Starting up a business is an exciting time. It’s great for you to showcase your skills and experience in the business world. But unless your background is in management or finance, we know that running your own business can be a steep learning curve.
Never let that stop you from setting up your own business. Our advice is to get your finances right from the beginning as it can take a lot of stress off your shoulders.
Set up simple financial systems for your business start up
1. Invoicing and billing system: The kind of system you need depends on your industry. If you issue invoices to your customers and you don’t have a bookkeeping system, then you need a invoicing system. There are online tools that will generate invoices for you. These are our favourites: Invoice2go.com, Nchsoftware.com, and Billfaster.com.
Timely invoicing is critical for cash flow and business survival and growth. And remember that sending regular statements as well as invoices can be just as important for getting those payments in.
2. Cash flow projections/monitoring: Know where you stand with your bank balance at all times. What is due in, when it’s due, and what you will have to pay out every week/month. Check out this handy cash flow planner from AIB, which could get you started.
Invoices should include:
- Your business startup name and address
- Your telephone, email and other contact details
- Your VAT registration number, if applicable
- The name and address of the company you are invoicing
- A unique invoice reference number
- The date of the invoice
- The list of products or services you are supplying plus a price for each
- The VAT amount and percentage for each product/service line
- The total net amount of the invoice
- The total VAT charged on the invoice
- The total amount of the invoice including vat
- Payment terms (e.g. 30 days)
It is important to know that you may face penalties if you fail to issue correct invoices – Revenue can fine you for breaches. There are further Revenue invoice requirements if you are a Limited Company.
Keep on top of payments
Don’t let customers get behind on payments. It will lead to poor cash flow problems and could cause you to fall behind with your bills.
Look for 50% up front from new customers and give clear deadlines on all your invoices, e.g. payment due within 30 days. If you have the option for customers to pay by standing orders/direct debits, then encourage this. Some businesses even offer reduced rates because direct debits and standing orders have such a positive effect on cash flow.
Follow up overdue payments with weekly statements and phone calls, looking for an agreed date for payments. Alternatively, agree that work will not be completed until payment is made in full.
Consider online accountancy systems
Think about doing your finance and accounts online as it could save you time and money. Using online financial and accounting software packages for small businesses means you can have access to your records at any time, wherever you are. This is incredibly useful if you are on the move a lot. Check out our post on the best accounting software for more information.
Using online accounting can also save time for your accountant, which saves money on accounting fees.
Outsource if you can’t do it yourself
If you find that you can’t keep up with bookkeeping, think about outsourcing. Not doing things for your business just because you don’t have time is a serious mistake. If you can’t control your finances, then you are not in control of your start up.
You can use a part-time bookkeeper or outsource to an accounting firm. You should factor in the value of your time. It may be spent more efficiently and effectively on what you do best, which may not be the finances.
Functions which can be outsourced include payroll, bookkeeping, and VAT returns. Check out the accounting services for startups we offer. We also offer a company secretary service to limited companies. Using these kinds of services can keep your business in compliance with all the rules and regulations, which could save you time and money in the long run.
Larissa is a Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCA) and is the CEO of Accountant Online, which specialises in company formation, company secretarial, annual accounting services, bookkeeping, tax, and payroll services for micro and small companies in Ireland and the UK.