Archive for the ‘Money’ Category

Paypal Instant Transfer Is Here

Paypal Instant Transfer Is Here!

YAY! I am so excited about instant transfer on Paypal, I can’t even TELL you!

If you use a regular Paypal personal account, you should see the instant transfer option in your Wallet. The standard one-day transfer is still free, but if you’d like to transfer and have your funds available more immediately, you now have that option for a very nominal $0.25 fee.

They have already started the roll-out so if you don’t see it in your account now, you should very soon.

If you have a Paypal Business account (like I do), though, it may appear that you don’t have the instant transfer capability. You do, but there’s a little bit of a work-around to go through.

That’s because the instant transfer was mainly built for consumers, not business.

To make this easier for you, here are the steps for making an instant transfer if you have a Paypal business account:

  1. Go to your Paypal account and add your bank debit card (if you don’t already have it in there).
  2. Download the Paypal consumer app to your smartphone (if you don’t already have it there). The regular consumer app will say simply “Paypal.” If you have downloaded the app that comes up as “Paypal Business,” that’s the wrong one.
  3. Open the app. Go to the balance page. Click on “Manage Balance.”
  4. In the lower right, you should see an option for “Transfer to Bank.” Click on that.
  5. On the page that opens, type in the amount you want to transfer. NOTE: Paypal will deduct the $0.25 fee from any amount you transfer so if you want an even number, be sure to add in the fee. Example: If you want to transfer $1.00, make the transfer amount $1.25.
  6. Once you’ve entered the transfer amount, click “Done” and then “Next” on the page after that. This will bring up the page to choose where you want to transfer the money to. In the event that you already have your bank account linked to your Paypal account, you will see it listed here. DO NOT choose your bank account. That’s because if you have a Paypal Business account, you can’t do instant transfers to bank accounts. Let me rephrase that: You can transfer to your bank account, but it will take the regular 1-day processing time (which is free). The work-around is that if you want to do an instant transfer from a Paypal business account, it has to go to your bank account’s debit card. So, next to your bank account, you should see an option to “Choose.” Click on that and then scroll right on the images until you see your bank debit card listed. That is the one you want to choose if you want an instant transfer. Select that and away you go!

When I did my first test transfer of $1.25 and it took mere seconds for it to show up in my bank account.

I then transferred a larger, more significant amount, and it also showed up in my online bank account nearly instantly. So it’s very fast!!!!

I also confirmed that you can do as many transfers in a day as you like (no limits). The dollar limit per transfer (or maybe it’s per day?) is $10,000.

It used to take 3-4 days for my transfers to go through, which meant I didn’t have access to those funds until the process was fully completed, which is inconvenient.

If I wanted my money sooner and needed it in an account from where I could (for example) make payments to my credit cards, I would have to make a special trip to withdraw the funds I needed, then go to the bank and make a deposit.

What a waste of time and gas. (Not to mention the nuisance ATM fees we’re often charged, grrrr!)

This is going to add so much more ease and convenience and speed to our banking and accounting processes!

Be sure and let your clients know also as many of them use Paypal, too. This may open up additional options and convenience for them in billing their clients and moving funds around more quickly.

Have you tried Paypal instant transfer out yet? Are you excited to try it out? What do you think?

Accepting Electronic Payments with Viewpost

Last year, Intuit discontinued its Intuit Payment Network (IPN), which was a convenient way to collect payments from clients inexpensively (only 50 cents per transaction).

Plus, even though it was a great option for receiving payment electronically from clients, there were some minimum financial benchmarks to meet in order to qualify for the service so it didn’t work for everyone.

Paypal is a handy, extremely easy-to-use backup and while any fees you pay are a business write-off (so I don’t sweat them), it still would be nice to have another IPN alternative.

So I was definitely interested when I received an email from my bank about a third party service called Viewpost.

