From Burn Out to Bite Back

From Burn Out to Bite Back

I just got burnt – and I got burnt real bad! But just call me Phoenix because I am arising from my ashes.

If you’re a loyal reader over on my blog, or even just on my social media posts, you will know I’ve had a tough year!

Most entrepreneurs struggle in the early days of their business, usually in the start up stage when they are trying to fully equip for their needs or obtain new clients.

But in true Ivy Wood style (Ivy Wood being my alter ego here) I of course have to be different.

Years 1 – 5, yep perfect! No qualms! Aced it and I loved being a business owner. Year 6, fall flat on my face!

But I am getting myself ready to bite back and take my business to exactly where I want it to be!

Here’s what I have planned for the next few months ahead:

Magic my Mindset

I’ve been working on my mindset now for a few months. This year I’ve taken a new approach and have been undergoing hypnotherapy with the lovely Dee Go who has a treatment room in my building. We’ve been working together and improving both my spiritual awakening and also my confidence and self belief. If you haven’t tried meditation or hypnotherapy before I would highly recommend both treatments. I still need to put more efforts into journaling and gratitude but overall I am beginning to feel a shift in my mindset. And I can definitely vouch for the law of attraction too…

Build up my Team!

To have 100 active accountancy clients all by myself was an incredible achievement! But bloody difficult! I was so relieved when my lovely apprentice came on board in October! The difference it has made is HUGE and in fact come January she was ploughing through the data entry and I just couldn’t keep up with her. February is usually my quietest month, but not in 2018. I therefore made the hefty decision to employ another 2 staff members. We have a payroll Pixie who will be joining us on a weekly basis looking after our client payroll procedures and also an in house admin assistant who will be keeping the work order all in check. Exciting!!

Charge my Worth

This is one of the biggest changes I plan on making. I set my rates 6 years ago when I had zero overheads – I worked from the back bedroom with very basic, no frills and completely free bookkeeping and accountancy software. Would you believe me if I told you I’ve never increased my prices? Despite now having a plush new office, all singing and dancing software, staff members, pricey investments in my personal development amongst everything else. Crazy I know! And by the time I add in my full time childcare fees for 2 children I work at break even. Unfortunately I’ve had to learn the hard way and what I’ve come to realise is when you undervalue yourself, people will undervalue you even more! This is my time and I am now going to value myself. From now on if people are not appreciative they are no longer worthy of my time. Time is precious and I need to use it wisely.

Passive Income Streams

For those few that think my business is run purely for monetary rewards please feel free to come check out my bank balance – you’ll soon see other wise! But at the end of the day this is my business, not my hobby and I need to start earning a living. I’ve already mentioned a price increase but as I’m a nurturer and I want to help others more it won’t have a huge impact to my bottom line. That’s why I’ve created several passive income streams to boost up my bank balance. Over the next few months expect to see some exciting online course including ‘How to file your tax return in 6 weeks‘, ‘Bite Size Business School‘ and also a community for small business owners who enjoy preparing their own bookkeeping but just need that little help along the way.

Visibility

I am on a mission to inspire others! This has been my purpose for the last 6/7 months and I’m really passionate about it. I’ve been through the highs and the lows, I’ve over come hurdles, negativity but still pushed on to reached my achievements. I want to share my experiences with others and help them on a day to day basis. I’ve already co authored Mumpreneur on Fire 2 – which is a no 1 Amazon top seller. The book consists of 20 inspirational stories for mums in business. But I don’t want to stop there! I want to reach out of my comfort zone and feature in many more articles and publications and even possible public speaking gigs! Eek!

Family Time

And last but not least I am incorporating family time into every day life. Obviously I spend time with my family on a daily basis but what I mean is quality family time. Declan and Isla are both out of the house from 8:30 until 18:00 and I miss them. We’ve had a family shake up these last few weeks so I finally introduced an hour each day at the kitchen table either playing games, reading, colouring and have a chit chat over a cup of tea and some biscuits! It’s been lush and so far so good. My aim is to only work school hours by the end of 2018 and now I have a budding team, I don’t see why this wouldn’t be achievable!!

