Simple ways to stay in charge of your financesManaging your finances can be one of the trickier parts of running a business, but it is the most crucial. Start-ups won’t get off the ground and small businesses will struggle to grow if mistakes are made, or if you simply lack the knowledge required to deal with this side of the business.

Here are some simple ways to make sure you stay in control.

Keep costs down

While you will need to invest in certain areas of the business when you start up - particularly staff and equipment - it is important to keep costs down where you can. This means all potential expenditure needs to be carefully analysed. Always consider whether there's a cheaper but still effective way of doing something, or whether it could wait till later.

Manage your cash flow

It is vital that you keep a close eye on your cash flow - that is, what is coming in and what is going out. You will quickly be able to see if you're spending too much, and know how much you have to play with.

Use accounting software

Good accounting software can help you to keep track of your finances. Quickbooks, for example, allows you to accept payments and track inventory. That way every transaction can be updated so you know what is selling well, and when you need to reorder items so you don’t sell out.

Hire a bookkeeper

Keeping your finances under control can be time-consuming and mundane - however, it's crucial that this is done accurately. Hire a bookkeeper and they can do the hard work for you, so you can focus your effort on other areas of the business.

Keep on top of your invoices

You need to send out your invoices as soon as possible after you have provided goods or services. Set payment terms to ensure that they are paid quickly - a week tends to be suitable - and pursue debts as soon as they become overdue. Make sure you record invoice numbers and cross-reference them with payments.

Know your tax deadlines

It is very important that you know when to file your tax return - missing the deadline could have very costly consequences. Keeping financial records up to date throughout the year will make filing your return much quicker and easier.

Make financial projections

Use the information you know about your finances to make projections and forecasts for the coming year. This will help you when planning spending across the business and allow you to create budgets where necessary.

Keep up with the news

Read up on what is going on in the wider economy - both locally and globally. Are interest rates increasing or decreasing? Is your currency rising or falling? This could all impact your business - and the more informed you are, the better you can deal with it.

Following these simple rules can ensure you stay on top of your finances and allow your small business to grow.

Copyright © 2018 Article was made possible by site supporter Rachael Matthews.

Clever apps for small businesses and start-upsIt can be extremely daunting going into business for yourself, particularly if you're taking the leap for the first time. While you'll be feeling motivated and proud, you'll also be aware that there will be many risks and challenges along the way - so you're going to need all the help you can get.

We've put together a group of handy smartphone apps that can make managing your own business just that little bit easier.

Communication apps for businesses

Communication is key in any start-up, particularly as more and more people work remotely or work flexible hours. That means that it's more important than ever to have a reliable, easily navigable platform enabling communication.

Slack is perfect for that. The messaging platform allows businesses big or small to create their own ‘workspace' and to segment messages into private or group topics. All messages are archived and you can share files and images too. Best of all, Slack is free to try.

A perfect sidekick to Slack, and an app that we would recommend any business professional use, is Skype. In today's work environment you could find yourself with your colleagues miles away or even in a different time zone. Skype makes it easy to make calls, both video and voice, over the web, as well as messaging. In our opinion, it's essential.

Apps for organisation

Getting yourself and your employees are organised is key. You don't become successful without having a meticulous eye for detail, and that extends into time management and the organisation of work-related assets.

One of our favourite apps for organisation is Evernote. Hailed by many as one of the best organisational apps, Evernote allows you to make lists, take notes and add reminders on your phone or desktop. It then automatically syncs them across all your devices.

There are various different payment options for Evernote; however the free version allows you to sync two devices with up to 60MB of data per month.

Another app that will certainly help the organisation of your company is Dropbox. It's a fantastic tool for sharing and storing files - and you can also download it onto your smartphone and take it anywhere with you. If you don't want to take our word for it, Dropbox is already used by over 500 million users worldwide.

Finance apps for business

Managing your finances is integral to running a successful business. While we're sure that you're already on top of everything financial, there's nothing wrong with accepting a little extra help in the form of two of our favourite apps.

PayPal is a no-brainer; this app allows you to send and receive money easily and securely. Not only that, but most businesses online now accept PayPal, meaning that you don't have to enter your details every time you make a business-related purchase; after all, time is money.

In addition to PayPal, QuickBooks is a handy little app that lets you keep track of all of your business' sales, expenses, profits and losses. You can generate and view detailed reports quickly and easily, and keep it all on your smartphone should you need to view anything on the go.

Creativity and inspiration apps

If your business is the creative type, it's so important to stay passionate and inspired.

