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Questions for your designer

So you have a designer and you want to get started on your artwork?

Before jumping into the design process and giving your designer free reign over your project you should put together a list of questions to ensure that your printed project is high quality and effective.

This way, you won’t be looking at your final product and then think of something that should be included or changed. It saves you time and frustration.

So what questions should you ask your designer? Here is a list to get you started:

Who is your target audience?

Who are you trying to sell to? Your design should be catered to those people. For example, creative types prefer fun, alive designs that make them think creatively, whereas business people would probably rather see a more formal design when being sold to. This communicates a more serious tone.

What elements do you need in the design?

The elements of your design are important to communicate to your designer, because this will allow you to know exactly what to expect once the artwork is complete. Some elements are more important than others and it would be a shame to notice that one or two elements are missing after the art is printed. Does your artwork include the following?

  • Logo
  • Sponsors
  • Slogans
  • Images
  • Text
  • Headers

What will the focal point of the design be?

The focal point is where the viewer’s eye goes to at first glance. Ask yourself what the most important part of your design is. What are you trying to get your potential viewers to do? Most of the time this is an intriguing call-to-action, promotion or catchy phrase that communicates a fun event, special or whatever you are selling.

What are you trying to say?

Think about the visual picture you would like to portray in your viewer’s minds. Are you promoting an event, product, group, book or business? Will this be clearly communicated on your artwork?

Establish components in your artwork that will allow people to immediately realise what you are promoting.

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Getting your artwork designed

Are you ready to design your artwork?

One of the most important steps to take before printing your project is choosing a viable, professional option for designing your artwork.

There are two primary options that most people choose for designing their artwork:

  • Designing it yourself
  • Hiring a professional designer

Design the artwork yourself

This option is used for two reasons: Because of a limited budget or because you are a professional designer.

When it comes to budget you should try to make some room for your design. Eventually you will have to spend some money on your company and artwork is a great place to start. After all, how else will you market your brand?

However, if you do choose to create your own artwork and you are not a professional designer you can use a popular artwork design software called The Gimp (http://www.gimp.org).

This option is great for those creative types who might have some design experience, but are not professionals.

Enlist a professional designer

This option results in higher quality artwork, providing the best exposure possible. The ideal situation would be to find a friend or family member who is a professional designer and get a discount or free design services.

However, if you hire a professional, make sure you figure out how many drafts and revisions are included, along with the cost for any extra drafts of revisions.

A draft is an individual design of your project, whereas a revision is an individual change to the chosen design. There may be several revisions and drafts throughout your project, so it is imperative to find out if the artist charges for these.

It is also wise to see how long the designer takes to complete each draft or revision.

This extra time put forth before choosing a designer helps you save money and frustration. It also allows you to communicate what type of message and feel you would like your design to reveal.

For example, if you want a design for a business, then you can communicate to the designer that you need unique selling points included on the design in order to obtain clients.

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Find a garment printing house

Finding a garment printing house is crucial for your t-shirt business.

Garments are your primary product and completing extensive supplier research is beneficial so you can build a long lasting relationship with your supplier.

What should you look for when searching for your garment printing house?

Reliability

This is the number one priority when looking for a garment house to partner with your t-shirt company. Make sure you contact each garment house and ask them several questions. This will give you an idea of how much they are willing to talk with you and respond to your questions.

If the garment printing house is not reliable on the phone or through email to start out, they will never be reliable when you start working with them.

You also want to talk to other companies or people who have worked with the garment printing house. Ask these people how their experience was and how reliable the company actually is. Do they have a quick turnaround? Are they always available to contact?

No outsourcing

Why should you never partner with a garment printing house that outsources their work?

  • Speed
  • Quality control

When a company outsources their work, there is little you can do to assure your own customers they will receive their orders on time. Also, the ability to feel and view the quality of the products you will be selling is minimized when the printing company outsources.

Large/proven garment printing house

There are only a small amount of garment printing companies in the UK, and most of the small to midsize companies simply outsource to the larger ones. Therefore, make sure you go with one of the major garment producers. This will ensure:

  • Speed
  • Credibility
  • Experience
  • References
  • Quality

So get out there and start narrowing down your list of which garment printing company will take your business to the next level.

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Enterprise Centre, Freelance Groups and Hotdesking/Office Shares

Do you have any connections or resources for expanding your business?

If not, now is the time to start.

There are a wide array of business resources that allow you to build relationships and send your t-shirt business to the next level. Let’s explore a few of these options and figure out which option is best for your company.

Enterprise centre

An enterprise centre is usually a not-for-profit establishment that helps freelancers and new business owners get started on their enterprises. The UK has plenty of these organizations which you can find online or in the local telephone directory.