I haven’t used it yet, but I have signed up, which was very easy to do. Here’s what I can tell you so far:

  1. It works with any bank in the U.S.
  2. There are no minimum financial qualifications or balances to meet to sign up and use the service.
  3. You can invoice anyone for free using the ViewPost invoice service. (Aside: I prefer my own custom, fully branded business invoices inside Quickbooks so I won’t be using this feature. I consider invoicing both an accounting and marketing function, and I’m VERY particular about how all of that is done and looks. While you can upload your own logo in Viewpost, their invoicing isn’t very sophisticated or customizable beyond that so it’s a no-go for me. However, I was informed that the service is compatible with Quickbooks if you like to automate the bookkeeping portion of it.)
  4. Clients can pay with bank account or credit card (all my clients prefer credit card because their payments to me earn them a significant amount of travel miles, hotel and cashback rewards). During the sign-up process in Viewpost, you’ll also have the option to sign up with Stripe which is the service that will give you the additional functionality of accepting credit card payments. If you sign up for Viewpost only, payment will only be bank account to bank account.
  5. You are not charged for any payments you receive through the service.
  6. For clients to pay you through the service, they will also need to set up an account. However, this is a one-time process and they can then use that account with other vendors as well as for themselves and their own clients if they so choose.

CAVEAT: While you pay no fees for any payments submitted to you, the client is charged 50 cents per transaction. Of course, 50 cents in the scheme of things is nothing; however, on principle, I don’t feel my clients should be charged any kind of fee to pay me. This is a pretty important standard to me so I don’t like this part whatsoever. I would prefer to be the one paying the 50 cents as I feel any fees charged are my business cost to bear. I consider my practice to be an upscale service and would never dream of charging or passing on chintzy fees like that to clients. I’m sure there’s some work-around I can figure out (e.g., reducing my invoice by 50 cents perhaps), though, knowing my clients, they aren’t going to care about paying an extra 50 cents. (But I care!)

All said and done, it’s still worth trying out as it would be nice to keep more of my own well-earned payments myself.

Check them out here: Viewpost

And their pricing page: Viewpost Pricing Info

Better yet, ask your bank if they already partner with Viewpost and ask for their special link/sign-up page as there might be some special advantage to doing that. I received my invite via my bank and there is a special $25 Amazon gift card sign-up bonus right now.

Have you used Viewpost before? What was your experience with it? Any other Viewpost info or tips you can share with us?

Do you know of a similar service that only charges 50 cents per payment transaction?

Let us know!

UPDATE 2/22/17:

Well, this has turned out to be a bit of a no-go for me. It occurred to me to ask about accepting credit card payments. I have most of my clients on auto-pay (where they sign an agreement and I process their payments to me automatically each month), and most of them prefer paying by credit card because they want the airline/travel/hotel/cashback points and rewards. I was informed that you can only accept credit card payments by using Stripe (which the Viewpost sign-up process has you sign up for as well) and their regular merchant account processing fees  (I think they said it was roughly 2.9%). I was also told that it would take anywhere from 2 – 7 days for those payments to actual process and be available to me. And while the bank-to-bank account payments through Viewpost, even though they would only cost 50 cents to the client who is paying, those would also not resolve for 2 days and could take as long as 10 days to finalize.

So that was all a deal breaker for me. Why would I switch to a new system that creates more work and rigamarole (for me and my clients) and no cost savings when I can already have a system in place with the ease and convenience of instant payment with Paypal? Sure, I might pay the same fees to PayPal, but you’re going to pay the same (or more) to any merchant account service and the ease and convenience and instant availability of my funds is worth it to me. Plus, any fees you pay are a business write-off so I’m not worried about them. They help reduce my taxes.

Still, as with anything, there’s always a positive side. Now I know more about this particular service and even though it’s not right for me and my clients currently, there still might be some odd occasion where it can be handy, either for me or for one of my clients.

Why Should I Pay that When I Can Get a Temp or Offshore VA for $5 Bucks an Hour?

Ever hear a client utter these words?

It’s probably the most grating sentence in our industry today.

But what if you knew exactly how to respond?

What if you offered your services in a way that didn’t focus whatsoever on hourly rates?

Wouldn’t that be a total game changer?

It’s not so annoying when you actually begin to love responding to that question (or when you no longer get it in the first place). ;)

…If you frequently encounter price resistance with clients and want to know what to do about it;

…If you have trouble getting clients to commit;

…If you struggle with articulating your value to clients, talking about your fees, and feeling confident about them;

…If you find the whole topic of pricing difficult, I have the solution!

It’s my value-priced packaging and pricing guide, How to Price and Package Your Support Based on Hours & Expertise — NOT Selling Hours

Value-Based Pricing & Packaging Guide: How to Price and Package Your Support Based on Value and Expertise—NOT Selling Hours (GDE39)

This guide will show you how to:

  • Attract more clients, more easily;
  • Make more money;
  • Create an easier business to run;
  • And toss out those time sheets forever!

