small business tips

How to get your products featured in gift guides - small business tips

How to get products featured in gift guides

Having your products featured in gift guides is an inexpensive marketing strategy that can reap a high return if you target just the right blogs/press in just the right ways. Sometimes this is as easy as giving your product listing a title that's rich with strong keywords, and other times being pro-active by approaching media will get you publicity.

Think like a shopper

Optimise your product listings using keywords and phrases that a shopper would use. When hunting for feature-worthy items, editors will likely use these keywords to find your product. E.g. an engraved bronze bookmark could be described as a "personalised gift for book lover".

Research

Write a list of blogs that appeal to your audience demographic. Is your product a good fit? What kind of products do they feature? Have they curated gift guides in the past? Prioritise blogs in order of most likely to be featured.

Try to think outside the box, would your products appeal to other markets, categories or price-ranges? Does the bookmark have birds and flowers on it? Approach garden/botanical blogs. Does it double as a bottle opener? Approach foodie/lifestyle blogs, etc.

Research the most relevant individual to contact. Is it the editor, or more specifically a lifestyle, food, beauty, etc, editor? Do they have a dedicated Christmas gift guide editor? Find their email address or best way to contact. Here's an example of a brand reaching out to a magazine via Twitter:

Scout for opportunities. See this past post about scouting opportunities via the Twitter hashtags 'journorequest' and 'prrequest'. If you're lucky (and eagle-eyed!) you could discover some relevant requests from journalists for glossy mags and popular newspapers, etc. I sometimes weed out and retweet good journo requests via my Twitter account.

Submit your work to a showcase. You can submit your products to a showcase or juried gift guide at a small cost to guarantee a spot (if accepted!) For example, UK Handmade have a quarterly showcase where your work is featured for 6 weeks. You can apply here.

The approach

You've optimised your product listings, researched the best and most relevant blogs, found the perfect point-of-contact person, and now it's time to wow them with your amazing product!

Structure your email. The blogger or editor is no doubt extremely busy and may receive hundreds of submissions. Make yours short, clear, and tailored to each blog. Proof read and edit down until you have a mere few paragraphs.

  1. Very briefly introduce yourself and mention why your product is an ideal match for the blog. 
  2. List your product's benefits/features.
  3. Include a link to the product web page.
  4. Have a relevant email signature with your full name and links to your online presence and contact details.

Be prepared

  • Have high resolution images ready as you may receive an urgent email requesting them at very short notice. Have both lifestyle and cut-out images prepared.
  • Have your product or samples ready to post at short notice. You may not get them back, but include your address and don't forget a note with your name, website url and details.
  • Organise your email folders to keep all pitched emails and replies in one place.

BEEN FEATURED?

Excellent news! Now get press clippings or screenshots and post them on your social media to share with your audience. If you have an Etsy shop (or your own webshop), you could include screenshots/images in your About section slideshow or as images for the product listing - this helps to show your product is a popular, quality, trusted, must-have item that is being talked about!

8 small business tips for conquering your tax return without tearing your hair out!

8 tips for conquering your tax return. Small business tips on Digibloom blog with guest post from Anita Brook at Reid & Co.

To kick off the new year (and self assessment deadline month.. eek!), I'm pleased to share wise words from financial expert Anita Brook in this guest post to inform and motivate small business owners. Anita is a Director of the leading small business accountancy firm Reid & Co based in Milton Keynes, working with individuals and businesses all over the UK.

Prior to this she ran her own small accounting firm, launched while caring for her young daughter Isabella. "As a result I know all too well the amount of stress that can be experienced with the self-assessment deadline imminent, trust me having a young child increased this tenfold!"

Self Assessment deadline tips for Small Businesses in the UK

Here are Anita's tips for Digibloom readers:

We all know that January is an incredibly stressful time for sole traders and small businesses, with the self-assessment deadline looming closer, and more important things to do than be online until the early hours completing your paperwork – so how can you make it as stress free as possible?