I’ve had some amazing support from the network around me! For every negative set back I’ve had 10 positives pushing me forward! If you’re suffering the burn out too just remember you are not alone and there will be people around you to pick you back up, you just need to look in the right places!

You’ve got this ladies – just bite back! And bite hard!

(But don’t tell my toddler I said that (oops!))

Do not submit your tax return until you have ALL this important information!

Do not submit your tax return until you have ALL this important information!

 

I would say maybe 85% of my clients very often shout at me for offering my services at such low prices. I am a very affordable accountant – so much so, it has actually bit me in the bum over the last 12 months to the extent where I just had too much work on my desk! Personally, business isn’t just about a financial gain, it is about helping others.

Let’s take my lovely friend Pixie as an example. I met Pixie maybe a year or so ago. Pixie came to me as a trained bookkeeper and payroll clerk, she had decided to change directions with her career and was looking for bookkeeping and accountancy services for her new business venture. I could have very easily taken business from her that day, but I didn’t. Instead I gave her a gentle shake and told her to get on with it herself. Considering her bookkeeping requirements as well as payroll for numerous staff members I could have been £45.00 a month richer, but on moral grounds it would have been a wrong move and that really doesn’t sit well with me. We didn’t enter into any business arrangements that day but instead what we did come away with was a new friendship.

Now you might be thinking at this point ‘Mmmm what has this got to do with submitting a tax return?’ Just bear with me…

There are a lot of small business owners out there, especially mums who juggle the struggle. These businesses have fairly straight forward financials. And guess what? Submitting a tax return to HMRC is fairly straight forward too. It’s just daunting! And I completely get that.

There is absolutely no need to seek out an accountant and pay affordable prices (if you’re lucky enough to come across someone like me) or out of this world extortionate prices.

You just need a helping hand to guide you through the process, the do’s and the don’ts, the yes and the no and the final submission.

This is why I have created the ‘6 weeks to complete your tax return’. Our 6 weeks, do it yourself, complete your own tax return online course has been designed to breakdown the what can be very daunting process of preparing and submitting your tax return to HMRC into manageable, easy to action, bite size chunks.

Over the 6 weeks we will cover tax return basics, must have paperwork, sales income, business expenditure, annual adjustments and final submission.

At a cost of just £99.00 it is not to be missed. For full course content and details on how to enrol just click here!

In the meantime, I am giving you for FREE – A summary of the must have information you will need to complete your tax return in a checklist format. Yay!! Just complete the sign up form below.

Remember – Tax does not have to be taxing!!

 

Why I am ditching the Hustle!

Why I am ditching the Hustle!

Oh my days! I was just looking back at my Instagram from the beginning of 2017 and my old posts are haunting me…

I had posts along the lines of

  • Mums in Business hustle
  • Juggle and hustle
  • Good things come to those who hustle
  • Mother hustler!

Yikes – Cringy!!

Now this isn’t a sudden change of heart towards my business. I think deep down it’s been eating away at me for some time, it’s only whilst I’m still in a state of reflection looking back over 2017 as a whole as it hit me hard on.

It all started during a conversation a few months ago that I had with my friend Jenny about working long and hard hours. And I remember pretty much straight after I seen an Instagram post (as you do) and it referred to alignment. I snapped a screenshot and sent it to her as a way of giving her a virtual hug. She was on the right path!!

Now have you ever looked up in the dictionary the meanings for hustle or hustler? I just did on google and let me enlighten you…

HustlePush roughly, jostle. Obtain illicitly by forceful action. Engage in prostitution.

HustlerA person adept at aggressive selling or illicit dealing (small time hustlers trying to sell their stuff), A prostitute.

I don’t know about you, but I for one no longer want to be comparing the way I run my business to such terms.

I know a lot of us often refer to the ‘hustle’ as working hard but as of now, for myself, it will be a HUGE no go word.