…all without discounting, bargaining, or justifying your fees whatsoever!

The Heartbreaking Reality for Most Businesses in Our Industry

I came across something utterly heartbreaking a few weeks ago.

I’ve been sitting on it for awhile, going back and forth about whether or not to have a conversation around it.

I never want to discourage anyone from this business or have anyone take things the wrong way. Because if you set things up right, it is an AMAZING business and lifestyle.

However, it’s a cold, hard truth that no one ever talks about in our industry.

And the problem with not talking about things that are uncomfortable, that aren’t all “rah, rah, kumbaya” all the time, is that you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge.

What was this thing I came across? An ad for a “Virtual Assistant Business For Sale.”

And what is this cold, hard truth I speak of? It’s that most people in our industry are not profitable and not making the kind of money they can actually live on.

You see, the sad thing about this ad is that it isn’t an exception. It’s actually a very accurate example reflective of what most of the businesses in our industry look like.

Now, before I dissect this for you, I first want to make it absolutely clear: It is not that people can’t make more money in our kind of business; they absolutely can! YOU absolutely can!

It’s simply that they are being taught by the industry at large in all the worst possible ways to price, operate and market themselves (like calling yourself a “virtual assistant”). And it’s keeping them poor, overworked and overwhelmed.

The fortunate thing is that YOU always have the possibility to learn better so that your business can do better for you.

And that always benefits your clients because you can’t take good care of others if your needs aren’t taken care of first.

Here is the ad:

The Heartbreaking Reality for Most Businesses in Our Industry

Let’s examine the problematic issues here:

  1. We see that the business has been around for 11 years. Great! After that amount of time, you’d expect them to be earning really well.
  2. Yet in the first bullet we see they are only making £1900/mo (British Pound) which is $2363.98/mo USD. After that many (11) years, why are they still making that little money? Those are poverty-level wages. Did they mean perhaps that this is the average value per client?
  3. Unfortunately, no, we see in the next bullets that after 11 years they have only 1 retainer client at only £350 GBP/$435.39 USD per month. The rest of their revenues come from 15 regular (but uncommitted/non-retainer) clients and 20 ad hoc clients, which I’m interpreting to mean an average of 20 project clients each month. The problem is that at this number of clients they should be making several thousands of dollars per month! I can’t even imagine (well, actually, I can) how overwhelmed and overworked they are… and for such a paltry sum on money! To give some context/frame of reference, I make more with just one of my retainer clients than they make in an entire month from 36 clients.
  4. They also mention having relationships with two typists. This business owner is barely making ends meet at these figures, where on earth is there any margin to pay anyone else? (Answer: there isn’t.) It means that they are doing all this work at a loss! Especially at gross figures that don’t even account for expenses, operating costs, taxes, etc.
  5. This is not a profitable business in any way, shape or form. What has most likely happened is that burnout caught up to them (no wonder!) and they are now trying to unload the sinking ship. But there are no assets of any value to sell here. The clients it has are being charged such an ungodly little amount, there is almost no way in hell to ever reset those kind of expectations. They’ve branded and positioned this business as “cheap” and there is just nowhere you can go with that. It would be faster, easier and less costly for you to create a business from scratch and establish the brand based on properly set foundations and expectations and charging higher, more profitable professional fees.

Don’t misunderstand me. This examination is in no way a denigration of the business’s owner.

Rather, it’s utterly heartbreaking to me that they have made so little money working with too many clients with basically no commitment and constant churn. I wish I’d had the opportunity to help them early on.

When we talk about these things, there are always a certain number of people who don’t understand why it’s so important to have these conversations.

But bringing this consciousness to the fore is integral to being able to improve things so you can better earn in your own business.

It’s why I’m always talking about money, how you are marketing and positioning your business and brand, how not charging profitably sets you up for failure, about how the expectations and perceptions you create in clients directly affect your ability to charge properly and earn well.

These are the topics that will make or break your business.

It’s this fundamental business education — and not the latest, greatest software or tools — that is key to creating a profitable, sustainable business where you can get, work with and keep great clients (clients worth having who value you, not cheapos looking for a free handout), make great money and that works around and enriches your life and what’s important to you (instead of the business running you).

What could this person have done differently?

