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Multi purpose

Many times I acquire a set of salvaged stained glass windows and think to myself – they look so good as window sill ornaments there’s no way I could sell! This particular set (two of which would have been part of a Victorian pulley sash system) sit snug within the main section of my 1920s bay window.

They are not just there to look pretty. They afford privacy while I sit at my desk writing these bizarre blog posts. I find this more practical than net curtains and I can change the view. I always advise that if people get bored using these as ornaments they tend to hold value – you don’t loose money if you want to sell on.

For half of the day I have the curtains drawn as the front of my house is south facing. I think they also look good on a white background, providing external decoration.

But there will always be another pretty window in need of my rescue.

For more ideas on what you can do with old stained glass windows please go to my customer reuse page.

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My review of Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed

Today I cancelled my subscription to QuickBooks. There are several big brand accountancy products being aimed at the self-employed and small business. They all seem to have condescending advertisements* claiming to offer a simple solution for saving time. This post shares my experience should you be contemplating QuickBooks but I suspect some of my issues are worth considering for any web based accountancy product.

First I should make it clear what I was using QuickBooks for. I have about 50 sales transactions a month. These occur direct through my website and from other selling platforms such as Ebay and Etsy. I need to account for the gross sales from these platforms as well as the fees charged and other overheads mostly relating to stock purchase, mileage, packaging and shipping costs. I was not using QuickBooks for invoicing**, VAT and staff payroll. I was using the most basic/cheapest QuickBooks accountancy product offered called Self-Employed and started doing so from November 2020.

The positives.

The customer service, via Twitter, was free and mostly prompt. The operatives were knowledgeable but could only provide solutions within the perimeter of the product’s functionality.

There is no long-term subscription. You pay monthly and can cancel when you like.

One of the reasons I subscribed is because once linked with a PayPal account it almost instantly accounts your transactions from this payment provider. This automation is a luxury.

At a glance you can see how much income tax including national insurance contributions you will owe.

The issues

Automation
QuickBooks cannot automate with all payment providers. The most frustrating example being Stripe. Stripe is what I use to offer my customers an alternative payment method to PayPal as it let’s them pay with all major credit cards. Stripe has to be one of the world’s biggest payment providers so it is astonishing there is no automation available with a brand like QuickBooks. It also does not automate with Virgin Credit Cards. I only discovered this after repeating the authorisation procedure several times as prompted by QuickBooks. It was Virgin Credit Cards who finally confirmed they do not link with third parties so then I had to change credit card company.

Importing CSV files
QuickBooks are always quick to advise that if you cannot automate transactions then you can import this data using a CSV file. I carefully followed the QuickBooks instructions ensuring that I only imported four data columns “date, description, money in and money out”. This is not “quick” but I would not mind if it worked. I experimented with different data sources. The trouble was that only one of the “money in” or “money out” sets of data appeared in my QuickBooks account. With Stripe it only showed “money in”. With Etsy it only shows “money out”. I explained this problem to Quickbooks on the 29th December 2020 but this was the only occasion I did not get a reply.

Renewing linked payment providers
Every few months you have to renew permission for QuickBooks to link to your payment providers. Apparently this is a legal requirement which I appreciate. Be careful because this process is confusing! I am not referring to the instructions set by the payment providers but the way QuickBooks lays out the renewal options.

A few days later to my horror I discovered that I had inadvertently duplicated two of my payment provider connections rather than renewing (credit card and bank current account). This meant that all transactions were duplicated. I only realised this after I had approved a large number of these duplicated transactions. Although you can remove linked payment providers all associated data will be lost. As I was unsure which account was the duplicate I did not want to take the risk so had to spend an hour carefully reviewing all transactions for the last month.

Using on Android
I repeatedly tried to log into the QuickBooks App on my android phone, carefully checking my log-in details but it did not recognise my account. I only wanted this for the mileage tracking function. I did not ask QuickBooks for help as there always seemed to be bigger issues I needed to address.

What I am doing instead

This experience has reminded me that CSV files are easy to generate for calculating income and outgoings within a specified period. If I was going to continue using QuickBooks I would still have to generate several of these once a month. Given I already pay for Microsoft I have decided to get my money’s worth with Excel. Once a month I simply copy totals from each CSV file pasting into Excel with simple formulas to calculate grand totals by month and tax year.

The cells in yellow I will copy when calculating each month’s total. Cash can be a nuisance to account for but since Covid-19 I am using less of it so I don’t anticipate there will be many of these transactions. I have to keep a separate tab of my mileage and enter the total once a month but I had been doing this for years anyway.

QuickBooks takes credit for the luxury of informing how much tax you owe but all you need do is paste the following formulas into Excel if you are a UK basic rate tax payer in 2020/21:

Income tax formula
=SUM(B13-12500)*0.2

National Insurance Class 2
You don’t need a formula. As long as your annual profit is above £6,475 you will be paying £158.60

National Insurance Class 4
=SUM(B31-9500)*0.09

QuickBooks also offers to store your receipts. Remember credit card statements are a record of receipts and my Microsoft package comes with 1TB of cloud storage.

Conclusion

This product is not suited to small businesses which operate exclusively in online product sales. Perhaps it works better for self employed people who are selling services. No doubt there are workarounds to all of the above issues but I doubt many will be “quick”. I think more testing should have been done before this product was launched as a generic solution to small business. As a self employed person my experimentation with QuickBooks has taught me to consider the capability of existing resources before making another investment.


*In the interests of balance here is the condescending UK advert from Sage Accounting. I know I am the boss and I simply need my expenses accounted, not “smashed”.
** When a small business sent me an invoice using QuickBooks I noticed it was simply an email referencing the bank account details of the sender. There was no option to pay by credit card or PayPal. I don’t know if it’s possible to do that but as I already have an ecommerce platform, WooCommerce, I simply invoice customers by sending a link to a hidden webpage like this which offers my standard payment options. I will know when I have been paid as WooCommerce will instantly send me an email and the data will in turn show in my PayPal or Stripe CSV file.

