Give your books a Spring clean for 2013

Emily Coltman ACA, Chief Accountant to FreeAgent – who provides an online accounting system for small businesses – gives her five top tips for spring cleaning jobs that can be done for your bookkeeping once and then kept up regularly with a little time.

Scan your records

HMRC say that it’s perfectly OK to keep soft copies of your paperwork rather than hard copies, so long as you scan both sides of any documents with important information such as terms and conditions on the back, and keep paper copies of any documents which contain tax information (other than VAT), such as dividend vouchers and bank interest certificates.

Make it a one-off task to scan your historic paperwork, and then each week set aside a little time to scan anything new that’s come in.

Invest in a small scanner such as Doxie, which also creates files of manageable sizes. Or photograph receipts on your phone or tablet using Evernote.

Once you’ve scanned the papers, make sure you have the scanned files securely backed up, using a backup service such as Depositit.

Dispose of papers once scanned

You don’t have to keep both soft and hard copies of documents, so once you’ve scanned your paperwork you can dispose of it.

Invest in a shredder, or find a provider of confidential waste disposal sacks so that you can simply toss your scanned documents into a bag and have them collected.

Or, if you have an open fire or a wood-burning stove, use your old papers as fuel!

If there is paperwork that you either have to keep hard copies of or would prefer to keep as a hard copy, then invest in a strong fireproof filing cabinet, plenty of lever-arch files and file dividers, and store them securely.

Review your infrastructure

As a one-off, think about whether you could save time on administration by hiring a virtual assistant, or using a call answering and screening service such as Moneypenny? While these services don’t come free, they can pay for themselves or even save you money in the long run, by freeing you up to make more sales.

Then each week, track how much you use these services, and cancel any contracts you don’t need!

Weed out your difficult customers!

This is a job that can be done either as a one-off exercise or regularly – but it should certainly not be left!

Bad customers cost your business money. Honest. Think about the time you have to spend chasing late payments, or soothing customers who claim your prices are too high, or trying to help a customer whose needs your product really can’t satisfy. You can’t be all things to all men. If you sell vans, you can’t help someone who wants a two-seater sports car!

Don’t be afraid to weed out the customers who cost your business more than they bring in.

But in the case where your product can’t help a potential customer, could you refer them to another supplier? For example, if you can refer your sports-car customer to a trusted industry colleague who specialises in two-seater sports models, who do you think that customer will think of when their friend asks them for suggestions for where to buy a van? That’s right – it’ll be that friendly van dealer who sent them to a colleague when he couldn’t help them himself.

Plan your costs

Sometimes you can save money by planning your costs in advance. Take some time each week to do this.

For example, if you travel a lot by train, could you save money by buying a season ticket, or by booking your ticket in advance using a site like Raileasy? Sometimes you might even be able to get a special deal and go First Class for not much more than a Standard Class ticket, which could save you money because in First Class there are often free perks such as food, drink, or WiFi.

But be careful about advance booking if you need flexibility on your travel times, because many tickets bought in advance are only valid for one train, and you have to buy another ticket if your plans change.

If you make a particular job a regular part of your business administration, this can help you save time and money!