  1. Business planning. Going through the exercise of business planning forces you to think through and get clear and conscious about all the important details of your business such as your needs, goals and intentions around money, what kind of clients you want to work with and are worth working with, and what business standards, policies and procedures to establish accordingly.
  2. Getting off the project work merry-go-round. A business based on project work needs a shit-ton of clients and work in order to stay alive. It’s a constant, never-ending hamster wheel of marketing, even while you already have clients and work to take care of in front of you, and you never know where your next meal is coming from. Nothing wrong with project work, but think of it as secondary income, the gravy to the meat and potatoes where you make your “real” money.
  3. Expecting a commitment. Retainer clients (clients who pay a monthly fee upfront for a plan of support) are where the real money is at. A commitment of working together each month allows you to do your best work and gives you something to actually work with to achieve a tangible, demonstrable value and results for clients. But of course, if you don’t ever expect a commitment, you’ll never get one. That’s why it’s so important to set standards in your business around what’s important to you. An expectation that clients must make a minimum commitment to be given a place on your client roster is a standard that will serve you (and your clients) well, even if some of them might not understand that at first. (You’ll have a far easier time getting commitments if you learn how to set up and navigate the whole consultation process and pricing conversation.)
  4. Get clear and conscious about the money. Charging fees based on what you see others charging (who are more often than not just as lost as everyone else) is the worst way to set your fees. It’s not about what everyone else is charging (stop looking at them!). It’s about knowing what your target market values, how you can improve their circumstances with your support and what they gain from working with you, and learning how to articulate that value to them in the context of their business and goals.
  5. Choosing a target market. This business is all over the map when it comes to who their clients are and the work they’re doing. And that is a huge part of the problem. Very simply, a target market is an industry/field/profession that you focus your administrative support on. This specialization is key to making the big bucks. That’s because when you know who it is you are focusing on, you can determine very quickly and clearly what they do in their business and what their common needs, goals, challenges, values and interests are and then develop your support solutions around those things. Your offerings will be much more interesting and compelling that way, and you’ll be able to charge more (because there will be more relevant, specific, higher perceived value) and get clients more quickly and easily.
  6. CHARGING MORE! At the poor fees this business would have to charging to account for so little monthly/annual revenue, it’s a clue that the business owner is not understanding the economics of business. You simply can’t charge rates that amount to employee wages and expect to earn well. Business is a completely different ballgame. It’s why I’m constantly reminding people, you are NOT an employee, you’re a business. There’s also this crazy, but nonetheless immutable law of business:  The more you charge, the better clients you get. And what do we mean by better clients? Client who value you and what you offer. Clients who are invested and make the commitment to working together. Clients who aren’t looking for the free buffet. Clients who are loyal to you and the good work and results you provide them with, not how little they can pay. When you have better clients who make a monthly financial commitment to working together toward established goals, you can make more money working with fewer clients and have more time for your own life in the process.
  7. Stop calling yourself an “assistant.” One of the reasons people have a hard time charging more or seeing their value in a different light (and gaining some business self-esteem and confidence) is because so many of them insist on calling themselves “virtual assistants.” This keeps them thinking of themselves as employees and seeing things through that lens instead of from an entrepreneurial/business mindset. Here’s what you need to understand: Assistant is a term of employment, not business. Terminology (just like pricing) is a part of marketing. How you price and the words and terms you use to describe yourself have a direct influence on how clients perceive you and the expectations, perceptions and understandings they come to the table with. When you call yourself an “assistant,” they don’t look at you as a business owner and advisor. You are teaching them to view you as a type of subservient employee, and what they expect to pay is based on that wrong, harmful perception. When you call yourself an “assistant,” you are predisposing them to value you less, not more.  If you want to be able to charge higher, more appropriately profitable fees, you have to create the proper context. The verbiage and terminology you use directly impacts that context.

I have a couple of complimentary (as in free) business-building tools that shed a ton more light on all of this and will help you course-correct in your own business. If you don’t have them yet, be sure to go get them now.

***

How about you? Why did you go into this business? I’m assuming a large part of it is that you love putting your administrative talents to use and helping clients and truly making a difference in their businesses and lives.

I can’t imagine that it gives anyone joy to be broke and working too hard for too little money. So over and above that, how do you want your own life enriched and improved by owning and running your own business? What are your money aspirations? What does “profitable” and “financially successful” mean to you?

