N.B: I write from my UK-based perspective and this is personal, non-commercial writing practise (inspired by the letter F!…)
With the flood of professional blogging websites offering advice and information I’d expect to see these kinds of basic tips I’ve written for this post a lot more often. I think I’ve only encountered two non-organisational sites in over three plus years that ever mentioned even one or two of these things (they were both UK sites, appearing quiet little places, but very professionally maintained by their individual owners).
FYI (for your information): this article may contain out of date information, errors and ommissions of relevant facts and/or advice that is inapplicable, inappropriate or irrelevant to the readers’ own local and national regulations and circumstances.
Five non-expert tips for firm foundations if making the leap to commercialised/professional blogging (in the UK)
– with a few extra things believed to be be fact thrown in for good measure!
Fact checking needed? (Fact-checking should always be carried out when taking professional blogging advice!)
Finance: Even before you worry about generating enough to fund your living costs, can you afford your start-up costs? For goodness sake don’t assume paying your Personal Premium fee is the only cost generated by your start-up plan! For instance, in the UK the 10% rule on business use of domestic home, utilities, personal equipment, software and internet connection and only having the legal allowance of 16 hours maximum weekly time working at home while you can’t use 16 hours of your personal internet connection etc for commercial activity without incurring penalties and business charges all have negative consequences on your business viability. If you fail to address these issues during first-stage business planning toward your start-up enterprise your business foundation is much less than firm ground.
Find an available, affordable legally register-able business address fast because you are probably legally obliged to display it. In the UK, it should be first priority before activating your commercial blog / business website. A blog is usually considered the same thing as a website. You are trading if you accept opportunities to receive commercial advertising revenue however small that may be even if it is automated and you are not actively selling anything else. I’m not sure if you’re legally obliged to display your business address if for example all you do is tick adwords but there are other implications as that tick makes your personal blog a commercial blog. If you have any dependency on welfare assistance you are especially vulnerable to negative impacts of ticking that adwords box! Are you or would you be breaking the rules of your domestic tenancy, mortgage or home insurance agreements by using your home address for business purposes? Beware advice from social housing managers and landlords suggesting it’s ok if it’s only virtual / online activity as you could still be legally evicted for acting on their advice. FACT: In the UK you cannot ask for donations unless you are a registered charity; professional begging is illegal in the UK and can be punished by financial penalty and/or imprisonment; there is no such thing as ‘gifts’ to businesses, it is classed as taxable revenue and asking for gifts is a form of professional begging. So a great proportion of professional blogging advice found in tips articles and even blog platforms promotional information is entirely inappropriate and potentially dangerous for British audience.
Fooled by advice suggesting closed-door private sites, facebook pages and groups etc are a safe way to flout the law while running a small business or that you have three months after receiving your first payment to inform HMRC of your self-employment starting? Think again. You have three months from your first action as a business to inform HMRC (the tax authority). Opening your business bank account, informing the tax office and registering your business to receive your self-employment card should be among your priority actions as a start-up enterprise. Fix your faulty plan or potentially face consequences for fraud if you use or intend using online methods to return undeclared business income. A general rule of thumb is that as soon as you make or buy anything to sell, you are intending to trade as a business – and as soon as you create and promote a commercial or business website or blog, you are effectively trading as a business.
Failing or perhaps appearing to be failing is part of the process of generating success. The struggle is having the ability to survive that process to reach the point of success. Fact: most UK businesses that survive the first two years needed at least two years to begin returning any profit. Can you live for two years with the potential of no revenue for your personal income and with no welfare entitlements since Universal Credit rules and the 2012 Welfare Reform Act? Fact: if you’re considered to be self-employed you can have an assumed income of £250 per week applied to your official record even if you can prove you have no actual income and no means to live. Business expenses rules also changed and some of your essential business costs might now be classed as ‘drawings’ ie. Personal wages drawn from your business money, and so added to your account as taxable earnings rather than genuine business expenses. Disabled people are particularly disadvantaged by this rule if needing transport costs to be able to conduct business activity, eg. via taxis, or bus fare for a distance within walking range for an able-bodied person, you would be expected to be receiving Personal Independence Payments to cover your mobility costs, but if you can complete two actions you are usually denied this benefit and without the benefit you are not considered disabled even if you actually are disabled and even if you have a medical diagnosis confirming your circumstances of disability. If you pay income tax on full-time or significant earnings from paid employment the tax office may choose to overlook your side income as ‘pin-money’ and allow you to continue without self-employment registration for running a non-viable business, but professionals surely don’t usually choose such unprofessional shoddy standards as to not insist on receiving their self-employment card. (If you don’t have significant paid employment income and status and only return pin-money you probably face the assumed income rules being applied.)
Formulating your creative business plan on the foundations of being a creator of literary or artistic works and expecting application of special rules as such? Oops! That’s a fallacy often spouted and sometimes relied upon by creative small business start-ups. This usually applies to artists and literary creators of meritous works and can not be self-decided and should never be assumed. Writing a book or commissioned article is not a literary or artistic work under these ‘special rules’ – it might be a creative product, but essentially it’s a commercial product. There is a lot of art made that fail this rule too as they are also commercial products. Anything sold or provided in return for payment that involves design processes is usually always classed as a commercial product. The creativity, artistry or literary skill that goes into making the final product is not the deciding factor. Commercial products of creativity are usually excluded from any special rules under the artistic merit provisions. Complex? Not really, but often misunderstood. Some people get away with their creative trading practises as non-viable business that cause the tax office administration costs that are decided too much to process and unworthy of the effort and cost implications. Some of these professionals would have others believe it’s via special rules for artistic works rather than admit their business’ non-viability and thus perpetuate the myth- and also encourage others by way of suggesting it’s easy to have an online business and almost anyone can do it as long as they try and if you just follow a few easy steps and pick up these tips…
For readers in the UK, are you aware of any errors in the information I provided here? Were you familiar with these issues or does anything I’ve written here surprise you? For readers outside the UK, how do these UK rules compare to those in your country?
Links and pingbacks to this post are of course welcome if you’re joining in anytime and comments are open as usual if you have any thoughts, questions etc.
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