Line Paras understands the financial and time pressures faced by her clients. Beginning her business, Counting Clouds, first as a side-hustle in 2011 and then full-time in 2014, she’s aware that when it comes to business, it’s not always possible to launch into it full-time. ‘I studied bookkeeping in 2011 while I was on maternity leave, and started working with a couple of clients soon after completing my studies… For a few years, I worked a couple of part-time jobs as a bookkeeper, whilst servicing a small number of clients. In 2014 I took the leap to full-time self-employed.’
Today, Line oversees a team of seven full/part-time and flexible employees who look after 90 sole traders and small businesses – ‘mostly creatives and mostly in Melbourne’. Line counts one of her earlier tactics as setting her business up for success. ‘I specifically targeted my niche market from day one. I had been involved in jewellery, craft, design and music in Melbourne for several years and felt comfortable in those worlds.’
This not only enabled Line to carve out a niche but to build a creative community around her business. ‘A lot of the clients often collaborate, commiserate and connect together.’ says Line. ‘Money matters are very personal to most, and I’ve been incredibly lucky to have so many people recommending my services to their peers.’ In addition, Line has relationships with accounting firms who often send her referrals.
Given Line’s knowledge of small businesses, what are the common mistakes people make when it comes to finance? ‘I think a big mistake is thinking admin is a minor detail for a tiny new business, or even an unnecessary expense when you’re starting out! Signing up for an accounting software subscription is not the same as hiring a bookkeeper and tax and GST law is not straightforward, so unless you’ve studied it, I don’t recommend you do it. At least talk to a professional to give some guidance from the start. It does not have to be a long-term commitment and it does not have to cost you a lot in accounting fees. If you go ahead on your own and then make a mess of it, then it will be even more expensive.’ Another mistake small business owners tend to make, says Line, is ‘overspending and not keeping money aside for non-negotiables like insurance, superannuation, tax and GST’.
For those just starting out, what other advice would Line give when it comes to money management? ‘When people are just starting out they can jump the gun and be reactive rather than proactive, and not always consider the big picture first when making financial decisions,’ says Line. ‘Business management, bookkeeping and accounting should never be an afterthought. Doing your own books will not make you more money! Doing what you do best – running your business, moving and shaking, making your art, selling your wares is what will help you make a profit and probably/hopefully it is also what makes YOU happy.’ At its most basic, Line’s advice to small business is: ‘Aim to save 15% of your earnings each week for GST and tax. Keep your receipts and get a bookkeeper’.