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Posts for August 2013

What value a domain name?

August 27, 2013 by Guest contributor

What value a domain name?/web browser{{}}The domain name business can be extremely lucrative, with people willing to part with considerable amounts of cash to secure the perfect name for their hot new start-up or innovative product.

Although there are still a plethora of dot-com addresses available, most word-related domains were snatched up a long time ago, most likely they are being sat on by the owner until someone shows signs of interest.

If you are lucky enough to own a catchy or highly desirable domain, it can be difficult to reach an accurate and fair valuation. Likewise, if you are looking to purchase one, you must understand what you are paying for.

Although there are plenty of ‘estimation’ tools available online, their accuracy is often highly questionable and ultimately it comes down to one thing – how much the end user is willing to pay for it.


Due to the ever-decreasing effectiveness of exact match domains (eg,, etc) in the search engines, branding is the way forward. If a domain name is catchy and memorable, you can easily build up a strong brand around it. Better yet, a name that is pronounceable, while not necessarily forming a real word, is also a great alternative. For example, or or

If a domain name meets the above criteria, it’s almost certainly going to increase its overall value. Although they are hard to come by these days, a domain that is short in length, regardless of how pronounceable it is, will also hold a higher value.

When it comes to extensions .com remains king, with .net and .org generally being worth less. More and more obscure domain extensions are becoming available, making it easier to construct a word that incorporates the extension (eg In some circumstances, these can fetch high prices in auction. Although .coms are generally more valuable, it all comes down to what domain is right for your business.


The overall authority of a site is often the main factor taken into account where established domains are concerned. The rapid advancement of the World Wide Web coupled with the sheer amount of potential customers that regularly surf it, means people are happy to pay for a domain name that has value from a search engine optimisation perspective.

Important factors include:

  • Domain age.
  • Amount and quality of external links pointing to it.
  • Its historical ranking history.

A large number of low quality and ‘spammy’ external links pointing to a domain can have severely detrimental effects on its ability to perform in the search engines. This in turn can greatly reduce its value, due to the amount of work required to ‘clean up’ the link profile.

Always be sure to thoroughly explore a domain’s link data and consider using the Wayback Machine to view historical snapshots of what site used to reside on it.

End user

Taking the above factors into account may help you arrive at a rough valuation of a domain, but if you can’t find an end user (ie someone who might be interested in the domain), it is essentially worthless. An end user is usually someone looking to launch a new business or complement an existing one, who can greatly benefit from owning the domain.

Consider exploring the potential value of a domain name by simply searching on Google for any keywords it contains, and seeing who is currently advertising for these terms. If people are paying to advertise within the search engines for a term, the will most likely be interested in a matching domain name.

Post supplied by Mark Potter of ICANN accredited domain registrar and web host

Visit the IT Donut for a host of other blogs about domain names and other business IT related topics.

Use the Big Three to ensure marketing success

August 19, 2013 by Guest contributor

Use the Big Three to ensure marketing success/human hand with 3 fingers pointing up  {{}}There are countless tools available to help entrepreneurs market to their target audience. The truth is that you only need a few — three, to be exact — to get the job done and do it well.

Your company can market to a targeted audience successfully with just email, social media and design. As long as you know how to use these to suit your needs, your marketing efforts will go far.

The power of three

Email marketing, social media, and design are three of the most common forms of marketing, however, they’re common because they’re the most effective. The added benefit is that they require a smaller investment than more traditional forms of advertising.

These three have the power to drive almost all of your marketing efforts. By designing a great blog on your website and creating content, you can comment on issues related to your industry and post exciting information and updates about your company’s growth. Once you’ve created a strong email list of active customers, you can drive traffic to your blog by sending email marketing messages.

You can also use this channel to send special offers or encourage people to upgrade. The valuable and insightful content produced for your blog and email marketing campaigns can also be used on social media outlets. Engage current and prospective customers with updates that showcase your expertise or entice them to buy.

Basically, your emails will attract customers, social media will influence them, and design will keep them coming back.

