Due to COVID more businesses than ever are experiencing Christmas selling online and ensuring your products get to your customers on time can really make or break your Christmas trading as every package that misses the big day is a potential return and refund in the new year!
It’s more important than ever to point out the Royal Mail advertised last postage dates are by no means guaranteed, and you really should get everything out as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. If you’re informing your customers of the dates it’s good practice to ensure you tell customers these dates are recommendations only.
It’s also important to remember when advertising your Christmas postal schedule, you should calculate your last ordering date so you know you have time to process the order and get it packed and shipped before the last shipping day, because I assure you, if you say the last posting day is Monday 21st December, someone will order at 23:50 on Monday 21st December and expect it to be with them on time for Christmas!
So with that in mind here are the last posting dates for Christmas 2020 advertised by Royal Mail:
Royal Mail 2nd Class & 2nd Class Signed For – Friday 18 December
Royal Mail 1st Class & 1st Class Signed For – Monday 21 December
Royal Mail Special Delivery– Wednesday 23 December
And if you like paying more for your parcels than you could be, last posting dates for Christmas 2020 advertised by Parcelforce are:
Parcelforce Worldwide express48, express48 large – Tuesday 22 December
Parcelforce Worldwide express24, – Wednesday 23 December
How is best to take card payments when starting out or event trading is always a popular question.
I remember back in the day it took months to be approved by your bank to be able to accept cards, I had to pay upfront and a monthly fees regardless of sales volume and I had to be turning over a large amount to get a transaction fee that was even worth while, in the end I had to cancel my card processer and go cash only because it just wasn’t cost effective.
Even before COVID, when we pretended cash wasn’t grotty, I thought to not accept cards a very weird, It’s an unnecessary barrier in the way of you and your customers money.
Fortunately these days it’s a lot easier and cheaper for smaller businesses to accept cards and there are many non contract card readers on the market. Most card readers do pretty much the same thing, with little variations on payout speed and fee percentage.
When my previous card processor discontinued their service, I looked at many of the companies that offered non contract card readers and honestly there wasn’t a great deal in it so I drew up a list of wants.
reader has to work with Android Phone, or stand alone.
reader has to look professional.
reader has to have a screen to show the amount being charged.
As I was using PayPal for website payments I grabbed one of their card readers and I was very happy with it for quite a few years.
The Paypal reader is great, connects to android phones quickly and while it can take a little longer than I would like to start up, rarely falters. As a huge bonus, the money is available in your PayPal account instantly so if an event is slow I could even start spending on new stock while I wait for the next customer. For the convenience of instant cash, the fee percentage isn’t as low as others..
The reader is pretty quick and easy to use, simply pair it with your phone, open the app and type in the amount you want to be paid and hand it to the customer to check the amount and tap or insert their card.
One thing you need to do with the PayPal reader is ensure you fire it up before your trading day as an unexpected software update can take it out of action for longer than you would like to keep your customer waiting.
Unfortunatley, It looks like PayPal no longer offer their own Here readers and have teamed up with iZettle find out more HERE.
The second reader we use is the SumUp reader, the fee percentage is one of the lowest we’ve found and the money is in our bank account in a couple of days.
There are two main versions of the readers, and I have both of them, the standard Bluetooth phone connected reader, works in the same way as the PayPal one, however the app also allows you to pre-set products so you can use your phone to keep track of the stock you’re selling too, the reader is also a bit quicker to start up.
More recently, because I’m a sucker for a deal, I got the 3g reader, this has an inbuilt sim card which apparently connects across networks so should work in the places my phone doesn’t, it also means I don’t have to worry about my phone battery and the card readers battery. The 3G card reader is very quick and easy to take payments, no paring to a phone, so you simply turn it on, type in the amount to charge and let the customer take care of the rest. The 3G also has an optional thermal printer which clicks onto the base of the reader for receipts which creates a very professional image for your company.
Before I was aware of The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll, I had always liked the idea of paper diaries and planners but they have never worked for me. Maybe my reliance on Google Calendar on my phone was the reason my diaries always gathered more dust than ink or it could be the lack of flexibility, page a day leaded to me wasting loads of paper and page a week diaries often didn’t have enough space. I guess the closest I had to something that worked for my business was a huge wall calendar which featured all my upcoming trade shows and colour coded the days I should have been preparing for them. Business was ticking this way but there was no real forward planning, clearly I needed to do something to step up my game, but I didn’t really know how to go about it.
Late in 2019, after a few years of ticking over due to relocating the business and family commitments, it was decided 2020 would be the year to pull it all together (I know right!) and the The Bullet Journal Method was going to be the one to keep me right. I’m not going to regurgitate Ryder Carroll’s book here, so I guess this isn’t really an introduction to Bullet Journaling, but more an introduction to how I use it for my small business, so if you haven’t already read the book, I recommend it although I’m not sold on all the gratitude lark.
Important Note: If you google anything about Bullet Journaling or BUJO you’re going to find a whole lot of people using it for mental health management or crazy art projects.. You won’t get any of that lark here! The Bullet Journal Method is, for me, a tool to get organised, project and plan my small business and save time, not take it.
How I Use The Bullet Journal?
The Bullet Journal Method is flexible and with a little bit of trial and error it’s become an essential part of my business processes. I know as time goes by it’ll evolve but here is a quick overview of my journal.
Tools I Use
As I’ve said, this isn’t an art project for me, so the tools I use are quite basic:
A dotted notebook I use this Ottergami A5 one but any notebook will do
A pen I use the SMTTW 4in1 which is a red, blue and black ballpoint and pencil all in, but you can really grab any pen you like
A ruler Not essential, but I like a straight line.
A highlighter Again not essential.
Sections I Use
Here’s a quick overview of the sections I currently use, I’ll expand on these in further posts.
The Index Hopefully it’s pretty self explanatory, all the other sections are simply listed here with a page number, just in case I want to look back.
The Key Ok, I have a key, but never actually used it, I guess if it’s not quick and easy to know what my symbols mean, it’s too complicated.
A list of the the months; and days in them for this year, much like the small year overview you’ll see in most pre-printed diaries, it just let’s me check how many days are in a month and what day they start on when my brain stops working.
Year Of Events; This started as a list of the months and the trade events we are looking to book or have booked, It’s 2020 so it’s now got a lot of crossed out events as they’ve all been cancelled one by one.
Reach; Again a list of the month with a tally of Site Visitors, Newsletter Subscribers, Facebook Followers and Affiliates. I’ll admit I’ve let this lapse as I don’t like flicking to the front of the book too much.
Sales; This is just my sales sources and totals for each month so I can see where the money is coming from.
Future Log; This is quite underused for this year, it could be because it’s this year, but it has stuff that’s coming up like insurance renewals and the likes.
Month Overview Now we’re getting into the really useful stuff
Total Sales This Month; a simple one line filled in at the end of the month with my total sales that month with an arrow to say if it was more or less than last month.
Per Day Overview; this has a simple half line per day and notable events this month, like MOT, or International Cat Day so I’ve got some sort spark for social media posts.
Tasks; Things I want to get done this month, like prep for an event or a section of a website I would like to work on, this gives me a great reference if I have a spare minute to look at rather than wonder what to do for the whole time and not actually do anything.
Packages; I order lots of stuff, and by jotting when and where I ordered things from lets me keep track, and if they are taking too long I don’t have to rake through emails to find out when or where I ordered something.
Social Sales; This is a little area to keep track of sales that don’t go through normal channels, till I can produce an invoice.
Weekly Overview Every Monday I’ll start a new page, it really helps me start the week on the right foot.
Total Sales This Week; like the month total sales, one line to be filled in at the end of the week to note how much turnover for the week and if it was up or down from the previous.
Task List; Using a variation of the Alastair Method with the days at the top and my tasks down the side, this is all the things that I know need doing this week one or more times, I’ll explain more about this in another post.
Dailies At the start of the day, I add a heading, and then note down what I know I want to get done with a dot in front of them, once I’ve done them I’ll cross the dot, as I progress through the day I also note down things I did with a circle in front of them, there’s often more circled items than dotted as I don’t plan quite as much as I maybe should.
Businesses are being warned to be careful how they apply for business support available during the covid-19 pandemic. Don’t be caught out by phishers.
Some businesses are receiving emails which purport to be from ‘HMRC Government Gateway’. An example of email addresses being used is UK Government firstname.lastname@example.org.
Using the “Claim Now” link in the email to complete the application gives the scammers all the information they need to make a fraudulent claim in your name. Always be cautious of following a link that comes from an email address you do not know. If you have received such an email you can report it here
A question I get asked all the time is “should I accept PayPal payments?” most of the time the reason for the question is something like “I’ve heard bad things about it”. I’ll admit I’ve heard some bad things about PayPal too, but I’ve also seen our customers process over a hundred thousand pounds worth of sales through it, and so far not had seen any problems first hand.
PayPal is a service which allows businesses and individuals to collect money for products and services.
Like every third party service you may use to conduct your online business you need to read the terms and conditions and weigh up the pros and cons to ensure it suits your business, for example, if your average transaction value is £1000 you shouldn’t choose a payment processor who only offers you protection for transactions under £500, similarly if your average transaction value is £10 you shouldn’t choose a payment processor who charges a flat rate of £5 per transaction with no monthly fee
Here is a few of the general pro’s and con’s of using PayPal.
Why Should I Accept PayPal
No Sales, No Costs
Sometimes problems occur when starting up your business and you may not be quite ready to sell as soon as you planned, this may be problems in documentation, manufacturing, supply or a whole host of other reasons, even when everything does go to plan it could take a little while before sales really get going.
When using PayPal there’s no startup costs and for most account types no monthly fee, this means if you don’t make any sales you won’t have to pay any fees.
Instant Set Up
A PayPal account is quick to set up, in fact the longest part of the process is the time it takes to read the terms and conditions. It’s also a quick payment method to integrate into a website, and offers many levels of integration from a simple buy now button to more complex shopping cart systems.
No Unknown Variables
Often when applying for a merchant account from your bank you have to negotiate your fees based on projected turnover, which is great if you’ve been selling online for a while and have enough turnover to get a good rate, but if you don’t hit your projected turnover you risk being hit by a higher percentage rate. With PayPal you know exactly where you stand, PayPal fees work on a simple scale, the more you sell in a month, the less you pay in fees.
Instant Access To Funds
If you start fresh with a merchant account from a bank they will probably put your money on hold for 30-60 days to ensure you have funds available in-case of charge backs, this can cause severe cash-flow problems for small businesses.
With the PayPal Access Card, you can have instant access to your PayPal funds, and while the fees for taking money out of a cash machine, the access card, which is simply a prepaid Mastercard can be used to pay for stock and other essential business costs seconds after your customer has paid.
“PayPal Money Isn’t Real Money”
PayPal being outside of people’s standard bank account is often considered as bonus money not earmarked for anything such as bills, and with a price to withdraw small amounts to a bank account people often look online for things to buy rather than transfer money into their bank.
What’s more, PayPal make it very easy for individuals to receive money from others and it’s not just people who sell unwanted goods on eBay who are receiving PayPal payments. Mobile PayPal apps are making it much more common for friends to give each other money via PayPal, splitting meal bills, birthday presents and even trading PayPal cash for real cash with a friend on a night out because the cash machine is broken all add up to people having healthy a PayPal balance waiting to be spent.
People Feel Safe Using PayPal
Some people like to pay via PayPal, it’s a method which requires no real trust in the seller, as PayPal offers buyer protection, customers also know the process to pay with PayPal and are aware that a seller will never see their card details.
Reasons Not to Use PayPal
People don’t like PayPal
For one reason or another some people will not use PayPal, this could be because they have had a bad experience in the past or may just be because they have heard bad stories. Offering no alternative to PayPal will fail to convert these customers.
Solution : Offer an alternative alongside PayPal
“I Don’t Have A PayPal Account”
Not many people are aware that buyers can make purchases through PayPal using a debit or credit card without a PayPal account and PayPal doesn’t make the option very obvious during the payment process either. Unfortunately it’s tough to educate these users, so offering only PayPal could fail to convert people who don’t want to have a PayPal account.
Solution : Give clear instructions or offer an alternative alongside PayPal
Your Product Doesn’t Qualify for Seller Protection
You must check your products and processes qualify for seller protection, for example if you sell digital goods you will not qualify, or if you use a shipping service with no online tracking, which includes in-house shipping solutions.
Not qualifying for seller protection is not always a reason not to use PayPal but you you must decide if you can take the risk of charge backs, often these are the same risks you take when accepting other payment methods, for example accepting credit cards but not requiring 3D secure authentication for every purchase.
You Might Get a Better Deal Elsewhere
There are many payment processors and many different fee structures, if your transactions are high value you may be able to find a processor who charges a small one off fee per transaction which will be much better than one which charges a percentage, if your transaction value is low a percentage may be better than a fixed fee.
PayPal May Not Match Your Brand
In some cases PayPal may not fit in with your product image, for example; if you have a particularly high class or exclusive product.
PayPal May Put Holds On Your Funds
Much in the way a bank may impose a long clearing period, in some rare cases PayPal has been known to put a hold on an account when they feel it necessary to review, PayPal are also not the quickest to complete reviews. From research this seems to be more prominent with businesses who collect money for things other than the sale of goods (donations etc.).
There are three main causes of blurry images, out of focus subject, camera shake and the image captured at too low a resolution, sometimes all of these factors are the reason why your product images are blurry.
Out of focus images are by far the biggest problem with most of the product images seen on the internet, and all it takes to get good focus is a little bit of time getting to know your camera, learning to focus your camera is going to be time well spent. Using auto focus on your camera is fine, but it is important to understand how your camera’s auto focus works and to know when to use your camera’s macro focus setting is essential to taking good product shots.
Another extremely common cause of blurry images is camera shake or motion blur. Using a tripod along with the camera’s self timer or a remote will eliminate motion blur in most cases. When taking close up photos of products in macro mode slightest movements of the product itself can cause motion blur so ensure you place your both your tripod and product on sturdy surfaces.
Although not as common a cause of blurry images as the other two, shooting the image at too low a resolution can result in a blurry image. You don’t have to buy an expensive 14+ mega pixel camera, in fact most cameras on the market these days are sufficient to take your product shots. Camera phones while claiming high pixel resolutions are not good enough for your product photography.
It’s necessary to shoot an image at a higher resolution than you intend use because a lot of the detail will be lost as the image is processed. Most product photographs need to be cropped, adjusted and resized, all of these cause loss of detail, just by saving your pictures as jpegs will cause loss of detail.
A cookie is a tiny text file that’s saved to your computer when you visit our website. The cookie remembers your settings and preferences so when you visit a website again, it can give you a better online experience.
It’s up to you whether you allow cookies or not, but if you don’t want them, you’ll need to block them in your browser settings.
why should I allow cookies?
By allowing cookies, you’ll get the best experience from websites.
remembering what’s in your shopping basket
logging in to Your Account
storing style preferences for your next visit
market research using Google Analytics
what if I block cookies?
Without cookies the internet becomes a little dull
You won’t be able to do many of the things the internet is great for…
participate in social networks & online communities
customise sites to view the web your way.
help website designers learn what customers want
how can I block or allow cookies?
Most browsers are set by default to accept cookies, but you can change your settings to block some or all cookies if you prefer. If you don’t like how this affects your online experience, it’s just as easy to change things back again.
Choose your browser from the list below…
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6/7/8 (XP/Vista)
Select Tools from the main task bar, then Internet Options.
Click the Privacy tab.
Choose the settings you want.
Microsoft Internet Explorer 8/9 (Windows 7)
Click on the Settings cog icon (top right).
Click on Internet Options.
Click on Privacy and choose your options.
Click Apply and then OK.
Click the spanner icon and select Options from the list.
Click the Under the Bonnet tab.
Click Content settings in the Privacy section.
Choose the settings you want.
Click X to close.
Choose Safari from the main task bar, then Preferences.
Click the Privacy panel.
Choose the settings you want.
Click X to close.
Select Tools from the main task bar, then Options.