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Is Money a Dirty Word?

Is Money a Dirty Word?

My sense is this might hit some nerves and be controversial to some, but it’s an interesting topic to me so I’m just going to throw this out there:

People have a lot of ambivalence, guilt and negative associations around money. There are so many hot buttons it touches on including issues of self-worth and confidence, conformity, peer pressure, social class, even religion and spirituality.

We need it, but feel somewhat shameful about that.

We need it, but feel guilty charging well (or even properly).

Some people are ashamed if they have too little.

Others feel guilty if they have too much.

Some think those who have a lot of it are inherently evil or came about it dishonestly.

Then there are those in the world who have so little personal self-esteem and wholeness that they gauge their worth (and the worth of others) based on how much of it they have.

I’m human. I’m not immune to some of these pitfalls. I sometimes feel guilty charging. I sometimes play down instead of helping people rise to the occasion and take responsibility for themselves and their circumstances. That doesn’t help, it only keeps people playing small.

What’s the alternative? We become monks or go live in a yurt and divest ourselves from needing or wanting money or enjoying any material pleasures so no one can say we are bad or evil or selfish?

We see how poverty affects people and communities in the world in all its manifestations:  violence, crime, disease, addiction, unwanted children, suffering, exploitation, limited life options and choices… any number of things.

In this world, we need money to live. We need money to thrive. To have choice. Heck, just to take good care of ourselves, our loved ones and give our kids options and opportunities in life.

With money, we can do more good in the world and help more people because we have more resources, opportunities and abundance available to us.

With more money, we can share more.

With more money, there is more ease and less struggle. This leaves you room for more high-minded thoughts and endeavors that can actually change the lives of others.

It’s difficult (if not impossible) to do those things when you are living a hard-scrabble life just trying to survive and scratch out an existence. There’s nothing left for anyone or anything else.

And you certainly are not helping clients if you are struggling financially because that struggle keeps you distracted, preoccupied, unfocused and (let’s be honest), unhappy in a lot of ways.

Back in the day, I used to be more involved with artistic types of people. You’ve heard the term starving artist, I’m sure. They always had grand ideas, but never the money to execute or sustain. The things they did start would inevitably fail and fizzle in short order because they wanted everything to be free and felt guilty charging. So many of them literally feel they are being sell-outs if they charge or earn a good living from their art, that it’s only art if they suffer and live an impoverished life.

And I’ll tell you what I always told them:

The BEST thing you can do for these people and ideas and the art you love so much is TO CHARGE PROPERLY and make money. You will not be around long enough to have any impact or do any good and keep something going if you don’t bring in the money.

If you want to create something that lasts, that’s going to stick around for a good long while for people to enjoy and benefit from, you’ve got to charge and make money and be profitable. With more money, you can live an even more interesting life, have even more valuable, interesting, mind-expanding experiences and personal growth that you can bring to your art and share with others.

Money is not a dirty word. Money is a tool.

I have so many questions on this topic:

What kind of feelings do you have around money and charging and earning well? Is guilt around money something that’s been a problem for you? What other kinds of feelings and emotions do you have around money?

If you are stuck in poverty-mindset, what kind of clients do you think you are attracting? What do you think holds you back from earning and/or charging better? Do you lack the conversation skills to command the kind of fees you’d like to charge?

What kinds of things do you need money for? How do you see having more money and earning better improving your life, your family’s life and the lives of your clients and others?

Dear Danielle: How Do I Pay Myself?

Dear Danielle:

I am always curious and have asked lots of people.  I am wondering just how you pay yourself.  Do you pay yourself sick/annual leave?  Aside from overhead costs, do you deduct taxes?  What kind of taxes do you face (i.e., self-employment, FICA, etc.)?  Your help is greatly appreciated. –SH

Seems like such a simple question, doesn’t it?

You don’t mention what your business formation is and that’s going to be very relevant to how you pay yourself and what your tax and reporting legal obligations are.

The very, very first and most important advice I can give you is that you need to get yourself—quick—to an accountant or bookkeeper.

And I don’t want to hear any whining about how that would cost you money.

Yeah. Business costs money and you are simply going to have to spend money on important professionals and advice if you want to be successful. Not doing so now could end up costing you far more later.

And given how you’ve asked the question, I can tell there are some significant gaps in your business knowledge that will do you great harm if you don’t get the right professional guidance and advice.

