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Avoid These Common Tax Mistakes BEFORE Tax Time!

The deadline for taxes has long passed, and those who needed to file an extension surely have done so by now. Many of us have already received our returns, and were a little underwhelmed by what we got back (if anything at all).  Don’t get caught at the last minute next year-avoid these common tax mistakes to stay ahead of the curve!

 

Just because you’re a sole proprietor or are self-employed doesn’t mean  you don’t have to pay taxes on a quarterly basis. Of course, the first year, you get a free pass, however, there are certain exceptions based on how much you make. Get into practice of automatically setting aside a percentage of each payment or revenue, then take stock of your P&L statement each quarter. Pay the taxes each quarter to avoid a hefty payment at the end of the year.

 

Speaking of keeping track, it’s incredibly important to keep track of all of your business expenses, including your miles to properly deduct during tax time.  If you don’t already, consider using an accounting program like Quickbooks to let you record and manage expenses. If you don’t have the time, or the wherewithal to do it, hire a bookkeeper who will enter in and reconcile these transactions on a monthly basis.

 

When tracking your expenses, be sure to determine them accordingly in your Chart of Accounts. What this means is when you have expenses like supplies (printer ink, paper, etc), account for them accordingly. Office Expenses are generally equipment. Why is this important? Because you can write off a portion for each year the appliance is in use or write off the full amount (up to a certain maximum) for the year you purchased. For example, if you bought a new laptop this year, you can write off the full price in your 2014 return. While you’re at it, don’t forget to take the actual home office tax deduction; but do so wisely. There has to be a certain portion of a room, or a dedicated room for your business in order to qualify for writing off a percentage of your home expenses including rent or mortgage payments, utilities and insurance costs.

 

Speaking of deductions: it could be that part of the nature of your business requires you to give gifts to your clients, which is fine. But remember that you can only deduct $25 per recipient. If you give gifts readily, make certain you keep all of your receipts.

 

Discuss your legal structure with a tax advisor or a CPA to help you figure out if your structure is still legitimate. For example, you may have started out as a sole proprietor and are paying too much in self-employment taxes. Creating a C or S Corp, or a LLC could help lower your tax bill.

 

Lastly, and I’ve said this a million times. NEVER, EVER, EVER make business purchases with a personal account! Doing so can lead to a considerable amount of confusion, and lead to legal infractions. Do yourself a favor and open a business account the same day you start your business to get it right from day 1.

 

Are there any mistakes you’ve made in the past that you’ve learned from?

Networking 101-How To Take Networking To The Next Level

Part of owning a successful business, or even a growing business is networking. Yes, a lot can be said for advertising and word of mouth-referrals are even great, but most of your business (my business anyway) comes from serious networking.

 

Not everyone wants to walk into a room full of strangers and introduce themselves, much less try to attract interest to their business. But, if follow these key tips, you’ll be less likely to hold the walls up and more likely to make some valuable connections.

 

Most networking events are  pretty firm on their start and end times. If you show up late, you’ll likely see circles of people already formed, and find it difficult to break in. Get to the event a bit early, and you’ll give yourself enough time to drink in the room, figure out a strategy, and create a circle of people yourself!

 

Networking is not about closing a client-that comes later. This is your opportunity to introduce yourself and your business to those who may not know you, and to meet businesses you may benefit from (or know someone who will). Keep the conversation light; ask simple questions to open up the conversation and smile. Engage in the person, keep eye contact, and make sure you seem interested.  People pick up on these body cues and will know whether you are truly focused, or are just listening for key words that may benefit you, and only you.

When the conversation has warmed up, feel free to share what your product or service is, IF they ask. Give a 30 second elevator pitch that sums up what you do, or offer, and keep it open ended to give them an opportunity to ask you more questions about it. The more they get to know you, the more likely they will be to either share your business, refer you business, or become the business!

Remember, networking is the beginning not the end. If you’ve exchanged cards with someone at the networking event, or, if the event sent out a list of email addresses, follow up with a quick summary of what you talked about, or about your business. You talked to so many people, it’s hard to keep track of all that information-the same goes for everyone else at that event. Be sure to follow up within 48 hours while you’re still fresh in their mind.

 

If you’ve networked before, what would you say was your most valuable tool?

 

Working From Home Can Be Hazardous To Your Health!

Working from home can be a great solution for solo-preneurs, telecommuters, and those who have small children who would rather work with them than without them, but many don’t realize a home workplace can intensify problems rather than alleviate them.

