Honesty is the best policy – blogging to a loyal readership

While writing our latest upcoming course about content marketing, I started thinking about what makes an audience come back to a blog or social media account.


There’s a lot of people out there writing articles and giving you the hard facts on a subject.


Whereas they’re very useful when the time is right, they’re often unlikely to make a reader want to return for more on a voluntary basis.


Some of the most successful blogs out there seem to be those ones written by mums, where they throw out funny stories about family life.


There’s a few of them I’ve seen ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ on Facebook, so I can’t remember what they’re called but it usually comes across as a kind of “confessional” where they don’t hold back about how stressful parenting can be and how annoying they sometimes find their kids.


Some of the success seems to come down to the honest nature of it, and how it contrasts with the image a lot of people like to portray on social media. It’ll strike a chord with a lot of people.


That “insider-knowledge” thing works really well.


Another example is a blog called Digitiser 2000. In the 1990s the writer used to be the computer games journalist on Teletext, who used to publish daily.


The irreverent humour and numerous in-jokes helped create a very loyal readership, but this was also helped massively by not being biased toward or against certain games companies, as most other gaming magazines were.


In fact, I’m quite sure they had the tagline “we hate everyone equally”. It gave the impression that their opinions and reviews could be trusted and taken seriously, as you knew that they wouldn’t give weight to a particular publisher or console unfairly.


Digitiser wrapped up in 2003, but re-emerged online late in 2015 to the joy of the old readership.


Clearly the fan-base was still there, built up over several years back in the Teletext days over a decade ago.


This was proven by the willingness of readers to crowdfund the new website via Patreon, simply so it doesn’t go away again.


Even though these two examples weren’t created with making a profit in mind, reader loyalty means that the blogging mums can release a book people are willing to pay for, and the Teletext games journo can ask for sponsorship to keep the project going.


It’s a powerful tool, and one we look at further in our Guide to Website Builders for Small Business along with other online marketing methods:



Financial issues that keep you awake No.1 – Managing cash flow

We’re finally at the end of this week’s countdown of the top 6 finance-related issues that keep business owners awake at night!


It’s also World Sleep Day, so it’s worked out perfectly. In case you haven’t been reading up to now (boo) here’s the rest of the list:


  1. Being as tax efficient as possible
  2. Understanding your business’s profitability
  3. Not knowing how your business is performing
  4. Finding funding
  5. Up-to-date bookkeeping


So what’s number 1? Here it is…




It’s in the title of this post anyway – it’s managing cash flow.


Clearly managing cash flow is the most worrying issue – with nearly three-quarters (74.3%) of respondents citing it as a current or previous concern.


Breaking that down further reveals that 31% considered it an issue that they are working to resolve.


40.7% said it used to be an issue, but they’d now resolved it.


Only 2.6% said it was a problem that they hadn’t got round to addressing yet.


This shows that although worrying about cash flow is a problem for many, it is more than possible to tackle it.


The worry about cash flow is understandable – your business needs cash in order to survive.


In comparison to another similar problem – profitability – cash flow is concerned with the cash you have in your business right now as opposed to the cash you’re owed.


Of course, you could be owed all the money in the world, but if you don’t have it in your business now then you can’t pay your bills.


So it’s obvious why it’s the number one issue on KPMG’s report.


The report does reveal how the business leaders solved the problem, however.


According to the anecdotal evidence, the answer was to move to cloud-based accounting software and change internal business practices:


“Lack of up to date management info [was a concern]. Switched to cloud-based system; was very successful.”


“Ability to produce monthly reports without having someone creating them in Excel… Implementing and customising CRM allows us to report weekly again without someone having to produce the reports.”


“Using a programme like Xero has been very successful.”


For the changes to internal business practices, the respondents even mentioned cash flow specifically:


“Cash flow was a major concern, so we adapted our reporting to make it more accurate so we had a clearer idea of our present and future cash position.”


“[Addressed] cash flow and profitability… by involving the staff in targets for success [and] altering our terms of business to invoicing on the date the ‘deal is done’.”


The anecdotal evidence is backed up by the statistics. When it came to moving to cloud-based accounting software, 54.5% of respondents said it had been “extremely successful” in solving their problem.


A further 24.1% in addition said it had been “quite successful”.


Cash flow isn’t a problem that comes under the usual remit of a hired accountant, so this could be why it is a problem.


Through cloud-based software, a business owner can get a clearer picture of how they’re doing and “run a tighter ship”, so to speak.


Naturally, this is going to help them sleep easier at night.


Before concluding this week’s blogging about the KPMG report, I’ll mention that the statistics show that the more finance-related issue a business owner has, the more disturbed their sleep patterns are.


By giving more tasks to their accountant, finding an accountant who can help, or moving their financial forecasting to cloud-based software, they are significantly reducing the issues that are causing them stress and keeping them up.


It’s also creating an environment conducive to success and growth, where an entrepreneur can concentrate on promoting their business and selling their products.