I am going to focus on the grace of my work efforts. Yes I do work hard, but it’s because of the passion and dedication for both my clients and the work that I do. Not because I’m in hustle mode.

So from this day on you will only ever hear me use the phrase hustle whilst used in the following context… ‘Less Hustle and More Grace’

 

Happy alignment ladies <3 Love Iona xxx

Dear 2017… Thank You

Dear 2017… Thank You

Dear 2017,

You were the year that I propelled in my business and I want to personally thank you.

I set out in a crazy January (as always with a million and one tax returns on my desk) and I did not stop – Once! I had plans for you 2017 and I was determined to pull them ALL off.

I’d been promising my sister Chevaunne that she could come and work with me as soon as my nephew started school for the last 2 years or so and the countdown was on. I had 8 months to be financially secure and all set up to accommodate her.

Time was ticking, and I’ll be honest I felt like running scared. I took a step back to evaluate the situation and I soon realised I needed at least 100 clients to be able to pay a wage and I was only at 62. I had built my business up to 62 clients over 5 years – There was no way I’d be able to find the additional 38 in a short space of 8 months.

Oh how was I wrong? I set myself some goals and targets, my intentions were clear, and I was focused. And by the 2nd July 2017 – Just 6 months in, I had all 100 clients on my client list that I needed.

Let me tell you – That was the easy part! I’m still not 100% how I pulled it off, but I did.

Unfortunately, by this time taking on new clients was the least of my priorities and I had to close my books and turn work away, something I never envisaged I would ever have to do.

In a short space of 5-6 weeks between the end of April and beginning of June I received over 40 sets of accounts that I needed to complete – single handed, around my monthly bookkeeping, VAT and payroll! My already not the best of offices (We’ll come to that in a minute) was now a storage room piled high with records and client files and I didn’t have the workspace to get going. Time was limited also as I was spending so much time on the road out at client meetings and picking up (even more) work. I was in a tunnel and I couldn’t even see the light at the end of it.

This was one of my all-time lows during my 5 years of self-employment. I took on an extra pair of hands by way of Jackie my amazing admin assistant and also Mary who came in to help me with the bookkeeping workload.

I worked around the clock for months on end and at times I felt like I was fighting a losing battle – For every one set of final accounts I sent out to clients for approval I seemed to get another two sets in to start from scratch.

August was here before I knew it, the first half of the year was almost a giant blur. David, bless him started his new job role on the 1st August which was the end of his shift work. This left me in a bit of a pickle in that I had my business to run, maybe 20 or so sets of accounts still to start and I now had to juggle everything around Declan and Isla who were at home due to the summer holidays.

Let’s just say there were lots of tears in my house that month (mainly my own). I set up a make shift office from my kitchen table and worked as hard as I possibly could. Late nights, early mornings. Who needs sleep anyway?

My office at the time was affordable, it served its purpose but was in no means what I wanted. One of my goals at the beginning of the year was to decorate my office and replace all of the old, mismatched, grubby furniture that I had inherited when I took on the lease. As months passed, the urge to move was increasing, the area wasn’t the nicest of places and each day there seemed to be a gathering of alcoholics who would cause nuisance outside.

August, I suppose (despite being tough) was a relief to get away from that everyday scenario and I only managed to nip by the office 3 days during that month.

This was the moment I decided to finally move. I was fortunate and the first office I enquired about was available and just about in my price range. I snapped it up and was due to move in the 1st October.

My very first day back in the office when the kids had gone back to school was eventful. I handed in my notice with my landlord and there was a bit of a dispute with timings, he finally came around to my way of thinking, but it meant I only had 2 weeks to pack up and leave. This left me in a bit of an office limbo for the last 2 weeks of September and panic kicked in. Mary was there this day and I’m sure she will vouch for me just how manic it was.

Carina the loveliest receptionist to grace this world at my new office premises was my guardian angel that day and she said I was ok to move everything over and hold in storage until I officially moved in. I spent the next week frantically packing and moving everything between offices. (Never again).