 

Make your home-office a healthy environment by creating physical and mental boundaries. For example, it’s important to give yourself a breather between work and home. For many, that generally translates into a commute. But what do you do when your only commute is coming down (or up) the stairs? Some go to the local coffee shop to grab a coffee and drive back home to create an official start to their day. Since I have three kids in three different stages in life, I tend to have a cup of coffee between the time my oldest leaves for school and the middle has to wake up to get ready for school. That hour of time is enough time for me to prepare mentally for my work day. I also NEVER work in PJ’s-I take a shower, put on pants with a zipper and button, wear makeup and do my hair. These simple acts make me feel like I’m going to the office, as opposed to just down my stairs.

 

It’s not easy to mentally separate work from home, believe me. If possible, try to dedicate a room to become your office. If you don’t have that available to you, create a work space that looks like an office, and avoid pictures of your family, or decorating with your home’s design in mind. Reflect your business to make you feel as though you’ve entered an office-not a corner of your living room.

 

While working from home may be great for those who hate the distraction of coworkers, it can actually make you feel quite lonely. Consider joining a meet-up group or a networking group to get you out of the house, and keep you out of a mental funk.

 

Don’t get too distracted by the doldrums of your home-your office is your oasis, and keeping your mental and physical health in check will not only make you a healthier person, it will make you a more successful business person as well!

 

 

 

5 Methods To Sustain A Successful Business!

I come across many businesses on a daily basis, and some of them follow my philosophy and some of them look at me as though I’m an alien. I tell people all of the time, to keep their businesses simple and focused-slow and steady wins the race! But, time and time again, I’m met with those who think putting their hands in many pots makes them both versatile and bring them closer to success at a faster rate. Yes, I’ll agree my company offers many different services, however the true service we offer is office management. That’s what I own-a virtual office management company, and to say I’ve moved at a turtles pace in building and sustaining this company of mine is an understatement. It’s the key though to building a secure and strong business! Here are my top ten methods to building and sustaining a successful company. Do you utilize any of these tools?

 

1. Dream Small-When one sets out to start a business, it’s easy to dream big-why not? Mark Zuckerberg dreamed big and look what it got him? Big returns! For the rest of us however, we need to dream small. Be realistic about your goals and don’t set out to reach goal 2 and 3 before you reach 1. Complete each task in it’s entirety or you’ll only set yourself up for failure. Build an air-tight foundation to your business and it cannot fail!

2. Captain or Deckhand? Pick one!-You can’t both lead a boat and row at the same time. It’s impossible. So, why do so many businesses think they can do EVERYTHING by themselves? I hear every excuse, “I can’t afford it”, “I don’t see the point in hiring someone to do what I can just take care of myself” and so on, and so forth. Of course, you can probably manage your office AND do your very focused job, but do you want to? Probably not. Do what you’re really good at, and hand off the rest to keep you from losing focus. Doctors have nurses for a reason…you should have an office manager for that same reason as well.

3.The Elevator Speech-If I asked you to tell me who you are, the name of your company, and an overview of what your business does, could you do it? Of course you could! But, could you do it in 30 seconds? Maybe not.  Rehearse this, even if you don’t need to actually use it, to really boil down the essence of your company. It’s a great practice to help keep you focused on who your business and you are in your core.

4. Mr./Mrs. Right-If there’s anything I’ve learned from networking it’s to be uber specific about who my ideal client is. Do you know who yours is? No, it’s not “Anyone who needs plumbing!” (if you’re a plumber, of course). Write down who your ideal client is, where they live, what they do, etc. to pinpoint your market and draw a clear, narrow path to your success!

5. Get To The Point-What is your ultimate goal for your business other than make money and retire in the Bahamas? Think small here: what is your ultimate goal this year? This month? This week? Take small bites, set small goals and create positive habits to reach those goals consistently!

Social Media-Is It Working For You?

So many people drink the juice that is social media, and are quickly disenchanted by the dismal ratings and virtually zero client turnovers. Why is that? Isn’t social media supposed to be the cure-all, fourth dimension that marketing lacked for so many years? Well, yes! And, no. Social media is the perfect tool to expand on your personal and professional knowledge. Consider it your business’s soapbox. An opportunity for people to get to know you and gain trust in you as your field’s professional source.

 

You only get out of social media what you put into it, AND if you use the correct platforms to voice your business and experience within it. For example, I use Instagram simply because I like it. Do I really focus on it for my business? No, not really. How many people want to see 20 different pictures of me sitting at my desk, or pictures of my dogs sitting with me sitting at my desk? I’m going to venture to say, probably not too many. Would Instagram work for my business? Not really. Instagram does work, however, for anyone selling products (I’ve actually bought things I’ve seen on Instagram). For someone selling a service. Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin work best. It’s good to know what you have, what information you can share, and where you think YOU would want to see that form of information. If you don’t know where your business belongs, do some research on your field. Where are other people who do what you do go for social media marketing? Do they have a lot of followers? Do they seem to do well within the chosen platform? This is a great place to start, and to build your social media presence. But, what do you say once you get there?

