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5 mistakes small business owners should avoid


Guest blog by Caitlin Rose of

Every small business owner wants to maximize profits over the long term. However, many business owners make mistakes every day that prevent them from seeing success. Correcting these mistakes is key to a more profitable business. Here are five of the most common mistakes that small business owners must stop making:

1. Business Tax Errors

Small business owners are notoriously bad with their taxes. Instead of trying to do taxes yourself, spend some time and money with a professional. In the long run, this decision will actually save you time and money. The more time you spend with a tax professional, the more well-versed you will become on the subject. There are a lot of business owners who end up in trouble with HMRC because of tax mistakes made in the past– don’t let this be you!

2. No Website or Digital Presence

It’s seems safe to say, the internet is here to stay. Small business owners who still don’t have a website will have to invest time and money in this area eventually. Similarly, social presence is increasingly important for branding and being found by customers.

Over the long term, there are many business owners who lose sales because they do not have a website or a digital presence of some kind. Anyone who wants to drive traffic and sales through their site needs to observe current best practices for good results. The easiest way to do this is by using a free website template and hiring a digital marketing professional to help set it up. Social accounts are even easier to create, and are totally free to use.

3. Bad Financial Records

Many small business owners are people who like to take action quickly. Instead of being impulsive, it is important to keep an eye on every pound coming in and out of your business. Successful businesses keep their financial statements updated and free of errors. The benefits of well-kept financial records will reveal themselves when you seek funding, investors, and/or expansion.

4. Too Much Debt

Many companies carry too much debt on their balance sheet. Debt can have some very negative effects on your business. Although many large companies manage debt well, this can be difficult if you are a small company.

There are various affordable loan options for small businesses to help ease the pressure of daily operations. Make sure to review all of the loan terms and conditions before signing the paperwork to make sure you can afford the repayment terms.

5. A Short-Term State of Mind

Finally, too many small business owners today only think in the short-term. Learning how to think about your business in the long-term allow you to see the big picture.A short-term mindset will cost you more time, money, and aggravation in the long-run. Take steps today to plan for tomorrow, and stick to the plan, that’s the only way to sustain growth.

Pippa Wastell
Social Media - for business as well as leisure!

Mesmerized this morning by an infinite blue sky along with a good dose of much needed (well, in these parts anyway!) sunshine, my thoughts slowly turned to autumn. Feeling the chill in the wind I began to ruminate on the behaviour of animals and how seasonal changes affect social behaviour. Living in a rural area it’s not uncommon to see a variety of animals scampering from the hedgerows and sprinting across the paths of oncoming vehicles, dicing with death (sometimes successfully, sometimes sadly not!). It never ceases to amaze me that, even in the midst of winter, clusters of baby rabbits still venture out in search of food, social interaction and companionship.

Humans are no different in many respects seeking solace, comfort and contact with fellow human beings. When winter beckons we may close the curtains and draw the blinds, retiring to our sofas unwilling or unable to face the cold weather or dark nights, but we still feel the urge to keep in touch. We use a variety of social media to ensure that friendships and relationships don’t lie dormant even when we can’t make face to face contact. Indeed, keeping a presence alive on social media has pretty much become the pastime of the nation and second nature to most people. Keeping people informed of what you’re up to, tagging them in on events to go to, recommending places you’ve been to – we all do it without a second thought, but when it comes to your business are you as proactive on social media?

Probably not! And the reasons for this are varied. The time factor is an obvious one – most people are too busy dealing with the day to day minutiae of running their business to concentrate on posting on social media whereas others are unsure of what or when to post or even why they need to bother posting in the first place.

Social media is good for you because it generates interest for both current and potential clients. It’s a way of creating a buzz when promoting a new product or business element or it can be a simple way to remind people that you are there for them should they require your services. Posting content which is interesting, perhaps fun, yet relevant to your product enhances your business appeal as well as having a positive impact on your SEO. Small businesses need to be found! Provide good content and it will be shared again and again and the path will (hopefully) lead back to you.

If you have neither the time nor the inclination to concentrate on social media for your business, a Virtual Assistant can do this for you at very little cost. We can research and write content and post for you on a scheduled basis. You can sit back and know that your social media presence is in capable hands. Have a look at our social media packages and see which is the right one for your business.  

Helping small businesses become big (or bigger...)

It’s common knowledge that it takes less than 10 seconds to form a first impression when interviewing a prospective job candidate. A website is no different, yet many businesses make the simple mistake of assuming appearance doesn’t matter. In the time it takes to glance at your homepage users will decide to stay or leave, i.e. whether to find out more about you or seek out a competitor. Image matters and it won’t do you any favours if you neglect it.

As a small business, we’d like to help you understand just how important a website is to you and your clients. It’s your window to the world, showcasing your business personality and bringing your business to life. How you are perceived by potential clients is literally in the blink of an eye when they land on your homepage either by chance or by design. Unfortunately, many small businesses and sole traders feel constrained when it comes to websites. Why spend a lot of money on a website if you’re just starting up and have limited funds available?  Small businesses and sole traders often fall into the trap of wanting to have a website ‘up and running’ as soon as possible, for as little as possible and with as little input as necessary. Having a basic website which doesn’t incorporate your business personality won’t do you any favours and could, potentially, deter clients from wanting to do business with you.

