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Bookkeeping

customer care

5 Reasons How Client Communications Can Go Wrong

customer care

5 Reasons How Client Communications Can Go Wrong

TASK Virtual Assistant

Your clients are willing to put their trust and faith in your ability to deliver the tax and accounting services they need. But this is a type of trust that can be easily broken.

One reason clients quickly lose confidence in you is the lure of the competition. Maybe they've heard good things about the company down the road, and they're wondering if the grass is greener with those guys.

Maybe they're worried about money and subconsciously looking for any reason to break up with you in a professional sense so they can rationalize not investing.

Here are some common reasons why your client communication can go wrong and how that ultimately breaks their trust in you.

Becoming too personal with clients

There is a fine line between showing your humanity to people with whom you do business and over-disclosing.

Over disclosure means sharing personal details that are irrelevant to the client's reason for coming to you.

For example, maybe the client needs your guidance on managing finances more effectively. A revealing conversation about your recent divorce would not be relevant to the topic in question. It might even have the client thinking less of you for being unprofessional.

These talks may ultimately lead you to a broken client agreement or an order that never materializes. Therefore, it's best to avoid getting too personal when dealing with people professionally.

Overwhelming clients with too much information

Your clients come to you wanting help, guidance, or solutions. For example, they may need an expert to prepare their taxes, provide payroll services, or other accounting needs.

Overwhelming clients with too much information means getting too deep into your offer's finer points. It's more than likely that they only need an overview to help them understand your competence and capabilities. And they require time to digest the information piece by piece mentally.

If you throw it all at them, they might even think of you as less of an expert when all is said and done.

A professional presentation typically contains clear, concise, well-ordered points that support the main idea and provide enough supporting detail to facilitate meaning.

Going off on side tangents in your client communication does not lend credibility in their estimation.

Not providing enough information

On the other hand, one sure-fire way to break trust with your clients is not to provide enough detail.

We talked about over-delivering, but probably a more common predicament is the company whose clients come to them with unmet communication expectations.

There is a delicate balance between over and underwhelming your clients. So naturally, you want to walk this fine line if you hope to gain their admiration, respect, and trust in your ability.

If you have trouble knowing how much is too much versus not enough info to provide clients, try crafting it in advance and use it as a guide during your conversation.

Providing irrelevant details

The problem of providing details that the client may not need likely stems from an accountant's need to prove their expertise.

The client may initially be impressed by your accumulated knowledge, sure. But ultimately, if the topic gets off track with their problems and how to solve them, the client will leave the conversation scratching their head. In addition, irrelevant information will leave them wondering if they should have gone with someone else who's work is more relevant to them.

If you have trouble sticking to the main issue when talking with clients, you might try preparing a script for each type of problem that people will likely come to you with needing your expertise to solve.

Don't read off the script like you're in the school play. Instead, use it to cement the thoughts in your mind. Then, practice a bit with the script in hand so you can convey your thoughts in an organized fashion when the time comes.

Not personalizing your message

Your clients know when you are reading off a script.

Most of us have experienced the frustration of sitting on a client service call and hearing phony, scripted questions like "How can I make your day great," your clients are not likely to fall for a dialogue between you and them that takes place with you reciting lines off a cue card.

If you are not in a profession where talking comes naturally, you can give yourself a cheat sheet by writing out a few bulleted points on note cards to help you keep client calls flowing productively.

However, in time you should become more comfortable with speaking to clients. If you organize the points you want to make and continue to practice saying them naturally and conversationally, eventually, you'll find that the cards are no longer necessary.

Do you control your day, or do your tasks control you? Take our short quiz and find out. The results may surprise you (or maybe not).

Check it out for yourself!  Click below to get started

client communication

How To Communicate With Your Client

client communication

How To Communicate With Your Client

TASK Virtual Assistant

As a small accounting firm, your main goal is to deliver an exceptional client experience to everyone who solicits you for business.

However, building trust and confidence in your clients isn't just about offering a great product or delivering world-class service. Well, it is, but it's also more than that.

Communication plays a huge role in whether people decide to become repeat clients of yours.

After all, even if we're doing our very best job for people, sometimes things go wrong that are outside the realm of our control. Let's face it, most accounting clients dread hearing from their accountant. Very rarely is it good news.

You must be able to communicate effectively and quickly with your clients. How you handle the difficult moments and how you choose to communicate with clients during a high-pressure situation is the real test that determines whether or not they'll return again despite the difficulties that cropped up.

Remember, how you communicate to your clients is the key to helping them grow confidence in your ability to deliver. Therefore, it's crucial that you:

🗝  Remain calm and reassuring throughout your ongoing dialogue with clients.

🗝  Convey a certain sense of empathy so the client will get the impression that you genuinely care.

🗝  When circumstances call for it, apologize or offer to make good on a situation if necessary.

🗝  Help clients stay on track with shared goals rather than dwelling on what may not have happened.

It also helps to remind them why they chose you. It would be best if you always infused the following in any communication with clients:

✔️The value you provide to them.

✔️ How it can help them.

✔️ Let them know they have options and tell them why they are.

✔️ This is also an excellent time to review what you need from them to keep the job moving forward.

And always let them know who to contact if they need support.

Do you control your day, or do your tasks control you? Take our short quiz and find out. The results may surprise you (or maybe not).

Check it out for yourself!  Click below to get started

client communication

When Do Clients Need To Hear From Us?

client communication

When Do Clients Need To Hear From Us?

TASK Virtual Assistant

During a business transaction, there are critical times that communication is vital to keep clients feeling like you are in touch and engaged with their unique situation.

Remember that your goal with a recap message is to build a relationship with the client and not just sell to them.