In the meantime, here is some general information when it comes to paying yourself in business (and, understand, this is for U.S. based business; you’ll have to bone up on your own country’s laws and taxing requirements if you reside and operate elsewhere)…

The first thing people need to understand is that they are either an employee or they are a business.

I see so many people who decide to “work from home” or “freelance on the side” or become an “independent contractor” who don’t realize this.

There is no third classification. If you are working for yourself, no matter what you call it, you are a business.

Even if you might have an actual job as an actual employee somewhere, whenever you are wearing the hat of “freelancer” or “independent contractor” or whatever you want to call it, you are operating a business during those times. You MUST understand this because there are legal implications and obligations.

So that’s the first thing to understand, and the reason I mention it is because the way you ask the question, I’m not sure you entirely understand that.

If someone doesn’t have this understanding, it’s pretty safe to bet that they haven’t done any official or intentional business formation.When that’s the case, they are by default running a sole proprietorship.

In a sole proprietorship, which is the simplest and most common business formation to operate, you simply take money when you want and how much you want. For bookkeeping purposes, these are recorded as “owner’s draws.”

The question about sick leave and vacation pay is moot in this circumstance. You simply pay yourself when you want and how much you want (well, that is, if the money is there, lol).

I would always advise you to keep separate accounts for your business. (In fact, there are some circumstances where you are required by law not to co-mingle your business and personal funds).

Either way, at some point, you will want to “pay” yourself from the monies you have earned in your business. All that is entailed is simply withdrawing funds like you would any other account.

So, for example, if you went to the ATM and took out $X dollars for your personal use, you would simply record that as an owner’s draw. Same thing if you transferred funds from your business bank account to your personal bank account or if you wrote a check for something for personal use. Anything that goes out of the biz accounts that is not related to the business is recorded as an owner’s draw.

That said, being in a sole proprietorship doesn’t mean you are exempt from paying employment taxes. It’s just that you pay and report them differently than you would if you were an employee, where actual paycheck processing is required by law.

In a sole proprietorship, you will pay what are called “self-employment taxes” and they are to be estimated and paid/reported at certain, specific intervals.

You’re going to want to set aside a percentage of funds every time you receive client monies so that you have enough when it becomes time to pay these taxes. A good rule of thumb to be safe is one third or half of every dollar coming in.

Here again is where an accountant or other kind of financial advisor can give you the best guidance based on your specific business.  (For more info on U.S. based self-employment tax reporting, start here)

While a sole proprietorship is the simplest/easiest business formation to operate, it also is the one that puts you at the greatest legal liability should a client sue you for any reason. All your personal income and assets are at risk in a sole proprietorship. This is why many folks opt to go into some kind of corporate business formation where personal assets are not at risk (or are, at least, at less risk).

There are many kinds of corporations which also involve varying levels of complexity: corporation, LLC, PLLC, S-Corp, and partnerships to name just a few. Consult with a business attorney to get the right guidance in selecting the formation that is best for you and your business circumstances.

This is where paying yourself becomes more complicated and where you will definitely want to seek the advice and guidance of some kind of accountant or financial advisor.

For example, in some corporate formations, you are required to pay yourself as an employee or as an owner/operator. When that’s the case, formal employment payment processing is required which entails a whole host of accounting, processing, reporting and taxing obligations you must abide by and be knowledgeable of.

There may be some minimal salary requirements you must pay yourself as an owner/operator. You may be required to pay out profits to partners and shareholders in dividends. Or you may need to know how to record reinvested profits back into the business. In other formations, while you report otherwise as a corporation, you may be allowed to elect to pay yourself in owner’s draw instead of with an actual employment check.

See how much knowledge is involved?

And if you do things incorrectly according to your particular business formation, it could cost you big time later.

This is why it’s always, always best to seek the services of the right qualified professional (not your colleagues) when it comes to these kind of matters. And if you do go with one of the corporate business formations and don’t have a thorough understanding of bookkeeping yourself, hire a bookkeper (one that also has paycheck processing knowledge for your state/locale) to handle that work for you. It’s just too important.

I do hope this helps you get going down the right paths though. :)

Business Costs Money

I came across a Google Alert recently where a colleague posted to a forum about a certain font she needed to complete a project, mentioning that $25 for the font license was a bit steep.

