An Instructor’s Paperwork

I seem to have an overlap this week of various clients going on holiday, which means I'm a bit quieter with work. Not too quiet, but together with it being holiday time, I have a few early finishes. Which means I've had chance to attack that never ending pile of paperwork on my desk. As well as do those mundane tasks like booking the car in for a service, or going to the dentist. When I'm not being distracted by the cat wanting cuddles of course!

For a non office job, it's amazing how much paperwork I have to do, so I thought I'd give you a bit of an insight into the loopholes I have to jump through in order to teach my lovely clients.

My first job was chasing up my BHS membership and insurance. My membership expired in June, but no renewal came through so I rang them at the time and was told that there was a computer glitch but my insurance was still valid because my monthly payment was still going through. But last week I realised I still hadn't received my pack, which also means that my profile on the BHS website is out of date.

Whilst doing this, I was told that my DBS certificate was out of date … which I was fairly sure wasn't. So after a thorough hunt in the office I found that my certificate was renewed last year. This criminal record check has no expiry date, but it's recommended that it's redone every three years. I've now updated the BHS with the current certificate.

Next up, is my Safeguarding certificate, which lasts for three years. Thankfully I can do this course online, but I had to ring the BHS to apply for it. I'll probably do that tomorrow afternoon.

Whilst I was checking all my certificates I've made a note of the expiry of my first aid certificate – there's another fifteen months on that – and my Continual Professional Development days. I have to do a separate one for the BHS and for Pony Club, because it would be far too simple to have one CPD day that applies to both! The BHS courses have to be done every two years, and the Pony Club ones every three years. I need to do a BHS CPD day before April next year, but have another two years before my Pony Club one expires.

Really, just keeping track of all my certificates and insurance requirements (without any of the above by insurance is invalid) is a full time job. Mainly because they have different validity durations and expire at different times of the year!

The above paperwork and courses are all specific to being an instructor; most professions will have CPD requirements or other certifications in order for professionals to keep up to date with knowledge, changing procedures, and developments within the industry. But all self employed individuals have generic paperwork to keep, which is usually done on weekends or late at night, after the day job is done.

All receipts have to be kept to prove expenses, be it new jodhpurs, petrol or a new riding hat. One of my jobs for another evening is collating all my receipts and making sure they're all logged in my cash flow spreadsheet.

Talking of cash flow spreadsheets, it's also vital that I keep a diary, logging all lessons, methods of payment and amount paid. I try to update my spreadsheet weekly because otherwise it can get confusing cross checking with my bank statements, and it means that I don't overlook a payment. It's amazing how easy it is to put a cash payment into one of your coat pockets and two days later forget who it came from! I don't tend to do invoices, but I can remember the joint family effort we had trying to price up and complete all 200 invoices that my Dad's shop had to send out at the end of every month. It can be a big job at the end of the month, which is why I like to keep on top of the accounts each week.

Self employed individuals also have to fill out self-assessment tax forms in January, and pay tax bills at the end of January and July. Obviously we've all just paid a tax bill, so I don't have to worry about that quite yet, but I do need to file away the HMRC letters and do a quick forecast for January's bill so that I put enough aside for that. Accounts, receipts, diaries and all other proof of your business earnings have to be stored for a minimum of three years. I think I've got three years worth, or will have by Christmas, so I will need to get organised soon to double check that everything is in order and then put it into a storage box in the loft.

It's easy to overlook the office side of running your own business, especially if you have a practical mind and find academic work tedious and difficult, but it's important to bear it in mind if you're planning on starting your own business because keeping on top of the paperwork, and having a filing system of some sorts makes life far easier and less stressful in the long run. It's also important to factor in time into your diary for doing the paperwork. I have been known, when it's mounted up, to take an afternoon out of my diary to commit to sorting through the paperwork, otherwise it's easy to leave it for another day when you're tired or would rather watch TV.

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