HMRC require self-assessments to be completed no later than midnight on the 31st January 2017. This is always an incredibly busy time for us as accountants and we understand how stressful it can be for small businesses.

Here are my top insights into how you can conquer your self-assessment this year, without losing any hair:

1. Register in advance

By the time you read this it’s already too late to complete the self-assessment on paper meaning you have no option but to do so online. You can’t actually submit your tax return online without being registered with HMRC first. If you haven’t already gone through this process, you need to do so ASAP!

It can take a few weeks for your activation PIN to arrive through the post, and HMRC won’t give you the information over the phone, which means that if you leave it too late to contact them, you probably won’t receive the information in time. As a result you’ll likely miss the deadline and automatically be fined £100.

2. Understand the financial year and deadlines

The last tax year started on 6 April 2015 and ended on 5 April 2016. The annual self-assessment means that any income earned during that period should be included in your end of year figures. If you sent out your invoice in the current tax year but didn’t get paid until after the deadline, you should still include it.

3. Find your UTR

You can’t submit your return without something called a UTR (Unique Taxpayer Reference), which is a 10-digit reference, found on any paperwork from HMRC. If you don’t know your UTR, you’ll have to contact HMRC’s Self-Assessment Helpline and ask them to post it to you.

4. Collate all your information

To file an accurate return, you need to have all the necessary information in front of you to enter either manually or online. This ‘generally’ speaking should include things such as:

  • If you are employed, receiving wages (this includes if you’re a director of your own limited company), your employer should have given you a form P60 showing your salary and tax for the year to 5th April 2015. You’ll need that form to include with your tax return and if your employer gave you a form P11D showing any expenses or benefits received.
     
  • If your bank pays interest, you will also need to how much interest you received in the tax year and any tax deductions. However, don’t include interest on any ISAs and personal allowances.
     
  • If you’re in business as a sole trader or partner, you’ll also need to know your business’s income and costs for the tax year. If you haven’t started sorting through the receipts for these costs you’ve collected, you must start doing this now.
     
  • If you’ve received dividends on shares you own, whether these are in your own company or another, you’ll also need to include this dividend income on your tax return and demonstrate where it came from.
     
  • Finally, if you earn more than £50,000, and you or your partner receives Child Benefit, then these payments also have to be shown on your tax return.
8 Tips for conquering your self assessment 2017

5. Follow the rules – to the letter

There are so many rules and regulations when it comes to HMRC and tax, it can be incredibly confusing. However, you must ensure you follow these to the letter, particularly when completing your tax return. One of the biggest errors I see is when people add up their income/ expenses.

Bear in mind, if you sent out your invoice in the current tax year but didn’t get paid until after the deadline, you still need to include it.

Another issue we see is ‘expenses’ that you can and can’t claim, especially when it comes to travel, accommodation, food & drink, entertaining, clothing and the business use of your home etc.

One thing you can do is check items such as this via the expenses list on HMRC’s website.

6. Check, check and check again

The form needs to be submitted (not just completed/ started) by midnight on the 31st January, so clicking ‘submit’ is as vitally as important as the information in it. You can complete the form online, via the HMRC website, or alternatively you can complete within specialist software, such as FreeAgent (for sole-traders) or open software, such as TaxCalc which aids the completion before taking you back to the HMRC website to file.

7. Pay on time

This may sound pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how much we see this happen. Don’t forget to actually pay your calculated tax return amount which also needs to be settled by the 31st January!

8. Bring in a professional

If you’re still unsure – hire an accountant. We are accustomed to reading what can be jargon to small businesses, because we deal with it every day. You may find in the end it’s also more cost productive because of the amount of time you spend trying to decipher all the information into the form!

At Reid & Co, we can support with all tax matters including self-assessments, so feel free to call our team today on 01908 233700 or visit our website http://www.reid-co.co.uk.

Connect with Anita via the following links:

Anita Brook on LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/anitabrook
Website: http://www.reid-co.co.uk

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HMRC have useful live webinars and videos to help you understand the self assessment process.

