Friday, 6 September 2013

This blog has moved

I have decided to migrate this blog over to Wordpress. It'll work in the same way, just have a different look. You can find it here with a new name. I hope you'll follow me there.

# 88 (2013) Ironic Is What I Call That

Post my blog of 4th September (#86 (2013) It's Not That I'm Lazy, I'm Just Inspired) I posted a plea to my Facebook asking if someone could give me an interesting job so I didn't have to go back into office work. Low and behold that same afternoon my agency found me a job. And so begins the manic fluster of activity as I reschedule my business clients and try to find some assemblance of office wear.

It's temporary but it could suck me in for the rest of my life if I choose to go down that dependent route. It's a receptionist job for a car sales company. Oh the mind numbingness of it all. But it is only 3 hours a day.

Sure, I can piss around on phones for 3 hours a day can't I? The money is epically bad, but if I can just get the taxman to stop taking what is not rightfully his, I might be able to muster just enough together to pay my bills.So Monday it begins. And we'll see how that pans out.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

# 87 (2013) So You Want To Be Your Own Boss?

It sounds like a cushy option doesn't it? Running your own business. Your own hours and the money's all yours. But wait. There are a few things you should consider before going it alone. Here's the hard sell. Still think you've got what it takes? Then read on and see if you think you could survive your first two years in business.

1. Are you good with money?

If there is one thing you will learn about going it alone it's that money does not grow on trees. If you can't resist the Topshop sale or a Sunday plurge at Primark or your cupboards are brimming with multipack deals from the supermarket you might want to reconsider your options. What's your food budget? A good way to see if you're buying savvy is check the sell by dates on everything in your cupboards. Now ask yourself how much food you throw away at the end of the week because you've not used it in time?

If your cupboards are full of branded products and unnecessary luxuries you should be taking a hard look at how much you're spending or think about being less of a brand snob. It's money you can ill afford to lose if you want to maximise your profit margin each month. 

Learn to turn down the thermostat on your heating and turn off lights when you leave the room. Better still, get those energy saving bulbs. Yes the light is a bit shit but they do save you money. You can also turn down the stat on your fridge freezer. Oh yes you can.

2. Don't give freebies to friends or relatives

It sounds harsh but being generous to your nearest and dearest at the expense of your income could cost you your business. Charge them like everyone else or they will strip you bare in no time. I had a friend who had a cafe and gave away teas, coffees and cake to her friends whenever they came in. Within 6 months she was bankrupt and lost everything right down to roof over her head and her bank cards. By the time she had finished ruining them financially she and her two kids were sleeping in bed and breakfast waiting for a council house. Let that be a lesson to you.

3. Are you admin savvy?

Are you good with paperwork? Or do you put it aside on the promise of doing it later? Get into the habit of filing EVERYTHING as it comes in. It'll make your job come tax return time far less of a headache. Keep spreadsheets. If you don't know how to use them, learn. They are not difficult. If you are really crap at this sort of thing get an accountant or pay a friend to keep your paperwork up to date. It might cost you a few hundred but it could save you much more in the long term.

4. Streamline before you start

Wherever possible streamline your bills before you start. The less money you are haemorraging each month on non-avoidable payments the better. Pay off credit cards and loans if you can, reduce your outgoings wherever you see a way. I moved into a houseshare to keep my bills down. My biggest expense is my car which I need for business. My household bills come to less than £600 a month and I don't owe anybody anything. It means there are never any surprises around the corner.

5. Can you work from home?

This will save you money on travel, rent and you can claim back a bit of your heating and electricity through your tax return. But be mindful not to get lazy. Set office hours and stick to them.

6. Get some savings behind you

Believe me you will need this. Banks won't lend to you and you'll discover how quickly people disappear when you need a financial helping hand. The rule of thumb used to be always keep the equivilent of three months wages in the bank for emergencies. If you're running your own business this applies doubly. If there are months when you've fallen short in sales - which WILL happen, I guarantee it - having enough there to top up the shortfall so you can keep paying for your essentials is a very good thing. But (and refer back to point 1) don't think of it as an excuse to treat yourself.