The best recap emails summarize the discovery into two or four key points. First, they reinforce the decision to move forward. A recap email can confirm the next call's date, purpose, and plan. Third, it builds accountability and keeps the lines of communication open.

Your clients will appreciate the communication you are providing. And, they'll be more likely to hire you if you send them an excellent recap email.

So, what are the key points in a project that need a recap or communication?

  1. In the beginning, the introductory phase of your association.
  2. At the start of your project - the kickoff.
  3. At any time they feel confused.
  4. Through each new step of the process.
  5. Whenever there is a delay or problem.
  6. At the project's close, the end of the order or the wrap-up of your business with them.

1. In the beginning

A potential client will make a series of decisions before settling on you as their chosen Accountant.

One might consider the introductory phase to be the most important. Remember, you never get a second chance at a first impression. Therefore, it would help if you communicated clearly and confidently what the client could expect from you during the entire transaction.

Help the client visualize doing business with you by laying out the process with simple, easy-to-understand steps.

Create a simple project map, bulleting each phase with necessary details such as what the client will need to provide and anticipated turnaround times. This will go a long way toward helping them understand what will happen and who will be responsible for what along the way.

Finally, you'll want to exchange contact details and any other pertinent information such as account numbers, personal identification, and any relevant matters that pertain to the service or products you'll be providing to them.

2. The Kickoff

Once the introductory phase is complete, you will want to help clients stay on track with the timing and details of any work you do for them. You can fill them in on exactly what will happen, so they know what to expect going forward.

One helpful piece of communication that you can hand out as you onboard new clients is the Welcome Email or Welcome Letter.

The welcome message gives a client the confidence you are committing to them and that the two of you (or a group if that's relevant) are partnering or teaming up for success.

You should customize the content of your welcome message according to the client, the specific project, and an estimated timeline of how long it will take. Streamline this process with a general timeline for your template, but insert details before printing and handing it to the client.

3. When They Feel Confused

New clients tend to ask specific questions. You may even notice that most of the new clients you deal with have the same questions as other clients did when they first began working with you.

You may feel like a broken record giving the same answers repeatedly all day long, which results in a lot of unnecessary email typing and talking on the phone.

Of course, the accounting and tax preparation business you have lends itself to talking on the phone or in person with clients, and you may not have the option of getting out of this.

However, the simple addition of an FAQ area of your website, or FAQ handout you provide to clients, can drastically cut down on the amount of time you spend explaining things to the people who solicit your services.

Your Frequently Asked Questions handout should include all aspects of your business that tend to confuse people the most.

What do people always ask you? Write that down. Then think of other things they ask you. Brainstorm "through your client's mind," list out, and answer.

You can continue to build on your FAQ, modifying it from time to time. Any time a client comes to you wanting clarification on something, write down their question. Then take some time to answer it in detail, and add it to your FAQ file.

4. Every Step of the Way

A quick email message signals forward momentum in your step-by-step process with clients. Of course, it only takes a short, written wrap-up to let them know a phase is complete, but this brief message will add to the confidence and trust your client holds in you.

At each step, you can sum up:

  1. What was accomplished during this step.
  2. Any deliverables you provided (so they can be reminded of the ongoing value you deliver to them).
  3. Any problems that came up during this step.
  4. Any outstanding items that will need to be addressed.
  5. What to expect in the next step.
  6. How long you expect the next step to take.

5. Another Delay!?

Delays of any kind will cause your clients to doubt you and begin to worry. They may fear that you will not be able to deliver the end product the way they prefer or in the allotted time frame. In addition, they may worry that you cannot be trusted - after all, they likely don't even know you.

A brief and reassuring message that lets them know you are handling their issue or attending to their details quickly and thoroughly will ease their discomfort.

As you work on similar projects for various clients, you will notice a pattern of issues that may come up repeatedly. For example, a recurring problem with Accounting firms is that the client does not promptly provide the necessary information.

You can work through this challenge by creating a short template of common problems. For example, your template can explain the delay, or it might make a request for the client to fulfill, which applies to each type of delay.

Keep the messages you create in your file of templates. Print or email and use as necessary when future clients voice complaints about things outside your control realm.

If problems occur that you know you can handle but must be worked through in a routine fashion, your proactive message will go a long way to dispel their fears, increasing their trust in you as their chosen provider.

6. That's a Wrap!

When your work for the client concludes, send them a brief wrap-up bulleting the work completed.

Thank them for their business and remind them that if they have any questions or would like to leave a positive review, please reach out to you via email, phone, or whatever your preferred method of communication may be.

One last thing:

Keep invoicing separate from the "final wrap-up" message - these should be two separate areas, as you do not want your clients thinking about payment in the same context as what was delivered.

 

distractions

Dealing With Distractions

distractions

Dealing With Distractions

task virtual assistant

In a perfect world, you would be so focused on your work that nothing could distract you. But our world is not perfect, and it rarely works that way. So why does something so minor as an interruption mess up our entire day?

Distractions can be either external or internal. Some distractions are entirely beyond your control, while others are entirely up to you. What they all have in common, though, is the impact on your day. Let’s look at some of these in detail:

Distraction: Overwhelm
Many accountants feel there’s just too much coming at them all at once, most of it needing to be done yesterday. Add in the constant phone calls and never-ending emails, especially during Income Tax season, that seems to need urgent replies, it’s normal to seek escape. Think of it as reacting in a fight or flight way to a scary stimulus. Running to a distraction in this situation is a flight response to stress.

Distraction Buster
Establish your priorities for the day. With most accounting businesses it’s impossible to avoid phone calls and emails that need to be returned, but you don’t have to answer every phone call or immediately respond to every email. Set aside a specific time of day that you’ll handle those replies.