An enterprise centre helps in the following ways:

  • Providing free, basic advice on starting your business
  • Offering premium advice for a fee

Many think they don’t need any advice, however enterprise centres are crucial for meeting other business owners and contacts through networking events.

Freelance groups

Freelance groups are designed for business owners, primarily those who work alone. These groups are more difficult to find, but you can start by looking on meetup.com or at the local enterprise centre.

What are the benefits of joining a freelance group?

  1. Isolation – Freelancers that work alone may occasionally feel isolated and crave the camaraderie of other business owners.
  2. Co-working – Share clients and services by forming relationships with other business owners.
  3. Access to information/share knowledge – This is possibly the most important aspect of running a business. You must always stay informed on your industry and what is going on that might affect your company.

Hot desking/office shares

The final option for networking and building relationship is hot desking (or office shares). Hot desking is becoming very popular across England. This is where you rent a desk in a shared office.

This way you can work and collaborate with other business owners, while giving yourself a focused atmosphere to work.

 

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Getting business cards printed

Are you ready to make your business really standout?

It’s time to design the business cards for your t-shirt company.

What paper weight should you use?

The paper weight of your business card is how strong and thick your paper is going to be. The standard for business cards is 300gsm. However, some people feel that this weight is still too cheap feeling.

For a slightly more professional feel, go for a 400gsm paper weight. You can also increase professionalism by laminating or spot varnishing your cards.

What are your options for designing your business cards?

Choose from a template

Many printings companies (especially specialist online printers) offer a selection of business card templates you can choose from.

This option is wonderful for quickly building a template without having to hire a designer or design it yourself. Just type in your own text and pay the printer. The only downsides to this option is that your design will lack quality and uniqueness.

Design your own

This option is rarer than the predesigned template library option, as the technology is far more expensive to create and manage. However some companies provide an online business card designer, allowing for higher customization.

Of course you can also design the business cards yourself if you have prior design experience. We wouldn’t recommend that beginners take on the image of their business before gaining some experience.

Commission a designer

Hiring a designer is by far the most expensive option when designing your business cards, however there are some guarantees when working with a seasoned professional designer:

  • Personalised service – Your designer will most likely ask you exactly how you want your company to be represented and go through multiple redesigns if you are not satisfied.
  • Custom design – Your design will be one-of-a-kind. There will be a small chance that anyone in the entire world has the exact same design as you, making your brand that much stronger.
  • Higher quality – Your design will be high quality and allow for you to represent the brand in a completely unique way. If you have a creative idea for catching people’s eye, tell your designer and see if they can make it work
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Your T-Shirt Business Book Keeping Solution (Part 2 of 2)

Bookkeeping software is important for the success of your t-shirt business. If you missed the first part of this two-part series please read that first!

Now that we know what options you have for bookkeeping, let’s take a look at some things to think about when choosing a viable software option.

Costs

Doing your own bookkeeping shouldn’t be dictated by the financial savings. You should also consider the fact that you will have complete control over all your company’s profits and cash flow, making you more knowledgeable about your business. Not to mention, any problems or questions that arise can be solved by you!

VAT Returns

One reason so many people turn to accounting software is for managing VAT returns. This can become a complicated area of accounting and having the assistance of a capable accounting software makes it much easier.

Spreadsheets can also be setup to manage VAT, however once again this is more difficult and time-consuming than simply getting a software that is programed to do so.

Location

Where you keep you bookkeeping software is very important.

Keep in mind that you want it in a place where you have easy access to it, however your accountant will eventually need access to the software as well. A good rule-of-thumb is to keep the software on your work computer. This way your accountant can later come to your location or you can send a digital backup copy of your records to your accountant (all accounting software allow for data exports).

After your export, the accountant can then import your data into their own computer and make end-of-the-year adjustments. Remember that you should agree to this form of data transfer with the accountant prior to doing so. Also, you should keep your own personal backups of the data.

Shared Access

The ideal situation would be to share access of your bookkeeping software with your accountant. Remote desktop solutions are the best option for this. Remote desktop software allows you to give external parties access to your own computer. This way, no one has to leave their own computer, but your accountant can review your bookkeeping.

Sage and QuickBooks both offer online services and you can also host the software on a secure server.

With these options you should be well on your way to smart bookkeeping for your t-shirt business. If you have any questions, please let us know!

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Your T-Shirt Business Book Keeping Solution (Part 1)

Are you trying to save money for your t-shirt business?

Of course. We all are.

What’s one of the easiest ways to cut costs? Implement an effective bookkeeping solution.

Bookkeeping is the recording of all business transactions. The better job you do with this, the less money you have to pay an accountant later.

There are two primary areas of bookkeeping you must keep track of:

  • Outgoing expenses
  • Income

With both of these tracking areas, you must always keep your receipts and invoices.