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The ultimate window sill ornament.

The great thing about dealing in old stained glass windows is that I can change the view from my lounge window anytime I like. That said, these things tend to hold value so if you get bored with one just sell it on! I have several of this design, with worldwide shipping or collection welcome. To view details of all please scroll down my 1 metre horizontal + category and look for set R820.

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Message to my customers in the European Union.

I can still ship to the EU! At the moment when you add an item to my checkout you will find that there is no shipping option for you. This is temporary. If there is an item you are interested in please ask me for a shipping price. This photo is of shipments despatched today!

As the UK has made the decision to create barriers with the world’s biggest free trading market (which is on our doorstep) it has meant changes in shipping price. Right now this is not as much a concern to me as the amount of time I have to spend reprogramming my website to account for revised pricing in every size category, given I have a diverse product range. I cannot do this until I am sure shipping prices have stabilised. One shipping company is setting different prices for EU countries, whereas before there was a standard price for any destination on the mainland continent and Ireland. (If there had been more notice of this trade deal then small businesses like me would have had more time to prepare…)

Apparently I now have my “sovereignty” but I would rather not have this administrative task which is at least a week’s work.

I hope you can bear with me.

Richard
https://leadedstainedglass.com/

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True Tales From Old Houses

I was recently interviewed by an American podcast, True Tales from Old Houses, where I tell the story of how I got into this business of dealing in old window glass. I also explain the difference between British and American stained glass. If you have been thinking of buying from me you might be interested to listen to get to know me. I appear 12 mins, 50 secs into the episode. https://www.truetalesfromoldhouses.com/richard-to-the-stained-glass-rescue/

The podcast series is a general fountain of knowledge/discussion for anyone interested in the history and preservation of old houses.

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Anything is possible.

I have a desire to “flag” this design this weekend! It has sold but I can supply it made new to your required size using my bespoke service. This was made in size of 12″ x 15 3/4″ (303mm x 401mm). The following photos demonstrate the craft involved in making such a piece.

Stage 1 – design.

The flag on the right is the image we used for the basis of design. The left image is the final technical drawing. We chose a crumpled flag as it suits the small size but yours could be more unravelled or  completely linear.

Stage 2 – production – acid etched, handpainted and kiln fired.

Suncatcher or window panel?

It can have hooks soldered to the top for hanging but these can be snapped off for fitting into a window sash frame.

Other flag ideas

Click on images to enlarge.

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New website (almost!)

Regular visitors to my website may notice some changes. For the past month I have been relisting all of my stock onto a new eCommerce platform (as well as adding lots of newly acquired stock which had been backlogged!)

The aim as always is to make it easier to find what you want within my ever increasing inventory. For instance, say the condition of the window you were looking for was “framed” and had to be “glass in perfect condition”, the size range had to be “650mm max length”, the style had to include a “tulip” flower pattern and the colour you wanted was “red”.  You will now find search filters for these attributes within my main windows category. Example:

You will find that I have created attributes for all sorts of styles such as “art deco”, “handpainted”… My biggest tip is that you’ll get a better experience on a desktop computer rather than any kind of handheld device! You will always find a desktop gives much better navigation of my site and allows greater appreciation of the photos. (If you have to use a phone/iPad, you’ll need to scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the filtering options).

 It is hoped the website is more clearly defined for my three market groups:

  1. private buyers who just want “a window
  2. fixers/creatives who need spare parts
  3. international trade buyers

Another thing I am very pleased about is that if you are viewing from one of the following countries/world zones you should be seeing the sale price in the same currency: USA, Canada, Europe, South Korea, Japan and Australia. 

If you are not seeing the sale price in your currency please let me know!

There will inevitably be teething trouble with my changes but overall I think it a vast improvement. There is now a shopping cart facility (hooray!) This is very convenient if you will be collecting multiple orders but it does not automatically calculate a discounted/combined shipping price for multiple orders. It simply adds the shipping prices into one total! Therefore you will still have to contact me for a combined price if it is likely the items are compatible for combined shipping.

I now exclusively operate as an online trading business (people can still collect after payment has been made). Hence I have made these improvements. In my opinion this is the future of antique dealing. If it was not changing before 2020 it sure has now!

The other reason I have opted to sell exclusively online is that I am disgusted with big online trading platforms like Ebay.  I am fed up with the condescending advertising campaigns such as “small businesses keeping the country going” and “in it together”. These multinationals are always pretending to be the friend of the artist (Etsy) and other types of small business. Like any big marketplace the owner takes advantage of consumer demand and changes the rules like a rug being pulled from under sellers’ feet. I could write a whole set of blog posts about this but will leave it here and just refer you to my PayPal blog earlier this year which touches on a similar theme.

Thanks for buying directly from small independent business!

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Small flemish big surprise!

This week I unwrapped this pair:

I had received as part of a job lot. When I purchased I thought the background (non coloured) glass was plain having seen poor quality photos from the seller. I thought at most I would be able to extract some nice coloured centre parts. I was delighted to find all the background pieces are small flemish!

To most people these look like tatty old window panels but to those of you who know your vintage glass you know this was discontinued from production decades ago. Common enough but hard to find in decent cut sizes. This pair contained 34 pieces in size 128 x 224mm!

It is surprises like this which maintain my addiction for dealing in salvage. Everything I buy is a gamble. If it was all lined with gold I would be rich but it would get boring.

I am selling the small flemish pieces as subsets of code S1083 which can be viewed on my small flemish page.