When it comes to ‘keeping it fresh’ we know that most people don’t want to be tied in to having to rely on a third party to update their website. With our sites, you can have as little or as much editorial control as you want. Content updates can be done – quickly! You can have full autonomy over your website or, if you prefer to leave it to us, you won’t be charged the earth for us to update. As your business develops and grows, so can your website. If you want to change your image at some point in the future, your website can be adapted ot reflect this.

Image matters more than you think, so we’ll work closely with you to evolve your image and create a site specifically designed to promote your business. We’ll listen to your requests to ensure your website does your business justice. After all, it’s in our interests too for your website to work for you.

Let us create a site for you – it won’t break the bank. Find out more here.

Pippa Wastell
The importance of having a work/life balance

So, who reads books whilst walking the dog? I do. It’s true. I have perfected the art of semi-brisk walking, fully engrossed in my current read, carefully steered by my faithful friend Sam past any unexpected hazard (apart from the bramble bush I once stumbled into by chance and grazed my face on – way above dog height so he’s exonerated of any blame!). This crazy habit was borne out of necessity. Like most people, I sometimes struggle to find time to do the things that matter most to me. As an avid reader (50-70 books a year is my target!), I found it increasingly impossible to make time for reading – hence my somewhat unorthodox solution. What does this prove? Apart from ensuring that I read regularly and get the opportunity to have a bit of downtime and relaxation away from the computer whilst keeping semi-fit, it shows that the solutions to our problems aren’t always the most obvious and that sometimes help can be found in the unlikeliest of places. It also highlights the need to keep a good work/life balance.

How many hours a day do you spend doing tasks you wish you didn’t have to do or wish you had someone there to help you, even just for a few hours so you could free up some ‘me-time’? Are you overwhelmed by simple admin tasks and day to day organisation that it’s having a negative impact on you and your business? Small businesses and sole traders often think the only solution is to employ someone on a part or full-time basis to take care of this. However, many businesses simply cannot afford to do this or don’t want to commit to having someone on a regular basis to carry out work. This is where hiring a virtual assistant can make all the difference. A virtual assistant works for you as and when you need them. This means you aren’t paying for time spent having coffee breaks or waiting for you to conjure up the next task. It also means you don’t have to employ somebody and pay their National Insurance or pension contributions. Hiring somebody to do the more mundane tasks also frees up precious time for you to devote to developing and promoting your business as well as giving you the chance to take a breather, sit back and reassess the direction you’re travelling in. It means you can keep a handle on what really matters and focus on your business strengths, safe in the knowledge that your day to day admin is in capable hands.

Virtual assistants work in blocks of time, so you can effectively buy time to suit you. This can be especially helpful if you work irregular hours or need things doing out of normal office hours. When the clock strikes 5 I am still around to help because my workplace is my home. Hang on, I hear you say – what about your work life balance? Well, it works both ways. The time I spend walking my dog is my time whenever I choose to do so within the working day. I don’t have to walk the dog ridiculously early before dashing off in the car to the office, nor does he have to sit around waiting for me to come home at the end of a long day. He sits beneath my desk, content that we are together and secure in the knowledge that he will get his walks the minute I turn away from the computer and pick up my book. 

Why poor grammar can damage your business

Many businesses fail to appreciate that the written word is THEIR window to the world and a valuable marketing tool which can attract or potentially deter new clients. Poor grammar, simple spelling mistakes and a lack of punctuation are all contributing factors that can send customers running in the opposite direction.  

The well written word is an essential component of business communication as it establishes credibility and professionalism. Marketing emails and advertising leaflets containing spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors are a prime example of poor business promotion. Why spend money on thousands of error-riddled leaflets which will have the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve? Send out an email with poor grammar and it will look amateurish. Sloppy marketing will make people question your overall ability to do business irrespective of how good you are at your job. When it comes to content, what’s even more surprising is the number of people who are simply oblivious to the difference between common words such as “you’re” and “your” or who persist in saying “I could of” instead of “could have” – the list is endless!

Grammar and spell checkers are far from infallible and, if anything, have even contributed to the current decline in written English standards. A software programme won’t necessarily tell you if your spelling of the word is correct, but incorrect in context. I have a friend who regularly posts on Facebook “of cause” instead of “of course” – I haven’t the heart to try to explain her error to her as it’s in a personal rather than business context, but if I came across it in the professional sphere I’d run a mile.

So, what can you do to ensure your written communication is up to scratch? A good tip is to read aloud when writing – you can often pick up simple mistakes this way. Use a dictionary (online or paper) to double check the spelling of words and a thesaurus to broaden your vocabulary. Make time to brush up on basic grammar and if you have neither the time nor inclination to do this, then hire someone to do it for you. Professional proofreading doesn’t cost the earth, but it could save you a small fortune and enhance your business image. 