Using a spreadsheet

You can track outgoing expenses and income with a simple spreadsheet such as one you would find in Excel. Most small businesses do this, however keep in mind there are some shortcomings.

Using an accounting software

First of all, writing out manual invoices can become tedious and time consuming. A more practical approach might be with an accounting software like Sage or QuickBooks. With these options you can complete the following functions:

  • Stock control – for companies with lots of stock to manage
  • Customer and supplier balances – if you have accounts with your suppliers or customers
  • Invoice generation and management – generates invoices and stores them
  • Keep track of your bank and credit card balances
  • Bank reconciliation
  • Profit and loss reports

Tracking your bank and credit card balances are far more helpful than people think. The software links directly into your accounts, making the tracking seamless. You won’t have to ever type in a transaction again, as everything is inserted automatically.

After that you can always go in and reconcile the balances, or check to see if the actual bank balances match up with your bookkeeping. This way you can check to see if anything was logged incorrectly.

Clearly, accounting software provides many benefits, however you must factor in the time it takes to learn the software, along with the cost. For those self-learners there are many tutorials on Sage and QuickBooks that can be found on YouTube.

Stay tuned for the second portion of this series to learn about what you should think about when considering cost for your accounting software, which software can complete VAT returns and why the location of your accounting software is important.

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Website for T-Shirt Printing Business

Building a website for your new t-shirt business is easier than you think.

Let’s explore the multiple options you have when designing your t-shirt business website and what advantages and disadvantages you might encounter for each option.

Online or real world?

Your first task is to decide whether you would like to use your website to sell online or if you would like to use your website to promote your offline sales.

What are the benefits and downsides of selling online and offline?

Selling online opens up more potential buyers. The market is much larger and allows you to reach people located throughout the entire world. However, selling online also presents some difficulties. Online customers have more options to choose from online, making the market more saturated for you. These online customers are more price-driven and don’t care as much about face-to-face interaction.

Delivery charges can also be expensive. Make sure you look into delivery charges to realise how much it would cost you per transaction. In fact, Royal Mail postage fees are rising and private couriers are typically only cost effective for larger items.

You must also keep in mind that sellers are subject to Distance Selling Regulations. It is important to abide by these regulations, so you don’t encounter any problems in the future.

Selling in the real world 

If you setup your company to only sell t-shirts offline, you open yourself up to several benefits. However, you close yourself off to a larger market, and therefore less potential customers.

Selling offline allows you to maintain higher prices because you are able to focus more on service and the quality of your product. You are often able to make a sale simply by speaking to customers and many people still enjoy trying on their t-shirts and feeling the material before they purchase them.

Keep in mind that selling offline does not mean that you shouldn’t have a website. Your website is like an online business card. It adds credibility and allows people to find you online. You can also showcase your products and show credibility through testimonials or reviews. Regardless of where you sell your t-shirts, you should have a website.

Should you buy a website or subscribe?

One decision to make with your website is whether you want to purchase your website or pay a subscription.

A subscription-based site is the newest form of website building. It has cheaper upfront costs but can become more expensive over time. You typically pay a monthly fee between £3/month and £25/month.

When choosing a subscription-based website you don’t have access to the source code, so there is minimal customization. Businesses with special or unusual features may find these unappealing.

Hiring a developer

Most people hire a developer to build their website. Once you pay for the website, you own it. You then have access to the source code. Therefore, you are able to customise the site and add unique features that wouldn’t be available with a subscription-based website.

The website can then be designed to your own specifications. The only downsides to buying your website outright are that if the website has e-commerce functionality or other complex features, it might require extra ongoing costs for security.

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Sole Trader or Limited (Incorporated) Company (Part II)

The UK has four commonly used legal structures in which a company can operate. These are: sole trader, partnership, private limited company, or Limited Liability Partnership. This is a review of sole traders and partnerships.

The contents of this article is the author’s opinion and you should always obtain professional legal advice before trading. The author of this article assumes no responsibility for the advice given.

Becoming a Sole Trader
The easiest option for setting up your t-shirt company is the sole trader route. As a sole trader, minimal accounting requirements are needed and no formal company is actually created.

The trader simply notifies HMRC that they are trading within a small period of time since they started trading. The only accounting requirements are for a self-assessment tax return to HMRC for each tax year.

Operation Name
The trader is allowed to operate under their own name. They also have the option to operate under a company name of their choice. If a company name is chosen, it can be placed on marketing literature such as business cards, logo and a website. However the trader’s legal name should be included on formal documents along with the business name.

For example: John Smith t/a Acme Design (t/a is short for “trading as”)

The trader does not actually have to register the company name, however they should always check that they are not infringing on any intellectual property or registered trademarks.