Get the most out of the tools

As simple as these three marketing tools are, you have to find unique ways to utilise them. Here are a few ideas:

  • Email campaigns: Create useful, pertinent and timely content for your industry, company or product. Develop high-quality graphics to showcase your credibility and authority. Measure the effectiveness of your subject lines, and continue to analyze engagement and click-through rates.
  • Social media: Play with fun ideas. The content that engages people isn’t always what you think, so experiment with off-the-wall tactics, such as using memes.
  • Design: A well-designed, easy-to-navigate site should be your main goal. Showcase the benefits of your product or service, instead of its features, to really make this piece of the puzzle invaluable. Consistently create new content for your blog and work to get backlinks from other sites.

Marketing your company and attracting new audiences doesn’t always require huge investment. Email, social and design are essential to the long-term success of your marketing and sales efforts. Make an investment in these three and build upon them for future marketing growth.

Marketing expert John R. Stokka is the CEO of DomiKnow, which helps businesses to grow by using marketing solutions powered by a database of over 350 million US consumers.

Further reading

How my business Tots To Travel was born

August 15, 2013 by Guest contributor

How my business Tots To Travel was born/big idea{{}}In 2005 I went on holiday to France with my family when a shocking experience redefined my life.

My son Barnaby was a lovely and lively two-year-old playing at the holiday villa we were renting - when he fell into an unenclosed swimming pool. We were extremely lucky that we were there watching and my father jumped in straight away and pulled him to safety.

We were horribly shocked - though like most toddlers he bounced back pretty quickly. The problem came when I began to think about a holiday the following year and could not find a family-friendly company that met the safety criteria I now considered essential.

It's funny how the best ideas can come to you by accident – literally, in my case. I felt there had to be a safer and more enjoyable way to holiday with small children. More to the point, I knew there must be plenty of parents just like me who were looking for the same thing. An idea began to form.

In April 2006 I started what was to become Tots To Travel from my kitchen table, with a grant of just £100. This bought a logo, which I used when approaching holiday home owners. I also chose a name, Tots to France, which quickly proved too limiting and had to be changed as we grew. I launched with nine properties on my books – and it wasn't long before I found our services were in demand.

Several years later and we now have more than 350 properties across France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the UK and Canary Islands. It’s been a huge learning curve, but I’ve enjoyed every minute, and even had another wonderful baby along the way.

Getting to where I am now, running a successful award-winning company, has been a rollercoaster ride and often a lonely one at that. While the highs are great, the lows are hard work. It can also be difficult to get away from the business, it is such an exciting journey that my brain rarely switches off, and at times it can feel relentless.

But, of course, there are plenty of good things about being your own boss. Not least that while on a day-to-day basis I work full time, I am able to organise my time around my children and I'm there to take them to school and look after them when they're sick.

I am the 'present' parent I want to be, while still having a creative outlet and sense of my own identity. I have achieved fulfillment on every level and am able to say, with confidence, that I am creating an exciting and secure future for my family.

Running my own business was the only way forward for me and I would not hesitate to recommend it as a career choice. I only wish I had done it sooner.

Extract taken from The Mother of Invention, written by businesswoman, author, mentor for women in business and mother of three Wendy Shand, owner of multi-award winning business Tots To Travel. The book is available to download for free.

A message to Vince Cable - please do not ask for credit as refusal often offends.

August 13, 2013 by Elaine Clark

A message to Vince Cable - please do not ask for credit as refusal often offends./cashier with people{{}}It seems that all recent campaigns and attempts to get big businesses to pay their bills on time have failed and an outrageous figure of over £30 billion is owed to small businesses, meaning that they are providing funding to bigger businesses - that is just plain wrong!

Culture change

The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, seems to think that the solution is to impose fines on businesses that fail to pay their suppliers on time, although that does rather seem like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted and provides little help to the cash flow of the small business with the outstanding and unpaid debt. 