7. Downsize your social life but not at the expense of your business

You might enjoy drinks out with your mates now, or a couple of meals out a week, but believe me this sort of thing kills your profit when you are making your own money. You  think you're skint now at the end of the month waiting for your paycheck? Wait til there is no regular paycheck. You will get lonely, you will wonder why you bothered, and eventually your friends will probably stop talking to you, but you wanted to run your own business right?

HOWEVER, don't miss business type opportunities such as events where you get to flash your business card. It's not an excuse to flash cash of course and don't wine and dine potential business clients out with your own money (you can't claim these on your tax return) but hobnobbing with other business people who may be good for you can only be a step in the right direction.

This is not an exhaustive list. I think there may at least be a part 2 to this blog entry. But these are the main things I think it's good to know about. After that, you start looking at the finer details. But I'll come back to those later. Are you running your own business or freelancing? What are your tips for keeping your head above water? Message me!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

# 86 (2013) I'm Not Lazy, I'm Just Uninspired

Every time I get a phone call from my agency my heart sinks. Because although I have signed up for admin / office work here in town (my background is as a PA) I know in my heart that the last thing I want to do is get sucked back into some sterile office environment shuffling paper around and trying to deflect office bitchiness between bored secretaries.

I had a temp job back in late Spring and when the six weeks were up I couldn't have been happier. Although to be fair it did lead to more interesting and better paid work two months later.

Sometimes I wonder how I managed 17 years in office work, being enthusiastic and happy. I guess the huge wads of cash I was earning back then sugared a bitter pill. Wages that just don't exist in admin these days. 

The truth of the matter is that despite being a bit short of cash at times as a freelance clothing designer, I would rather be doing this than working the 9 - 5. I am creative at heart and you can't reign that in for long. It needs an outlet. It was why I freelanced whilst I worked full time. But I was less jaded then, less cyncial about the industry and far more enthusiastic about long hours for little money.
I think if my regular job was industry related I'd be happy with that. But I have no retail experience so one of the areas I'd love to try (working in a fashion retail outlet) probably isn't going to happen any time soon. My other job of choice is as a writer, but who pays for writers these days?

So sometimes I deliberately sabotage my chances of getting temp jobs like not returning phone calls fast enough. Other times I just keep my fingers crossed that I won't get them - which I haven't. The wages are generally appalling, (the tax man makes it almost impossible to believe) and the work is mind numbingly easy. There seems to be no real challenge in office work these days.

In the short term I am still happy muddling along. There is some kind of buzz that I get from not knowing quite where the next pay check is coming from. A big sale (like the one I've just secured) will keep me going for several months but they aren't always so easy to come by. And until the right permanent job comes along (I feel it will somewhere along the line) this is how I'm going to play it.

Monday, 2 September 2013

# 85 (2013) Sharing Finances - Do You Don't You?

What is your stance on sharing finances with a partner? I have always been fiercely independent where money is concerned and have never shared a bank account with a partner, even ones I lived with for 8 years. And the reason? Because up until recently my 'other halves' have always been completely incapable with money.

To be fair, I am very good with my cash. I am a saver and am never pushed into hasty decisions by offers, deals or unguarded shopping sprees - no matter how tempted I may be. I am businesses nightmare. You won't catch me out.

I can't live hand to mouth like some people. I put money away for a rainy day. Whether it's a light April shower or a monsoon you should always be ready. I hate debt and avoid it at all costs. And I keep all my spends on excel spreadsheets so I know exactly what I am dealing with. I've always been like this, but going to Uni and then running my own business have shown me that what I am doing is the best way. If I hadn't, I'd be on benefits living in a council flat (if I was lucky) by now. As it stands, my income may not be so great at the moment, but I'm not panicking just yet. I have invested and watch the pennies and it's serving me well. Even four years on.

My opinions on sharing finances has never changed. And it never will, no matter whether I am the main earner or not. Sharing the bills on where you live is one thing. It's an even split. But as for everything else, it needs to be kept well away. I don't care what someone else is doing with their money, but bills come first. And I don't want my surplus cash dragged into the equation.

It's a vulnerable state to be in, having to rely on someone else for your finances. And I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.