I’m starting a new home business but have no idea what laws apply. I don’t have a budget for hefty solicitor’s fees. Where do I start?”
Most start up home businesses, regardless of the product or service, should consider the following areas – website compliance, consumer remedies, distance selling regulations, advertising compliance, data protection regulations, Intellectual Property ownership and contract law (for contracts with customers and suppliers).There are numerous websites that offer free guidance on all of the above including Business Link, Intellectual Property Office, Information Commissioner’s Office (for data protection), Office of Fair Trading, Trading Standards, HMRC and BCAP (for advertising). All of these websites provide basic information that will give you a very good starting point for all of the above issues. You could also do an internet search for the relevant legal topic, as many law firms post very useful free articles on their websites. Of course, it takes time to read the guidance notes so if you are time poor you may prefer to talk to a lawyer. Many lawyers offer an initial half hour or hour consultation and lawyers4mumpreneurs is pleased to offer all mumpreneurs a free one hour telephone consultation to discuss your business and the legal issues that may affect you. If you wish to take advantage of this, please email: email@example.com to arrange a telephone appointment.
Legal advice always seems very expensive when you start up, but you don’t want to be caught out further down the line. You will often get a free session to start with so it’s worth speaking to a business lawyer to find out what elements you need to think of and then you can prioritise what you can afford when.
Since starting my own business, I have done everything myself, but I’m now at a point where I think I need to employ some part-time help. What do I need to do from a tax point of view and also how do I run my own payroll?
First of all, you need to register with HMRC as an Employer. The best way of running your own payroll, is to use some form of Payroll software. HMRC provide a free CD-Rom which you can use, or alternatively Payroo is a good free commercial package.
For each pay day, you need to deduct the right amount of tax and NI from each employee. You will need to have the employee’s tax code, which HMRC should send to you, after you have told HMRC that you have a new employee. As an employer, you will also have to pay Employer’s NI. For each financial month (running 6th to 5th), you will need to total up all tax and NI and pay this over to HMRC. At the end of the financial year, you must produce P60s for staff, plus file a P35 and P14s online to HMRC. Most software can produce these and file online.
When you start to introduce other factors, such as staff benefits, student loans, maternity pay and sick pay, it is worth seeking the advice of a professional.
It’s hard to imagine being an employer when you start off but it’s helpful to know what the implications will be from the start. HMRC can give you a free guide and have a helpline for new employers (0845 6070143). The other option is to ask friends and family to help you whenever possible, I wouldn’t be where I am without my mum’s help.
How can Twitter benefit my business?
Twitter can help you reach more people but it can be tricky to get a balance of interesting tweets to attract followers and messages that motivate them to buy. It is a great way to build relationships which helps people to trust you and buy from you.
To make Twitter work for you, develop a strategy. Think of 12 promotions that you will run this year. Use SocialOomph.com to schedule tweets highlighting each promotion. A countdown like ‘just 3 days left for this month’s offer’ is an incentive for people to click through to your site. Have a rolling programme of tweets so that you ask followers to sign up for your newsletter 4 times a month, direct them to your Facebook fan page 4 times a month and tell them about your offer for 2 weeks each month.
Link your blog to Twitter using Twitterfeed so followers get a supply of good content. Log on to Twitter daily, tell people what you’re up to and thank those who have ‘retweeted’ your messages to their followers. Take part in ‘Follow Friday’ where you recommend people to follow.
Twitter is a useful marketing tool to reach people who might be interested in you or your business. My best piece of advice is don’t just sell – it’s boring to read – interact and be friendly. Twitter is all about sharing information and it’s not considered rude to comment on someone’s tweet – just have fun. I’m @snoozeshade and all our experts are on there too.
How can Facebook help me grow my business?
If you’re using Facebook socially, it is very easy to turn it into another useful way that people can discover your business. Simply go to ‘groups’ and click the ‘set up a group’ button or click on the link at the bottom of any ‘page’ to set up a page. A group is ideal tool if you want to promote a specific membership organisation or club, while a page is more appropriate for most businesses. • http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php
Once you have entered all of the required details, add some content. If you have a blog, you can use Networked Blogs to add your blog to your page so that the content feeds through automatically. Send messages about your page to your friends and ask them to highlight it to others who might be interested.
Once you have a few fans of your page, your messages will be seen by them and, importantly, by their friends who visit their profiles. The word can spread about your business to people who are contacts of your contacts. Add in occasional exclusive offers for Facebook followers and people will have even more reason to sign up.
Facebook is a great way to grow your business but consider how you keep private and business separate as the two can merge. Create a fan page for your business and ask friends and family to ‘like’ it which gets you started and keep everyone updated on how the business is doing. LinkedIn is a good business networking site too www.linkedin.com