Then, keep distractions down by sending calls to voicemail and shutting down your email window. If this isn't a viable option for your firm, have your virtual assistant monitor the voicemails and emails, and then flag those that need your immediate attention. All others can wait until your designated time.

Distraction: Doing Everything at Once
Multitasking is a huge distraction, simply because it feels productive when you do it. When you multitask, you get less done than you think. Studies have proven people drop up to 20 IQ points while multitasking. This is because the mind is constantly being distracted by every other task you’re trying to do.

You listen to an eBook while exercising but are mentally making a checklist of what you need to do next. You’re on the phone with one person while checking your calendar to reschedule an appointment with another. You’re answering emails while talking to a team member.

It’s everywhere. In the end? How much of that eBook do you remember? What about that phone conversation? Have you really accomplished anything, or do you now need to go back and double-check your work, or worse, re-do it entirely?

Distraction Buster
When you have no guided focus in your day, it’s hard to keep your attention where you need it most. Schedules set out small goals that let you know when you expect to have those goals completed. Without those guidelines, it’s easy for your day to fall apart as minor distractions sneak in to take up blocks of time not meant for anything.

Create your daily task list the night before, don't wait until that morning when you're running late for an early meeting, or already looking at a full inbox of emails. Then, use your list. Complete a task before starting the next. If new projects come up during the day, add them to the bottom of the list. If they need to be moved up, do it at the end of the day, when you're preparing the next day's task list.

Distraction: Out of Resources
There’s only so much attention you can give to a problem before you run out of gas. How are you supposed to keep plugging away when you're tired, exhausted, and worn out? It’s no wonder you welcome distraction just for the relief it gives from having to think or do another thing.

The truth of the matter is, sometimes we just get tired. Consider this, do you find yourself saying "I forgot to eat", or looking at the clock at night and thinking, "if I fall asleep now, I'll still get a couple of hours of sleep", and if so, how often? If we’re not eating or sleeping properly, our bodies start to show signs of fatigue. It’s impossible to tune out distractions when you’re so worn out you can’t think straight.

Distraction Buster
When you don’t want your day to get away from you, grab your calendar, and put things where you can see them. Look at your task list and schedule your tasks (allowing enough time for each), so nothing gets left out or ignored. When you set out a schedule, you leave less room for distraction. Remember to block out time for things unrelated to your goals, such as sleep or time to eat. You’ll be less likely to skip meals or stay up too late if you have these things already in place on your calendar.

Distraction: Too Much Time Staring at a Screen
Wow, it’s easy to get focused on electronics. When you constantly check your phone, it quickly becomes addictive. Literally! Studies have shown time spent staring at screens releases dopamine into your brain, making a little screen time every bit as effective at giving you a quick ‘buzz’ as a hit on a cigarette.

Before you disagree, think about the last time you left your phone at home. How far did you get before you felt a little twitchy about not having it? If you’re like most people, it’s not just your smartphone grabbing your attention. Between laptops, tablets, and every other iteration of device connecting to the internet, it’s no wonder it’s hard to put the screen down and get something done.

Let’s face it, they’re interesting. Filled with apps, connection to friends and family through social media, the ability to check email…there’s just too much to do, and it’s all right there in your hands. It’s no wonder you’re distracted!

Distraction Buster
Again, schedule your screen time, instead of letting it become a distraction. For example, you can plan your lunch break to be a time to relax and do things that take your mind off work. Most smartphones today have a "Do Not Disturb" setting. I have mine set for nighttime, as well as during the day when I need to be completely focused.

Distraction: You’re on a Treasure Hunt
When it turns out you lack the knowledge to continue, falling into the trap of research distraction is very common. What starts as hunting for an answer to a single question breeds diversion and sends you down rabbit trails that keep you from ever returning to the project if you’re not careful.

How many times did you go to one source, but end up looking at something that wasn't even in your original search? With all the information including social media that you can turn to; you can easily waste hours without even realizing it.

Distraction Buster
First, you need to realize you're getting distracted. The minute you notice that your short foray into something has turned into a distraction, stop right there! If you didn't get the answer within a short time - about 5-10 minutes - then this needs to be added to your schedule for further research. Schedule the time for it and make the conscious choice to focus on something else now.

Distraction: What If or How About?
Are you full of ideas? While this is a good thing on many levels, thoughts can also lead to distractions, especially when you start coupling ideas with action.

Moving from one idea to the next, from one project to the next, can feel efficient…at first. In truth, you’re getting less done than you think. Imagine a job involving the remodeling of a house. Say you need to update the kitchen, want to renovate the bathroom, are building a front porch, and painting the dining room. You might think you’re being efficient if you’re doing all projects at the same time. After all, that means you’ll be done at once and have a great house to live in…right? Now imagine finding other home repair jobs as you go and adding to the chaos until the whole place is a mess.

Having too many ideas is very similar. You’re throwing time at first this, and then the next without ever completing anything. You’re adding new things in. In the end, you’re so distracted by so many things to do, that you’ve lost the ability to prioritize, and nothing gets done at all.

Distraction Buster
Keep a notepad nearby so that you can write down ideas that hit you throughout the day and give yourself permission to come back to them later.

Distraction: You’re Trying to Save the World
If a team member is having difficulty working through a return and comes to you for help, do you end up doing their work as well as your own?

If you continuously involve yourself in other people’s problems, it’s hard to get your own projects completed. This ‘save the world’ mentality means distraction comes in the form of altruism, which looks pretty on the outside. Nobel, even. On the inside, though, is the stark truth that you’re distracting yourself under the guise of doing a favor for someone else.