 

Communication is a highly underrated art-just because you say something, doesn’t mean you are ‘conveying information’. Learning what to say and how to say it truly takes time and practice. A great place to start would be to write a few different status updates in Word, wait an hour, then go back and read it again. Do they make sense to you? Do they resonate with you? Or do they seem like a bunch of words strung together? Research your competition and see what they write-how effective are they? Do they say things that make you excited about their product or service? Research and practice then practice some more to get the right ‘voice’. Saying the right things, and saying on the right channels will turn those readers into clients; those clients into money!

It’s Been Entirely Too Long….

Ever hear how nail techs have the ugliest nails? Why, you ask? Because they’re so busy making everyone else’s nails fabulous, they have no time to do their own. Well, that’s how I’ve been feeling for the past few months. Business has been great, and things are moving in the right direction, yet at the meantime, I’ve neglected blogging and sharing the information I’ve been gleaning on my journey. I apologize. I really should be more proactive, and I’ve let my blog slip. Please accept the apology-I promise to do better.

 

In the meantime, this has proven as a great example of when one owns a business, and runs it successfully, it’s time to realize what can be done by one person, and what can be delegated out. What’s your time worth? Are you using your time to build business, or are you using it doing frivolous administrative work? It’s been the heart of my business-helping business owners understand what is worth their time, and what isn’t. I’ve done a great job these past few months building a team of incredibly skilled professionals to assist clients and give them the kind of one-on-one focus I strive to achieve with my company. By doing that, I’m able to focus on administrating my own business, and relaying information and experience through the blogs!

 

I promise, I’ll do better. Spring is here, hibernating animals are soon to wake, and me? I’m getting ready to blossom with springs flowers. Who knows what comes next? I guess you’ll have to stick around to find out 🙂

 

As a small business, I feel it’s my duty to help others when they are interested in launching a business of their own. Frankly, I think a lot of our economic problems would be solved if we simply shopped exclusively with small businesses, but I understand that isn’t always realistic. A friend of mine recently decided to branch out on her own and start her own business, and I couldn’t be happier. I do believe she will be a huge success, and so can you ( you small business owners!), and here are my suggestions on building a strong foundation to build a successful business upon!

 

First, you need to create a vision; not a business plan. I think business plans can get confusing and frustrating, and the idea some people have-that they can’t start a business without one-will stop most people from even trying. I say, build your plan as you build your business. You can’t know what’s going to happen in the next five years, so how will you project for your business? It is important though to have a clear vision of what you are, what you want to be, and how you think you can get there. If you don’t know how, don’t fret-that will come to you eventually.

Make a list, make a ‘vision’ board, use cut outs, magazine pages, whatever it takes to help you pull together a tangible goal for your business. After this, make a list of your ideal clients. Write down the characteristics of these people; while you’re at it, write down who you DON’T want too. This will help you clearly visualize and recognize what behavior or types of clients to avoid. Writing all of this down, making a board or list of what you want and don’t want will motivate you and bring you closer to materializing your business. It’s important to know what to identify in your ideal client, so when you meet them, the light bulb in your head goes off and that voice says, “Hey! You! You’re the one I want!”

 

After you’ve visualized and created what your business will look like, it’s time to hit the street! Well, not exactly; but you do want to make your presence known. I say this all the time at networking events, to clients, and to friends, you must hit all the marketing trifecta’s points in order to be successful. Point 1.)Network: You must network and become well known in your area. Everyone you meet at these events essentially become mini salespeople for you. If they like you, and get to know you well, they will refer you. Point 2.) Social Media: Don’t just hit all of them thinking one of them will work; instead, concentrate on those platforms that make the most sense to your business, and link up with those professionals you meet at those networking events! Point 3.) Touch Back: Send an email to all those you networked with to touch base and expand on who you are. This will help you stand out in their minds. Touch base with referrals also; and don’t forget to touch base with those you meet with. It’s best to keep in the front of people’s minds, instead of falling into the background.

 

If you start your business off with these in mind, you’ll be on the right track! Of course there’s the financial side of things, but that’s best left for a future blog. Tell me what you think are the best places to start when launching your business here! And, if you have a small business, and are at the point where you can’t run and maintain it at the same time, peruse the website and contact me if my companies administrative details will help you further your success!

 

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