Monday 5 August 2013

Small business accounting software - for free

Free Bookkeeping software for SME's
Looking for suitable small business accounting software?

Save £400 a year with this free alternative.
For the past week we've been reviewing the popular free accounting software 'GnuCash' which is aimed at small businesses and is also suitable for maintaining personal accounts along with basic payroll.

-GnuCash for over 15 years has proven itself a viable free alternative to solutions such as 'Quickbooks small business' which currently costs £33.60 a month.

Our Criteria:

  • Free bookkeeping solution that:
    • Saves time & is easy to use
    • Helps see the financial health of the business
    • Automatic report generation
    • Reliable, with reconciliation 

Our findings

GnuCash is available from
  • GnuCash does more than basic accounting including:
    • Invoicing
    • Budgeting (cash flow forecasting)
    • Scheduled transactions
  • Can be challenging for people totally new to accounting, though the documentation is freely available and approachable. 
  • Surprisingly helpful at forecasting business heath (by using budgeting features) 
  • Easy to install & backup

Ease of use- simple bookkeeping software

We selected GnuCash as it performed well in all of the above tasks, there is a learning curve though if your new to basic accounting principles. It is encouraged to either read the accompanying book 'GnuCash 2.4 Small Business Accounting' or read their on-site documentation which is free. 

Easily visualise where your money is going / coming from

After your initial account set-up, which is handled with a step-by-step 'wizard setup', the accounting software really starts to shine with:
  • Profit & loss reports
  •  Expenses piecharts
  • Customisable reports / graphs
We found this to be invaluable for SME's to get the big picture on their outgoings, and identify where savings could be made.

Double-entry Bookkeeping is supported

GnuCash supports double-entry bookkeeping, meaning that transactions are automatically balanced for you. For example imagine two accounts: A "Current Account", and  a "Savings Account" if you were to transfer £50 from your current account to your savings, you would only need to enter one transaction from your current account and your savings account would automatically credited. 

The above is important to remember when first setting up your accounts with Gnu cash, if you have-multiple accounts then be careful not to enter transactions twice; you only need to enter one side of the transaction and GnuCash will credit/debit the receiving account for you. 

Getting set-up with GnuCash

GnuCash is compatible with both Windows, Mac (and Linux). The installer can be found on their website

Post installation tips

Setting up your first accounts in GnuCash using the accounts wizard is simple, simply select the accounts which most closely match your need. For most small business accounts simply:
  1.  Un-check 'personal accounts'
  2. Select 'Business Accounts'
This will cause GnuCash to set-up initial accounts for your business. If your continuing your accounts from Arpil, for example, enter in the 'opening balance' for these accounts and follow on from there. 

To move existing accounts to Gnu cash, Microsoft Money(TM) and Quicken imports are supported natively. 

However, for simpler accounts with fewer transactions it is just as practical to manually enter past transactions as this gives you full control over your accounts set-up.

Summary of Small Business accounting using GnuCash

With it's 15 years of history, GnuCash is arguably the best free accounting software for small businesses. SME's can save a lot of time and money by using GnuCash over proprietary alternatives costing over £400 with limited support. It supports all (and more) of the expected features a small business would expect. 

For support for GnuCash, feel free to post questions below- and we will follow-up with a reply, then accompanying article for further details. What would you like further clarification on?

For a basic video introduction to using GnuCash, Quentin Stafford-Fraser has recorded a 'GnuCash absolute basics'

Thursday 1 August 2013

Small business marketing - advertising on a budget

Blow your SME trumpet!
Here's how the conversation usually goes:

SME: "I need to get noticed online, how can I get a greater presence on the web?"

E-Marketer: "Have you heard of Facebook sponsored posts, or Google Adwords- we can ensure you're on the first page of Google. LinkedIn have just started promoted posts too, watch out don't miss that"...


-Click here to jump to saving money on SME marketing-

Before committing any budget to online marketing, consider cheaper, more sustainable forms of marketing- small business advertising can be done on a budget, it mostly revolves around people, building relationships and writing useful content for your target audience.

"Engage with people, talk about what your interests are.
Filling a twitter stream with artificial, or ‘sell, sell,sell’ tweets will only attract more of the same." - Entrepreneurs Thoughts 'No one will do your social media for you'

It's not necessary to be on all social media sites- it's impractical 

Whilst it's important to secure your business name on the popular social media (SM) sites to avoid impersonators of your brand- it's not relevant to be on every social media site.

SM sites are maturing into niches, spend time on those which better match your business, for example a business selling eye catching jewellery is better suited to dedicating time to sites like Pinterest, and Tumblr over a business selling consultancy services which would be better suited submitting articles to relevant news sites or journals.

-Remember 'place' from the 7Ps of marketing

Don't waste time and resources by spreading your efforts across multiple SM sites, identify the suitable social media platform (remembering 'place' the 7p's of marketing) for your service or product. It's better to choose one, and do it very well than spread efforts to thinly across multiple platforms.
SM is a two-way medium:
don't talk at people, talk with them.

Social Platform Niche
Pinterest Image driven, does your product / service produce eye catching imagery. Pinterest users are aspirational, 'pinnings' items they like, think are worth sharing, or plan to buy. For example, restaurants, jewellery shops and clothing flourish on Pinterest.
Twitter Rumours, news and gossip travels fast on Twitter- it is a very disposable medium therefore understand messages have a short shelf life (as does yesterdays news). Does your SME operate in PR, news, events or gossip sectors? Choose the platform which matches your Product and match this with the Place which you conduct your SM marketing.
Facebook Facebook's demographics began as predominantly students in America (Varenc MIT) but saw immense growth of the 55+ age bracket of 922% between 2009 - 2010 (istrategylabs 2010). To engage with Facebook, take part in popular Facebook groups related to your industry- 'info-graphics' work well on Faceook, as text simply isn't engaging enough to grab attention. 

Make genuine connections with real people

Traditionally marketing was an extremely passive activity whereby the receiver of your message could not easily engage or respond to your message. 
  • Welcome people's feedback (both negative & positive)
  • Encourage sharing*
  • Ask questions
*Especially true larger organisations who are not akin to the new sharing culture of the internet- rather than patrolling and guarding content on copyright  (images, text, video) promote sharing of this to benefit from exposure to a larger audience.

Save money with efficient marketing

Time investment

"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" -John Wooden
Remember that on-line marketing is a two-way thing, ask questions, put forward your offerings but remember SM sites are not the place for blatant adverts. Instead, submit pictures of your craftsmanship-- a restaurant for example or debate the current fashion in clothing.
Take 3 minutes and jot down three topics, questions or phrases which relate to your SME that a customer might be interested in. Phrase them as a question and you've then completed the first step to creating interesting engaging posts.