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Making Tax Easy: Meet the small businesses behind the story

Easy VAT submission, even in a speeding taxi. Meet Paul Swift and the team, and hear their first-hand accounts of making the video.

5 min read

We recently brought together a host of small business, contractors and freelance specialists at a derelict warehouse in East London. Our mission? To create Making Tax Easy. The short film proves that with QuickBooks, you can easily submit your VAT return even under the most adventurous circumstances. Like the back of a speeding taxi. One that’s doing donuts.

The day of filming was another chance for us to put small businesses in the driving seat in more ways than one. As well as working alongside these inspiring professionals, we took the time to hear their stories about the ride of their life – when they decided to go it alone.

See them in action here. Hear what they have to say.

Challenges…and rewards

Despite their different lines of work, be that director, cameraman, sound engineer, racing driver or safety specialist, there was plenty of common ground, particularly around the joys and challenges of working for yourself. “It’s tough but it has a lot of rewards. It’s most definitely a lifestyle choice” says specialist camera operator Jonathan Dennis, who decided to set up on his own after getting involved in his friends’ enterprises. “One thing you learn when you start your own business is that it’s a very steep learning curve,” he says.

Russell Edwards, a sound recordist, has been freelance ever since he left film school 25 years ago. “In theory you can control when you work and when you don’t, but the downside is, sometimes you’re hanging by the telephone, waiting to see if it will ring.” He credits his own success as 40% ability, 30% common sense and 30% luck, but clearly recognises the importance of motivating yourself when you run your own business. “You’re your own manager – no one’s going to do it for you.”

Our precision driver for the day, seven times British Motorsport champion, Paul Swift, followed his father’s route into business. “He was a stunt driver – still is at nearly 70. Hopefully I’ll still be doing this in 30 years’ time.” But although much of Paul’s work is similar, the process of running a business has evolved.

As well as driving, Paul runs an ‘experiences’ business and attributes much of its success to moving with the times. “We’re quite into the social media side of things,” says Paul, “so every job we go on we’re constantly taking pics and sharing them with our followers. That keeps people in the loop of what you’re doing.”

Sound advice

Whatever their area of expertise, successful small business owners always have an eye on their finances. Paul likes to keep things simple. “If we don’t have it, we don’t spend it. We don’t work a lot with credit, we just keep investing in our own business and only spend when we can”.

For Jonathan, cash flow can be a real issue. “One way to get around that is to have fewer staff, but that means you have to do a lot more for yourself”. Jonathan uses QuickBooks to get a clearer picture of both his businesses, tracking payments, creating estimates and working with his accountant. Its simplicity really appeals to him. “It’s not too overcomplicated. You can pick it up as you go.”

Soundman Russell advises anyone who’s going it alone to stay on top of their finances and be ready well ahead of tax time. “Get a system in place so you know that every month/quarter/year you’re in touch with it and not losing out financially” he says. “As soon as you get behind on your finances you lose money.”

If you’re thinking of pursuing a passion and setting up your own business, there’s plenty to be excited about. Compliance isn’t one of them.

Fire and Rescue consultant Carl Halewood has been working for himself for five years, but one of his biggest challenges came two years ago when he set up a limited company. “I’d recommend anyone who’s going over from sole trader to limited company to really do your homework,” Carl said, explaining that it took him quite a while to get his head around all the changes.

When you start out, it’s not always easy to decide whether being a sole trader or limited company is right for you. To help you decide, read all about the pros and cons of each here. It’s all about what suits you best.

Backing You

We were delighted to spend the day with Paul, Russell, Jonathan, Carl and the rest of the team behind-the-scenes, all working for themselves. QuickBooks supports small businesses by saving them time and making the MTD process easy. We’re backing you – the world’s hardest workers.

Top tips for small business owners from small business owners

  • “Don’t just have one skill. You need multiple skills.” Jonathan Dennis

  • “Get support where you can from people like QuickBooks to help you with their expertise and make life easy for you.” Paul Swift

  • “It’s really important that you keep on top of your books, knowing what money’s coming in and going out the whole time.” Carl Halewood, Fire & Rescue

  • “Just go for it. Have confidence in yourself. Get out there.” Russell Edwards, Sound Recordist

We hope you’ve found these first-hand accounts from small business owners useful and inspiring. QuickBooks helps you stay on top of your taxes so you can get on with what really matters most – developing your business.

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