The problem seems to be that business culture has developed into one of accepting that 30 and 60 day credit terms are normal; and that has to change. We have moved far away from the days when it was commonplace for a sign to be hanging behind a shop counter with the words “please do not ask for credit as refusal often offends”. The time has come for small businesses to push back; they cannot afford to bank roll the cash flow of big businesses nor can they afford the overhead of a credit control function. And why should they?

Fear factor

There seems to be a fear that if credit is not offered then a sale will not be made to a customer, but is that fear really valid? Surely a customer worth having is one that buys a product or service from you and pays for it to the agreed payment terms. If they don’t pay on time then is that business you should really be chasing?

Thinking outside the box

I run a business in a very traditional industry – accountancy. The norm is very much that the work is done and the invoice raised with the client paying some time in the future. The result is what is termed “lock up”; a large 'debtors and work in progress' balance. When I started my business six years ago lock up was something that I was determined to eliminate in my business model and I did exactly that with clients paying monthly fees. The result is that as we prepare and submit their annual accounts and tax returns the fees have already been paid. They're happy as the accountancy cost is spread throughout the year and we’re happy as we’ve been paid for the work done and do not need to worry about debtors and bad debts. In fact in the six years that we’ve been operating we’ve had only a handful of bad debtors out of nearly 2,000 clients; not a bad result given the recessional times we’ve just experienced.

Accountancy is an industry that changes very slowly but if the elimination of credit can happen here then why can’t it happen in every industry?

Let's go Escrow

I recently came across an innovative solution to small business payment processing offered by People Per Hour (PPH) who “have a community of talent available to work, online, at the click of a button”. Simply put the web site provides a resource for buyer to meet sellers and transact. Once a sale is agreed a proposal is created and, if the buyer accepts it, payment is made with the amount being put into Escrow meaning that the money is held by a third-party, PPH in this case, on behalf of transacting parties. The funds are released to the seller once the sale has been completed, an invoice raised and the buyer agreeing that the work has been done. Funds can also be released if an invoice is overdue or as an outcome of a dispute resolution. 

So all round it seems a rather good solution for a small businesses to ensure that they will be paid for the work that they’ve done as well as providing the buyer with an element of protection for shoddy workmanship or other disputes.

Vince Cable’s Business Bank

It seems obvious to me that the solution to businesses not paying bills on time is for an easy and free to use system of Escrow to be available to ALL small businesses in this country via Vince Cable’s new Business Bank. Rather than spend his time proposing a system of fines I’d like a call to action for him and the Government to really support small businesses in this country and make it compulsory for all sales to be paid on or before delivery or for the sale to be transacted via the Escrow system ensuring protection for both the buyer and the seller.

What objections could possibility be raised to such a common sense and practical solution? 

Using 20 years’ experience spent working at some of the UK’s leading businesses, award-winning chartered accountant Elaine Clark is the founder and managing director of

Essential Dragons' Den Crib Sheet - your guide to slaying them with numbers

August 13, 2013 by Elaine Clark

Essential Dragon's Den Crib Sheet - your guide to slaying them with numbers/financial report and statistics{{}}The start of Series 11 of Dragons' Den kicked off last night with yet more ridiculous business valuations and lack of financial knowledge.

This first episode saw one of the best so far ... “Mr Wrap It Up” asked for a £500,000 (yes half a million!) investment for 11% of his business. That makes his business worth over £4.5m - in his mind. I must admit that his knowledge of his finances was rather impressive – the previous and current turnover and profit figures just rolled off his tongue as they should do for ANY and ALL business owners.

However, whilst making good profits, £180k in 2012 and projecting £250K in the current financial year, the finances just didn’t add up and the Dragons agreed. Surely with all that profit the business would be able to secure some bank or other financing for the building of premises without giving away any shareholding.

All that aside, the lack of financial acumen for some “entrepreneurs” going into the Dragons’ Den beggars belief. OK, so not every business owner needs to be an accountant but by golly if you are trying to persuade someone to invest huge amounts of money in your business you ought to know your finances better than you know the names of your other half, your children, your mother and anyone else important in your life!