Distraction Buster
While it’s great to want to help and lend a hand now and again, you need to ask yourself if this opportunity is just another distraction? If so, is it one you can afford? Next time, ask the team member to offer you possible solutions to their problem rather than just handing it off to you.

Distraction: You’re Getting Organized
Simply put, you’re not getting anything accomplished, and now you're caught up in the spiral of trying to throw yourself into a new system to fix everything. Organization is another one of those distractions that looks helpful initially. After all, every self-help course is going to recommend cleaning your workspace to make it ‘work better for you.’

The truth of the matter is this kind of organizing can take on a life of its own very quickly. What might start as a quick tidying up suddenly devolves into color-coded notepads, a series of highlighters, and a complex system of calendars. Because it feels like progress, you don’t see it as a distraction. It becomes one when you’re losing out on serious work time as you keep poking at the ‘system’ to make it work.

Distraction Buster
Ask yourself, are you spending more time working on your projects or talking about working on your projects? Handoff the organization to your virtual assistant. Work together to come up with the best tools for your firm, then let your VA set it up and put it into motion.

As you can see, distractions are honestly everywhere, surfacing for a variety of reasons, with a lot of baggage behind them needing to be dealt with if you’re ever going to move forward. You are the master of your fate. It’s up to you to tune out the world and put your focus where it matters most. You really do have the ability to control the situation, whether it’s stamping out the distractions before they gain a foothold, or knowing how to put yourself back on track when the distractions find you.

No matter what, don’t expect easy answers. Nothing here is going to happen overnight. It takes time to build new habits and a new way of thinking. If you fail, simply try again. Give the process time. It will happen.

defining a virtual assistant

Getting the Help You Need Virtually

defining a virtual assistant

Getting the Help You Need Virtually

Defining A Virtual Assistant

task virtual assistant

Keeping up with all of the routines can be difficult for those who work hard in their company or personal life.  There are fifty million things to accomplish in one day with too little time and too few people to help.  If you want to begin saving time, you can invest in a virtual assistant who will take some extra things off your plate.

The best way to evaluate whether you need a virtual assistant (VA) or not is to see what you are doing all day.  If you are spending time on administrative correspondence and not your vision, then a virtual assistant might be the right answer.

When you need an extra helping hand, look to a virtual assistant.  Most VAs offer a variety of services, from administrative to technical to creative, and will advertise themselves in their area of expertise.  For example, some assistants will focus on designing websites for you and maintaining the website or database after completion.

One of the benefits of hiring a virtual assistant is cost savings.  They will work for you from their own home office; they are not employees, so you do not need to pay employee tax or benefits. Partnering with a VA allows you to pay for the work you need and not for idle time.  Simply put, if there is no work, you don't pay them.

Finding A Virtual Assistant

Finding the right virtual assistant means looking into the most well-known areas for virtual assistants.  There are many resources available, all of which can help get you to the right person.  For example, VANetworking, the VA industry's market leader since 2003,  thoroughly vets their VA's and the businesses looking to hire and will help you find the best Virtual Assistant for your business needs.

Pricing a Virtual Assistant

As a business owner, you know the important questions to ask before you get involved in anything.  One of the common questions you have probably grown familiar with asking is, "how much will this cost me?" Knowing how much each service will cost with a virtual assistant can help you define what work you want and need to complete and what isn't essential to get done.

Pricing systems vary among VAs. Some will charge by the hour or on retainers, and others might have standard pricing for projects or packages such as website maintenance or social media management.

Long-Term or Short-Term

You can hire a VA for long-term management projects, such as ongoing social media management, or short-term projects, such as planning an upcoming event or building a website.

Short-term projects usually focus on a specific function or task; however, they can also be on-going, such as performing maintenance, which requires regular updating.  For example, bookkeeping is typically a short-term project because it only needs to be maintained once every quarter.

No matter what type of extra help you need, you can find a virtual assistant who will see your vision and help you to reach your goal.  You can easily find a virtual assistant who will do what is in your company's best interest.

Have questions? I'm here to help! Set up a NO OBLIGATION, and TOTALLY FREE call to discover the possibilities!

7 Tax Tips

7 Tax Time Tips

7 Tax Tips

7 Tax Time Tips

Prepare Now, No Stress Later

task virtual assistant

April 18th  will be here before you know it (March 15th for many small businesses). Start getting ready today with our FREE Tax Guide and ChecklistPreparing ahead of time for the filing of your income taxes can reduce your stress.

For many reasons, feelings of dread and the tax season seem to go hand in hand.  Waiting until the last minute to file and scrambling to find your documents will only add to that sense of dread and elevate your stress levels. Follow these seven tips to get organized and file your taxes on time:

1. Collect all income related documents

W-2 Forms: If you held a job in 2021, you should have a W-2 for each job. Find the W-2s for each person in the household that worked. A W-2 contains your wage information and the various taxes that were withheld. Your employer is responsible for getting this form to you by February 1, 2022.

1099s: You should receive a 1099 based on the source of income such as NEC: contract labor, G: unemployment, MISC: school loans, gambling winnings, DIV: Dividends, INT: Interest Income.

1098: You can find payment information on your 1098  for items such as property taxes and school loan payments.

Other income-related documents and Information:

    • Various income and interest statements from your bank or brokerage. Ensure you have a statement for each account.
    • Bank account number: If you’d like your refund deposited into your account, you’ll need your account number and routing number. This information can be found at the bottom of your checks.

Be sure to review all the forms and information. Is everything accurate? It’s not unusual to find a mistake or two. Take the time to review all documents with a fine-tooth comb!