Liability
Sole traders are personally liable for any company debts or legislative action against the company. It would be wise for sole traders to take copious notes and keep all documentation and receipts, in case any financial or legislative situations arise where these transactions and operations may come into question.

Creating a Partnership
Partnerships are similar to a sole trader except there is more than one business proprietor. Overall, the partners must make an agreement, detailing their rights and interests in the business. This should always be written down.

Partnership Agreements
In order to draw up a partnership agreement you can find standard templates from companies such as Simply Docs (http://simply-docs.co.uk).

After the partnership is established, each partner will submit their own separate tax return during every tax year. These documents may be reviewed for tax purposes in order to figure out the exact amount of taxes that are owed.


Setting Up a Private Limited Company
When establishing your printing company you also have the option to setup a more formal business entity called a private limited company. In order to do this, you must register with the Companies House, where companies are registered in the United Kingdom.

Advantages of a Private Limited Company
A private limited company offers a wide array of advantages when setting up your first t-shirt company. Let’s explore some of the advantages and why you might want to make the jump to this form of business entity.

  • Separate entity – TheCompany is a separate entity from the owners. It is considered an incorporated company because it is a completely separate legal entity. Therefore, the owners are somewhat protected if the company runs into debt or legal problems.
  • On behalf of the company – Anything an owner completes is done on behalf of the company. Therefore, any agreement that is signed or completed by the owner is actually between the company and the third party, as opposed to the agreement being between the owner and the third party.
  • Tax benefits – Once the company begins turning a profit, it is typically more cost effective to work as a private limited company, because of various tax benefits.
  • Professionalism – The Company looks more professional because they have Ltd in their name. For example, Acme Design Ltd. The company is easier to sell because it can be transferred to a new owner and all its contracts go with the company, as they are not connected to the owner.

The owners should always seek professional legal advice, as these matters can be more complicated in certain situations.

Warnings and Disadvantages
There are also a handful of things to be aware of when thinking about forming a Private Limited Company.

  • Company name use – The owner(s) of the company must ensure that the full company name is always included on all company literature, including the website, paper documents, email signatures and formal correspondence. Without this, customers may claim that formal, informal and verbal contracts are, in fact, with the owner and not the company. In order to protect yourself as an owner, make sure the company name is displayed everywhere. (Always include the company name, where in the UK it is registered, the registered address and the company number.)
  • Paperwork- There is typically more accounting and paperwork required when running a Private Limited Company. This will most likely cause your business costs to slightly rise.

A Private Limited Company has various advantages and disadvantages, but stay tuned for our next post on Limited Liability Partnerships and what type of entity we recommend for your new t-shirt business!

 

 

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Sole Trader or Limited (Incorporated) Company (part I)

The UK has four commonly used legal structures by which a company can operate. These are: sole trader, partnership, private limited company, or Limited Liability Partnership.

The article should include a statement that the author assumes no responsibility for the avice given and that the reader should obtain professional legal advice before trading.

The easiest is to operate as a sole trader. In this method no formal company is set up and accounting requirements are minimal. The trader simply notifies HMRC that they are trading. This can be done in a limited time after trading has started. Accounting requirements are minimal, the trader needs only maintain adequate accounting records to complete a self assessment tax return to HMRC for each tax year. The trader can operate under their own name or under a company name of their choice. They do not need to register the company name, but should check that they do not infringe on any Intellectual Property or registered trademarks. If they use a company name then the name can be used on their business cards, logo, website etc, but formal documents should include their legal name in the format John Smith t/a Acme Design, where John Smith is replaced by their name, Acme Design their trade name, and t/a is short for trading as. Sole traders should be aware that they are personally liable for company debts and any litigative action against their company.

A partnership is much like a sole trader but where there is more than one business proprietor.  For a partnership, the partners need to have an agreement set out between them detailing their rights and interests in the company. Standard templates can be purchased from companies such as Simply Docs (http://simply-docs.co.uk). Each partner submits a tax return for each tax year, on which they are assessed for tax.

A private limited is a more formal setup where the company is registered with Companies House, the UK body where companies are registered. It gives some major advantages. Firstly, a registered company is legally seen as a separate entity from its owners (known as an incorporated company because it is a legal entity within itself, and also known as limited liability). This means that the owners have some protection if the company runs into debt or legal problems (there are exclusions to this so the reader should get professional advice). Effectively, even though the owner owns the company, anything he does is done on behalf of the company. For example, any contract that the owner signs, he is signing on behalf of the company, and therefore the contract is between the company and the second party and not the owner. Hence, if the company is closed then the contract would normally become void (again the reader needs to get advice here, because some contracts, such as those for bank loans, explicitly state that the owner becomes liable if the company fails).

To be continued…

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