“Time is money” is an old saying, but one that probably feels more relevant than ever, when time always seems to be in short supply. Working for yourself or running a small business puts huge pressures on your time, with admin and paperwork taking up evenings and weekends when you’d rather be doing anything else.
In a MyBuilder survey of more than 2,000 tradespeople, 34% named paperwork as their biggest source of stress, causing more headaches than difficult customers, van breakdowns or even stolen tools. Altogether, 91% of tradespeople said they felt like they spent too much time doing admin.
The fact is, if you wanted to deal with paperwork you’d be working in an office - so if there are ways you can cut back, without impacting your business, then it makes sense to do it. With that in mind, we’ve pulled together a few websites, apps and services that can free up some of your precious time.
Dealing with invoices and processing your income and outgoings can be a massive time-suck, whether you’re working in a notebook or a home-made together computer spreadsheet. Many tradespeople end up outsourcing as much of their account work as possible, whether by recruiting a family member to help or hiring a professional, but no one wants to lose touch with the numbers, especially when you’re trying to keep a close eye on your profit margins.
Thankfully, there are a number of modern systems specifically aimed at small businesses that can help you stay on top of your books, allowing you to log in on your phone, tablet, laptop or home computer and easily access all the figures you need, keeping tabs on all your invoices and payments. Two of the most popular services are QuickBooks and Xero, both of which have products aimed at small businesses, helping you to manage transactions, pay bills, and even sort your tax. If you have employees, you’ll even be able to process their payroll. Both start from around £10 a month, though both run regular offers and offer a free trial to see how it works for you.
Getting paid for a job used to be easy - you took the cash and that was that, and for some smaller jobs, that still works fine as long as you keep tabs on everything. While the occasional customer might still like to hand over a cheque (which means a visit to the bank) most customers these days prefer to do a bank transfer for larger payments, but for added ease of mind and security, there are other options available.
Paying with debit and credit cards is the is most popular mentod of payment in the UK now, and tradespeople can take advantage of that. You can even turn your phone into a point of sale device that takes card payments. Services like SmartTrade and iZettle are aimed at small businesses and make taking payments as easy for customers as buying a round in the pub. With iZettle, you can get a small card reader, like you might see being used at festivals or other small pop-ups, while SmartTrade uses your phone camera to turn the phone into a card reader, processing a secure payment.
Using tech like this means you don’t have to chase payments - customers can just pay at the end of the day like they would with anything else. You also don’t have to worry about sending your account details out - everything simply gets logged and recorded. SmartTrade will even sync up with Xero so you can handle your finances from start to finish. Customers also get a receipt so they have peace of mind the payment has been processed as well.
There’s no fixed cost for using the basic version of either service, though you will have to pay upfront for an iZettle card reader, however, both charge a small transaction fee - 0.45% for SmartTrade, and 1.75% for iZettle.
Everyone’s favourite price is free, so how about this? HMRC produces its own free app for iOS and Android, that lets people manage their tax, check their income and benefits, see all their communications with the tax man and much more. Similarly, HMRC’s digital personal tax account lets people manage all their tax affairs online in a secure way, letting you submit Self Assessment tax returns, view your Annual Tax Summary, and make changes.
If you’re racing around from job to job, or if you like to get jobs booked up as far in advance as possible, you need to keep tabs on your schedule and where you’re meant to be. Many tradespeople have ditched paper diaries in favour of calendars on their smartphone, but there are a host of options available depending on what you’re after. If you have an iPhone, Apple’s inbuilt calendar is easy to use, adding in appointments and setting reminders. If you have a Google account, the Google calendar app is an easy way to keep on top of things, automatically syncing events mentioned in your emails, letting you send invites to ensure customers are available. In both caes, it ensures everything is backed up if the worst happens and you lose your phone.
We’d be missing a trick if we didn’t mention the MyBuilder app for iPhones, which lets you keep tabs on leads, express interest in jobs, message customers and update your profile, so you can be first to respond to any lead wherever you are and make sure your diary is full of work. We're hoping to add an equivalent Android app soon.
We also have some other ideas that we think will transform how you work coming down the line in the next few weeks - so watch this space for more information soon...