2. Collect all paid receipts

  • Collect any work-related receipts for anything you purchased for your job and didn’t receive reimbursement. If you are self-employed, the list of qualifying items is likely to be much longer. Computers, furniture, marketing expenses, and utilities are all viable deductions for the self-employed. Using a Profit & Loss (Income) statement during the year is a great way to keep it all organized. Bonus: you can track your monthly cash flow at any point and adjust your goals as necessary.
  • Hiring a bookkeeper will take the burden off your plate, and in many cases, it's tax-deductible! 

3. Collect proof of energy-efficient improvements

  • Did you make any energy-efficient improvements during 2021?  You may be able to take a credit of 30% of the cost, limited to $500. Items like insulation and energy-efficient doors and windows qualify. Have your receipts handy.

4. IRA/Retirement Documents

  • Collect proof of your IRA contributions. Cancelled checks or the brokerage statement are ideal. Your employer will provide your 401(k) contribution information.
  • You will also need any payouts you received such as lump-sum distributions. You might have gathered this with your income related documents, so go ahead and put it in a separate pile. This type of distribution is not considered income, but may still be taxable.

5. Social Security Documents

  • Collect social security information for everyone in the household you will be claiming on your return.  The social security number is required to ensure that each child/dependent is only claimed once. If you have a young child, it might be necessary to apply for a social security number. IMPORTANT: You must have a social security number for all dependents before any applicable tax credits will apply. This includes credits such as Earned Income Credit (EIC), Child/Dependent Care Credit, and Child Tax Credit.

6. Charitable Donations

  • Collect information regarding charitable donations. It’s becoming more important with each passing year to be able to detail and substantiate your charitable donations. Receipts are especially important. Taking pictures of donated items isn’t necessary, but recommended. Cancelled checks and credit card statements are also important.

7. Review Last Year

  • Review last year’s tax return. Last year’s return can be useful. You might find a carry forward from last year that should be applied to your current tax return. This is especially true for business gains/losses and depreciation.

Filing taxes doesn’t have to be a stressful process. Organization is the key. Keep track of your important documents and receipts. Take pictures of items you’re donating.

Make next year better than this year. After your return is filed, develop a system to manage your documents and receipts for next year. Choose a place to store everything you’ll need for the next time. A small amount of preparation can make everything easier in the future. When tax season rolls around, you’ll be ready to go!

tax prep

Hire a Tax Preparer or Go It Alone?

tax prep

Hire a Tax Preparer or Go It Alone?

task virtual assistant

Albert Einstein once said, "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax".

But more and more people are making the move to doing their taxes at home. With programs like 1040.com andFreeTaxUSA available, the process can be simplified and the refund swift in coming. However, going it alone is not always the wisest or most cost-efficient choice.

Let’s weigh some of the key factors in determining whether you should go it alone, or enlist the aid of a professional tax preparer.

Is it worth your time?
For the self-employed, it may be more advantageous to enlist the services of a professional tax preparer or Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Doing your own taxes, especially those related to a business, takes time. And, time is money.

Do you have the knowledge to glean all of the tax-related benefits involved in owning your own business?
Being self-employed may just be one of the greatest tax strategies of our time. As a self-employed individual, you are in control of your taxable income. With the right know-how, you can fully control how much tax you pay. In fact, there are many tax advantages to being self-employed, and, oftentimes, a professional can find tax savings and deductions related to your business that you may have otherwise overlooked.

Ultimately, for the self-employed, it’s a matter of weighing the cost against the advantages of hiring a professional. Keep in mind, however, hiring a professional can often result in tax savings that more than makeup for the cost of the service.

What if you aren’t self-employed? What if you are filing for yourself or your family?
In this case, it may be worthwhile to consider going it alone. Programs like 1040.com make it easier for you and will walk you through the process step-by-step and often make receiving your refund a simple and expedient process.

Above all else though, the best rule of thumb to follow in either situation is to trust yourself. Base your decision on whichever route gives you the most peace of mind. If you are comfortable completing the tax forms and utilizing the programs available for going it on your own, then this may be the best route for you. If however, you have any doubts or concerns, your best bet may be to hire a professional tax preparer.

Whatever you may decide, download our Tax Preparation Guide and Checklist to help you better prepare.

Bookkeeping Tax Prep

Popular Bookkeeping Software: My User Experience

Bookkeeping Tax Prep

Popular Bookkeeping Software: My User Experience

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As we enter tax season, I wanted to talk to you about a few bookkeeping software programs that will help make your tax prep go smooth and stress-free. First let me say, there are many, many applications out there that are really good. A quick google search on "bookkeeping software" returns an onslaught of programs and reports on the best programs, comparisons, etc. It can be quite overwhelming! So what makes my comparison any different? Honestly? Probably not much, but I am going to talk about four programs based upon my user experience with them.

Over the past two years, I have been on the search for the perfect SaaS business solution, from bookkeeping to email marketing to social media management, and everything in between. And yes, there will be reports on all! Today I want to share my real experiences and thoughts on four programs: Quickbooks, Xero, Wave, and ZohoBooks. Complete transparency, some of my links may be affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission should you decide to buy their product, but this report is by no means recommending one or the other. This is just a story of my search for my perfect solution.

I used Quickbooks Desktop in the past, so it made sense for me to choose this software as my business tool. There are at least fourteen different Quickbooks solutions, probably more but I lost count, and it's not an easy task to sort through all of them and choose the one best for you. I chose Quickbooks for Self Employed and immediately realized my mistake, but gave it the old college try. Quickbooks for Self Employed (let's just call it QSE for simplicity's sake!), is an excellent tool for Schedule C filers. You can easily categorize between business and personal expenses, set routine recurring expenses, create tags, and more. The reporting is also fantastic, again for Schedule C filers. If however, you file a Form 1065, as I do, this is not the way to go as it combines all your personal and business data on the P&L and throws everything off. I could never get the two, QSE and my Excel spreadsheet, to match up. It was more frustrating than anything! My experience with Quickbooks customer service was not pleasant, but I'll spare the war story. Suffice to say, that after a few attempts, I finally reached someone who could help me switch my current account to QBO or Pro, and she even offered to do the transition so I wouldn't have to worry about messing anything up. Oops. I should have done it on my own. The transition went smooth, but she pulled EVERYTHING from my QSE, including my personal accounts! Contacted customer service again only to be told that they couldn't fix it, but I could purchase their accounting service and have one of their bookkeepers' help. Wait, WHAT?!?!?!?!? But it was your mistake Quickbooks!

