Last week we talked about informal networks and especially the support we can get not just from the writing community but also from other small businesses. Today, we’re going to think about the support we might need from the professionals.
When we talked a while ago about financial matters, emphasis was placed on simple, appropriate systems and preferably low-cost options for our business. However, it is very likely that we will need to use an accountant at some point, especially if we have a limited company. Accountants, or should I say accountancy firms, come in all shapes and sizes, from the local one-man/woman bands to the larger practices with many partners. In general terms, the smaller the practice, the lower the cost, but also the more narrow the expertise and experience available. When we started our company more than twenty years ago, we used a small local accountancy firm. It was simple, like our affairs. However, as the business grew and moved into more complex areas of finance (just how do you deal with a tax demand from Kazakhstan?) we moved to another practice with more partners and the right experts for our business. It is most important that our accountant (or indeed anyone else we turn to for advice) understands our business.
As well as financial support, we may well need legal advice on occasion, for example when we are setting up our business, signing contracts or drafting our wills. The obvious option, and one that many businesses will use, is to engage a lawyer. However, that is not a low-cost solution and there are alternatives that can be explored. There is the Business Link helplinewhich provides a quick response service for simple questions about starting or running a business or a more in-depth service for complex enquiries. There is the Citizens’ Advice Bureau which would be able to provide support to individuals, but probably not to limited companies. Or there are business support organisations like the Federation of Small Businesses which provides members with legal and financial advice. As writers, we have our own support via the Society of Authorswhich can help members with queries relating to the business of writing. Services include the confidential, individual vetting of contracts, and help with professional disputes.
I’ve often found the answer to a query on the HMRC website, but there are also helplines that deal with specific questions, such as the New Employers Helpline, the New Self Employed Helpline, the Self Assessment Helpline and the VAT Helpline. These numbers can be found via a quick internet search.
So whatever our query or problem, there will be someone who can help us, either for free or as a paid service, depending on the circumstances. It’s worth being aware of all these services, so we can call on them rapidly if we need them.
I posted my first article on the Business of Writing exactly a year ago. Today, I am finishing the series (at least for the time being). We’ve talked, among other things, about setting up a business, selecting the right business structure, writing our objectives and designing our financial systems. I’m going to put the whole series of articles into an ebook, which will be out later this year. I will also be presenting a short course on the business skills toolbox at Swanwick Writers’ Summer Schoolnext month. But for now, it’s time to get down to business and for me that means writing more short stories and flash fiction, while holding my novel’s hand while it takes its first steps into the big wide world that is Agent Land. Maybe I’ll meet some of you on your journeys?
Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.
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