I had to chuckle because I’ve paid hundreds of dollars for a single font.

I realize most people in our industry start their businesses on a shoestring rather than properly capitalized. Still, they have to understand that being in business does cost money.

There are going to be times when, if you want to be smart in business, you are simply going to have to cough up money. You can’t expect others to provide everything for free (just as you don’t want clients who expect you to work for free). 😉

That said, there are a couple things this colleague (or you) can do:

  1. Go ahead and purchase the font license. Think of it as an investment, not an expense. You’ll be able to use that font for future projects so it becomes an investment in your library of design resources. AND you can write-off the cost come tax time next year.
  2. Charge the client for the cost of the font license, particularly if you’re only purchasing it specifically for that client’s design project and not one you will ever use again. If the client doesn’t want to pay for the font, then you simply inform the client he or she must choose another font. It’s not your responsibility to bear their business expenses, and this is part of the cost of completing their design project. The choice is theirs.

Dear Danielle: How Do I Keep Expenses Separate?

Dear Danielle:

It is that time of year… taxes!!! And I was wondering if there were any helpful tips or tricks that you could share for us newbies to help stay organized. What you do to keep track of your business expenses from your personal expenses? My tax accountant told me that it is very difficult to write off office expenses from home because you have to keep track of EVERYTHING. She also stated that being paid as an employee is better than being paid as an independent contractor for tax purposes. Is that true? I would love to hear your thoughts. –MB

Omigosh, you need a new accountant! The one you have doesn’t sound like she understands small business at all.

First of all, you aren’t an employee so you don’t have a choice about that, just like clients do not get to choose to pay employees as independent contractors. That’s called misclassification of employees and it’s against the law.

You are either an employee or you are a business. Independent contractor is not a third option. It’s just another name for someone who is in self-employment and self-employment is a business, just like any other.

The first thing I highly recommend is that you find an accountant who understands these things as well as the fact that you are a business owner, not an employee.

Of course, you have to be clear about that in your own mind as well.

In response to your accountant’s claim that it’s very difficult to write off office expenses from home: No, it’s really not.

EVERYONE in business has to keep track of everything; where your office is has nothing to do with anything (except for maybe the square footage of your office space).

Here is what I recommend: If you don’t have a dedicated room in your home for your office, at least have a  dedicated space, whether that is a desk in a corner or a tabletop in your den.

Wherever your space is, keep it off-limits to anyone and anything else. That becomes your dedicated business space that may not be used by anyone else or for anything else other than your business.

The square footage of that space is what you then get to use to calculate that business expense when you file taxes.

As far as keeping track of expenses, yes, of course, save your receipts. If a receipt isn’t clear about what it was for, you will need to make notes on them by hand.

Whatever you buy for the business is pretty much a business expense, as long as you don’t use it for anything else. Just keep that in mind and you’ll be good.

It’s only when you mix things for personal and business use that you have to start figuring out percentages and calculations and make things complicated so the way to keep things simple is to just not mix them. Get dedicated everything.

It is never a good idea to co-mingle business and personal funds, and, in fact, the law can dictate that you may not do that.

Therefore, plan on getting a dedicated checking and savings account with a debit and/or credit card that you use strictly for the business. (Depending on the bank and account, these can earn you rewards points that might come in handy as well.)

Each month, transfer funds over to the savings account to set aside for taxes. Your new accountant can advise you on the right percentage to set aside. That way, when it’s time to pay estimated self-employment taxes, you won’t be short and have to scramble. Personally, I feel you can’t go wrong setting aside 50% of everything you earn.

Also, if you haven’t already, I really recommend investing in a proper business accounting software like Quickbooks Pro.

Not only will it make entering and keeping track of things a breeze, but the reports you can pull up in analyzing your business and seeing how it’s doing will be invaluable. Your tax preparer will love you more, too.

I also want to be clear that when it comes to anything financial, legal and tax-related, you should never, ever rely on the advice, and especially not the opinions, of laypeople and colleagues, no matter how experienced they may be.

Always, always go to the source and seek the guidance of those who are educated, licensed and qualified to be giving the information (ahem, accountant and attorney).

In your case, you did the smart thing by consulting with an accountant; you just need to find one a little more knowledgeable, current and supportive of the small home-based business owner.

Dear Danielle: What Is My Compensation?

