Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT Returns | How to Set it up in Xero Accounts

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I’ve been meaning to write this for some time as I’m sure it will be helpful for so many bloggers who are VAT registered either as a sole-trader or through a limited company. If you are unfamiliar about VAT and need to learn the basics about the VAT threshold, what software to use and how to set it up, then first read my Bloggers Guide to VAT Accounting.

For those of you who have been using digital accounts packages such a Xero for a long time, you may already be familiar with submitting your VAT returns online using this type of software. This blog post will explain exactly how to setup ‘Making Tax Digital (MTD)’ in the Xero accounts software.

Making Tax Digital (MTD) has gone live last month APRIL 2019, which means that any VAT tax return sent from this date forward needs to be using the MTD service. Please note that MTD is a new service from the HMRC which you have to register for, if you’re not sure if you have registered, the chances are you haven’t.


STEP 1: SIGN UP FOR MTD for VAT with HMRC

Before you can use the Xero Making Tax Digital VAT return, you’ll need to apply with the HMRC, this is done online and usually takes between 48-72 hours to get completed. You’ll receive an email from the HMRC to let you know that everything has been setup correctly (do not submit your VAT return until you have confirmation).

The VAT threshold at the time of writing for sole-traders and limited companies is £85,000 (please note that this is a monthly rolling amount and NOT per financial year). If your turnover for any 12 month period hits over £85,000 then you need to register for VAT or the HMRC may automatically register you.

Before you sign up, make sure you have the below:

-       Making Tax Digital (MTD) compatible software such as Xero.
- Information about the business you’re signing up.
- Your Government Gateway user ID and password.

Use the below URL to sign up for MTD:

https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/vat-through-software/sign-up/have-software

Once you have applied for MTD, wait for the confirmation from HMRC via email, then proceed with the below (if you are using Xero). If you are using other accounts software such as Quickbooks or Sage, then you’ll need to follow their documentation.

 

STEP 2: CONNECT YOUR SOFTWARE TO HMRC FOR VAT RETURNS

Before you start the configuration of the software make sure you have the below to hand:

-       The confirmation email from HMRC saying that you have been moved over to the MTD service.
- Check your VAT number in your Xero Financial Settings is correct. (Settings > Advanced Settings > Financial Settings)
- Your Government Gateway user ID and password.

You’re now ready to setup MTD in Xero, follow the steps below: 

  1. Log in to your Xero accounts software.

  2. In the Accounting menu, select the option VAT Return.

  3. Click Set up MTD for VAT in Xero.

  4. Read the information then click Continue after signing up. This is just warning you to complete step 1 above before continuing.

  5. Click Connect to HMRC.

  6. Read and click Continue.

  7. Enter your Government Gateway user ID and password and then click Sign in.

  8. Read and click Grant authority.

You are now setup for MTD using Xero and will receive the below successful prompt:

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STEP 3: REVIEWING MTD FOR VAT IN XERO

In Xero, click on Accounting then VAT Return, you’ll now see something similar to the below:

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And on your Xero Homepage Dashboard, you’ll get a handy reminder of when your VAT returns are due:

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If you would like more information on using MTD for VAT in Xero then this is a great article from Xero themselves that explains everything to do with VAT Returns.

https://central.xero.com/s/article/Understanding-your-VAT-overview

 

 

The Things I've Learnt From Russell Brand

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Whilst on my travels I've been watching a few Russell Brand YouTube videos recommended by a friend. Russell has got deeply bearded and philosophical about life, like we all do when we encroach on middle age. 

I thought I'd share with you some of the things I've picked up from listening to his podcast, Under the Skin, and his counselling sessions on YouTube. 

ON ATTACHMENT 

From Russell..

"People forming attachments to people. We only notice the negative ones. Negative attachment suggests that you're drawn to people that don't make you feel good about yourself. 

We then get involved in a cycle of relationships that you're unable to break often through fear. 'If I leave this relationship I won’t survive'. You need support from your need mentors that have been there and have overcome it. You need to help cultivate your sense that you have the resources in you to overcome it. A bit of self-belief, a bit of intestinal fortitude." 

What I did

It was an eye opener for me. I've been drawn to the wrong flame for a while. Constantly going back for more hurt, like I know it awaits. Like it has a welcome mat laid out for me alone. 

So I took Russell's advice. I called on some people I knew that had been through this. Asked them what kind of resources did they call upon to get over such mental hurdles. One friend said he forced himself to write down 100 things about himself that made him unique. 

He then made a list every day of ten positive things he had done. Even if they were little things like 10 press ups. Or called an old friend. It filling out that list it would make him look for positive and productive actions. 

That's what you need to turn things around. Change your mental landscape. 

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HOLDING A GRUDGE 

What Russell says.. 

"Holding a grudge. It's a resentment, its serious thing. If you have a grudge, loads of people in my past, the relationships I had, didn't end it the way I wanted it to. 

People live in a world with instincts, people have collisions. 

We forgive them. It's our job to forgive them. We forgive them. Don't say it to them, say it to yourself. 

Got a grudge you used to be in a relationship with, did I do anything to them, was I negligent? If you're willing to make amends, then you'll find you move forward in your ability to forgive." 

What I did.. 

I have been thinking recently of people that have done me a 'disservice'. People have come after me this year, I've spoken about that in previous blogs. I have to forgive them. I can't waste any more energy on bitter thoughts. 

I am capable of forgiveness so I've employed that facet of my nature. Conversely I've also talked openly about my misgivings. My flaws and the things I've done wrong that might have invite this level of hatred. I feel like I've forgiven myself in the process. Time to move on. I'm a shark baby, need to keep moving forward. 

LAZYNESS

What Russell says.. 

"What about the Rock and Mark Wahlberg getting up at 3am to do push ups in cryo chambers. 

It’s hard to get up at 7am. I'd like to stay in bed. I love to be cosy and snug. Don't we all. But then those feelings are always followed by anxiety and depression that you should be doing something else. 

There's moral attachment to actions and objects. The work ethic is intrinsically linked to morality, the dream of individualism from inner self you manifest these great lives, the apex of human achievements. It's very American isn't it. 

But then you look at cats and dogs doing nothing bugger all. And they're doing as good as you.

Laziness a nihilism. A personal nihilism. What's the point in doing anything. It's ok to rest, relax, important to have discipline. Find your own standards, abide by them. 

Laziness is only relevant if you feel you're not fulfilling your potential."

What I Did.. 

I've learned to accept that I can't get around to doing everything. I've made my peace with that. I wanted to release a podcast last year. Bought all the gear, did all the research. even interviewed my first guest. But there are only a certain amount of hours in the day. I couldn't allocate any time to it. 

This isn't because I'm lazy. I didn't do it because I couldn't be arsed. Similarly I'm not on holiday to avoid work. I'm working believe me. I just post the idyllic Instagram posts to throw you all off the scent. 

What I learned from Russell Brand was to abide by my own rules. Implement my own disciplines. I won't ever be lazy, but I need to learn that it's ok to sleep in once in a while. Not all of us want to get up at 3am. Screw that. 

 

The Art of Solving Any Problem: Advice from the Greats

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Today I'm going to share with you all some recent thoughts I've had about problem solving. If you think about it, who in your circles do you go to for good advice? Who are the most pragmatic. Are these people hot-headed? Do they have a wild temperament?

I've been quite horizontal these past couple of weeks and I've found a very relaxed stable frame of mind has helped unravel a lot of complications. I've solved quite a few complex problems because I've managed to emotionally detach myself from said problem.

It's that same old adage, why can you always give good advice but never take your own. Because when you're knee deep in your own problems, it's harder to be objective. There's too much emotion involved.

I've done some more research, looked up a couple of smarter dudes than I on YouTube and wanted to share with you some content on how to be a better problem solver.

TONY ROBBINS 

Motivational speaker and author Tony Robbins was immediately top of my list, and Google's list when it came to finding an authoritarian on the subject of problem solving. 

Here are some quotes and synopsis on the art of problem solving from Tony Robbins: 

Problems are part of life. Life would be boring without problems. As the Chinese say, 'may you live in interesting times'. 

What you should be doing is once you've assessed the problem, work on the solution. Break it up into chunks, 80% of your time should be spent on resolving the problem, whilst only 20% on the problem itself.

Little problems become monsters the longer you dwell on them. First ascertain what is the challenge and how do I turn it around? 

You need to control your focus. And spend less time on the negatives like, 'Why is this happening to me. Why now, why always me?' 

None of that redundant thinking will get you anywhere. Instead use role models in your life to help get you out of a bind. Who else has been through similar crap and how did they manage it?

Imagine you're a parent and your problem is sleep deprivation. Or you can't get your kid enrolled in the school you wanted. Well look around, leverage your rolodex. Who managed to solve this problem previously. Or who has been through similar experiences that you admire and respect. Get their take and have them hand down their secrets on problem solving. 

Important tip

Don't get emotionally overwhelmed. 

Your inherit ability to handle any problem gets squashed because you have not managed to control your emotions.

Remember how great it feels to solve problems. Get in the problem solving business. Take on a massive challenge and pull it off. Be happy. Confident. Systematically handle every problem. It gives you great confidence and ensures a pride of accomplishment.

Manage your own state. Keep your shit together.

Define the problem, then solve the problem.

Come up with a brilliant plan and have momentum. A problem hates your momentum. It really hates when you have a rocket up your arse and won't quit.

3 by STEPS TONY MAZE 

I've never heard of Tony Maze either but I liked his take on reframing the word problem. I've done a quick summary of his theory below. 

Eliminate the word problem from our vocabulary. The oxford defines the word problem as a thing that is difficult to deal with or understand. This implies difficulty which leads on to destructive emotions.

Instead of framing a problem as a problem, call it a 'situation'.

The definition of a situation is as follows: All the circumstances that are happening in a  time and place.

A situation is what is happening. A problem is the difficulty we assign to the situation.  Remove the destructive emotions.

BEN SHAPIRO 

Ben Shapiro famously took down Piers Morgan on his argument for gun control. His take on how to solve problems are closely linked to his theories on how to win arguments. A lot of people’s problems are linked to others that hold some sort of domain over them. How can I confront my boss? How do I stand up to him/her etc. I've summed up some theories by Ben Shapiro below:

Facts don't care about your feelings. (Great quote). 

When you go into debate, say what you want to say. Know what the lead tactic is before you go in. When I took down Piers I knew going in he was going to bring out a kid whose parents had been killed by guns. 

I immediately told him that content of the argument was intellectually dishonest. That he was standing on the graves of murdered victims to make his point. Bring it back to facts, not emotions. If you want to attack me for being emotionally detached, then you're attacking my character not attacking my argument.

TED TALK Shreyans Jain 

God love me a Ted Talk. I often think what would I be able to do a Ted Talk on. Maybe the art of cooking steak. I make a mean steak. 

I digress. 

I got my head into a few Ted Talks regarding the art of problem solving so here are some thoughts shared by a gentleman by the name of Shreyans Jain. 

"We'll figure it out." The more you say it, the more you'll action it. Make it your mantra. Deconstruct any problem and kick ass in life. Say that every morning when you get up. 

Break down your problems, consider it a war of attrition, distil them. 

Important tip 

Problems are solutions waiting to be found. Stay cool. 

You to visualise the outcome. The power of visualisation is incredible. You need to focus on how we fix the problem. 

STEPHEN DUBNER

Fascinating dude that offers alternative sideways views on solving problems. Basically Stephen encourages the notion that you have to be creative to solve complex problems. Sometimes it takes an outsider, an anomaly to view conventional problems in an unconventional way. 

Many big problems are hold to solve because they're multi-layered. They include a lot of variables and people with perverse incentives. How do you solve the famine in India? Not doable. That's why the Brits moved out years ago, there was no hope in solving that problem. 

But what after many years of calcification, you have an anomaly, a freak of nature that comes along. Once in a lifetime like a Ghandi, or Bob Geldof or a Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Nelson Mandela. Someone that can galvanise people to look at problems for what they are.  

How did they solve problems? Through belief. Through optimism. Through peace. 

 

 

 

It's Time to Talk About Carl

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I was made aware of the defamatory article anonymously and callously published on the medium.com website, which has named my e-commerce business Hawkins & Shepherd and myself personally amongst other businesses and influencers.

I'd like to take this opportunity to clear a few things that have circulated some social commentary since the article was published. It's been a very traumatic week for me personally having to be on the receiving end on what I consider to be a pernicious article, published on an open platform without approval or checks for authenticity.

It's been very tough keeping emotion out of this. Some of the scathing consistent attacks I would even categorise as cyber-bullying. I'll do a follow up article to this about that in due course.

Now I'm a 38 year old man. I've developed a thick skin and can rely on a certain muscle memory to get me through this kind of onslaught. I don't suffer from depression but I feel anxiety pangs like anyone else. 

When my phone pings, my heart races. I don't even want to look at my phone right now.

But some of the bloggers I've spoken to that are implicated in this article have only just turned 20. I've had private conversations with them who are on the verge of having a break down. 

Now I don't want to advocate for one second the flagrant use of ‘Insta fraud’ as it’s been labelled. I think the industry is on the mend. I think it's right to highlight where the regulations need to serve the industry better. I can speak about this because I have reformed. I used to follow and unfollow around two years ago but that's not my scene anymore. 

However, I think this article is more a personal attack, laden with spite, resentment, with a pernicious undercurrent and I want people to realise that we're still dealing with human beings.

People that share and retweet thinking they're throwing a spotlight on the issue of Instafraud, are actually sharing an article that was removed, with unfounded accusations from an anonymous source. It's cut deep into the people that are implicated, and is still having a profound effect. 

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I've not risen to any of the comment threads on social media that are continuing a very aggressive media attack on my name and brand.

Instead I've been spending my time talking to the brands and management companies of whom I've had the pleasure of working for and alongside as an ambassador for many years, reassuring them of the inaccuracies in the article, of which I'll get into soon.

I have a very open and honest relationship with these brands (there names I will refrain from disclosing for now) I've been honoured to work for and I've been overwhelmed with the support I've received in return. You can see some of the messages of support I've received below. 

From one brand:

"A member of our team did see the article, but I’m aware that we’ve already spoken to you about your historical follower pattern. We were satisfied with the conversation we had with you and are happy to continue working with you on projects that we feel you are suited." 

From an agency: 

"Hey Carl. We were made aware of the article last week and having read it we agree it comes from a place of spite. The “facts” presented are heavily laden with opinion, conjecture and are overall slanderous to everybody mentioned.

We also realised it was quickly removed. I think your statement on the article is strong and unemotional which is more than can be said for the original author of the article itself. It’s a shame that you’ve been put in a position whereby you need to address it.

On a personal level it doesn’t change how we view you nor alter how we’d like to work with you moving forward.

If you need anything from us to help support you then just let us know."

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Some of this might sound like lawyer talk, because I wanted to detach my emotions and just deal with the facts.

ADDRESSING COMMENTS IN THE ARTICLE

“Allegedly another one of the biggest cheats in the Men’s fashion space, Carl Thompson is one of the biggest frauds out there in terms of inorganically growing his account. His cheating goes as far back as records go, which is January 2016. From January 2016 until July 2017 he aggressively followed and unfollowed hundreds of people per day, cheating his Instagram and cheating his way to over 54,000 from practically nothing.”

Back in 2016 it wasn’t unusual to follow a lot of accounts. I personally followed thousands of people - every blogger, friend, fashion enthusiast etc, who I knew as part of the Instagram community and who helped to shape my own style.

From around April 2016 to April 2017, I used to follow some accounts and have engaged with them, later unfollowing.

I want to note here that despite what the article says, by that point, I have already amassed around 20-25,000 followers from my consistent men’s fashion Instagram posts, presenting and TV appearances.

Instagram at that time was mainly to promote my business Hawkins & Shepherd, where I invested over £100,000 of my own money, and for the love of the industry and the fashion.

During that time I did not know where the Influencer marketing would go and if I would be a part of it. It was a very new industry with no guidance.

In summary, with all due respect to the anonymous authors, I’m a massive part of this very much nascent industry and I have earned the respect from multiple fashion designers, business owners, journalists, PR’s and other Influencers.

“After the scandal of July 2017, he then appeared to have stopped, and his account has been in decline since, which is no coincidence. His Instagram name comes from the brand he owns (which also has manipulated Google reviews), but he uses this to promote himself as a blogger, and has a blog in his own name, carlthompson.co.uk.”

I have stopped following and unfollowing in April 2017 when I realised that this form of marketing had a serious influence on consumers and that it was something that I wanted to be a part of for the long-term.

In addition, I have been building trusted relationships with brands and wanted to offer a great ROI. My Instagram account did slowly decline for a while, however, I actually have perceived that trend as a good thing because real followers who may have just followed me because I followed them, decided to unfollow.

As the rate of decline was very slow and gradual, I have still been gaining followers and have been retaining ones that truly wanted to engage with my posts. What the article fails to mention is that my Instagram account is growing again and has never been more engaged. I would like to comment here that I have never bought fake followers.

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I would like to point out that the comment regarding my e-commerce business Hawkins & Shepherd being a “complete slander” is based on no evidence whatsoever, which again just highlights  the fact that this article is a personal attack.

Hawkins & Shepherd has 400 reviews, all 100% verified customers that have to be legally registered on the Yotpo review platform that I use. Below is a screenshot of this:

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The Google Reviews that the article has suggested were also manipulated in fact are genuine reviews, most are customers and some are from friends/family that I’ve gifted product to and they have kindly written a review.

“He is one of the most disingenuous and fake Influencers out there. The perfect example is working with several shaving brands, pretending to use their razors and products, then his beard magically stays on his face in the next photo, despite claiming that the razor is good and he’s apparently shaved it off.”

I regard the opening statement  as defamatory with the purported “supporting evidence” taken out of context.

My captions and images have been consistently well received, I have invested  a considerable amount of time and effort in creating these images and in ensuring that the content is exactly what the brands expect and is of an exceptional quality.

“This was comically seen when he posted about Harry’s and more recently Gillette and their razor blades, foaming up his face with razor in hand, and in the very next photo, his facial hair magically re-appeared a day later. Either the razor is not very good, he grows hair like a werewolf or he’s lying. We’ll let you be the judge.”

Whilst I applaud the anonymous author on his/her diligence in finding the one inconsistency from over 1,800 posts on my Instagram channel, posts on my Instagram grid rarely correlate to a physical date/time timeline.

When working with brands many posts have to be vetted and authenticated weeks, sometimes months in advance. The consistency of my beard between posts is arbitrary.

“He holds almost no authority, no influence and is disliked by many of the other men’s fashion bloggers and influencers, for cheating with his Instagram and being incredibly fake. His Instagram engagement is currently at 2.06%, and has been manipulated.”

I have no comment regarding this other than I have evidence to the contrary available to brands on request.

“FAKE INFLUENCER PARTY”

The Hard Rock Hotel invited me as an unpaid guest to create content on their behalf. After seeing the results of the engagement and the quality of the content provided, I was invited to promote their newly opened Hard Rock Hotel in London.

“He has now set up a new ego website, to showcase his arrogance and for people to believe that he’s kind of a big deal. “Who Is Carl Thompson .co.uk” is a website telling you who he actually is.”

The website https://www.whoiscarlthompson.co.uk/ serves as an online visual Media Pack/CV. It serves no other purpose other than to provide detailed information on my portfolio.

“According to it, he’s a TV presenter, model, influencer, photographer, YouTuber, business owner, blogger.”

Each of these are correct and accurate. I’m happy to forward on examples of each on request.

“It seems he craves the fame, being on First Dates along with Dinner Date.”

I make no apologies for appearing on these shows that are watched and adored by millions of viewers.

“According to his Instagram, he’s currently an ambassador for Haigclub, Jo Malone and Kobox. He has worked with Debenhams, House Of Fraser, Panasonic, ECCO Shoes, 360 Coffee, tk Maxx, Lab Series, Kronaby, Starbucks, Philips, Reiss, Burton, Mazda, and many more.”

That is correct and I’m extremely proud to have worked with each of these brands.


FURTHER READING

VOTED TOP 6 MEN’S LIFESTYLE BLOG IN THE UK 2018

https://www.vuelio.com/uk/blog-awards/shortlist/

TOP 10 UK MEN’S LIFESTYLE BLOG 2017, 2018, 2019.

https://www.vuelio.com/uk/social-media-index/mens-lifestyle-blogs-uk-top-10/

These are all based around official Google blog statistics, domain-authority, quality of writing and imagery. Voted by industry professionals.

MY OWN BLOG STATISTICS PUBLISHED

Earlier this year, I have published my Blog Statistics with screenshots of Google analytic data (I note the extremely low 1.03% bounce rate for the year of 2018).

https://www.carlthompson.co.uk/further-reading-blogs/2019/1/18/carl-thompson-all-the-stats-from-my-blog-revealed

YOUTUBE

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7saYubGIW4nDfajCS9Kkqw?view_as=subscriber

My channel has around 8,800 Subscribers with a very engaged following and has almost 1million views on the videos published.

 

 

 

How I Invoice Brands and Chase Late Payers: Tips for bloggers

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'Just a friendly nudge'. 

That's my opener when I'm chasing brands for overdue invoices. It's code for 'hey pal, remember me? yeah I'm the schmuck that worked his ass off for a whole month peddling your crap. How about you pay me.' 

Maybe I've seen Casino too many times. Remember that scene where Pesci tells that Banker he wants his money back? Well I'm never far from that level of resentment when it comes to chasing invoices. 

The dichotomy of it all, is that we have to chase them in a polite 'excuse me, excuse me, I'm British', kind of way because of the following reasons; 

  1. We don't want to sound desperate for cash as it looks like we're on our last legs and undermines our bartering power for the next commission. 'He was gagging for that £100 payment last time. Felt like he chased us to the ends of the earth, bet he'll do this job for £50'. 

  2.  We don't want to appear pushy as we want repeat business and want to maintain a good professional working relationship. 

  3. We're naturally too polite and far too good willed. 

I know a lot bloggers and lifestyle magazines have different invoicing policies. Some demand payment upfront before publishing. Others demand payment before they even write the feature. 

I'm quite happy to give brands the standard 30 days, which I believe is fair to both parties. The law for business transactions is 60 days, which is far too impractical for independent businesses that depend on cash flow for survival. Yes you can demand interest on late payments, but the rates are small beer and only compound the issue. 

Imagine if you were owed £1000 by a company like the rates suggest on the Government website. Technically that company can delay payments for nearly another 2 months at the fee of only £11.50. 

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What can you do if a client or brand doesn't pay you? 

The reason why some of these rates and laws feel so draconian is because the Government legislative has not been updated in the last 6 years. The below is also taken from the government website. 

"Amended late payment legislation comes into force on 16 March 2013, implementing European Directive 2011/7/EU on combating late payment in commercial transactions." 

What happens when clients don't pay me? 

I give them every chance. I sometimes walkaway if the pay is modest, I don't look over my shoulder too much. However, one of the bonuses of building a pirate ship is that I get given a megaphone to use over the internet. 

If I know someone else has also been duped by a company, I'll call them out and draw as much focus on their erroneous doings as possible. 

Last summer I was owed a handsome sum of money buy a company, which was a creative content platform for brands and agencies. The CEO did a runner, and lots of influencers were out of pocket. 

My advice on chasing brands for payment? 

Give them the 30 days. Email them with something over than a demand for payment such as.. 

'Hi XXX

Just a quick note to say how great it was working with your team and getting to know your brand last month. Here are the stats from the campaign in case you wanted them. Also I've attached a few extra images from the shoot you may not have seen. Please feel free to use them on your social channels'. 

That normally prompts a response. You want to make sure there’s someone there on the other end of the phone before you start demanding your money back. Sometimes an email like that will trigger them into action. 

If you don't get a reply or a payment, in the next email I'd suggest this. 

'Hi XXX 

Glad you like the photos, I look forward to working with you on the next campaign. Any chance you can give your accounts team a nudge and let me know when I can expect payment for the invoice I submitted last month. I've attached again for their reference'. 

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I’ve attached a copy of my invoice so you can see a working template. 

Hopefully that should do it, and people will want to work with you again in the future. 

BE WARNED 

I made this mistake once of hounding a PR guy for a payment. They were acting as a 3rd party for a clothing brand and the reason why I wasn't getting paid was because I had put the wrong name on the invoice. 

I subsequently had a big fall out with both the PR team and the brand and it took a lot of lunch dates and ass licking on my part to get back in their good books. 

So make sure you have all the details on the invoices correct before you send them out and start threatening to come down there and crack their heads wide open in front of everybody. (Really Joe Pesci says it so much better). 

 

Latest News, Tools and Social Media Tips

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In this article I want to give you some crucial updates on everything that is happening in the world of Facebook and Instagram. What's more, how you can utilise these changes into making them work for you. 

CROSS POST AND SWIPE UPS! 

You can now double up on the exposure of what you share across your social media platforms as Instagram has now launched the capability of sharing swipe up links from your stories over to Facebook. 

Although some people like to go native on their individual platforms, for businesses this is a great time saver. Also for people that are more dominant on one channel than the other. For example, I'll confess I don't do much on Facebook compared to Instagram, so having this feature to share across my audiences at least keeps my Facebook page active. The easiest way to get started is by following the instructions here.

FREE MUSIC! 

After I've done a Vlog it can be quite painful having to trawl the net for a song that will fit. Not only that it has to be royalty free otherwise YouTube will set the dogs on you. 

The clever folk at Facebook have sorted this out for us. The Facebook Sound Collection now has over 2,000+ songs and 1,700+ sound effects available for use.

All content from Sound Collection can be used freely on our platforms without any additional licensing. Check out Sound Collection in Creator Studio here.  

WHY THE MERGE? 

You may have heard the news that Facebook are going to merge the messaging services of Facebook, What's App and Instagram by the year 2020. What will this mean for us? More than likely more adverts. WHY? Because Zuckerberg needs to start making a return on Whatsapp since he bought it for $19 Billion. 

Facebook announced increases in revenue today despite all the noise around Cambridge Analytica. And now we have the introduction of a homogenised messaging service. Joy! It just goes to show if you get a product for free, you don’t own it, you are that product. For more information on the combined messaging services there is a great in depth article about that on The National

BACK TO FACEBOOK

You may be looking to boost your posts and services on Facebook, but you're weary on all the technical jargon. There are a dozen ways to improve your skill set on Facebook without having to hire an intern or tech guy. 

Firstly you may want to think about getting a blue certified tick, which can be done by taking an exam via Facebook Blueprint. This will school you on a variety of different subjects such as Ads ManagerBoostingBidding EffectivelyCarousel AdsGenerating Leads from Ads, and Pixel.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions regarding blogging, the latest CMA rules for Instagram or how to monetise your blog you can always comment me below. I know it can be a bit of a labyrinth, maybe daunting for some. So don't hesitate to get in touch. 

 

The New #AD Rules for Social Media: CMA Tell Influencers They Need to be Transparent (Not an AD)

The days of bloggers and influencers blowing through social media doing doughnuts in a Buick like a 70's Burt Reynolds, are coming to a close. This month the CMA announced new rules for influencers if they have been paid, incentivised or in any way rewarded to endorse or review something in their posts.

It’s important that they make this clear to their followers. This includes when a product or service has been given to them for free.

This needs to be clearly stated when a product, brand or service is tagged, linked or endorsed in any way.

Even if you receive something in the post for free it's classed a form of reward and if you don't clearly state your relationship with the brand, you will be breaking advertising law. 

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Carl I got given a watch for free last year, do I still need to let people know? 

The article says that anything within the last year is deemed noteworthy to your audience. I won't be going back retrospectively through my old posts, but from now on I'll need to be making people aware of my relationships with brands. Hopefully people already are. 

How do I disclose my working relationship? 

Simple. No matter what social platform you are publishing on, just put #Ad or (Ad) at the start of the caption to let people know the content is sponsored. If you have been gifted something you need to declare this also as an #AD. Which is a bit backward for my liking. 

Here is a very easy how-to guide on the Vix Meldrew site. It gives you an interesting way to incorporate your adverts and opinions. 

The main trouble with influencer advertising

I've got a whole bunch but here goes. 

  1. Everyone is too damn nice. If someone doesn't declare their working relationship in a social post is anyone going to leave a comment asking if they're getting their palms lined with silver? I think not. Have never seen it. 

  2. The ASA document is 20 pages long. Even though it's clear and concise, there is still a lot of heft to a document to regulate whether someone has sent you a free bar of soap or not. 

  3. My missus gifted me a watch for my birthday and she owns the watch company. What's up? I want to tell the world the missus bought me an awesome watch for my birthday, is that an (Ad-Gifted-Ad-Promotion)? 

  4. Surely if people are putting (Ad) in front of everything it will start to lose its currency. It will be so saturated that people won't even bother looking into the validity of the working relationship between brand and influencer. 

  5. What are the punishments? Can someone tell me? Will they freeze my instagram account? Will they take away my blue tick? Are we talking jail time? 

Let me know your thoughts in the comment box below. 

 

Carl Thompson: All the Stats from my Blog Revealed

I was recently asked in an interview where will I be in 5 years. Currently I'm writing this on a retreat in Bali, with no return ticket, with no plans or agenda. The blog is a great platform for me to empty all my thoughts on men’s lifestyle. 

It's sometimes cathartic, sometimes a chore. But it's become an extension of me and I was thrilled to get nominated last year in the Top 6 UK Men’s Lifestyle Blogs by Vuelio. Today I want to share a couple of facts, stats and behind the scenes trivia. 


WHEN DO I WRITE? 

I normally get up at the crack and meditate on a particular subject or campaign whilst out walking Charlie across Clapham Common. By the time I return to the desk I hammer out 300 words, just empty my head and then leave it. That takes about 15 minutes. When you do this for as long as I have you realise that writers block is a myth. No one is going to read every blog, or every word in that blog. (I'm amazed you're still with me right now). 

I'll then come back to the article later in the day, mid-afternoon or dinner. Do a quick edit, fact check, tweak and post. All told I make sure that a blog never goes past the hour mark. 

WHO IS READING

I'm very pleased to have such a wide demographic of people that are tuning in to the blog. Naturally my audience is hugely UK and London centric. With over 73k users finding their way to my site I'm pleased to have developed a large contingent in the US, India and Canada. 

AGE AND GENDER

This is a very interesting one, and not uncommon in the male blogging industry. Women are tuning into my blog as well as men. I'm very pleased that women are reading my posts, finding style and gifting ideas for themselves or their partners. 

I read plenty of women blogs and tune into discussion lead podcasts myself.

The age range is very much my own, written by me for me I guess. But an undeniable peak of the 25-34 range. 

AN UNHEARD OF BOUNCE RATE

That's right, I've been burying the lead. The bounce rate on my blog is the statistic that I'm most proud of. What is a Bounce Rate? 

From Google 'It is the percentage of visits in which a person leaves your website from the landing page without browsing any further. Google analytics calculates and report the bounce rate of a web page and bounce rate of a website.' 

In other words, people are coming to the site and having a mooch around. They haven't come there by mistake. They've not been put off by my mug and ran to the hills. 

According to an article by Go Rocket Fuel the most common bounce rate for blogs is between 35% - 40%. Anything above 70% is disappointing. 

QUICK THANKS

So a genuine quick thanks for everyone that reads and visits my blog. (Still reading this? Oh you are a saint, you know that you've just notched up my retention stats so thank you).

DISCLAIMER: All statistics are genuine screenshots from Google Analytics for the date range 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2018. My blog carlthompson.co.uk talks about everything men’s lifestyle.

A Bloggers Guide to VAT Accounting | Making VAT Digital for Sole Traders

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The blogging industry is relatively new, full of individuals who have never run a business before or even worked as a sole trader. There’s little support & resources when it comes to best practices with invoicing, accountancy, tax etc, so today I’m going to give you a basic guide to VAT accounting. When working for a company, everything is just taken care of. Your NI contributions are taken from your salary, as is Income Tax via PAYE and you just get a payslip at the end of the month which equals the amount you get paid into your bank account…it’s a nice way to live! I’ve been a business owner with Hawkins & Shepherd for over 5 years and a sole trader with my main income coming from blogging and creating social/digital content for about 4 years.

So today I’m talking about VAT accounting. This is simply charging VAT on invoices for work you have completed and claiming VAT back against purchases you have brought. Please Note: this is separate from your self-assessment end-of-year return, which you pay income tax.

Making tax digital for VAT will come into effect from April 2019, so from that date, businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) will have to submit their returns through Making Tax Digital (MTD) software.

 

Are you VAT registered? Do you need to be VAT registered?

Regardless if you are a Limited Company or a Sole Trader, you have to register for VAT if you or your business turns over £85,000 during a 12 month period. Of course you can register voluntarily even if you do not reach this turnover if it suits you financially.

If you are VAT registered you will need to charge VAT (currently at 20% in the UK) on any sales invoices for work completed. You can also claim back VAT on any purchases that have VAT applied, such as IT Hardware and camera equipment. Please note that you can not claim back tax-exempt items such as postage, bank fees and purchases outside of the EU. Always check your receipts on goods you have brought; if VAT is charged, you can claim it back, if it isn’t you can’t.

As a business owner, you are responsible for keeping track of your income and forecasting when you’ll hit the £85,000 turnover limit. Please note that this is a 12-month rolling calculation and NOT a calendar year or financial year.

As a blogger, I was initially worried about going VAT registered because I was concerned that the brands wouldn’t work with me because my fees would increase by 20%. So for example, if you charge £1,000 for some work as a non-VAT registered business, you’ll of course invoice £1,000. Although now you are VAT registered, you’ll invoice £1,200 (£1,000 plus the 20% VAT). You just need to make the PR’s, brands or agencies know that your quotes are exclusive of VAT and that VAT will be applied to the invoice. You should also double-check any contracts are correct before signing them, as I’ve had one or two contracts that have said the amount is inclusive of VAT, therefore the £1,000 quoted will end up being £800 + £200 VAT. On the flip side most businesses that you are invoicing will already be VAT registered, so they can claim back the VAT on their accounts.

 

I’ve decided to register for VAT, so what next?

1.     Register for VAT.

2.     You’ll then receive your VAT registration certificate with your VAT number through the post which you’ll need to submit your VAT returns.

3.     Once you have your VAT number, you need to sign-up to use VAT services online.

 

What accounts software package shall I use?

Well this is entirely up to you, I’ve used Xero for 5 years and have found it easy and intuitive to use. Here are a list of the most commonly used accounts software packages that you can use to make your tax digital.

·      Xero - https://www.xero.com/uk/

·      Sage - https://uk.sageone.com/accounts/

·      Quickbooks - https://quickbooks.intuit.com/uk/

 

How to setup VAT in Xero Accounts Software 

Once you have signed up for VAT and if have chosen Xero, then the below will help you setting up VAT in Xero.

Creating an invoice template with your VAT number

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Click on Settings > Organisational Settings > Invoice settings.

Click Options > Edit.

Edit the invoice options as you wish, the below is an example of the invoice template that I created:

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Setting up your VAT Scheme and Financial dates

Click on Settings > Organisational Settings > Invoice Settings > Advanced Settings.

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Submitting VAT Returns

Make sure you have reconciled all of your bank transactions and sales during the VAT period and then review and submit your return.

You can review your VAT return by using the VAT Reconciliation report. You can submit a VAT return using the VAT Return report.

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Get Yourself Back on Track | Introducing the Zelo Journal

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I had a great response from a Mental Health blog  I posted on the site a few weeks back. I'm really pleased it resonated with so many of you and thank you all for your contributions and comments. Here today I'm wanting to draw a spotlight on a well-being journal that's being launched on Kickstarter entitled The Zelo Journal

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a sample and I can tell you it is a thing of beauty. It's all black, sleek in design with a clear listing of all the techniques you can use to get the most out of every day, according to your lifestyle. It's a book that lets you find productivity at your own pace, with subtle nods of encouragement without boxing you into a corner screaming 'Drop and give me 20!' 

I have a few things I'd like to get off my chest when it comes to productivity and wellbeing. Here's a little insight into my first entry.



Gratitude List

They say its the pathway to enlightenment. So how thankful are we that we get to speak to our loved ones on the other side of the world on a device no bigger than a pack of cigarettes. Do we thank the universe for Steve Jobs for accelerating the evolutional bell curve, or do we just curse the heavens each time one of our Instagram story fails to upload. 

Having gratitude is truly the key to happiness. Having the capacity to remember that all your problems are relatively tiny in the grand scheme of things is another thing entirely. 

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Obstacles to overcome

The big ones for me are maintaining focus and discipline. Not getting so easily distracted. It's never easy when social media is your gig; I've carved out a career out of social media but it can also be a huge distraction for me. 

I need to pull in some focus over these next couple of months. Especially as a blogger, these months are the time to dip your bread. Brands are looking to amp up their outreach and they become heavily dependent on people like me to spear head their campaigns. 

I guess what I'm getting at, is it's time for me to get my game face on. 


Daily Actions

I'm a huge proponent of exercise. My KOBOX classes are not only inspiring me to new levels of fitness, but massively reducing my anxieties. I'm convinced that we need to expel and exert our inner pressures through physical exertion. 

They say that astronauts lose muscle mass after spending time in space. This is because they are not exposed to gravity. Now equate that to the modern man. Our muscles, our mind, are all atrophying due to the super-safe world we have created. We have incubated ourselves within our safe little homes, screaming at the world voyeuristically through our faceless Twitter handles, we're not exercising the reptilian side of our brain that is hard wired to fend of sabre tooth tigers. 

Jesus Carl, are they handing out free marijuana cookies down there in Clapham? 

I guess what I'm getting at is I need to get back in touch with the more primitive Carl. I want to do more things outside the tech world. 

The KOBOX gym is great. I'm going to give myself 20 minutes in the morning before checking the phone. Allow myself to get centred. More time with humans, have talks about ideas, less talks about other people. 

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Weekly Planning

I haven't even mentioned my diet. It's one of the hardest thing to nail down due to the lifestyle of press events and coffee meetings. 

  1. Strictly no drink during the week. 

  2. Have the fruit bowl full at all times. 

  3. Each time I pick up the phone, ask yourself what am I doing? Am I just seeking distraction? Attention? 

  4. Drink more water. In fact drink water like it's my job.

Setting Goals

The goals baby! I recommend you all listen to the Joe Rogan interview with Tyson Fury that went out last week. Tyson Fury was a man who had everything, beat Klitschko, Champion of the world, money, women, fame and the wheels came off. 

Tyson Fury was stripped of his belts, caved to the trappings of success, became suicidal. In that interview he talked about his return to the ring and now he is on the comeback trail. He cited goals as the biggest thing that got him back on track. 

Starting by losing the weight he had gained. Bit by bit, day by day, getting fitter, stronger, now if manages to overcome Wilder on the 1st December, he has earned himself a shot at claiming back those belts. 

What a fight that will be by the way. Both undefeated, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury both over 6'7 tall. Both punchers, Knockout artists. I'm in baby, take my money now. 

More about the journal: www.thinkzelo.com/zelojournal

Support the brand on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1566841865/992004581?ref=593691&token=3bff5e26

 

Holly Harwood | Her Inspiring Journey, Making Her Own Gin

My passion with gin started when working at Dolly's Gin Palace in Falmouth (whilst studying for my history degree). This was about 8 years ago and I actually had my eyes set to create my own gin then. However I felt I needed more experience in the industry. After a big move to London and many hours working in pubs, bars, gin festivals, a role as a gin brand ambassador and drinks blogger... I still couldn't get making my own gin out of my head! 2 years ago with a lot of support from my family and friends, I started Holly's Gin.

The Gintern

Some people reading this may be following my story as Gintern for ILoveGin.com. This was a viral job advertised last year for a gin lover to visit distilleries and create gin recipes and content. It really is the best job ever and I couldn't believe I actually landed my dream job at the beginning of this year. My journey has influenced my own gin massively, from the design of my bottle to the botanicals I used to create the recipe.

The Design

I was very fortunate to work with my talented friend Ryan on the design of my bottle, as well as Allied Glass believing in my madness! I love anything Art Deco and have a fascination with this era. I really wanted to give the bottle an antique feel. The frosted green really stands out, and I love how the gold shines in the light. The shell logo was inspired by my love of Cornish beaches and the gold leaf design has some of my key botanicals added in! The design is actually printed onto the bottle itself which really looks fantastic.

The Taste

I love London Dry Gins and just knew I had to make one! I also wanted to use some unique botanicals and create something a little different. There are 9 botanicals in total. The 3 key ones are Orange, Gentian root and Passion Flower. I actually drank passion flower tea for years, as it is recommended for its calming benefits. The flower looks pretty cool too! It doesn't taste too floral but perhaps similar to Meadowsweet. There is definitely an earthy, rich aroma. The gin itself is fresh, vibrant and perfect with a premium tonic water!

Cornwall

It was very important to me to have my recipe distilled in my treasured home county of Cornwall. After a meeting with Trevethan Distillery, I knew I wanted it to be made there! Not only do they have Art Deco inspired bottles with a history dating back to the 1920s, but John the distiller has so much expertise and has been fantastic at knowing how to scale up my recipe correctly. This is something that was trickier than I first thought! With the help of John and the team, it tastes wonderful. John will be using their two 300L Copper Pot Stills, called Doris and Rose. Each still will produce around 300-350 bottles each. I will be bottling and sticking the back labels and seals on myself, so you really know it is handcrafted!

Pre-Order Now!

I am crowd funding to make the first batch and make sure the bottles go out before Christmas. All the money raised will go into the production (bottles, labels, corks, distillation, duty), as well as helping me actually get the gin out to you! This is a true labour of love but I am very excited! The support I am receiving means the absolute world to me. I am doing this on a very small budget, but I am determined and just know everyone will enjoy my gin as much as I do!

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/hollys-gin

Fancy a Catch Up? The Week That Was in Fashion

Guys, did you miss me? And likewise what did I miss?

You may have caught my Instagram stories, yes I've had an incredible time in Ibiza as part of Hard Rock Hotel, more to come on that next week. PS - Did you know they're coming to Marble Arch?

Of course I was skimming the fashion news reels where and when I got signal, seeing who the movers and shakers were. I wrote down 5 things in my pocket diary, between scribbles, doodles, illustrations and plans of world domination.

Here's the top 5 rundown of fashion news that caught my eye:


MICHAEL KORS TAKES OVER VERSACE

In a deal worth over $2 billion, Michael Kors has swallowed up Versace, opening up a parent company of Capri Holdings. No talks or plans of Donatella stepping down as creative director, no announcements of anyone being shuffled or thrown overboard.

My Thoughts 

Sure why not. I like Versace but I'm not a diehard fan. A little bit above my price point, which is the concern for many of the fans that this move will dilute the brand. That you'll start seeing Versace in the lower end of the luxury market where Michael Kors is firmly stationed.

Well who cares about that stuff really. So long as the quality doesn't diminish like Vivienne Westwood's garments did when she went global and outsourced her manufacturing abroad to keep up with demand.

If you like a product you like a product. If you like a product because the price tag eliminates its chance of consumption from average joe, then fair play to you. I personally wouldn't worry. When Michael Kors bought Jimmy Choo for a billion last year, the brands position in the market didn't alter one jot.

It does go to show that everyone and everything has a price. Apart from Russell Crowe in that movie about gangsters. He couldn't be bought, the one good cop in all of New York.

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CHESTER BARRIE REFURB

Oh the good old boys at Chester Barrie, how I wish I could have made it. I heard the canapés were amazing. Yes every influencer and his dog put in a show at the Chester Barrie launch of their AW18, conveniently woven into the relaunch of their refurbished 19 Savile Row store.

Away with you old Dickensian wood panelling said Simon Kirby, Creative Director of Chester Barrie. (Not a direct quote). In its place some free standing glass shelves, there's fresh wooden floors and there’s even an inactive scan that the clever soles over at Menswear Style did. A game changer for retail perhaps?

My Thoughts

It looks like a more welcoming space. The new AW18 collection boasts a similar palette of deep rich colours that are synonymous with Chester Barrie. The shoulders look a little softer and although it’s not my scene, I do appreciate some brash highland tartan trousers.


NEW JAMIE OLIVER TRAINERS

Apparently the naked chef designed these especially as an anniversary gift for his wife of 18 years. Well done Jamie, way to make every man in the country feel like a schmuck for never getting his wife anything more than a bunch of flowers and subway lunch for their anniversary.

The trainers look a decent collection, colours are non-offensive making them unisex. Made locally to Jamie by a brand called Seven Feet Apart.

My Thoughts

Not a bad idea. If you want to figure out a way to never forget your wedding anniversary, launch a new product every year on that exact day. At least have it veiled as an anniversary gift, you're not telling me this isn't a vanity project and he won't be wearing these for himself as well right? We all remember that episode of the Simpsons when Homer gifts Marg a bowling ball that has Homer written down the side of it.

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NEW HUBLOT STORE ON BOND STREET

Hublot has opened its flagship boutique on London’s Bond Street with CEO Ricardo Guadalupe in attendance with a plethora of Chelsea footballers and well-heeled souls. 

An interesting article covered by the good guys at Watchpro have mooted that the exorbitant costs of running a branded boutique on Old Bond Street will be swallowed by Hublot's UK marketing budget. 

My Thoughts

In a way this is an indictment of where we are with life on the high street currently. You can open a store on the high street but don't expect it to turn profit. Start-ups can't afford to chance there arm on bricks and mortar but watch and luxury goods companies can. 

They also have some fantastic security within the store. Apparently if you attempt to man handle any of the timepieces the watch disappears behind a revolving plinth. Bit like Roger Moore in Soul of Fillet when he has a 'funny turn in a booth'. 

It’s a TRAPP! Brandnew IO Walks Away From Owing Influencers and Staff Thousands

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Today I'm going to introduce you to a man that has robbed me and many other influencers of a tidy sum of money. Luckily I've got enough going on where I can notch losing a grand to experience, the lights will remain on in the Carl Thompson house. Charlie will still get his treats, Christmas won't be cancelled and I am still able to afford Waitrose's double velvet toilet paper. (I know, the ultimate barometer for one’s wealth). 

A couple of months ago I was approached by an influencer marketing company called Brandnew IO. Their CEO Francis Trapp (I know right? Don't even..) founded the company in 2013 and claim to be the leading Content Creator Platform for brands and agencies.

 

 

According to their LinkedIn profile: Our (Brandnew IO) platform enables marketers to efficiently discover Creators, manage relationships, collaborate on high engaging content and measure campaign results.

After the payment failed to come through for a campaign I did on their behalf, I contacted the brand who assured me they had paid their end. I was CC'd into a few emails and eventually the trail ran cold as they say in the Secret Service. 

 

So who else has been duped? 

I checked out Brandnew IO's social pages and found over influencers and content creators had also been chagrined, for want of a better word. Wait I have a better word; ripped-off! (Ok I had to hyphenate). 

A fellow influencer, Audrey Leighton Rogers, really blew the lid open on these guys in her Instagram stories and after asking around the influencer community she was not the only one.

"Often we use agents/platforms who act as a middleman to connect brands with influencers. So our contract is with these people.

But often these businesses are new and seem to come and go take Brandnew IO for example.

They have been getting influencers work and the brands have paid them yet they have kept the money and not paid their influencers for the content they have created and the money they are rightfully owed.

Often we are waiting on 90 days for payment, so what happens to that money during that time? It is used to run the business. Staff, office etc. And these apps/platforms cost huge amounts in development so simply is (if) the brands dry up and stop using the platform the cash flow soon fails.

I’m not saying this has happened at Brandnew IO but they filed for insolvency on the 1st August 2018 leaving 100s of influencers unpaid for content they have created."

 

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So why has Brandnew IO disappeared? 

This is the strangest thing. I understand that setting up a company like this requires a large investment of capital upfront. Developing the software to integrate influencers with brands costs money. IT developers don't come cheap so you might see a lot of these influencer agencies come and go in the night. 

However, Brandnew IO was founded in 2013 according to their LinkedIn page. Surely they've managed to recoup the initial startup costs and reached parity by now? 

I took a closer look at their funding and whilst these reports are speculative, it appears that the company came to prominence from small capital investors. I’m guessing family backed with initial funding then persuaded some private investment from Zurich.

Although the last round of funding was over 4 years ago, the company have been riding that wave and developing their platform but without making a sufficient return, failed to generate enough profit to keep the lights on. Perhaps they managed to pay their investors back, but failed to leave enough in the kitty for their staff and consequently, us. 

So where's the money gone? The money gets sloshed around, invoices get delayed, chased, delayed, emails miraculously get sent to junk mail or never received.

I can only imagine Trapp has reinvested the money into the ailing business and thrown good money after bad. Or has simply bought himself a nice couple of bespoke suits, a few Rolex watches. God I'm sounding like Sam Rothstein questioning Ginger in Casino.

"I bet he had a good time on my money. How did he get fitted for suits that fast? He's not going to wear 1,000 dollar suits. But let’s say he did which he won't, how are you going to get fitted for 25 suits in 3 days? How can you get fitted that fast? I can't get fitted that fast and I pay twice as much." 

I've tried reach out to Francis Trapp for a quote as the company has neglected to update any of its social media platforms which have served more of a petition page for out of pocket influencers demanding payment. 

Trapp has refused to reply. Consistent to everyone else’s experiences. Including content creator Gemma Talbot who has this to say:

“To say I’m angry is an understatement. Weeks of chasing payments that are months late with no response. The most frustrating part is that I’d been paid for one collaboration I completed through the Brandnew IO platform but not the other two.

Why not? I’ve completed the work and whilst I appreciate the brand in question may not be to blame they’ve still gained the exposure yet I'm at a loss of both money and time taken to create the content in the first place. 

It’s hard to just accept you’ll never see money for content you’ve created because the company have filed for insolvency.

It just doesn’t seem fair or right. Money that I’d counted on to pay rent and bills. After all, living in London is pricey. Not only do I feel sorry for the other influencers affected (some are owed several thousands of pounds) but also for the employees of Brandnew IO some who have contacted me directly on Instagram via DM to tell me the company owe them up to £8000 in wages!

Quite frankly it’s disgusting. Whilst it appears all my emails have gone unanswered, when I publicly called Brandnew IO out on my Instagram stories by tagging the brand directly someone managing their social media had seen it immediately.

I received no email update, no apology and had been completely left in the dark. I’m trying to perhaps understand from their point of view but quite frankly there is no feasible explanation. It’s simply disgusting and wholly unprofessional on their part.”

 

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Wake up Call

It's a wakeup call for brands also, finding the right influencer for your product is hardly a feat of acrobatics. The blame cannot be placed on the brands for a 3rd party company they have also trusted going bankrupt. However in many cases the brands have appointed influencers for their campaigns themselves and redirected said influencers to signup to Brandnew IO as a platform for the campaign. Now in this case does the brand have to take some responsibility? Legally, no. If they want to do the right thing, then yes. 

In my particular case, I was approached by a major Media Agency to do some work for a brand. After lots of email back and forth we agreed on deliverables and payment. At this point, I was told to signup to the Brandnew IO platform to continue the campaign. Fast forward months, I completed the campaign, submitted the content and requested payment from the platform. The Media Agency and the brand were happy with the content, although a month ago I got an email from the Media Agency it said:

"I just wanted to reach out regarding the delay campaign payment.

Huge apologies for the major delay in payment for this campaign. I completely understand that this is very frustrating and we have been investigating this as much as we can.

Going forward, I have cc’d my Brandnew support contact, who will be able to keep you updated from their side and get in touch with you directly. Just to clarify, Brandnew is a separate company from us and act as an influencer identification platform for us that processes campaign payments to bloggers. Therefore, your Brandnew contact will be handling this financial delay with you going forward. Please do feel free to keep me CC’d within emails."

That's great but it also felt like one of those 'we know what's going on here with Brandnew IO and trying to cover ourselves' kind of emails. Since that email I have sent at least another 6 emails asking for payment updates which were ignored. I then contacted the Media Agency and again ignored. I guess I have to chalk this one down to experience and think about how to alleviate this from happening in the future. It maybe in the form of tighter contracts, shorter payment terms, better due diligence and risk assessments.

If they need to cast a wider net with a certain campaign a lot of influencers (like myself, like Dapper Chapper, like Human Research etc) will spearhead a campaign on their behalf and advise them on which of their contemporaries will be a good fit for their brand. 

As for Brandnew IO and Francis Trapp, I welcome them to make a statement in reply to this blog.

I'm happy to pick up the phone and demystify why they've neglected to pay their staff and hundreds of other influencers. I don't sling mud that often, but Francis, you've forced my throwing arm. 

 

 

Hawkins & Shepherd Turns 5 Years Old | The Mistakes I Made

The critical mass will tell you it takes 3 years before you generate any profit from your online store. With Hawkins & Shepherd we sold on our first day of trading and I'm pleased to say have enjoyed a healthy trajectory. However, it could take another 10-20 years before it reaches a level that I would be happy with.

Today Hawkins & Shepherd celebrates its 5th year in business and in this article I will tell you all about the mistakes I've made and what you need to be mindful of should you be looking to start an e-commerce store. 

 

SINGLE POINT FAILURE

AW17-SS18 has been the most challenging year for me. I've suffered great losses through supply issues.

With Hawkins & Shepherd the shirts are all handmade so it is extremely hard to find a factory that has skilled workers who will deal with the relatively small orders that I'm placing.

We have always used the same supplier for 5 years and there lies a problem. Looking back to my IT Networking days, that would be classed as a 'single point of failure' which needs to be avoided at all costs.

 

HOT-STANDBY

The same applies with fashion/clothing, by having one factory making your goods is bad business. You always need a 2nd option which will take over if one factory experiences issues. In the world of IT we call this a hot-standby. (I know it sounds like a rolodex of page 3 girls' phone numbers that Charlie Sheen would have on his night stand). 

Alternatively, you could place your orders between two factories known as Load Balance. 

 

£10,000 DOWN THE TUBE? 

For around 9 months I had ZERO shirts being made and I thought my investment of around £10,000 in cotton fabric was going to be lost.

I run out of my most popular shirts around the AW17 season which is my biggest profit turner and also SS18 which is wedding season.

It hurt, it hurt bad. Not just on the business but on my confidence in people and my ability to continue to run Hawkins & Shepherd.

Over the last month, I've got all of the shirts made and I've also found a second supplier who are currently making samples for me and are in the state of approval to move forward with either taking over production or sharing it with my current supplier.

 

TURNED THE CORNER

Looking back this lesson has been hard but it has taught me valuable lessons and in the long run made the business more robust. At the same time, we've been working on a complete website redesign to showcase our products and services better.

We've been developing new shirts and searching the world for the best fabric to use in a new premium shirt range...we'll be using Alumo fabrics, renowned throughout Savile Row and the world for being the best (*expensive though!).

We've gone live with our first outdoor advertising campaign in the form of two black taxis fully wrapped and branded with Hawkins & Shepherd promoting our Shirt Subscription Service 'The Collar Club'.

For anyone thinking of getting into clothing and an e-commerce business there are so many challenges and things to overcome but taking advice from someone that has been there done is is crucial.

 

KNOW YOUR MARGINS

In fact, the other week I was discussing this with a friend who wishes to start something up. In short, he was going to make a product for say £25 and sell for £50. This just doesn't work; your margins are way too low.

For someone starting a business who has no experience may think that is good, you are making 100% on everything. Incorrect!

If you cost in every single penny, your profit will actually be a lot lower. For example what about the costs for, start-up, designs, pattern-cutting, warehousing, packaging and depreciation of stock value over time (the latter being the most important). Don't even get me started on wholesale! 

 

BUSINESS 101

I'm starting a new Business series on YouTube which will take you on my journey of creating Hawkins & Shepherd, how I got into blogging and crammed with my tips to be successful. So subscribe below to make sure you don't miss it.

 

House of Fraser | The Story More Watchable Than Any Reality TV Show

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Philip Day, the owner of Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, has been named as one of the potential investors in talks about a rescue deal with House of Fraser according to an article by Drapers. The latest from Sky News reported that Day, whose retail empire includes Peacocks and Jane Norman, is one of a few potential investors referred to by HoF in a statement on Wednesday disclosing it was in talks with unnamed backers.

It was a bitter blow for HoF when Chinese backers, C Banner's withdrew from their investment. The deal was said to be in the execution phase when C Banner pulled the rug out, partly due to their own shares plummeting in recent months. 

A spokeswoman for HoF said: “In light of C Banner’s announcement (and as per House of Fraser’s previous statement to the Luxembourg Exchange) House of Fraser is in discussions with alternative investors and is exploring options to obtain the required investment on the same timetable.

HoF were already in talks to shut down 31 of their 59 stores and this withdrawal looked to be the final straw. However, HoF aren't done yet. 

 

What are House of Fraser's hopes of survival? 

Day is thought to be among other potential investors including turnaround specialist Alteri Investors and Mike Ashley of Sports Direct. 

Ashley already has a slice of the HoF pie and could possibly look to amalgamate HoF with his other sinking ship Debenhams. He will inevitably take a hit with the dilution of two stores, but it could be the last hope for the two of them to salvage anything. 

According to an article in The Guardian, the closures will result in about 6,000 job losses from the 17,000-strong workforce and the company has warned the only alternative is to go into administration.

“Whilst closing stores is a very difficult decision, especially given the length of relationship House of Fraser has with all its locations, there should be no doubt that it is absolutely necessary if we are to continue to trade and be competitive,” said chairman Frank Slevin. 

I've personally been a massive fan of House of Fraser and their own brands including Howick and Linea for such a long time and would be devastated if this giant of the UK high street goes. If you've been out of touch on their men's clothing, click on the below image for a couple of outfits I've styled with items exclusively from House of Fraser.

Who is Making the Most Money on Love Island?

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Love it or hate it, you can't escape it. Love Island has built on its phenomenal success of last season and it's not just a ratings success, but a huge commercial success for the broadcasters ITV who managed to rake in over 2.3million viewers on ITV2 on Friday, more than the BBC and the ITV. 

 

Who is making money out of Love Island? 

The winner will get £50k, but it’s said they'll get hundreds of thousands from endorsements, live appearances etc. The show is sponsored by an entire myriad of commercial collaborations.

Love Island viewers can vote via the show's official app, which has previously been used to allow viewers to pick who leaves, who returns and who goes on dates with who.

The app also features a style page with links to buy clothes seen on the islanders and fans can listen to the official Love Island: The Morning After podcast there too.

 

Brand integration

The commercial success of Love Island is not just down to the alchemy of the contestants, their chiseled pecs or porcelain skins, but the integration of the brands used within the show.

One example being the clothes on the show being supplied by the shows partner Missguided. The daters were given daily outfits to last them through their time in the villa as a form of product placement, handing over bits from Missguided casual, summer, festival, and out-out product lines.

It targets that 16-34-year-old audience which until now has been a difficult lock to pick due to the younger generation watching the majority of their TV through other online platforms rather than the live experience. 

 

How much are these brands paying to be on Love Island? 

According to Steven Ballinger, MD for Investment at Ad agency Carat, the biggest sponsor is most likely Superdrug that will be paying in the regions of £4 million to be involved with the shows integration. 

Other brands integrated such as Kellogg’s and Thorpe Park that has a theme park ride dedicated to the show, will likely to be paying in the regions of £1 million for show integration. 

For a spot during the commercial breaks the estimated fees are likely to be between 30-50 thousand pounds. Which is a handsome sum, but compared to the £150k price tags that is demanded for a spot in the X-Factor, still relatively small. 

 

So is brand integration the future for broadcast networks? 

It seems likely. This show has changed the goalposts for product placements. ITV have also adopted the vertical integration by providing its own merchandise from the show. Nothing is more popular than the Love Island personalised water bottles that you might have already started seeing in the drinks holsters of the treadmills in your gym. 

The direct to consumer model eliminates many middle men, circumvents a lot of unnecessary supply chains and keeps the products accessibly priced for the younger markets. 

 

 

Can Men’s Clothes Get Any Cheaper?

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Have you noticed that your email junk folder is brimming lately with 'Summer Haul' and 'Price Slashes’? A lot of men’s e-commerce stores are having some real fire sales right now and I echo the sentiment of Sasha Wilkins who spoke about men’s fashion reaching 'peak stuff' on the Wake up to Money podcast. 

In the interview Sasha (the former editor for the Wall Street Journal) mentions that we simply can't cram anything more in our wardrobes. Of course I'm paraphrasing, but it hasn't gone unnoticed that e-commerce stores are reacting to what's happening on the high street. 

 

So is men's fast fashion here to stay? 

God I hope not. It's at times like these I remember the quote from Stacey Wood from King and Tuckfield when she spoke about her new collaboration with Richard Biedul

"Nowadays we buy a top for £15 and forget about it. People from our parents and our grandfather’s generations would wear their clothes and cherish them, even hand them down. We need to get that back." 

The bottom line is that men are becoming more fashion conscious with the rise of social media and digital influence. However, the majority have been paying rock bottom prices for clothes for so long that it's very difficult to persuade them otherwise. 

The trouble is the more affordable clothes from the likes of H&M and Zara are good value for money and thanks to Zara, seasonal drops are becoming a thing of the past. E-Commerce stores and retailers have to introduce new collections a lot quicker. 

That all said, whilst disposable fashion is stagnating price rises, these clothes will not last. They simply won't. 

 

Wait, have we completely done away with seasonal collections? 

My thoughts are, yes. At least we don't need 4 seasons. The climates in this country is like the showers Eddie Izzard describes in stand up, 'fantastically hot, or effing freezing'.

Travel has become wildly accessible so it doesn't make much sense to stick to this draconian format of four collections a year. 

 

Final thoughts

We will see more closures on the high streets. It will get worse before it can better.

You'll see more e-commerce stores introduce charges for click and collect because free deliveries won't be sustainable with the margins getting infinitely more squashed. 

In fact I'm already feeling the squeeze on my own e-commerce store Hawkins & Shepherd and can no longer offer free deliveries even to UK customers. Couriers are raising prices higher than inflation and quicker than ever before, meaning that it's really hard on our margins and even harder to pass on these price hikes to customers. At Hawkins & shepherd, we're now subsidising delivery costs for our customers, meaning that as a brand we swallow part of the costs and the customer continues to see a consistent delivery price over the years.

You'll see more luxury brands offering finance deals or pay-later options such as Klarna to make luxury goods more affordable. But what is Klarna

 

Are Facebook or Instagram Reading my WhatsApp Messages?

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Have you ever googled a product or a brand, then seconds later found that same product or brand advertising on your Facebook feed? Ever thought it a wild coincidence that you've just googled 'How to wear Chelsea Boots' then to find endless pictures of Chelsea boots on your Instagram feed?

The critical mass finds this somewhat invasive, creepy but are still willing to waiver the targeted adverts as the price you pay for free social media. But I have to tell you about an experience that happened to me the other day.

I was discussing with a friend the benefits of sugar free Ice Cream over WhatsApp. My friend had never heard of the brand, never googled it, it was not on my friend’s radar whatsoever. Then as if by magic, said Ice Cream was all over her social media banners.

A coincidence? Pull the other one Zuckerburg, it's got bells on it. Facebook own both Instagram and WhatsApp, so it's not surprising that adverts are interlinked and cross pollinate through different platforms, but aren't WhatsApp conversations encrypted?

I had no idea that Facebook are listening in. This was not only creepy as heck, but the first real wave of targeted advertisement that made me sit up in my chair and look around.

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So are Facebook listening in and if so how are they doing it? 

I pulled this from an article from Lifehackers written by Nick Douglas, a very interesting read.

"Facebook’s mobile app theoretically could listen in on you, at least while you have it open. It even has a public feature that will try to recognize any audio in the background, like music or TV—but only while you’re entering a status update, and only if you’ve opted in. Facebook says this feature is never used for advertising."

I should state as thorough and insightful as this article is, it is dated a year ago and the author is convinced that Facebook is not listening in due to its credibility and Douglas is quoted as saying in the article:

"Facebook is cagey, but they don’t tend to openly lie about huge data-collection schemes."

But the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal which rocked the Facebook community has changed people’s perception of that. 

To counter this argument, it could also be said that there have been a million Facebook advertisements that I don't identify with? I'm admittedly very susceptible to confirmation bias. That's when your brain notices positive examples of what you were conditioned to believe, but doesn’t notice negative examples.

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But what about WhatsApp? What about the Ice Cream convo? 

Again there is another decent blog by Natasha Lomas for TechCrunch.com that offers the following advice. 

“When your messages are end-to-end encrypted, only the people you are messaging with can read them — not WhatsApp, Facebook, or anyone else.”

How interesting! This encrypted messaging service only works by the way if both parties agree. So make sure your text buddy is onboard. 

 

So what does Facebook want from my WhatsApp number? 

Facebook has your number, in a lot of ways! They use your mobile number for Custom Audiences ad offering. So any WhatsApp users that have given a business the same mobile phone number they use for the app can be served targeted ads by that same business via Facebook. And let’s face it, we all just use the same number for everything right? 

 

Final Verdict. 

The tools are there. Sure you have encryption on the messages, but your iOS has no added security for archive chat. The database that stores your chats on your iPhone does not benefit from an extra layer of encryption. 

That said I don't want to start sounding like a conspiracy theorist and we should state that there has been no evidence of proven case studies of Facebook reading or using data from encrypted WhatsApp messages.

Although how can Instagram serve both myself and said 'friend' with the same Ice Cream Sponsored Post on our feeds the day after discussing it on Whatsapp? I'm sceptical. 

In April 2018 Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress and directly implied that WhatsApp chats are inaccessible to Facebook because of end-to-end encryption.

 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND EXPERIENCES, COMMENT BELOW.

 

Your Ultimate IGTV Guide | How to Upload Videos to IGTV on Instagram

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It's been getting a bit crazy on Instagram of late. The IGTV platform feels like it's been talked to death already and it's barely a week old. Now the proverbial dust has settled what is it all about and is it truly the game-changer everyone is making it out to be? How can you monitise it and how do you edit you videos for the IGTV vertical format?

 

I'm still unsure, what is IGTV? 

IGTV is a standalone app and one that can have integrated into your Instagram account. You can upload videos up to an hour long if you have a verified account. Although I believe there are some hacks or ways to get around this limitation for non-verified accounts.

For those minnows like you and I we will be restricted to 10 minutes. Which is plenty of time for a vertical video. (We'll talk about the vertical video problem/solution later). 

It will certainly enhance the sales of Gimbals as the jittery homemade videos will soon get tiresome, much like all the found footage movies did after The Blair Witch Project.

It will certainly separate the men from the marines when it comes to video content because you'll need to be a bit more clued in with editing, creating ideas that doesn't just involve 15 seconds of you filming yourself blowing out a birthday cake. 

Ten minutes might be a very long time for people with so few ideas. 

 

Will using IGTV benefit my business? 

You bet your ass it will. Imagine having an hour long video platform where you can demonstrate your products to your audience, of course there is also LIVE for that but let's be honest, what brands really use that? It also helps brands or Influencers who do not currently have a presence on YouTube target their audience on Instagram with more engaging video content. 

There are insights available for your IGTV video. So far IGTV insights include: Views, Likes, Comments, and Average percentage watched.

There's even a handy chart to show you the points at which video viewership increases and drops.

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How do I edit IGTV videos for a ten-minute format? 

Well this is where you need to get that big brain a'cookin’. Firstly, lets talk about the editing. As IGTV presents videos ONLY in vertical format then any new videos you shoot for IGTV should be filmed in portrait but make sure there is enough resolution left after the cropping. 

It would be great for a horizontal format to be introduced but for now make sure every time you film something with your cameras you need to keep the object in the middle of the frame. As we're the guinea pig generation for this new format then I wouldn't start hiring out film crews or studios just yet. 

I'm going to film everything on my Sony A7Sii, then import the videos to my iMAC and edit them in iMovie or FinalCut. For this demo I'll use iMovie, so this is how to create a video for IGTV from scratch:

1. Film your subject in portrait NOT landscape. Copy from your SD card to your iMac. Open iMovie, create a new project "IGTV Test" and import the video into the project. Even if you've filmed in portrait, iMovie will rotate the content to display in landscape...don't panic.

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2. On the top right-hand side in iMovie, click the "Cropping" icon, then "Rotate the clip clockwise" until your movie displays in portrait as below.

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3. Edit your video as you would normally and save to file. If you are using Airdrop to transfer the video from your iMAC to your iPhone then save in 1080p although I do believe that IGTV supports 4K resolution.

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4. Then simply open IGTV and upload your movie. Remember that on IGTV you can add URLs in the description and they become clickable links --> use this format https://www.hawkinsandshepherd.com/

I haven't had the chance to experiment with including music on the videos. Currently IG stories can be uploaded with music, (royalty and non-royalty) but posts on the home feed that contain music that require royalty fees, get taken down almost instantly. 

According to Digitial Music News it looks like Instagram is also working on layering music into Stories. This is still at the rumour stage, though monetization would likely include both background music and intentionally added clips.

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I'm a blogger/instagrammer, what are the best videos to upload to IGTV? 

I already uploaded one of me working out in KOBOX. I can imagine fitness vids and instructors making huge use out of this. 

 

FITNESS TUTORIALS

What will this do for all those fitness apps out there like Tabatas that you need to subscribe and pay for to see this kind of content? They'll need to rethink their model that's for sure. 

 

UNBOXING

We mentioned product demos but I think Unboxing videos will be great for this. Unboxing vids on the stories is tricky, and boring because it takes 15 seconds just to get the damn sellotape off. 

 

EXCLUSIVES

How about doing content that no one can get on any of your other platforms? Imagine a news release or a giveaway code for a product? 

 

Recently I thought David Haye missed a massive trick. He announced his retirement on his website with a very thorough and well thought out blog post. 

Then he just reeled it all off on an Instagram vid for those that he said 'can't be arsed to read'. I mean there's repurposing content and there's just killing all the emancipation. 

 

Why should I move over to IGTV? 

When a new platform is started, there is an opportunity for content creators to get noticed. New platforms lack content so there is a greater chance of your content getting noticed.

When it comes to bright and shiny new things people are in “exploring mode” looking for people and content to enjoy and follow. Which makes it much more likely for your content to become popular.

Also we're migrating more and more to our phones. The IG blog highlights that “by 2021, mobile video will account for 78% of total mobile data traffic" and that they’ve “learned that younger audiences are spending more time with amateur content creators and less time with professionals”.

 

Investing in Entrepreneurs & Start-ups | Making Investments with Seedrs

Anyone that has started their own business from scratch can appreciate how costly and time consuming it can be. I've been listening to a lot of business podcasts of late and there is definitely a ground swell of serial investors, investing in entrepreneurs and start-ups. Each hoping they have the next Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg on their hands. 

Firstly, I've always said if you want to tag yourself as an entrepreneur the first step is being able to spell the word 'entrepreneur’ without predictive text. So go away and try that now and then come back and I'll tell you all about Seedrs. 

Welcome back, the years have been kind. 

For you Londoners you may already have seen some of the adverts for Seedrs on the Tube. Seedrs enable all types of investors to invest in businesses they believe in and share in their success.

They enable all types of growth-focused businesses to raise capital and a community in the process.

They've been a huge catalyst in a number of success stories like the healthy Ice Cream alternative Oppo for example. Move aside Viennetta, there's a new Sunday Netflix binge-watching companion kid in town. 

Oppo's success story is defined by three things; 1. A genius concept of incepting the wellness movement by taking a guilty pleasure product and making it healthy. 2. The dedication by the two founders Harry and Charlie who made the leap of faith and invested years of their lives into bringing the concept to market. 3. Seedrs. Once the brand was showing signs of growth they turned to Seedrs and enabled Oppo fans to get a stake in the business thus becoming the world’s fastest food and drink company to reach target through crowdfunding.

The leap of faith of leaving your job to commit to an idea is something I can personally relate to with my journey at Hawkins & Shepherd. There are plenty of head in hands moments that you need to battle through, but as Rocky would say, "you've got to learn how to take the hits, that's how winning is done". 

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So why should I look at investing in someone else's project? 

Firstly, you're not doing all the heavy lifting. Other people are. Backing the right project is a step towards having a more affluent lifestyle, financial security and early retirement on that beach in the Bahamas. 

If you buy businesses that have a good trajectory growth, it's much easier to grow them and make more money. Seedrs is ideal for people that have become bored or dispassionate in their own company and are looking to get their teeth into something new. 

'Don't waste your time being a cool entrepreneur and try to create new ideas unless you're trying to do world changing stuff, like make people live on Mars. Instead, go buy one and just grow it.' - Neil Patel, Single Grain 

That's it for me today, let me know in the comment bar below if you've invested in Start Ups, I'm always keen to hear and am always on the lookout to invest in entrepreneurs myself. 

 

*Carl Thompson's views are all his own and do not represent the views of Seedrs Limited. If you have any questions with respect to legal, financial or tax matters relating to investing in early-stage startups, you should consult a professional adviser.