Sole traders and small business owners working from a home-based office actually have a lot more pressure put on them when compared to doing a paid job working from an employers office space.
While the majority of people imagine that being your own boss comes with a lot of freedom, but in most cases the opposite is true.
You may think that every solo entrepreneur or small business owner can sit around all day in their pyjamas, drinking coffee and having the TV on in the background while they work from a laptop.
This image may seem really appealing, especially if you have to face the daily grind of commuting to an office every day, sitting in slow moving traffic, feeling uncomfortable sitting at your desk all day while wearing a suit, tie and tight shoes.
However, there are a lot of things that you can take for granted in your employed job that a small business owner must factor in. We are talking here about time-consuming, yet very important tasks, such as emptying your office waste bin, keeping your office environment clean and free from dust that can seriously affect the inner workings of your electronic equipment, and more....
More responsibilities than you think!
But it is not only the added tasks of a bit of office cleaning that you will need to take care of – the security of your home office will also fall squarely onto your shoulders.
An employer will provide their workers with a safe environment to work within and this includes having Health & Safety policies in place to keep staff physically safe and free from injury, but also Data Protection procedures that prevent sensitive data breaches and company information falling into criminal hands.
Working for an employer will also mean that your boss will be the one paying out for security staff, CCTV, security access points, fire alarm systems and equipment, smart locks and physical window and door locks.
Just because you run your business from your home office doesn't mean that you don't need to have security measures in place to protect your customer information and business data to remain compliant with the current Data Protection Act.
However, there are a lot of steps you can take to help automate your home office and free up your time from your day-to-day administrative tasks that are essential to the success of your business.
How to utilise digital assistants in your office
With the introduction of digital assistants in the form of Amazon's Alexa and others, we have been able to revolutionise our homes. Digital assistants have fundamentally changed the way a growing number of us interact with our digital devices.
Voice-activated AI technology is growing more versatile by the day. We are now seeing Alexa and other digital assistants being able to take on many different tasks in the day-to-day operation of our small businesses.
Setting up Alexa or an Echo-dot in your home office can immediately start to pay for itself through automating task such as scheduling your diary, conferencing calls, running productivity tools to keep you focussed on your work, organising your to-do lists, and delivering data.
Here are just three useful examples of how using a digital assistant can save you time and effort:
Automate your conference call schedule:
You can use a conferencing managing tool to sync with Google Calendar. This will help to remind you of your next conference call and will automatically connect your call without you needing to dial the number. You would simply need to say out loud: "Alexa, tell Conference Manager to start my conference call."
Organise your travel with email assistant:
If your home business involves visiting clients, then you can sync Alexa with an email assistant tool. This handy tool will parse your email inbox to find and read back travel confirmations, so if you want a quick rundown about your car rental, hotel booking or flight details, you will get the information you need without needing to physically check your emails for the information. You would simply need to say: "Alexa, ask Email Assistant what time is my hotel check-in."
Get up to date web analytics:
As well as delivering current news and curated data, your digital assistant can also give you real-time website data. Alexa offers web analytic tools that can sync with Google Analytics to deliver you fresh, real-time updates on your website data, such as visitor numbers and web traffic.
There are new skills being added by the day to digital assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant. It is worth keeping up with the latest releases and useful tools that can help free up your time and keep on top of your office based tasks.
Automating your business bookkeeping and accounting
Balancing your books and keeping track of your business expenses can be an incredibly tedious job for most small business owners. Rather than sitting and pouring over your business bookkeeping and accounts for hours each week or month, you can look at automating these essential, yet quite boring tasks.
By using an online bookkeeping and accounting service, such as Quickbooks for example, you can transform how you do your company accounts.
Many sole traders will start out simple and use free tools and easy systems to get them off the ground and the money rolling in. This can involve creating a simple invoice in Word and sending this to your customers at the end of each month, or on the completion of your work project.
A physical paper-based cash book would then be used to note down all income and outgoings, along with petty cash and recording of business-related receipts.
Instead, by automating your bookkeeping and accounts through an online service, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort. Your accounting service will sync with your business bank account and any merchant trading accounts you have. Every time you make a business transaction it will be recorded. You can scan in physical receipts for petty cash and non-electronic spending.
What is also a major time-saver with online accounting software is that you can create and send invoices in seconds. These will be logged and tracked and you will be sent an automatic reminder of any late payments and outstanding invoice details.
You will be able to see at a glance how much you are owed, how much you have spent and know instantly the state of your business cash flow. This is so much better than having to work out all of your figures by hand.
Automating your Annual Reporting
As a sole trader or small business owner, you will need to complete and submit your annual tax return based on your income and expenditure for each tax year. You can prepare and submit these easily by yourself by using an online accounting solution, such as Quickbooks or a similar option.
As a sole trader, you will need to pay tax according to your income tax band. You will also need to pay either Class 2 or Class 4 National Insurance contributions, depending on your total business profits. Again, your tax and NI contributions can be automatically worked out for you using your online accounting solution.
If you are a limited company, you will also be required to complete and file your audited company accounts each year. This is necessary to keep your company compliant with the law, but it will also show you the financial health of your business. Your figures will also be used to work out how much corporation tax you will need to pay.
Ideally, you should have your company accounts drawn up by a qualified business accountant. This can be an expensive overhead for a lot of micro-businesses owners, especially if they are used throughout the year to keep checks and balances on your business finances, so using an online accounting system to do all of the legwork for you can make your record keeping as simple as possible.
You can set up your own personal gateway online with HMRC and this portal will allow you pay your self assessment tax bill each year, as well as check on things such as your pension entitlement assessment for when you retire, and details of any benefit payments that you currently receive, such as Tax Credits.
Freeing yourself from your home office
As a business owner working from home, you will have important day-to-day tasks to perform that are essential to keeping your business ticking over. This includes completing menial tasks without becoming distracted or sidetracked.
It can be hard to concentrate on your work if you are worried about what is going on right outside of your home office door. You may have a sick child at home that needs your attention, or you may be trying to work during school holidays and your kids are causing chaos.
Before you know it, you have lost a day's worth of productivity and important business calls have been missed or cut short. Your incoming business mail is piling up and left unopened, and your emails are stacking up in your inbox, but you are unable to work through them because you are struggling to juggle with so many other office tasks.
You can take steps to free yourself from your everyday office tasks and be there for your family whenever they need you. It is possible to escape your home office to take care of family matters knowing that while you are absent all of your important business telephone calls are still being answered promptly, professionally and in a friendly manner.
Now would be a perfect time to make use of very flexible and cost-effective virtual office services, such as those offered by Capital Office, London.
Whether you want to have your business phone calls covered when you need to concentrate on work, meet with important clients, or simply spend time looking after a family member when they are sick, you can use our unlimited business call answering service or you can go the whole hog and have our complete virtual office services at your fingertips when you need a little extra help.
By using virtual office services to free you from your every day time-consuming administrative tasks you can focus your time and energy on other more important things, such as getting a work project completed to meet an impending deadline, meeting with customers or potential new B2B partners or trade suppliers.
Capital Office, London is here to help you if you are struggling to run your own business from home or find your everyday business admin tasks are becoming a little overwhelming. You can find out more about the benefits of using an unlimited call answering service and how it can set you free from being tied to your home office telephone. Or you can discover how using a complete virtual office can actually be good for you and your business if you are a sole trader.