During my office limbo we had a family holiday – I packed up my laptop and even dedicated family time to work time. Crazy I know and to be honest, it wasn’t really much of a holiday for me. I was hit with food poisoning and a jelly fish sting as well as a few days rain. Typical!

All my clients were well aware of the situation and of my limited available during September, so when I had a complaint it hurt me so much. This was when I realised you can’t please everyone and from this day on I’ve approached every day life with a new way of thinking. I work my arse off, I gave up my summer holidays to work, I work late nights, early mornings and I even worked in not so sunny Ibiza – There isn’t anything else I could have physically done. I eventually lost the client and for a few days I was in a bit of a bubble but then the realisation hit me again. This year I had send out so many professional clearance letters to other accountants, other accountants were losing their clients, but I had only lost 1. In fact, I’ve only ever lost 2 clients to other accountants and with a client list of way over 100 now spanning nearly 6 years that is pretty much a 100% retention rate – That is something I’ve achieved by myself and is something to be proud of.

I finally settled down in my new office. It is in a beautiful park location with a reception service and on-site tea rooms. The room is freshly decorated, and my dad sourced me brand new shiny white Bisley office furniture. Everything is so crisp and clean.

I surprised myself further when I attended the Bizmums conference and presented an award and made a speech in front of 120 other mums in business.

I also took my sister on as an Apprentice towards the end of October. Being an employer came with its own new stresses and panics but just like always – I juggled on through.

The client increase, office move, and full-time member of staff paid off for me and the business and in November I had the most productive month to date. I was handpicked to be featured in a book and I have a range of business collaborations lined up for the future.

We finally welcomed Christmas in with style and popped up a tree, hung a festive bow and make a batch of slow cooker hot chocolate for everyone in the office building to share before closing the doors for the week to recoup and reflect.

Starting 2017 just as I and ending it with Jackie, Chevaunne and myself is a HUGE achievement.

2017 you’ve have been a rollercoaster of the year. If you ever doubted me, you were wrong. For all those who saw error in my ways, I wish you huge business success and for all those who supported me on my journey – Thank you so much <3 <3 Lots of love, Iona xx

The how ‘not’ to grow your business guide…

The how ‘not’ to grow your business guide…

This year I set myself some goals – To be happier, to move into a nicer office space and to take on a member of staff.

Exciting but obviously to pay a wage I’d need to bump up my profits to cover the additional expense.

I knew from looking at my clients list and previous year accounts how many clients I roughly needed to have on my books for my goals to be achievable.

It was 100 active clients and I was on 64. It had taken me 5 years to build up 64 clients there was no way I’d ever be able to make up that shortfall of 36 by the September in 9 months!

I took the bull by the horns, hit my goals and then fell flat on my face in embarrassment.

If you are thinking of growing your business or are currently in the process of, keep on reading! All the way to the bottom!

Here are my ultimate do nots…

Disclaimer – They aren’t sugar coated, they are real life experiences from the heart that have overwhelmed me, brought on anxiety attacks and reduced me to tears. I’m only human, these things happen and I’m not afraid to share that.

36 new clients in 9 months? – Yep I smashed that goal in just over 6.

I really didn’t think I would be able to pull that off, but I had my goals in mind, I sat down and planned out what I needed to do to achieve those and I changed my mindset. I believed in myself.

Lesson learnt – When you make a financial investment in business coaching workshops and personal development and then spend so much time and effort implementing such you will see the benefits. You can, and you will!

I’m a good accountant, I run my business around 2 children (1 who isn’t even in school just yet), It’s tough going and I single handily juggle a million and one deadlines – each month alone I’ve got payroll deadlines, CIS deadlines, VAT deadlines, corporation tax deadlines and Companies House deadlines!

I offer a door to door records collection and drop off service, so my clients aren’t taking time away from their work.

My rates are below average and I very often do additional tasks at no cost because I’m simply just a lovely person.

