Managing a business online

Starting an online business – making it work for you

4 min read

Whatever kind of business you run, a healthy dose of technology can transform the way you work. Designers, retailers, hairdressers and builders are all discovering the flexibility that working with cloud accounting software and mobile apps can bring. But could starting an online business work for you?

Here’s an example of how a working day might look for a landscape gardener, who has cut ties to the office computer by using QuickBooks Online. We’ve called our hypothetical customer ‘Sally’.

Starting the day – expenses are easy

6.30am: My alarm goes off and I drag myself downstairs. I always check my emails first thing over a strong coffee. Sometimes I’ll get a reminder about documents I’ve promised to send to my accountant, so I’ll upload them to the cloud and then we can go through them together at a convenient time.

8.00am: I head off to check in on my team, especially if they’ve started a new project. We used to have all sorts of issues about who had and hadn’t been paid, but since I’ve moved my payroll to an online provider, I have all the information at my (green) fingertips and know exactly where I stand.

10.00am: I’m back in the van, on my way to quote for another job. I use an app to track my mileage automatically for fuel expenses, which is a lot easier than the scrappy notebook I used to have. Quotes are a much tidier process too – now I just create a quote on my phone while I’m still on site and then ping it over to them on an email. It also means I’m halfway there when it comes to creating an invoice – QuickBooks Online lets me use all the same information and I can do that from my phone too.

Lunchtime catch ups and advice

12.00pm: I grab lunch to eat in the van while I check my messages. Since I moved to QuickBooks Online my accountant sends me tips from time to time about growing the business and managing my cash flow. Apparently she has time to look at the bigger picture now that she doesn’t have to keep reminding me to input my expenses! There might be an automatic message about an overdue invoice which means a reminder will already have gone out. Admin isn’t my strong point and features like that really do save me a lot of hassle.

1.15pm: A meeting at the bank with the small business advisor. My business is going pretty well and I’m thinking of expanding, so I’m here to talk about a loan. I’ve been fully prepped by my accountant and I have all the figures (and some impressive looking graphs) at hand, ready to show why the business is a good bet.

Afternoon on track – invoices and reconciliations

2.30pm: Time to hit the suppliers – you can never have too much topsoil. My glovebox used to be full of scraps of paper but now I snap every receipt on my phone the minute I make a purchase and store the paper copy. Everything’s automatically categorised for me with the QuickBooks app I use, so there’s no danger of me uploading the wrong amount and it’s really easy to see which items I’m charging to my customers and what I can claim back the tax on.

4.00pm: I call on a happy customer to pick up a cheque. Some of my older clients still prefer to pay me this way but these days I take most of my payments through bank transfers. I take some photos while I’m there and upload them to Instagram – it’s a good way to drum up more business.

5.00pm: With my VAT deadline just around the corner, I head home and spend some time reconciling my bank details and generally getting everything in order. There’s so much less paperwork to deal with than last year and it’s good to know that I can do it all through QuickBooks Online.

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