Overall, if you want to put your financial issues to bed and grow your business too, go here:



Financial issues that keep you awake No.2 – Being as tax efficient as possible

Trying to be as tax efficient as possible is a big concern keeping business owners awake.


That’s according to KPMG’s survey of 250 business leaders, where it placed 2nd on the list of financial issues depriving entrepreneurs of sleep.


10.9% said it is a current issue but haven’t addressed it yet.


28.9% said it was a current concern they’re working to resolve.


25.9% had it as a previous concern, now resolved.


So out of all 250 respondents, only 34.2% didn’t worry about being tax efficient.


It seems a bit strange too, as other tax-related concerns, such as filling out tax returns correctly and on-time are considered a very low priority issue.


I think the problem here isn’t so much the businesses not being tax compliant, but just feeling that they’re paying too much tax.


They could be in the wrong tax bracket, or know they’re missing out on certain tax breaks that would save them a lot of money.


Without bringing it up directly, there are many accountants who probably wouldn’t think to go the extra mile and research how a client could pay less tax.


They’d just believe that keeping the client tax compliant was enough, and that would constitute “doing their job”.


If you feel this is the case, then maybe your accountant isn’t right for you.


A really good accountant should use their experience to know what relief you could be entitled to.


Depending on the size of your business, it’s geographical location, and the industry you trade in, you could be paying incorrect business rates to your local council.


Would you know if you qualify for tax relief through capital allowances, research and development, or by being considered part of the creative industry?


Many don’t, and end up paying too much.


One of the case studies on the report is from a happy business owner who got a second opinion: “We changed from LLP to LTD as format was resulting in extremely high tax bills. Suggested by new accountant and the new structure suits our company much better.”


Which goes to show, it can’t hurt to ask.


And if your accountant can’t help, perhaps find one that can:



Financial issues that keep you awake No.4 – Not knowing how your business is performing

According to KPMG Small Business Accounting’s recent survey, the 4th most common financial issue that affects the sleep patterns of business owners is not having an up-to-date picture of business performance.


Luckily, this seems to be a problem that a lot of the business leaders have been proactive in trying to resolve.


2.6% of the 250 respondents said it was a current concern they hadn’t addressed yet.


However, 22.6% had it down as a concern that they were actively trying to resolve, and 24.1% said it used to be a concern that is now resolved.


Ultimately, even though not knowing the current state of your business’s performance is a big problem experienced by many, it is an issue that seems quite easy to address.


The worry would come from either sitting at home, or up in bed, not knowing what the exact income from your day’s trading was.


Even worse, you may not know what your outgoings were.


If you’re absolutely convinced you’re not breaking even, or if there’s a nagging doubt at the back of your mind, then you’d struggle to sleep.


You could of course call your accountant, but that’d have to wait ‘til morning. It doesn’t help your cause at that exact moment in time.


Which is why the remedy for this problem is, as the report states; “Deploying technology”.


Namely, the technology is cloud-based accounting software so you can access your business accounts at any time.


“Lack of up to date management info [was a concern]. Switched to cloud-based system; was very successful.”




“Using a programme like Xero has been very successful.”


In fact, bringing in cloud-based accounting was the most effective remedy overall, with more than half (54.5%) of respondents deeming it to have been “extremely” successful – with a further 24.1% stating that it has been “quite” successful.


The statistics speak for themselves.


If you need it too, you can find a list of recommended accounting software programs in our Guide to Accounts for Small Businesses here:



Financial issues that keep you awake No.5 – Finding funding

Today we’re continuing our countdown of the financial concerns that affect business owners’ sleep patterns.


The data comes from KPMG Small Business Accounting, who interviewed 250 business leaders to see what keeps them awake at night.


Today’s concern, at number 5 on the list, is raising finance for growth or expansion.


14.2% of respondents earmarked this as a current concern they’d not addressed yet.


21.3% said they were working to resolve this problem.


13.5% said it was a previous concern that’d they’d now resolved.


That’s 49.1% of business leaders who felt a lack of finance for growth was causing them to lose sleep.


It could be that finding sources of finance is something that may be traditionally outside of the remit of a hired accountant, leaving the business owners to worry about it themselves.


Other issues on the KPMG list were considered less problematic, such as filing tax returns on time and correctly.


This would be because the business owners knew their accountants were prioritising such tasks, so it was all in hand.


However, it seems that simply asking your accountant to help out with finding funding could be a way to alleviate those concerns.


68.0% of respondents found this to be successful. And, if your accountant can’t help you out, maybe it’s time to find one who can.


This is backed up by the 76.0% approval rate from those who changed their accountant.


The other successful tactic was to move to cloud-based accounting, which is unlikely to be applicable to this particular problem.


A good accountant should be able to check your financial forecasts so you have the best possible chance of receiving funding.


They can make sure your business plan and forecasts are tight and realistic, which will be advantageous when applying for a loan from a bank or a government grant.


They should also know what other types of funding you may be eligible for due to their experience within the accounting profession.


Overall, knowing that someone can make your business look as attractive as possible to potential investors should reduce most of the worries you have about the issue.


