Working From Home – where do you start?

Why work from home?

Contracting and freelancing are fast becoming the choice career moves for more employees each year in the UK and it’s evident why. Being your own boss allows more flexibility and the chance for a better work/life balance. Choosing the jobs you want, and when and where you do them is also a great perk. Some might say that they choose to work from home because a relaxed atmosphere increases productivity and efficiency, while others just like to avoid office politics. There are a whole host of benefits to home working, particularly from a health and well-being point of view.

 

Making it work for you

Most contractors prefer a combination of remote and on-site working, to ensure some kind of visible presence, or because they enjoy the variety it brings. But for those wanting to ditch the office environment entirely, these are some things to consider:

 

Advantages

•Arranging your routine to suit you

•Freedom to spend time with friends and family

•Setting up your work space however you like

•No commuting saves time and money

•Less stressful environment

 

Disadvantages

•Distractions such as housework and people who share the same building

•Finding it harder to switch off

•Feeling isolated. If this is a concern, take a look at our infographic for tips on how to make those all-important connections.

 

Setting up a workspace

The beauty of home working is that you can set up your space to suit your needs. You can use a spare room, convenient corner or even under the stairs – technology means workspaces can be much smaller these days, so don’t build that garden office just yet!

Make sure the space is as comfortable and efficient as possible. Get suitable furniture such as a desk at the correct height and a chair, which is good for your posture. Try not to buy expensive equipment to start with – basics would be a computer, printer and scanner – you’ll soon find out what’s essential. It’s also useful to have a smartphone specifically for business, which you can set to voicemail after hours.

And think carefully about colour and decor, which affect your mood more than you might think.

 

Be professional about it

Communication is one of the most important aspects for making homeworking a success, so reliable broadband is a must, as is making yourself contactable and available to speak during working hours. Respond to clients promptly so they know you’re on the job – they’ll want to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth after all. And don’t be tempted to slob around in your dressing gown all day either! Clients will expect exactly the same standards as someone who is office based, and ‘getting ready’ for work will put you in the right frame of mind too.

 

Costs and claims

Due to virtually no set-up costs, working from home is one of the cheapest ways to start a business. If you’re intending to claim expenses through your Limited Company, your home office should be adequately arranged to indicate that it’s a genuine business and not part of your normal domestic arrangements i.e. working from a dining table the family eat at every evening.

It’s also not sufficient to spend a few minutes a week on admin, you actually need to be working at your home office and generating income to justify a claim.

We’ll discuss more about this particular topic in our next blog, but in the meantime a good Specialist Contractor Accountant like Intouch will be able to advise on Home Office Deductions.

 

If you’d like more information on Working From Home – download your free guide here.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

The flexible working ‘movement’: where are we with it?

Today’s complex working landscape presents businesses with the challenge of meeting the demands of people with very different values, expectations and needs. Yet, they all seem to share a desire for flexible working.

It’s little wonder, then, that the flexible working movement has gained such momentum in the last decade. Employers have recognised that the traditional workplace is no longer fit for purpose. But we’re yet to reach a point where flexible working is ‘the norm’, even four years on from the introduction of laws by the UK government which gave everyone the legal right to request flexible working.

 

To use the ‘right to request’ or not

People are still unsure whether or not to use their right to request flexible working, for fear it could be perceived as a sign that they are less than dedicated to their job. In a study conducted by social media training experts Digital Mums last year, more than half (51%) of UK employees believed that asking for flexible working hours would be viewed negatively by their employer and a further 42% thought it would have a negative impact on their career.

Millennials, who are one of the key drivers of the movement, were particularly wary of not wanting to upset their employer, with two-fifths (40%) saying they’d be too nervous or worried to ask for flexible working hours, despite eight in ten (77%) wanting this way of working.

Those fears might very well be legitimate. According to a new joint report from flexible working experts Timewise and consultants Deloitte, more than 30% of workers who opt for flexible hours feel they have less status and importance as a result. A quarter of the 2,000 people surveyed also thought they had missed professional opportunities because of this.

For freelancers and contractors, there aren’t the same lingering fears, although they might have some concerns about whether working remotely could impact on the relationship with the client, if there is an expectation to be on site every day.

 

Remove the need to request

As we revealed in our previous blog on the pros and cons of flexible working, however, any concerns employers might have about what flexible working could do for business are often shown to be ill-founded.

Ask anybody who works flexibly whether they work harder and more productively now than they did when they were in a more structured setting and the answer would be unequivocally ‘yes’. Flexible workers often say they feel like they owe it to their company to go beyond the call of duty every day. While that brings up another issue entirely around work/life balance – another main driver of the movement – it goes to show how much staff value flexible working.

In a recent piece of research by SmallBusinessPrices.co.uk, more than a quarter (28%) of respondents said they value additional holiday days, sabbaticals and flexible working hours as employee benefits, over receiving a pay rise.

By promoting flexible working – rather than making employees request it – employers could find themselves with a line of new talent at the door, while holding onto the existing talent they already have in the building.

It could even help end gender discrimination in the workplace. According to the Timewise/Deloitte report, one of the biggest barriers to gender equality and pay parity is employers’ continued refusal to accept non-traditional working practices.

Timewise chief executive Karen Mattison stresses that the family structure in which one person stayed at home and another went out to work is “no longer the case for the majority of UK households” and employers need to react by changing their flexible working practices.

With the technology available today to facilitate flexible working, it’s never been a better time for individuals to dictate how long, where and when they work. More and more people are taking the plunge and ‘going it alone’ as either a contractor or a freelancer.

Of course, with Intouch Accounting by your side, you’re never alone. We are here to support you by answering any questions you may have, from assessing whether it’s the right time for you to contract or freelance, to helping you set up a Limited Company.

 

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Flaky clients – a step by step guide to dealing with late payments – Part one

Dealing with flaky clients – part one

 

Sadly, late payment is something which every contractor and freelancer will probably have to deal with at some point. Whilst it can be considered the nature of the beast, it’s not something which you as a professional should expect nor have to put up with.

 

This blog examines the steps you can take to prevent late payments. Keep an eye out for our next blog that explores how you should deal with them if a late payment occurs.

 

Prevention is better than cure – our top tips for helping to prevent late payments:

1. At the contract signing stage, ensure your payment terms are clearly stated.

2. If you’re dealing with a new client, you could offer a discount if the client pays in full and in advance. Alternatively, you might incentivise your client by offering an early payment discount, within X days of invoice.

3. As soon as the contract is finished, send your invoice promptly. State clearly the payment due date. A shorter billing cycle of 14 or 21 days means it’s not so easy to forget to pay. The date the invoice was issued should also be included as well as the methods of payment.

4. It’s advisable to introduce a late payment clause into the contract (eg 1.5% per month after the due date), and ensure the client is aware of it, both at the point of signing the contract and when you issue your invoice.

5. Include “dispute resolution” terms in your contract, including an “arbitration clause” giving the name of the mediation organisation to be used in the event of disputes. There may be a fee for mediation (based on the amount owed) but it will be less than taking a client to court, plus it’s usually quicker.

6. If payment on a contract is in stages, ensure you’re paid after the completion of each stage. Don’t start the next stage without prior payment.

7. Check their payment history. A quick Google search will reveal if there are any disgruntled contractors who found payment an issue from your prospective client. It’s then up to you if you wish to continue with the contract, or include some late payment clauses to protect yourself.

8. As a contractor or freelancer, time means money so using a time tracking/invoicing app would be beneficial and could improve efficiency. Set up automatic reminders. The longer you wait to remind clients about an invoice, the harder it’s going to be to collect on it.

9. When you send out each invoice, it’s good practice to add a note thanking the client for using your services. Let them know you appreciate their business and hope they will use you in the future. You can also say you would welcome a testimonial from them and add a link to an email address setup for this purpose.

10. The invoice itself should look smart and professional and include the following:

 

  • All of your information
  • Your logo
  • Your customer’s contact information – name, address, phone and email address should you need to contact them in future
  • A detailed list of the items you are actually invoicing for. This could avoid conflict later on
  • Your payment terms – date due and late payment penalties
  • Any early payment discounts you offer
  • A list of acceptable forms of payment
  • Ensure you send the invoice to the correct contact and department, to avoid unnecessary delays

 

We hope that you are now comfortable with invoicing and discussing payment terms with your clients. Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! In part 2, we will address what you can do if a client misses a payment deadline, so keep an eye out for next week’s blog.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.