What you need to know

For all previous years, the current year and projections for the next three years, you should know:

  • Turnover
  • Gross profit = Turnover – Cost of sales & direct costs
  • Gross profit percentage = Gross profit / turnover x 100
  • Net profit = Gross Profit – Indirect costs & expenses
  • Net profit percentage = Net profit / turnover x 100

It would also be useful to have your cash, bank and any liability figures to hand – in fact an understanding of the balance sheet and the ability to talk through the position to anyone asking about it.

Of course, you need to make sure that the projections are realistic and based upon robust assumptions such as signed orders and new contracts – you may well be challenged if you spout ludicrous figures.

Does your Business Valuation stack up?

Taking a hard look at those figures you need to ask yourself if the valuation that you are putting on your business really stacks up or have you valued “vapour wear”!

Remember that the current business valuation is without the investment and without the expertise of a Dragon investor.  Can you really justify the valuation figure or have you plucked it out of thin air?

The pitches to the Dragons often lack information on how the valuation was arrived at and why the entrepreneur thinks the business is worth that much.

Remember that this is a business investment decision – pure and simple.

The fact that the business may be “your baby”, your pride and joy, something that you’ve invested thousands of pounds in or whatever emotional reason you’d like to present is of no interest whatsoever to the Dragons. They just want to see when they will get a return on their investments and how much they are likely to multiple their investment by.

What do you need the money for?

And finally, if you’re asking for a pot of money you need to be able to articulate where the money will be spent and what return that spend will yield.

Not good TV

Clearly you may not know all of the figures or even all of the terminology that I have used here but before you make an appearance on national TV I would suggest that you “learn your lines” otherwise be prepared to be made to look a fool.

But of course if you did present all of the above it wouldn’t make very good TV – would it!

Using 20 years’ experience spent working at some of the UK’s leading businesses, award-winning chartered accountant Elaine Clark is the founder and managing director of

How to make your office more creative

August 12, 2013 by John Jackson

How to make your office more creative/lamp head businessman{{}}Creativity is the backbone of most successful marketing campaigns. When you have it, dynamic and exciting ideas are produced. Without it, you end up copying the competition and so always stay that little bit behind.

There are pieces out there that offer advice when it comes to encouraging creative thinking, yet they all aim to change company culture, which takes time and a lot of work. Why not aim to sort out the simple things first rather than worry about the company culture? Here are a few practical tips when it comes to increasing creativity in your business.

The Office – Make it interesting

Let’s be honest, a boring, drab, dark office has never inspired anyone to do anything. Yet it’s not difficult to make real changes. It’s well known that colour has an effect on mood, but have you ever thought about how that mood can affect creativity in the office? Bold, bright colours will help your people to stay positive, while introducing things that are a little “outside the box” will help to get the creative juices flowing.  The best way to think differently is to be different.

The Work – Collaborate and learn

Difference is important to creativity, so embrace different views! Look around your office; there are people with different roles, different backgrounds and different life experiences. They may be the key to your coming up with something that makes you different. Try to encourage discussion within the office; have regular informal meetings about anything creative and encourage people to read.

Knowledge development is important to a lot of major companies, so set aside time for you and your team to read up on your industry. Don’t just stop there though: look at other things that relate to you and your company. Remember to talk to each other and work together.

Networking – Get out there!          

Want to improve your knowledge? Get out there and talk to people. This should not just be a job for senior people in the office – get everyone involved. Find out about local business meetings, media socials and start-up events. Go and talk to people, you’ll get free alternative insights into your business and you may even pick up a new team member, customer or supplier.

The Team – Take time to relax and play

Ok, you don’t have to go for the full “Margarita Friday”, but it’s important to set aside time for you and your team to relax together. Think of it less of a team-building exercise, more of a case of relaxing with your mates. As a business you all have to work for each other, so the more relaxed you feel with each other the easier it will be for people to speak up and come up with more interesting ideas. You never know your “Margarita Friday” may produce the idea that makes your Monday morning.

John Jackson is a Marketing Executive for inbound marketing specialists Silverbean.

Further reading

Seven steps all start-ups should take

August 08, 2013 by Guest contributor

7 steps all start-ups should take/3d Golden number{{}}Every day, thousands of people set up their own businesses. Many will agree that starting your own business is a great, but challenging experience. You need to understand the ‘start-up’ process, because this makes a big difference to the success of your new business. Here are the necessary steps to consider when starting up your new business.

1 Brainstorm possible ideas 

Coming up with a viable business idea can be challenging and initial brainstorming can help you to arrive at one. Think about issues that people are faced with every day and write them down. Helping to solve such problems could enable you to come up with some excellent ideas. You could even brainstorm ideas that improve existing products and services.

Tip: Think of products and services that will add value to people’s lives.

2 Carry out market research

This is where you will validate your ideas. You need to determine and test whether your product or service is viable by researching your potential market.

Ask yourself, “Is my product or service niche? Is there space for it or is the market saturated?” Are you likely to make enough sales given the size and nature of your target market?

There are many ways in which you can conduct basic market research, including seeking the opinions of family and friends. Also be sure to speak to people you don’t know.

Tip: Don’t just rely on secondary research, web resources or surveying only the people you know. Poor research can steer your business in the wrong direction.

3 Draw up a business plan

This seems like a very obvious step, because you would need a business plan to secure a business loan. However, this step involves strategic planning and requires your full involvement. It will involve identifying your funding, business risks, as well as your aims and objectives. Here you will also evaluate your competition and understand your business’s cashflow.

Tip: Focus on the vision and viability of your business, potential for profits and the resources required, as well as a strategy for your success.

4 Hire a good accountant

The assitance of a reputable accountant can prove invaluable when starting your own business. They will be able to provide you with assistance, objectivity and expertise. Your accountant will also be able to help determine the best legal structure for your business and help you establish bookkeeping and other forms of record-keeping procedures. This will ensure you stay on track and up-to-date on all your paper work.

5 Decide on a good business name

Naming a business is a key decision. The name of your business is the first thing that potential customers will notice, so think of it as the entry point for your business.

Think about your target market, product/service and image that you want to project to your market. Your name should work well wherever it is used, whether over the phone, on stationery, website, logo, etc.

Also, it’s important to check whether the name you want to use is available. You can do this by searching the National Business Register.

Remember: Whatever name you choose, it should make you stand out from your competitors.

6 Find suppliers

No matter what structure you choose, you are likely to work with a number of different people to develop your business, such as suppliers, possibly distributors and maybe partners.

You may want to find a co-founder with the necessary skills and knowledge in order to assist where necessary. Whether you need materials to make your product or equipment to run your service, it’s possible that you will work very closely with your suppliers.

A good way to search for reputable suppliers is by asking other businesses in your field or by searching online. Make a list of those that you thought were good and arrange a meeting in order to talk about their prices, to develop a relationship and to get an idea of which suppliers are reliable and trustworthy.

7 Set up your business and find funding

Before you register and begin trading, you must choose which legal structure is suitable for your business. When deciding, it’s wise to understand what each structure involves. Most businesses in the UK are sole traders, limited companies or business partnerships. You also need to find a way to fund launching your new business. There are many other steps you have to consider when wanting to start your own business, but by following the above steps, you will be ahead of the game.

This blog was provided by 1st Contact Accounting.

Five smart ways to start a business on a budget

August 06, 2013 by Guest contributor

Five smart ways to start a business on a budget/bankruptcy {{}}When setting up a business it pays to limit your start-up costs. It’s reassuring to know there are affordable options for start-ups. Here are five ways you might be able to minimise your start-up costs, while still hitting the ground running…

1 Home from home

If your business is new, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to splash out on premium office space. Setting up a business from home has been made easier thanks to smart technology, super-fast broadband and the flexibility to work when you want. But when your four-year-old picks up the phone to your new client, it can end up costing you.

Entrepreneurs are now combining the flexibility of home working with the use of a local, managed workspace. This way they can benefit from a fully equipped office and meeting space as and when they need it.

2 Coffee shop temptation

When you first start out, you’re keen to follow any lead, and research we carried out suggests entrepreneurs would meet almost anywhere to secure a deal. When asked where the strangest places they’ve ever held a business meeting some of the weird and wonderful answers included the back of an ambulance, a navy warship and a cave! Coffee shops are a tempting meeting place, but negotiating while surrounded by talkative shoppers could prove tricky. Our research suggests 64% of business people would choose business centres over coffee shops when they need to be professional and productive.

3 First impressions last

When a prospective client contacts you, you must seize the opportunity. But important calls can come through to you when you’re queuing at the bank or boarding a plane. A ‘virtual’ receptionist is an independent contractor and more affordable than a member of staff. The receptionist, who’s often multilingual, will answer with your business name and can extend hours of availability so you never miss a business call again.

4 Be sociable

“Social media is to marketing as eye contact is to a handshake,” says social media guru Meg Fowler Tripp. Around 1.1bn people use Facebook every day and 200m go on Twitter, according to BuzzFeed. No new business owner would turn their nose up at free marketing, that’s why so many businesses now use social media channels to promote their products or services. But don’t ignore channels such Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, particularly if your business has a visual aspect.

5 Secure your place in the den

Even some of today’s most successful entrepreneurs, such James Caan (formerly of Dragons’ Den), didn’t start out in their own office space. He, like many other new business owners, opted for a virtual office, complete with a virtual address.

This affordable solution is increasingly popular among start-ups, home-based businesses and companies expanding into new regions. It eliminates the expense of renting while offering a business presence. Providing you with a local business address and phone number, it’s a convenient stepping-stone to a physical office.

By Anna Smith of serviced office provider Regus

More reading

Simpler accounts for sole traders

August 01, 2013 by Elaine Clark

Simpler accounts for sole traders/calculator sales ledger{{}}New tax rules introduced in April 2013 allow sole traders (ie self-employed, unincorporated businesses) to use simpler rules for recording their business expenses. So what are they and how do they make life easier?

Cash basis

The first new rule is that sole traders can record their costs on what is called the ‘cash basis’, which means when they are paid. For almost all sole traders, this will not be very different from what they already do, even though previous rules stated that transactions should be recorded when they are incurred rather than paid (known as ‘accruals basis’). The subtle difference is when items are bought or sold on credit or paid for at a different time.

Simplified expenses

Under the new rules, instead of recording the actual costs and expenses incurred, a flat rate amount can be claimed for certain costs. You can claim these flat rate amounts regardless of whether you decide to cash account or not.

Motor expenses

45p a mile for the first 10,000 miles and 25p a mile thereafter. If you use a motorcycle for business, you can claim 24p a mile.

If you elect to use this method you cannot claim any other motor costs.

Use of home for business purposes

Instead of claiming a portion of actual expenses you can claim the following amounts: 

  • Number of hours home used for business per month
  • 25-50 = £10/month
  • 51-100 = £18/month
  • 100 or more = £26/month

Eligibility for cash accounts

To use the cash accounting rules your yearly turnover in a year must not exceed the vat registration threshold. You must leave this scheme when your turnover exceeds twice the VAT registration threshold.


If you opt to use cash accounting there are a couple of pitfalls to be aware of: 

  • Losses
    If you make a loss you can only carry this forward to next year. This is much less favourable that the treatment of losses should you not elect to account under the cash accounting scheme.
  • Loan interest
    You can only claim loan interest paid up to £500, so, if you have high business borrowing, the cash accounting scheme may not be for you.

You can find out more about the ‘cash basis’ and ‘simplified expenses’ schemes by visiting the Tax Donut

Using 20 years’ experience spent working at some of the UK’s leading businesses, award-winning chartered accountant Elaine Clark is the founder and managing director of

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