Overall: Quickbooks is a love/hate kinda thing for me. It has exceptional functionality and an array of accounting reports that will help you see your position at any given time. I love the tag feature and the ability to filter within accounts. It's rather simple to use, but a little rigid if you need to fix a mistake. This is going to be the best solution for someone, just not me. Would I go back? I've thought it about, but then there's the hate factor - customer service.
Customer Service: Severely lacking, and this my friends, is a deal-breaker for me. If they up their customer care game, I could be persuaded.
Cost: Reasonable. Different tiers based on your needs. Online Plus has an annual subscription. The desktop version comes with updates for three years.

I liked what I saw of it. But, could not correct an account status from Bank to CC, even though I selected CC when I loaded it. When I reached out to customer service their response was to create a new account (complete new Xero account!) with a different organization name, and then link the credit card account to "Credit Card". Hmmm, but I did that the first time. After a little more digging and researching, I came to the conclusion that if your banking account and credit card account are from the same financial institution, then it will revert to "Bank" no matter what you do. And then, once you link an account, there is no way to change its orientation - even though there is an option to do that just that!
They do have a very easy invoicing system, that walks you through the process very easily, a zero on the frustration scale - haha, no pun intended there! However, I didn't like their choice for ACH - the company wanted way too much information for my liking, and then they wouldn't even cancel my application without first giving them said information. They continue to spam me for this information.

Overall: I never really had a chance to dig in. I went in on a free trial and I spent so much time trying to figure out a workaround for the credit card account that my trial expired. Quick note: once your trial expires, you can not get in to retrieve your data. I recommend downloading your data a couple of days before it expires if you decide not to move forward.
Customer Service: Slow in responses
Cost: Free trial, then monthly subscription packages based on your needs. No annual plan.

This is perfect for businesses just starting out, or if you have a small budget. The program is free for accounting and invoicing purposes. You will get charged transaction fees, just like any other merchant pay program, and you can add Payroll for a low monthly fee. It doesn't have a lot of integrations, and recently discontinued its integration with PayPal. Their suggestion was to use Zapier and create a zap if you need PayPal. This is quite inconvenient not only because you need another program (Zapier), but depending on how many PayPal transactions you do each month, those zaps can get a little bit expensive.

Overall: The lack of integration was a deal-breaker for me and I canceled my account.
Customer Service: I was unable to reach anyone and had to find out about PayPal through a Google search.
Cost: Free for basic service. Payroll plans start at $20 a month.

I've been using Zoho Books for a few months now and really enjoy it. It was easy to get set up and easy to use, once you get past the steep learning curve. They do have several webinars on YouTube to guide you along. The only issue I've had so far is the double, and sometimes triple entry it brings in with the PayPal connection. UGH! I have since disabled PayPal and it's running very smoothly. Zoho Books connects with PayPal, Stripe, Square, and WePay. They also have an ACH program which I have yet to configure. They even have a project and time tracking feature!  It may replace what I use in ClickUp!

Overall: Extensive reporting system, invoicing, and accounting, with the ability to add Payroll. Connects to all your Zoho services with a key.
Cost: Free version until your business grows, then tiered pricing plans based on your needs. So far, I'm loving it! And it doesn't hurt that Zoho has a kazillion other products I can rabbit hole down!!
Customer Service: I have not had to contact them, yet.
Cost: Free for basic service. Payroll plans start at $20 a month.
Automate Your Business Finances

Organizational Efficiency: Automate Your Business Finances

Automate Your Business Finances

Organizational Efficiency: Automate Your Business Finances

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Every business must figure out how they plan to keep track of income and expenses and set up benchmarks for planning purposes. In Organizational Efficiency: The Anatomy of your Business, I showed you how automating your business helps free up your valuable time to do more money-making activities. The poster child for automation is business finances. Think about it, most of your business finance tasks are recurring and rarely change, making it perfect for automation! The tools that exist today, such as Quickbooks and Xero, are easy to use, inexpensive, and work great. Today, most bookkeeping software, even Go Daddy’s version, will automatically book your purchases and income for you and categorize the expense, saving you hours! It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Below are some finance tasks you can easily automate:

Invoicing and Reminders

Send recurring invoices automatically based on the criteria you set up. You can also set up auto-reminders for invoices that might need a little tweaking before they go out.

What’s more, when your client clicks the invoice to pay, the software automatically records the payment.

Payroll

If you have employees, then you know how timely payroll can be! Investing in payroll software can save you time and money.

Depending on the size of your staff or how many contractors you have, having an automated system will help ensure your people are paid on time, and letting them self-manage their pay helps save you time. Look at your bookkeeping software to determine if there are add-ons to help automate this or try using SurePayRoll.

Bill Paying

Set up automatic payments through your bank or credit card company, so you don’t have to think about them every month. Another plus, automatic payments prevent late fees!

Storing Records and Receipts

Use receipt scanning apps like Wave to take a picture of your records and receipts so that it’s always there when you need it. Your accountant will thank you!!