Pippa Wastell
Why your small business needs an online presence

As a small business owner, time is your most valuable resource. How you choose to invest it is almost as important as where you invest your pounds. Are you neglecting your social media presence because “Facebook is a waste of time” or because you have no idea how to tweet? Are you intimidated by learning how to manage a website or an email marketing program? It’s never been easier for small businesses to compete online with the big guys and it’s never been more affordable to manage.

Facebook is more than cat videos and a pic of your cousin’s new baby every 10 seconds.

Engaging a potential customer on social media builds trust in your business. If your business doesn’t have a decent Facebook page, you are missing a huge opportunity. 24 million Brits use Facebook every day and 56% of internet users age 65 and older use Facebook. Facebook and other social media sites provide an easy, more “non-committal” way to get in touch with you and see what other people are saying about your product or service. Social media is a way to have a meaningful conversation with a potential buyer, even if they aren’t local. Social media also allows for “top-of-mind” awareness campaigns so those customers who aren’t ready to buy from you yet remember your name when they are. You can even schedule your social media posts ahead of time for things like holidays or special sales.

Email marketing isn’t dead

We all hate spam email. This is why email marketing has made some amazing advances in the last few years. Now, emails from business aren’t just hard-sell, “buy now!’ discount offers, but they are informative and, dare I say it, actually fun to read. Find out what your customers love to talk about and incorporate it into your email marketing strategy. Would your users find the latest announcement from Ferrari exciting? Or maybe they are more of a 'great recipe' kind of crowd? Find ways to make your customers look forward to getting your emails. Don’t have anything exciting or interesting to share this week? Don’t send an email. Choose quality over quantity, but do your best to plan out all campaigns so you can establish some frequency.

Your website is your business’ first impression to the entire world

What’s the first thing you do when you are interested in buying a product or service? If you’re like the majority of British people, you Google it. If your website looks amateur, out-of-date or, even worse, your website doesn’t appear in the search results, odds are you are losing potential customers to your competition. Even if you don’t sell anything online, visitors can get to know you and your product, find locations, and contact you. It’s easier and more affordable than ever to have a website, and because of that, today’s buyer might see a business without a website as a huge red flag and go elsewhere.

Nobody has time for that!

Having a great website, a cute Facebook page, sending a few emails would be great, but you’re busy actually running your business, managing the day-to-day operations. There are just bigger priorities, right? Wrong. You could be losing thousands of pounds in revenue each month that you don’t invest in online marketing. Trends change constantly and technology moves fast, but the good news is that you can get affordable, professional marketing help from the world’s best with just the click of a button. You know your business and its customers inside and out. Online marketers have honed their craft as well. Getting your very own marketing assistant is much more affordable than you may think. Contact us to find out how we can bring you more customers, build your online reputation, and best of all, save you time and hassle so you can get back to running your business.

Pippa Wastell
5 benefits of hiring a Virtual Assistant

The challenges that come with running a business can be daunting. You're keeping an eye on the marketing, finances, day-to-day problems, hiring, firing, PR and more. With all that going on, you barely have any time for coming up with new ideas and processes that can help grow your business. One of the easiest solutions to these problems is to hire a Virtual Assistant. But why hire a Virtual Assistant when you can hire in-house staff?

A Specific Skillset

A Virtual Assistant is someone who works remotely, often through email, phone calls and/or video conferencing. A Virtual Assistant can work from anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection. They may have a broad range of experience but typically work in a specific niche and have dedicated skills like accounting, marketing, PR, data entry or web design.

Save Money

Hiring a Virtual Assistant saves you the cost of hiring a full-time employee. You eliminate employee benefits (National Insurance, holiday pay, maternity leave etc.) and the average rate for a Virtual Assistant is typically lower for those reasons. Plus, you only pay them for the time that they are working for you, so no tea breaks, lunch breaks or trips to the toilet!

Save Space

 As a sole trader or small business owner, you understand that affordable office spaces are difficult to come by. Sometimes just the cost of buying extra office furniture such as a desk and chair might be off-putting. This is where a Virtual Assistant comes in. Because they work remotely, you don't need to make room for them in your business space, or even have an office for that matter. 

A Comfortable Relationship

By choosing a Virtual Assistant, you eliminate any interpersonal conflicts or issues that can arise from having to see or speak to someone 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Not only that, but a Virtual Assistant is generally very flexible and happy to work around your other commitments. A happy employee is a productive one. For instance:

A Virtual Assistant doesn't have to commute to work You don't have to worry about them being late because of traffic or bad weather. 

Many Virtual Assistants have children which is why they work from home. Because they can be so flexible, you don't have to deal with staff needing to leave early to pick the kids up from school, or have an unexpected day off because one of the children is ill. 

A Virtual Assistant will focus on exactly what you want them to do.  Most VAs use time-tracking software so you can be sure that every minute they are working for you is dedicated to your needs. 

Save You Stress

Finally, a Virtual Assistant makes your life easier. Knowing you can outsource difficult or tedious tasks to a capable VA can make the difference between you enjoying what you do or dreading it. By engaging a VA to handle projects or everyday tasks that you either don't have the time to do or can't do, you are freeing up your schedule to make time for what you do best.