Find an accountant to help you out right here:



Financial issues that keep you awake No.6 – Up-to-date bookkeeping

I’ve been reading a report from KPMG Small Business Accounting about how finance-related concerns affect business owners’ sleep patterns.


From a survey of 250 business leaders, the report looks at the issues that affect them the worst, the approaches they’ve taken to get a better night’s sleep, and the impact it’s had on their business.


It’s quite worrying to read that 53.6% of small business owners have finance-related worries that stop them getting a decent night’s sleep on a regular basis.


More than one in eight believe that such concerns interfere with their sleep most nights.


The report makes it quite clear what the main areas of concern are though.


Luckily they’re also issues that can be solved quite easily.


In true Top of the Pops style I’ll work through them in reverse order, starting (unusually) at number 6…


6. Ensuring bookkeeping is kept up to date


24.8% of the business owners said this was a former concern, now resolved.


14% said it was a current concern they’re working to resolve.


19% said it was a current concern, but not addressed yet.


Some people believe that bookkeeping and accounting are the same thing. Not quite – bookkeeping is keeping an accurate and complete record of all transactions, while accounting involves analysing those records.


Bookkeeping can be work intensive, which is why it’s probably an issue for small business owners who have to do everything themselves.


It’s easy to feel swamped, and if you’re having to make a product, market it, sell it, put in the hours in a shop, visit clients etc. you may never have the time to sit at a desk with a calculator or spreadsheet and work out your incomings and outgoings.


You’ll work longer hours, into the night, and… lose sleep.


It’s an easy job to outsource though. You don’t necessarily have to do it yourself.


And there’s loads of people out there who’d do it for you.


It’d be one less thing to worry about.


Some of them can be found here:


It might just help you sleep better.



Confused by the budget?

It’s a practical advice day today.


After the budget announcement yesterday, it looks like National Insurance contributions for self-employed workers will go up.


This is obviously not good news for small business owners.


However, apparently any business losing their small business rate relief will benefit from a cap, which prevents the rate they pay from going up by more than £50 per month.


This is only being introduced of course to try to placate those hit hardest by the recent increase in business rates.


That’s not all – income tax allowances for the self-employed will be increasing come the new financial year.


So would you be better off, or not?


It can be hard to see how the overall picture will affect you and your business.


In times like this it might be better to consult a professional, who’ll have seen it all before.


You’ll need a good one though.


Here’s where to find one, with our list of questions to ask an accountant before hiring:



Employers! Do you know what you want?

Some straight-up advice for employers today.


It’s a lesson in what not to do during the recruitment process.


It might sound a little “ranty”, but it’s not, I promise.


A few years ago I applied for a copywriting job at an ecommerce company.


I met all the criteria in the job description and person specification, and was invited for an interview.


It went great – I gave good, thorough answers to show I knew my stuff and felt I gave a good account of myself.


I also got on great with the interviewers, they were nice people.


But two whole weeks after the interview, I finally got an email telling me I hadn’t got the job.




Because I hadn’t had any previous experience at a marketing agency.


Normally I’d say “fair enough”, but it seemed especially annoying because that wasn’t in the job description or person specification.


If that was an essential requirement for getting the job, then perhaps they should have said.


What’s more, despite not having that particular quality I was invited to an interview.


Ultimately, it just made me feel like I’d wasted my time. What’s more, I’ll never understand why’d they’d waste their time on a candidate who didn’t have the required experience.


It’s that kind of thing that can damage a company’s reputation, and can make them seem amateur.


It’s easy to avoid though. Just think about what qualities and experience you need a potential employee to have, and then eliminate anyone who doesn’t match that.




And you can learn how to do that and translate it into a job advert right here:


It won’t waste your time, honest.



Sheer genius? Ed knows his target market

According to The Official Chart update, all 16 tracks from Ed Sheeran’s new album Divide (÷) have charted in the UK Top 40.


Nine of the Top 10 songs are by Sheeran. Crazy days.


One of them, Galway Girl, is a strange novelty effort with half-rapped lyrics that namecheck Dublin’s Grafton Street with an Irish fiddle backing track last heard on B*Witched’s C’est la Vie.


According to a recent interview with the Guardian, Sheeran said his record label weren’t keen on it being included on the album.


“They were really, really against Galway Girl, because apparently folk music isn’t cool. But there’s 400 million people in the world that say they’re Irish, even if they’re not Irish.


“You meet them in America all the time: ‘I’m a quarter Irish and I’m from Donegal.’ And those type of people are going to love it.”


Turns out he was right and they were wrong, as it’s currently at number 3 in the UK and already gone to number 1 in Ireland.


You could argue it’s a classic case of knowing your target market, and one that could translate to business.


Sheeran’s market research will stem from constant gigging, using social media, and experience of what works in the world of pop.


He even identifies that there’s been a “huge gap in the market” for that kind of thing since The Corrs, and actively tried to plug it.


For your business, it’s going to be slightly different – but the fundamentals are the same.


As Sheeran shows, it pays to know your audience.


Find out how to research your own target market right here: