Stress Awareness: A guide to recognising and reducing stress.

Stress Awareness: A guide to recognising and reducing stress.

Do you often hear your colleagues and friends saying “My job is so stressful”? Do you genuinely believe they are stressed or do you think they have just had a difficult day at work?

April is Stress Awareness Month, during this time health professionals, charities and businesses come together to raise awareness of the triggers that cause stress and what measures can be taken to reduce stress.

The main causes of stress are related to work and money worries. As a contractor or freelancer you will have periods of time where you may not be working, are looking for the next contact or at the opposite end of the spectrum have taken on numerous projects at once.

In this article we discuss how to recognise if you are suffering from stress and what you can do to reduce it?

5 signs of stress:

You wake up with a sense of dread
From the moment you wake up your mind immediately turns to work, the tasks you have to do or the people you have to work with. Instead of feeling energised and motivated you have an impending sense of doom and even feel scared.

You feel inadequate
You have years of experience and are extremely skilled but yet you feel nervous and inadequate compared to your colleagues. You may feel nervous to voice your opinions and ideas in the fear that others will ridicule you or think your ideas are silly.

You find it difficult to sleep
People who are stressed find it hard to sleep as they can’t’ switch off’ their thoughts. You might be able drop off to sleep but the quality of sleep you are getting is poor and you wake up in the morning feeling exhausted.

If you work for yourself this even more difficult as your workplace is often your home and creating a separation between the two can be tricky.

You don’t feel like your normal self
Stress affects the way we feel, you may find yourself becoming irritable, feeling sad and even angry. This will have an affect on your relationships, both with your colleagues and family and friends.

Little things that you once didn’t see as a problem you now view them with negativity and an obstacle in your way.

You have poor concentration
You find it hard to concentrate even on the simplest of tasks. For example: responding to an email should only take a few moments but you find it difficult to form the words to make a cohesive sentence.

5 ways to reduce stress: 

Break the bottle
Don’t bottle everything up inside, break the bottle and let out your worries, emotions and uncertainties. Talk to somebody who you trust and who is impartial to the situation. It may be that you are clouded by what ever is worrying you and that some advice from an outsider can give you some clarity.

Give yourself a high-five
Your hard work may not be recognised by others but it shouldn’t stop you from congratulating yourself. Even managing to tick two things off your to do list deserves a high-five. Always focus on the positives and banish the negatives to the bin!

Look out for yourself
Stress can have a major affect on your health, particularly your heart. Looking after yourself by doing some exercise, eating a balanced diet and cutting down on caffeine and alcohol will help reduce your stress levels, make you feel better and improve your productivity at work.

Colour your way to calm
Certain colours such as: green, blue, white and lights greys are considered to have a calming effect. If your workspace is drab and lacking serenity, add personal touches of colour to your desk through pictures or plants.

If you work from home create a separate work space. For example using a spare bedroom or separating off a corner of a room. Incorporate tranquil colours through pictures, furniture and even stationary.

Have order to your day
Create a work plan based on priorities and work through it the best you can. We are subconsciously drawn to things we enjoy or find easy and put off the more challenging tasks.

Our advice is to flip this the other way and complete a difficult task first. You will have a great sense of achievement that you have completed it and this will  spur you on to complete other challenging tasks.

If your finances are stressing you out or you are confused by taxes speak to the Cogent team on 0208 952 2234 who will talk you through the different options available to you as a Freelancer or Contractor. 

Be a winner in the tax game

Recent changes in Travel and Subsistence Expenses and Dividend Tax have hit Contractors and Freelancers hard.

Our Managing Director, Victor Korman was recently featured in a Telegraph article, looking at how the dividend tax rise will affect small businesses.

Victor’s advice to Contractors and Freelancers who want to be a winner in the tax game is to form a limited company and to reduce your tax liability by: “…ensuring all shareholders in the company are using the new non-taxable £5,000 dividend tax allowance; paying employer pension contributions from the company instead of personal pension contributions; taking dividends at a level so that the high income child benefit charge is minimised; not paying all profits as dividend but retaining profits in the company so that dividends can be paid in a more tax effective time.

So what do you need to consider when forming a limited company?

When to form a limited company
A limited company can be formed anytime during the year. If you have been working through an Umbrella company and want to switch to working through a limited company, the best time is to do it between contracts (but it can be done at anytime throughout the year). Don’t leave it until the last minute, get it all sorted before your new contract starts so that everything is in place.

Why form a limited company
By forming a limited company you are reducing your personal risk if your business fails and it is the most tax efficient way for Contractors or Freelancers to operate.

How to form a limited company
Forming a limited company is a quick and pain free process. You need to register (incorporate) your company through Companies House, or we can handle this for you.

Every company needs a company name. You can either buy a ready-made company name or produce your own. Choosing your own company name means completing more paperwork, but you can choose something that represents who you are or what you do.

Secondly, you must open a business bank account. Monies held by the limited company belong to the company and not you personally and such must be held in a separate business account.

The majority of high street banks offer a business account service. Do your homework and choose the one that best suits your business needs.

Thirdly, appoint a good accountant. Again, there are plenty of us out there but not all are as experienced in the Contractor or Freelancer market as we are. The UK system is very complex and you need to use a company who has knowledge in this area so you are as tax efficient as possible.

What is a company director and what are their responsibilities?
Every limited company must appoint a company director (generally this is you). A company director is responsible for making sure the company is run properly and tries to ensure the company makes a profit. A directorship also comes with certain responsibilities as stated on the .GOV website:

  • Keep company records and report changes to Companies House and HMRC
  • Make sure the company’s accounts are a true and fair view of the business’ finances
  • File your accounts with Companies House and your Company Tax return with HMRC
  • Pay Corporation Tax
  • Register for Self-Assessment and send a personal Self-Assessment tax return every year (unless it’s an non-profit organisation and you didn’t get any pay or benefits)

It may sound like a lot of work and responsibility but your accountant will handle most of this for you.

If you are still undecided further tips can be found in our article: Forming a limited company: Top tips from company directors.

Bright beginnings: Start of the new tax year

Yes, it is that time of year again! Wednesday 6th April see’s the start of the new tax year. How can that be! It seems to come round faster and faster each year.

In this article we discuss how being prepared will help you ease out of one year and into the next without any issues.

Are you ready for the starting line?

Put aside time to carefully go through the last 12 months accounts. Make sure everything balances out, even down to the last penny. If it doesn’t find out where it has gone wrong and (if you can) action measures to correct it. You do not want to discover you have been overspending, or worse receive a fine from HMRC for inadequate book-keeping.

Take a good look through your accounts and see if everything is in order. Are there any invoices that haven’t been paid? If so, now is a good time to put in a polite call and ask for payment. Or, have you forgotten to issue any invoices? If the answer is ‘yes’ now is the time to get these issued and paid.

Can you get extra points? 

Sort through all your receipts and check that you have claimed tax relief on everything you are entitled to. Most people fail to do so and are missing out on millions of tax savings.  A comprehensive list of what can be claimed as a business expense can be found on the .gov website.

By now you should have received your tax code for 2016/17. Did you examine it carefully? No! Take another careful look at it. Is the figure correct? Don’t assume that it is. If something looks out of place speak to HMRC straight away.

Explore all possible avenues for tax savings, for instance does your business need a new piece of equipment such as a computer, then buying it before the end of the accounting year rather than after means you’ll get the capital allowance on that asset a whole year earlier.

Also, don’t forget your personal tax. Have you used as much as you can of this year’s ISA allowance? What about pension investments or donations to charity? Remember to keep a note of all these points that could save you tax!

Tips for a pain free 2016/17 

Keep everything in one place

The secret to a good filling system is being able to find something without even looking for it. Can you do that with your filling system? Like most, the answer is probably “No”. To create an effective filing system, you need to:

  • Create categories
  • Divide each category up into sub-categories
  • Label each file
  • Organise the files in alphabetical order

Finally, make filling a part of your daily routine and not a chore that you put off.

Know what can and can’t be claimed for

Find it difficult to remember what you can and can’t claim for? Bookmark our Resources page which explains in detail allowances, thresholds and entitlements for 2016/17.

Systems don’t have to be scary

Accurate book-keeping is the back-bone to your business. Not only is it a legal requirement to keep accurate financial records but a business that doesn’t know its income and outgoings is effectively working blind.

We recommend using a system that you are comfortable with and that is sufficient for what you need it to. There are numerous packages and apps available and these are great if you feel you need that level of software, but there is nothing wrong in using a standard Spreadsheet. Microsoft Excel or other similar packages have the ability to carry out such functions fairly easily.

If you struggle to keep on top of your accounts and are looking for professional assistance, speak to us today and we will be delighted to talk through our different service options. Alternatively, visit our Services section to find out which option suits you best.