So, can you imagine how I feel when I get through a narky email? I am literally sat at my laptop thinking ‘Really?????’

Granted I’ve been a bit slack, but I must prioritize my workload and if your deadline isn’t the most urgent… You will be knocked down a few on my to do list. Same rule applies if you haven’t paid for previous work.

I breathe/eat/sleep my business! My children come second, my partner comes third and my housework is non-existent! If those efforts are not good enough for you (I work 24/7) please feel free to go elsewhere!

It genuinely upsets me because that/this isn’t the way I want to run my business and I very often cry but I promise you I work so hard there isn’t much more I can do. I’ve ended up in a sticky situation because all of my clients were extremely organised this year and for me to have brought in a member of staff – I would have of had to have quadrupled my fees and that isn’t what my business is about, I want to keep things affordable for my clients.

Lesson learnt – I am amazing! And I know that because the other Sunday I had a thank you letter dropped through my letterbox off a client with a £20.00 note in! I’ve just had a late-night text off another client calling me a darling because I helped her out very last minute. You can’t always please everyone and guess what that’s OK.

These last 9 months my software bill alone has gone from £110 per month to £300 per month and my rent has gone from £236 to £350. I’ve invested in new office equipment, furniture, personal development and that doesn’t even include my upcoming apprentice wage bill or the additional nursery fees I’ve committed to since September, so I can work more hours.

Argh! Why have I done this to myself? It’s because I want to be able to offer the best possible service to my clients.

Except I’ve made one vital mistake… I haven’t put up my prices and gosh it’s hit me like a sack of spuds.

Lesson learnt – It’s OK to increase your expenditure if you feel you need to, but make sure you reflect for those additional add ons in your client fees because it’s OK to increase your prices too. Keep on top of your numbers.

And by let go I mean outsource. I’m such a control freak, if I do something personally I know exactly what has happened and the standard of work is of my expectations.

I had 40 sets of accounts land on my desk in a space of 6/8 weeks – Can you imagine how overwhelming my life was? That was on top of my regular month to month bookkeeping, payroll and VAT returns! I think I might even still have the odd one or two I need to finish off.

I had no choice but to call in help by way of a freelance admin assistant and another bookkeeper. After all, 3 pairs of hands are better than 1.

Lesson learnt – Even though I like to think I’m good at multi-tasking, really I’m not! Wonder Woman does not exist.

This has been a hard one for me to overcome! I’ve wanted to give up on so many occasions…

Luckily, I’ve built up a really good network of business buddies around me and they’re always there on the other end of a phone call or message when I’m crying (I’ve cried a lot) to help pick me back up!

It’s taken me 6 years to get to where I am right now and I’m not going to give up because I’ve had a tough few months. And that’s all it is, a tough few months because now I have my swanky new office and a full-time apprentice everything will ease in time! (At which point I will be taking myself on holidays to recoup)!

Lesson learnt – Success isn’t given to you. You need to work hard and commit. And you also need to celebrate your achievements… Someone please send me the champagne over!

 

It’s every business owners dream to grow your start up business into something that little bit bigger.

For me I wanted to grow my business especially, so I could employ my sister and give her a career and income.

I wanted to grow my business, so I could have financial freedom which I could also pass on to my clients.

I wanted to grow my business, so I could help other small businesses.

To be able to say I’ve done that is an achievement, despite my mishaps there has always been a lesson learnt and by sharing my experiences I’m helping you that little bit more.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering how I grew my business by 50% in such a short space of time – I have the answer just for you! My business bestie Katie Colella and myself have teamed up and produced a workshop that will lay down some fabulous foundations that will help you grow your business. Click here for more info! 

Travel Essentials for a Self Employed Mum

Travel Essentials for a Self Employed Mum

Let’s face it – You know as a self-employed mum there is absolutely no way that you are going on holiday for any length of time without work niggling away in the back of your mind.

Even if you’ve turned on airplane mode and you are completely uncontactable from the world of your clients, you are still going to be pondering over uncompleted tasks, in house admin and brainstorming lots of new ideas!

