other software.

Don’t get tied into one organisation’s product. If your deal with them comes to an end, you need to know your business data will still be safe and accessible.

10. Get everything in writing

Once you’ve made your decision about which provider to use, make sure you get everything in writing. Good cloud organisations should have a detailed customer data check-list, indicating that they are customer-focused. The list should include items like the location and number of the data centres; the requirements each centre must comply with; emergency procedures; frequency of backups and SLAs (service level agreements).

Some of these documents will contain legal language, so get them checked with a lawyer if you have any concerns.

Now you can start working on your accounts in the cloud.

There are many advantages to working with a cloud accounting service, such as having access to the service anytime and anywhere. But it’s important to take your time and pick the right one.

When you’ve made your choice, use the ten factors we’ve listed in this guide, so you can start working on your financial data right away – day or night, from wherever you happen to be.

Free Bookkeeping Systems Check-Up

Take our quick quiz to find out how to get more cash and time back in your life.
Start the Quiz

 

Specialising in Xero bookkeeping, Notch Above is a Brisbane bookkeeper and BAS Agent located in Alderley that offers Xero setup, as well as training and ongoing support. Notch Above can take care of all the bookkeeping tasks you would rather not do, like bank reconciliations, supplier payments, payroll services, debtor control and BAS returns.

Like us now on Facebook

Follow us now on Twitter

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Visit our Website

(Article sourced from Xero, https://www.xero.com/au/resources/small-business-guides/cloud-accounting/cloud-provider/)