Tip of the Month: Working from Home

It sounds like the holy grail of employment options. Whether you’re working from home one or two days a week or self-employed with a home based business, working from the house sounds appealing for most people. Think about it. There’s no commute, you’ll save time and gas money, you don’t need to get dressed up, you can get the laundry done – what’s not to love?

Check out a few tips about working from home to help you decide if it works for you, and make the most of it.

Set some office hours. Just like you show up for work at the same time every day and leave at the same time every day, plan to do this when you work from home. Of course one of the bonuses of working from home is that these office hours are more flexible, but if you don’t plan to work, it won’t get done.

Likewise if you don’t plan an end time, you may keep working until you have everything done. The catch for most entrepreneurs is that the to-do list will keep on growing. Making time for family, friends and creative pursuits is important for yourself, which makes it important for your business too.

Leave your personal life in the living room and your work life in the office space. Keeping your work life and personal life separate is tricky when you work from home. Setting some physical boundaries for different activities can help.

Think about communication. How will you communicate for your business?  Email, telephone and online communication like Skype can make it possible for you to work nearly anywhere, but there is no substitute for face to face communication. Make a point to get out of your house and talk to people for work whenever you can. This will help you avoid pouncing on your significant other when they come home from work in an effort to connect with a live human being. Trust me – they’ll appreciate it if you take a walk over to the coffee shop and chat up the barista sometime before the end of the work day!

Setting up a strategy to manage your tasks, time, and communication will help you with a smooth transition into working from home, along with boosting your productivity. Like anything in business, plan for success!

Have you got any tips for working from home? We’d love to hear them!

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Tip of the Month: Small Business Record Keeping

This month’s topic might be more of an obvious reminder, but following this tip can save you plenty of time, stress and money in the long run. Keeping up with your paperwork, specifically your financial records and statements, on a monthly basis (or more often if you have a high volume of transactions) will provide plenty of perks including:

  • A clear picture of your business’ financial health;
  • Greater awareness of spending, which can help you control and lower operating expenses;
  • Less time and worry when you have to file income tax and GST remittance;
  • Being prepared for an audit, if ever the situation arises;
  • Improving your odds of securing capital, such as a loan for growing your business, by being able to clearly outline your company’s past performance; and
  • The ability to identify sales trends based time of year, marketing expenditures and so on.

Have we convinced you yet? We hope so. Understanding your business’ financial health can make you far more competitive and profitable.

What if I haven’t been keeping these records up to now?

Catching up can be a daunting task, so unless there’s a pressing need, it’s easier to break the job down into bite-sized pieces. Update your current month, along with the earliest month for which records have not been kept up. For example, if you started your business last January, then right around now you should do January’s records along with July’s. Next month, do February’s records along with August. This strategy will allow you to keep up with your current record keeping and catch up at the same time.

A note about business receipts

Keep your receipts and file them in an envelope labelled with the month in which they occurred. If the receipt isn’t obvious, or you’re worried about it fading (say perhaps when you leave it on the dash of your truck for two weeks, you crazy entrepreneur, you!), make a little note on the back about what it was for and what job you billed it to if that applies to your business.

If record-keeping becomes too much

Recognize when it’s time to bring on someone else. If record keeping is consistently put on the back burner so you can handle the immediate needs of your business, or if you struggle to understand how it works, find a bookkeeper. They need not be an employee. Independent contractors are a great way to manage jobs like this. Don’t feel bad about it – the key is that the job is done well and on time. No one is a specialist at everything, so play to your strengths and find someone who can help you counter your weaknesses. If you aren’t in a position to hire someone else, there are plenty of software programs that can help you out providing a layout, streamlining data and saving time for you.

Financial record keeping for your small business can be intimidating, but breaking it down into small pieces and staying up to date will save you time, money and stress. That’s something we all can benefit from!

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Tip of the Month: Small Business and GST

We’re starting a great new feature in our blog. At the beginning of each month we’ll outline a simple, easy small business tip that can have a big impact on your day to day small business operations. This month we take a look at GST and HST. Did you know that as of July 1, 2010 there will be four provinces charging HST instead of GST?

Do I have to charge GST?
In Canada, any business, including one-person small businesses such as trades people, consultants and contractors, must charge GST if they gross $30,000 or more in a year. If a business earned less than $ 30,000 they do not have to charge GST but may still choose to do so if they wish. If you think your own business may earn close to this amount, you should consider going ahead and charging GST, as it is easier to do this than to be caught at the end of the year, earning more than anticipated, and having to pay GST that you have not charged. So is there anything in it for you as a small business? Yes. Just as you charge GST on sales and submit it to the government as taxes, you can also claim the GST you have paid on business purchases when you do your taxes- this is called an input tax credit or ITCs.

How do I charge GST?
To charge GST you must register for a Business Number with the federal government. Once you have registered you are ready to charge GST. Simply include your sub-total, GST amount, total on all invoices, and Business Number. Your Business Number proves you are not fraudulently charging GST.

Remember to keep track of the GST you have charged and save that money to remit to the government. This is not part of your cash flow- don’t spend it or borrow from it- the money belongs to the government. Also keep records of the GST you have paid on business expenses, to claim it back as an input tax credit.

What about HST?
If your province charges Harmonized Sales Tax, you simply charge the HST in place of the GST. To learn more about HST and the provinces that charge it, or who may be switching to HST soon, please visit http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/gst-tps/gnrl/hst-tvh/menu-eng.html.

How do I register for GST or HST?
Registration can be done on line or over the telephone. The online process takes about 20 minutes. You can back-date the onset of your registration up to 30 days; however you will not receive your official Business Number, which you must have and share with clients to charge GST for five business days after you register. It does not cost any money to register.

To register online, please visit http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/gst-tps/rgstrng/menu-eng.html

To register over the phone, please call the Canada Revenue Agency number for Business and Self-Employed individuals, which is 1-800-959-5525.

Although dealing with GST may seem daunting at first, it is a fairly straightforward process to set up and include in your business. There. We just talked about taxes and the federal government in one short blog post- are you okay? We hope so, and look forward to sharing another great GoForth Tip next month.

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