Dear Danielle:

I am just starting my administrative support business. I have seven years of administrative expertise, but one thing I am unclear about is my compensation. I know that most charge by the hour or on a monthly basis, but how do I know how much to charge? And considering that I am just starting out so I am taking on side jobs that are here and there, how should I charge for smaller list items? Thanks in advance? –KT

My first caution is to always be conscious about the terminology you use. This is important because when you are communicating with others, and especially clients, the words you use in explaining things can have very real effect on how and what expectations are formed, as well as how and whether folks understand what you mean for them to understand.

Words like “compensation” have no place in your vocabulary as a business owner. That is a term used in the context of employees, which you are not.

As far as what to charge, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How much does your business need you to charge? That is, how much do all the expenses and overhead cost to run your business?
  2. How much more money do you need to set aside for incidentals and/or continuing education?
  3. How much do you need to charge to pay for your own time? How much do you want/need to earn each month/year to pay your own bills (not the business’s)?
  4. How much does it take to make something worth your while?
  5. How much would honor your skill, value and expertise as an administrative expert?
  6. What rate or amount would send the message that you are an expert, not an unskilled amateur, who has what it takes to improve the client’s situation?
  7. How much profit needs to be built in for you to achieve your own goals and dreams (e.g., for travel perhaps, or special family vacations, or buying a home)?
  8. What kind of cash flow do you need to operate with ease and not be stressed with bills and due dates? (Cash flow is a concept different than simply income; it’s the amount of money you reliably and consistently expect each month that you can use to plan and budget).
  9. How do you want to position yourself in the field? How do you want potential clients to look upon you? What “perceived value” message does your pricing send?

You can’t just work to be paying the bills. What you charge can’t just be enough to pay for your expenses and time in your present circumstances only.

In order for you to grow a solvent, sustainable business, you have to make sure your fee covers all the practical business considerations. It also has to be intentioned enough that you can plan, set goals and grow.

Pricing is every bit a marketing strategy as well.

How you price sends a message to clients. I can tell them that you are a top-notch expert who has real value to offer and can really help them or it can convey the idea that you are desperate (which isn’t attractive to clients) and/or not very highly skilled.

I would also add that it’s not your job to be “affordable.”Keep that word out of your vocabulary as well.

It’s your job to deliver a solution that helps clients move forward in their business and accomplish things. That’s your value and that’s where you want to keep your message focused. So if you consider all the ways that what you do helps clients, how your work ultimately helps them achieve their goals and dreams and make more money, what would you say is the value of that?

Have a look at the Free Resources page… we have a free automated Excel Income & Pricing Calculator that will help give you a beginning frame of reference about what it costs to run a business and what kind of fees you need to charge. It’s a great way to start becoming conscious and intentional about this area of business.

Never Place Cost Above Value in Business

Never place cost above value in business.

Successful people do not pinch pennies, and they certainly don’t pinch a loaf when it’s time to pay for something of value.

It never ceases to amaze me how people in our industry and other small business owners will waste hours and hours of time to save a nickel. It’s the height of penny-wise and pound foolish.

I’ve seen people mulishly refuse to part with $30, $15, even $10 a month on something that could literally save them thousands upon thousands of dollars in time, energy and labor. That’s just plain dumb!

God gave you a brain; use it. And don’t give me any excuses about not having any money.

First of all, business costs money (at least in some amount); get used to it. Only idiots will tell you any differently.

Second of all, when there is a tool or solution you can invest in that will elevate your business image, improve your operations and profitability, and free up more of your time to work with clients (and make more money), come hell or high water, you find the money somehow, some way to get that thing.

Complaining about money is for victims and people who shouldn’t be in business.

This is why I’m always preaching to never be a cheapskate.

If you are a cheapskate in your business, you’re going to attract cheapskates as clients. That’s just the law of the universe.

You’ll also deliver a cheapskate service. If you don’t understand value in the same way that quality clients do, you’ll never be able to sell it to them.

If a solution allows you to automate, operate more efficiently and profitably, get in front of more clients or make more moolah than it costs, THAT’S value.

And value doesn’t require that it necessarily be instant or on-demand.

Plus, something that is of value is an investment, not an expense (not to mention a tax write-off). An investment is something that adds to or enhances your business and service rather than taking away from it.

Not only do Administrative Consultants need to be looking at the tools they review for use in their businesses in this way, it’s also how they should be talking to clients about their administrative support. ;)