Expense Management

Managing expenses, especially when you’re away from your office, is easy today with software like Zoho Expense and fylehq.com that help you collect receipts, appropriately book the expense, and so forth. Even your existing bookkeeping software may have an option.

Investing and Saving

The truth is, if you don’t invest and save on a regular basis, you won’t do it. Set up automatic transfers with your bank to send money to your investments and savings accounts, whether personal or business finances.

Automating your finances helps you avoid making the same steps over and over again. There is no reason to repeat tasks today when there is software available to do it for you. You can save hours each day by implementing these financial automation tips and tools.


Download our free Organizational Efficiency Workbook and start taking control of your time!

Outsourcing

Outsourcing: The Key to Success

Outsourcing

Outsourcing: The Key to Success

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Think back to when you first set out to build your business. Do you remember what your “wants” were? For most, whether building a small business or becoming an entrepreneur, the first need, or “want,” was to have a business that provided the income you needed without overtaking your life.  Working in the Corporate world was sucking your life away. Sure, you had an awesome career, maybe an excellent salary and title, but at what cost? Long commutes, long hours, you were missing out on the joy of life. So you decided to take matters into your own hands.

Fast forward – six months? One year? Five years? Are you enjoying your business success, living that full and rich life, both professionally and personally? If you are, Congratulations! But I’d be willing to bet you are still overworked.  So how do you build that successful business and get everything you want? The key is outsourcing.

My Story

My story is very similar to many independent contractors. I was in the Corporate world, living the dream. I had an excellent, well-established career, a fantastic salary and benefits, and a commute from hell. But I loved my job. Then my company had a corporation-wide restructuring, and I found myself without a job. Trying to land another job in an unstable and volatile employment outlook proved futile and frustrating, so I stopped looking and decided to build my own business. My first thought was, “what do I want to be when I grow up.” After careful deliberation, I knew what would make me happiest would be helping others.   I thrived when I was employed as a secretary, an administrative assistant, even an assistant manager. I was at my best in these positions because I was helping, I felt needed, and I knew I was making someone’s life a little bit easier.

So I did what makes sense to me, leveraged all my years of experience and skillset, and became a virtual assistant to help give you back your time to do the things you love, to focus on growing that business you worked hard to build. This is the number one reason why virtual assistants exist and why we outsource our skills to you. Keep on reading to learn how outsourcing helps your business.

How Will Outsourcing Help My Business?

  • Grow - Well planned outsourcing can improve your efficiency, cut costs, speed up product creation, and give you time to focus on the important planning and directing that a business owner must do, aside from doing the actual tasks in the business.
  • Boost Resources - adds key resources and skills to your arsenal. No need to learn how to manipulate Excel or take a coding class when you can hire someone to do it when you need it.
  • Save Money - Outsourcing means you use an independent contractor only when you need them and not pay someone for non-productive hours.
  • Remove Bottlenecks - When you start to outsource tasks in your business, you’ll notice bottlenecks start to clear up, and tasks are being completed more efficiently. Because the truth is, in most small businesses, the bottleneck is the business owner.
  • Frees Up Your Time – As a business owner, you have a lot to do, but you don’t have to do it all. You started your business to offer your expertise, your point of difference, not spend your day on mundane and overwhelming tasks. By hiring an independent contractor, you focus your talent on doing things that only you can do.
  • Improve Customer Satisfaction and Reviews – The truth is, someone else can probably do some things better than you. Because of that, if you outsource to the right people for the right things, you can improve your offers, thus improving your customer satisfaction dramatically.

How Do I Outsource Successfully?

Before you start the search, define what it is you want to have done. Being clear on the parameters of your project is half the battle.

  • Evaluate contractors carefully – Look at testimonials, examples, and always make sure they are who they say they are. If needed, ask for personal references. Most independent contractors will not be willing to provide client contact information but may have personal references available.
  • Make your decision based on their skill and expertise, not price – Don’t always hire people based on the lowest price. Sometimes a higher price ends up being a lower price due to time and expertise. “You get what you pay for” is true for outsourcing.
  • Start Small – Choosing a small task or project to outsource will help you determine how well they meet deadlines and stand by their work, as well as fit in your environment. They may be capable, but a bad match will leave you feeling frustrated.

Outsourcing is the biggest key to your freedom. Remember that many things you need to be done can be done by someone else. You really can hire experts remotely for a lot less than you think and increase the capabilities of your business fast. I'm going to leave you with a few final tips to help you choose your awesome, amazing independent contractor for your business needs:

  1. Know What You Want – Write a detailed job or project description highlighting the expected deliverables, timetable, and budget.
  2. It’s OK to hire more than one contractor for a project – Hiring out for parts of a project, such as writing, editing, and formatting, may turn out a better product. And if one gets sick, the project doesn’t come to a halt or fall back on you.
  3. Know Your Budget – You need to know the range you’re able to pay for the projects you’re trying to outsource.
  4. Do Your Research – Visit their website, check out their social media pages, read their reviews and testimonials. Remember the saying, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” Always check up on anyone you plan to work with, especially if they will be associated with your business name in any way. You would do this if you were hiring an employee, and you should do it anytime you plan to have someone work in your company, no matter the status.
  5. Respect Their Business – Chances are, your independent contract will not be exclusive to you as they are not your employee. How many active clients they have or how they produce your deliverables is not any of your concerns. The important part is that they deliver the results you paid for, on time, as per the agreement you both sign.
  6. Communicate Regularly and Quickly – A regular touch base is important, especially with long-term projects or retainer bases services such as office admin and management. When your contractors have a question, try to get back to them as quickly as possible with the answers.
  7. Pay on Time – This is probably the top three if not the number one complaint most independent contractors have. If you promise to pay them a certain amount of money for their service, pay them according to your agreement. Don’t hire people if you don’t have the funds to pay at that moment.

Many awesome independent contractors want to work virtually, so if you know what you want and do your due diligence, you will find them.

Need a virtual assistant? Schedule a call with me personally! Let's talk about your business and how I can help you.

Are you considering starting a virtual assistant career? I recommend checking out VA Networking. (write up). Unsure how to start? Check out the free resources or enroll in the VA Career program, everything you ever needed to start up a VA business including a made-for-you website/hosting/domain name.  A positive investment in your future!

 

 

 

Pros and Cons and Filing Your Taxes Early

Pros and Cons of Filing Your Taxes Early

Pros and Cons and Filing Your Taxes Early

Pros and Cons of Filing Your Taxes Early

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Do you rush to file your tax returns as soon as possible? Do you gather all your documentation and stand at the IRS virtual door on opening day? As with everything, filing early has its pros and cons, but is filing early really a good idea?? Like many things in life, the answer is, “It depends.”

Not every situation is conducive to filing early. Filing for an extension and putting it off as long as possible may make more sense for some filers. Read on to learn the good, the bad, and sometimes the downright ugly of filing early and why waiting might be best.

The Good

Your security. This is probably the best reason to file early and therefore makes #1 on my list. Filing your taxes early can protect you from would-be cyber thieves.

The IRS will only allow one return per social security number, and it’s first come first served. If your social security number has been hijacked, you will get a rejection notice from the IRS.

At this point, you will need to file a claim and start the process of proving your identity, and you will have to show proof you weren’t involved in committing fraud against the IRS. Most of these cases do not get resolved until after tax season. Protect yourself now! Get ahead of the cybercrooks by protecting your computer and devices. Enroll in Cybersecurity At Home and discover how quick and simple it is to secure your home network.

Receive your refund sooner. Obviously, It’s your money! Who doesn’t want their money as quickly as possible?

If you’re owed a tax refund, then the earlier you file, the faster the refund. This is especially true if you’re going to mail your return (yes, 30% still use the mail). As you can probably imagine,  the IRS is less busy in February than in April.

Be free of the mental clutter. It has to get done one way or the other. It makes sense to get it over with and free yourself from it hanging over your head. Life is easier if you don’t procrastinate. Just do it.

The post office is less crowded. Remember what I said about 30% still mail their returns? That’s over 62 million of the adult US population trying to use the post office at roughly the same time. Many people don’t want to file electronically for a variety of reasons, one being security! Avoid the crowds and file early.

You won’t be late. I have a knack for stating the obvious. How can you be late if you file early?

Many of us plan to do things with the best of intentions, then life happens, and they usually end up waiting until the last minute.

I don't have to point out how risky that can be. What if you find out that you’re missing some key piece of information? What if you get sick? There are too many variables in life to put off something like filing your tax return until the last minute.

You’ll be more accurate. Starting your return early will keep you from rushing through it, thus ensuring that you have everything you need and that it’s done correctly. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. If you’re not rushed for time, you’ll be more likely to avoid errors.

The Bad

Why pay early? You want to file early when you expect a refund, but why would you want to pay early? It's your money!

If you owe the IRS, you’ll want to keep it as long as you can, maybe even make a little more in interest. It makes sense to keep your money as long as you can.

You might end up having to file a corrected return later. W-2s and 1099s are due February 1; however, It’s not uncommon to get them late or for providers to come back a month after sending your documentation and say, “Oops, we made a mistake.” Taking a little extra time to file your return will give you that much more time to gather your documents and ensure that you don’t have to do it more than once.

The Ugly

Early filers have a greater chance of being audited. If you file early, are you more likely to get audited? I’m not sure if we can ever answer that definitively. Still, it is believed that if the vast majority of the population is filing at the last minute, the odds of being selected are minimal due to the sheer number of tax returns the IRS agents must handle. Truth or fiction? No one knows, but why take a chance.

Consider the above factors when deciding to file your tax return. If you’re in a situation that puts you at risk of being audited, and you don’t need your refund or copies of your return right away, it can be wise to wait.

On the other hand, if your return is simple, you’re due a refund, and you need the refund now; there’s no time like the present to file your return.

Assess your situation and make the smart choice for your circumstances.

Plan Ahead to Take the Stress Out of Tax Day

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Plan Ahead to Take the Stress Out of Tax Day

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April 15 is a dreadful day for many people, simply because it's the deadline for filing income taxes. The truth is this day doesn't have to be ominous or overwhelming. You can reduce your stress and improve your financial future simply by getting a jump on your income tax preparation early.

Gather your records early. Take the time to gather all of your documentation together beforehand so you have everything you need to get started. Gather your past tax returns as well, as these will provide valuable insight for where you can save money on your taxes in comparison to previous years.

Look to government resources for help. The Internal Revenue Service website and taxing authority websites for each individual state are valuable resources for individuals seeking tax help. Use these free resources to your advantage to get some extra assistance while filing your taxes.

Make last minute tax-deductible purchases. Especially if it looks like you'll owe money on your return, before the end of December, make any purchases that can give you an extra tax deduction. If you're self-employed, purchase necessary items for your business.

Donate cash or items. Remember to make your donations before December 31st so you'll receive your tax deduction for this year. Be sure to get a receipt!

E-File your return. There are a number of benefits to e-filing, or electronically filing, your tax return. For example, most E-file software will compute tax credits and deductions for you based on the information that you put in. Plus, if you're getting a refund, it's quicker than mailing your return.

The Bottom Line

The best way to get the most out of your income taxes is simply to get a jump on them early. With planning and preparation, you can maximize your deductions and simplify the filing process without stressing yourself out along the way.