As I write this I am currently sat in Ibiza airport with my laptop, I’m on my way home from a week-long holiday with the family. It’s been a lovely break and just what I needed after a hectic few months but none the less work has never been too far away. I’ve mainly had to keep on top of weekly payroll for a few clients and I also had a CIS return deadline to deal with but all is OK, I don’t hold any grudges as helping my clients is what I love to do. I’ve also had so many bright ideas (this blog being one of them) and now I can’t wait to get back home and get started on things.

I have emptied out my entire bag ready to give you a run through of travel essentials you will need to survive the self-employed mum holiday struggles.

Notepad & Pen

To jot down all those bright ideas that I have already mentioned. This week I have had a huge refresh and I have finally thought of a freebie that I can entice new subscribers to my mailing list with. I’ve been able to brainstorm the idea and plan it out in full ready to start working on these next few weeks. I’ve also been keeping a ‘to do’ list for every time I’ve had a work niggle on the side of the pool.

Ideally, I’d have my Create 365 happy planner to hand but it’s a too big to pop in my handbag but this black and gold queen bee spiral bound and matching gold pen does the trick just fine. As you may already know I joined Denise Duffield Thomas Money Bootcamp earlier on in this year and we call each other bees so this notepad was a must have. I’m also a huge fan of anything black and gold – as you may have already guessed.

Holiday Read

This year’s holiday read is ‘The Power of Purpose’ by John O’Brien and Andrew Cave which I picked up at the airport on my way over. I’ve been working on my own business purpose these last few months after working through a Marie Forleo B School module. The whole concept has really caught my attention as did this book.

Your business purpose is ultimately your why. Why are you in business? Why do you do what it is that you do? Our monthly masterclass for September in the Mums Tax Break members group is ‘Success Strategy’ and business purpose is one of the key topics we have been talking about. If you’d like to read more about business purpose I highly recommend this book as a starting point.

Holiday Basics

If you are travelling abroad the most important items you will need in your handbag for obvious reasons are your purse, passport and sunglasses. (Although I must admit I have been known not to have a passport. A few years ago, me and all my girlfriends came to Spain for a hen weekend and luckily my OCD friend insisted she took our passports before we left, which was a good job as it turned out I picked up the wrong passport. Oops! I had to make a mad dash back home to swap them).

And of course, everything is matching black and gold by River Island, my favourite.

Forever Living Hand Sanitizer

I’ve nearly always got this in my hand bag, after all I am a mum with a toddler and we very often find ourselves in sticky situations.

I’m actually really annoyed with myself that I forgot I had this tucked away in the wardrobe all week as we had some nasty encounters I’m sure this could have helped with. Declan had some nasty blisters from sun burn and I had a jelly fish sting. Ouch. Granted it wouldn’t have worked as well as the Forever gel but this would have eased the pain at least.

Clinique

Another handbag must. I don’t wear make-up very often but despite that I always having the following items in the bottom of my bag

– Moisture surge extended thirst relief
– Line soothing concealer
– Chubby stick baby tint moisturising lip balm, 03 Budding blossom
– Sweet pot sugar scrub & lip balm, 04 Sweet rose

They are all very neutral and are perfect for that quick fix when it comes down to dry skin/lips or an unfortunate spot.

iPhone 7 Plus

Finally, I mustn’t forget my iPhone. Upgrading to the plus at the end of last year as one of the best business decisions I have ever made as I may as well be keeping a mini laptop in my pocket – It is the perfect size to do business.

This year I have many upgrades to my software meaning I’ve been able to do pretty much most work-related tasks from my iPhone. The only reason I brought my laptop was so I could access my payroll software but hopefully by the time my next holiday comes around that will be up on that clever cloud too. (Although thinking about it, on my next holiday I’d like to have a staff member sat at home taking charge so I can fully relax)!!

Watch out for my next blog where I’ll be talking you through my essential iPhone apps for business!