What do you struggle with most when it comes to filing your self assessment? Let us know in the comments!

Small Business Spotlight Interview: Tim Easley

Tim Easley Small Business Spotlight with Digibloom

IN THE SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: TIM EASLEY - talented FREELANCE ILLUSTRATOR BASED IN LONDON, DISCUSSES HIS GRAPHIC DESIGN AND ILLUSTRATION BRAND

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Tim and I'm a self taught designer, illustrator and photographer from London. The technical word for what I do is Designustratographer. Although don't look for that in the dictionary because it's too futuristic to be in there yet.

Tim Easley graphic designer and illustrator - interview with Digibloom

Describe your business

I attempt to arrange things nicely on pages, doodle stuff for people, and use a camera to steal people's souls. In return people give me money, which I mainly use to buy pizza. My business is unique because I made up my own job title to make sure nobody else is one.

A photo posted by Tim Easley (@timeasley) on

What inspires you?

I'm mostly inspired by Oprah, motivational quotes on posters in offices, Morris dancers, tinted windows on cars, and people who say they work hard and play hard. These things inspire me not to be terrible.

Why did you decide to start a business?

I hated where I was working, and couldn't find another job, so I decided to go freelance and survive on dust and grass rather than get a regular wage. I never looked back, mainly because I was too weak from the dust and grass to turn my head.

A photo posted by Tim Easley (@timeasley) on

Has the direction of your business changed over time?

Definitely. It was going down for quite a long time, then up, then kind of level for a bit, then down a bit, then up again. Hopefully it keeps going up because that's the direction I like the best. Oh wait, I get you. Yes I think I've become slightly more specialised as I've been going, concentrating on things I find more interesting rather than projects just to pay the bills, which is a lot more rewarding. Mentally and financially.

A photo posted by Tim Easley (@timeasley) on

A video posted by Tim Easley (@timeasley) on

What challenges have you faced as a small business owner?

Admin. Admin. Admin. I hate admin. It's the worst. The only good thing about working for someone else is that they do most of the admin. It's just so boring, especially when you're doing something creative. It sucks all of the creativity out of you and spits it into an Excel spreadsheet where you watch it die a slow and painful death.

A photo posted by Tim Easley (@timeasley) on

A photo posted by Tim Easley (@timeasley) on

What's the most rewarding aspect to running your own business?

Definitely the fact that I can work in my pants. I mean you can't generally do that if you work in an office. That and the fact that I do what I want, when I want. It's a lot more work than a 9-5 but if there's something I want to do one day, I can just take a day off and catch up later. It's very flexible. Just like me in my pants.

A photo posted by Tim Easley (@timeasley) on

What advice would you give to new businesses that are just starting out?

Make a plan and try to stick to it. It's sometimes tempting to change your plan slightly and compromise when you're not making as much money as you want, but in the end sticking to what you know you want to do is the best way. If you were just in this for the money, you probably wouldn't be in it, so keep that in mind!

What's next for your business?

Every year or so I look at how things are going and try make sure I'm still pointing in the right direction, as well as set myself new targets and clear out old work so everything feels fresh. I'm just gonna keep going where I'm going and cross my fingers! Also I might invest in an underground lair with some kind of flying boat with lasers on it. But don't tell anyone.

Learn more about Tim Easley and connect with the man himself online using these links:

Website: timeasley.com

Twitter: @timeasley

Instagram: @timeasley

Facebook: @iamtimeasley

Behance: be.net/timeasley

Small Business Spotlight Interviews Round Up

Small Business Spotlight UK

If you're looking for inspiration from small business owners that have set up and are running their own businesses, read the interviews from this selection of lovely hand-picked individuals!

New interviews are added each month and I'm looking to feature a variety of businesses in future, not just creative ones. If you're interested in being featured, hashtag one of your Instagram or Twitter posts with #smallbizbloom which I check regularly!