We love Pinterest for generating thousands of images related to your previous search history to keep you constantly excited. It's a great way to take ten minutes out of your schedule to sit and scroll through images related to your content - and possibly spark a new idea in your head. Best of all, you can store everything that inspires you onto mood boards.

Self-care apps

In modern society it's very easy to get wrapped up in the professional side of our lives and to lose that work–play balance. And so while all of the aforementioned apps are focused on pushing your business forward, we also think it's incredibly important to take some time to chill out.

There's nothing better than zoning out at the start or end of a busy day, plugging in your headphones and losing yourself in music on your commute. Spotify won't be a new discovery for the majority, but we particularly love the algorithms that allow the app to generate playlists of new music related to what you already love.

Many people recognise the benefits of meditation when you lead a busy lifestyle. Headspace guides users through short meditation sequences and really helps you unwind. When you're starting a new business you can have millions of thoughts running through your head, and it can be tough nodding off and getting a good night's sleep. Headspace can help clear your mind at the end of the day, so that you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to conquer the business world once again.

While it certainly can be scary embarking on a new journey into running your own business, fear not. With our trusty recommendations, you can equip your smartphone (make sure it's a powerful and reliable handset) with the best apps to support you, and push your business forward to success. We wish you the very best of luck.

Sponsored post. Copyright © 2018 Fonehouse

Why your start-up can't ignore customer supportIn today's world where a single bad customer experience can ruin your business's reputation, no other department is more critical to the success of the organisation than customer support. Sure, every member of your team has a role in propelling the company forward. But customer support is usually the first point of contact, and sometimes the only way a customer chooses to interact with your business, often when something has gone wrong.

Yet, many businesses don't provide an effective customer service team. And that's a huge risk. Failing to focus on customer experience can cause many headaches down the line. In fact, one of the most frequently cited reasons for start-up failure is not paying attention to customers.

Below we highlight four reasons why you should prioritise customer service when filling positions in your start-up.

1) Customer service keeps customers happy

The customer support team provides customers with information to address enquiries about products and services. They also deliver quick and professional solutions for complaints, ensuring that customers leave feeling satisfied that their needs have been met.

2) Customer service turns customers into brand advocates

It's important to get the word out about your products and services. But you may not have the budget for a big marketing campaign. Good customer service may be all you need to grow your brand. Give customers a positive experience, and you end up with free marketing. Happy customers will either naturally refer the company to their friends or write glowing reviews online.

3) Good customer service encourages repeat business

A positive customer service is a crucial element in gaining continued support from a customer in the initial stages. Excellent customer service can convert a lead into a customer into a loyal customer. The more a customer purchases from you, the more likely they are to trust you and the stronger your relationship will be.

4) Customer service gathers valuable feedback

There might come a time when you're wondering what is working well about your product or service and what can be improved. This is where customer feedback comes in handy. The customer service team has direct contact with users, so it will be easy to gather feedback and convey it to the product team.

Finding the best support

Now that you know the importance of a customer service team, the next thing to think about is where to find good candidates. Many businesses may not have the time and money to invest in training; you need the talent right away - people who have the right skills and understand that your customers are the most important people in your business.

If your small business is still in its infant stages, you may need outside help to set up your customer service team. A business process outsourcing company may have more knowledge and experience than a newly-recruited in-house customer service team. They are also better suited to handle the challenges that come with running a contact centre.

Copyright © 2018 Featured post made possible by Rohan Magerman, senior content writer and marketer.

How to make your start-up stand outSo you're planning to start your own business. You might have a great idea, but in most cases, you'll face stiff competition. And if those businesses are already well-established, it can be hard to get noticed. So how can you make your new venture stand out from the rest?

Here are our tips to help you find your niche and turn your idea into a real success.

Do people need your product or service?

Before starting up, are you sure there is a customer need for what you're going to make or do? Friends and family may be too polite to criticise your idea. So get out there and talk to the people who you think will be your customers. Use questionnaires and surveys to discover what they want and if that is the same as what you're planning.

Look at what your competition is doing

Part of your market research with potential customers includes examining what your competitors are doing too. Find out what your potential customers like about your competitors and what they would want to improve.

Also look at your competitors' pricing strategy. If your goods or service cost more, what is going to entice your potential customers to give you a try?

Decide on your unique selling point (USP)

Unless you are doing or selling something entirely different to everyone else, you'll need to identify your unique selling point (USP). If you don't already have a USP, you'll need to find one.

For example, if you're opening a new B&B or hotel, you could make it more disability-friendly by installing a walk-in bath. This can make you stand-out from your competitors as well as open up a whole new market of potential customers who will want to try your services.

Next, you need to make sure that people know what makes you different. Explain what problem your business will solve and why that makes you a better choice than your competitors.

Collaborate with other relevant brands

Some people may be wary of giving a new business their custom. Linking up with an established brand can help to show potential customers you're not a fly-by-night company. Look for businesses or organisations that are already serving your target audience, but are not direct competitors.

Focus on providing an exceptional customer experience

You're a newbie on the market. If someone is prepared to give your business a try, make sure you meet their expectations, or they won't come back. That means carefully thinking about the customer experience and investing in making it as smooth as possible.

Always remember it's not just one loyal customer you may lose. Thanks to review sites, one person's bad experience could put thousands of others off giving you a try.

Find your niche to make your start-up stand out from the rest. If you can offer something different, at the right price, and with excellent customer service, your business can thrive.

Sponsored post. Copyright © 2017 Billy Leonard, Content Marketing Account Manager at Harvest Digital, on behalf of Mobility Plus.

Infographic: could 2018 be the Year of the Woman?A quarter of women in the UK want to work for themselves within the next 10 years, according to a new national survey from World Options. And flexibility seems to be a major driver for making the change - with 32% of respondents saying that setting their own hours would be the biggest benefit of going it alone.

However, lack of confidence still holds women back, with 43% saying they don't feel confident enough yet to work for themselves. A further 46% said financial responsibilities were the reason they had not yet made the leap.

2018 represents a milestone year for women, as we mark 100 years since the first women won the right to vote. It is a fantastic opportunity to reflect on how we can encourage more women to embrace their careers and do the job they always dreamed of.

Is this the year to let your dreams take flight?

female entrepreneurs infographic

Sponsored post. Copyright © 2018 World Options

Low risk ways to finance your start-upSpearheading a start-up or small business can be many things, but 'easy' certainly isn’t one of them. As a matter of fact, it can be one of the most challenging and rewarding roads to take in life. Unfortunately, the challenges involved can't be overcome with hard work alone - sometimes, what you need is an injection of funds.

Fortunately, there are many different ways to fund your start-up - or finance business growth - without too much risk.

Invoice factoring

Many start-ups make use of invoices, often requiring their customers to pay within a period of a few months. While these terms are reasonable, a small business may be unable to cope with waiting so long to see revenue - risking a cash flow crisis.

Invoice factoring is useful is because it allows you to sell these invoices to a third-party agency, which will pay you the price of the invoice (minus fees). This can be an absolute godsend because the agency will pay you as soon as they receive the invoice, meaning you receive your money months in advance. For a small business, this is often more than enough for them to get on their feet.

Even better is the fact that the invoice factoring agency will be the one taking care of collection when it's time to pay.

Invoice financing

Quite similar to factoring, invoice financing is has one crucial difference. The fees are lower, but you will have to be the one to collect the outstanding debts.

Some small businesses prefer this approach, because they want to have a strong relationship with their clients. Invoice factoring removes that interaction, which in turn could hurt businesses who rely on their customer relationships.

Revolving lines of credit

If your business doesn’t use invoices, perhaps a revolving line of credit is the thing for you. Acting as a kind of credit card, it applies to your entire business. Having a line of credit has saved many small businesses from floundering over the years. Just like a normal credit card, however, there are some prerequisites before you can be approved.

The most lenient revolving line is the secured line of business credit, which requires that you put business assets up for collateral - inventory or receivables are commonly used.

Unsecured business credit lines

A lot of start-up businesses can't take advantage of an unsecured credit line, mostly because of its relatively high bar to entry. There’s a reason for this, however, and that’s because unlike the secured credit line, its unsecured equivalent will not ask you to put up any collateral. This puts the lender at a serious disadvantage, because they stand to lose quite a bit if you're unable to pay.

This is the reason why it looks for a great credit record or any possible blemishes in your business credit history. If they happen to find anything at all, it’s very likely that you’ll be denied.

That said, there's no harm in applying, even if you don’t feel you need it at the moment. There’s no real limit as to when you’ll be able to use the credit, so if you can get approval you can always take advantage of it down the line.

Business loans

Finally, let's talk about a high-risk financing method - a business loan. The major advantage of taking out a business loan is that it is relatively straightforward, and just about any business will be able to apply for one, no matter their credit history. Unfortunately, in return the lender will ask for some serious collateral. In fact, putting up real estate as collateral is common.

The risk is often too high for start-up businesses. If something goes wrong, and you aren’t able to pay, there’s a very strong chance that your business will be finished for good.

Sponsored post. Copyright © 2018 Jayce Redford of Ocere on behalf of Fundbox, Small Business Funding Solutions.