Archive for Doing Business
First impressions are important, not only in social settings, but in business settings as well. The initial image a company or business presents is as important as the quality of work or products provided, if not more so. For that first sale or lead is never going to come if the customer isn’t satisfied that they’re dealing with a professional and reputable person or company.
Impress your business contacts with customized stationery. In addition to branded letterhead, nothing reinforces quality and professionalism like custom address labels and creative business cards. For added impact, coordinate the designs and production of all your stationery elements. A common and consistent theme is not only powerfully effective, but can be cost effective as well. Best of all, repeated exposure of a consistent theme across multiple platforms increases the chances of remaining memorable.
Beginning with your address label designs, reproduce your logo, brand or message onto other elements of your business materials. Using the same color scheme, design and even the same print vendor can reduce costs and eliminate unforeseen problems and surprises. Price estimates will often reflect a discount for multiple production elements like envelopes, stationary, address label designs and creative business cards.
Quality assurance is another important factor when you decide to impress your business contacts with customized stationary. Some items such as corporate apparel or large signs often require the use of individual flat colors. Other print pieces will utilize a four color process or a digital print method. For consistency and a professional appearance, it’s wise to use simple, common, basic colors in your creative designs. Colors that reproduce in the same tint or shade across all print platforms are best. Colors such as orange and green are notorious for being impossible to match from one print piece to the next.
Consult your printing professional for direction on color options and technical advice. And consider designing and printing all of your collateral together in combination. Not only does it cut costs, it increases consistency and diminishes the chances of any unwanted surprises.
If you have a computer then you have valuable information on that computer, whether it is design projects you have done over the years, business files or just a few hundred photos of your puppy Rex making that puppy face for the camera. Losing all those valuable files is a great way to ruin your day! Computers are reliable for the most part, but we all know bad stuff happens to them all the time - laptops get stolen or left on the train, hard drives get the click of death, your daughter Suzy accidentally deletes all your files while trying to figure out where she downloaded that cool new video. It just happens.
So, how do you protect your data?
Over the years I have tried many different methods for backing up my computer files. Back in the 90s, I would burn files to CDs whenever I got a “hunch” that something might be getting ready to fail me. Then in the early days of this site, I got a Firelite external hard drive and while I could schedule how often I wanted to run backups, more often than not, the program just didn’t work as advertised.
Then last year, after one too many close calls with data loss, I decided there had to be an easier way! After researching a variety of online backup options, I decided to sign up for the free Carbonite trial (which did not even require a credit card – another plus). Within days it was apparent that I had found the solution that worked for me – I didn’t even wait for the 15 day free trial to end – I gladly paid $54.95 for the year.
Why Carbonite works for me.
- First, and foremost, they give you a free 15-day trial to let you really make sure their product is a good fit for your needs.
- It is real time - within minutes of downloading a file or modifying a file Carbonite has identified the new file, put it in the queue, and has sent it up to to the backup server. Note – the very first time you set up your files for back up it is going to take hours, but once you get going, it is pretty close to immediate!
- It is automatic. I am juggling waaay too many things to remember to schedule a back up for my files. Carbonite takes the stress off me, because it backs up my files automatically.
- Carbonite is secure. They use the same encryption technology used by the online banking industry.
- I can access my files from anywhere. If I am working on my laptop in my favorite Starbucks and need a file from my desktop computer I can get it. Simply login to Carbonite, go to Remote Access and get whatever file you need for the day. No remembering to put something on a flashdrive, it’s there.
- The file recovery process is one-click easy. Nothing complicated here – a simple click of the restore button and you are back in business. With some plans you even have the power to decide which files are restored first, saving you even more time.
Put to the test, Carbonite came through.
Actually, Carbonite passed the test with FLYING colors. About a month ago a nasty computer virus managed to get past my virus protection and did some pretty crazy stuff to my system files. The only solution was to reformat my entire computer. I was a little stressed about possibly losing data, but since I could see every one of my files from my laptop through the Carbonite interface, I was confident all would be fine.
Once my hard drive had been reformatted I simply logged into my Carbonite account, installed the Carbonite software and ran the recovery program. Granted, it took about 12 hours to restore all my data, but EVERY last file made it! Talk about relief. That was 15 years of business and personal files that I could have potentially lost.
Carbonite is one of my essential tools for business – and at $54.95 a year, that is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with knowing my files are there – where ever and whenever I need them.
One of the biggest challenges of running any business – especially your own as a freelancer – is staying on top of the financial books. As we go into the final week of the year, our friends at Outright.com have provided this handy end of year bookkeeping checklist to help you get organized.
End of Year Bookkeeping Checklist:
1.Record Transactions: Make sure you’ve recorded all the transactions from your credit cards, bank accounts and receipts. And don’t forget to check your online accounts, like PayPal, eBay and Freshbooks. Record every expense and dollar received for your business, no matter how insignificant or questionable. It’s better to have everything written down and recorded so you’ll be able to make the most from deductions—because if you don’t record it, it doesn’t exist.
2.Double Check: Make sure you aren’t missing any income or expense transactions—it’s worth it to take the time to double check. Make sure you have a digital copy of receipts from any online transactions, whether they’re sales or outsourcing work to contractors or websites, so you have a record of all your transactions.
3.Proper Categorization: Here’s where it gets a bit tricky, but well worth the time in the end. Make sure all of your income and expenses have been properly categorized. Categorizing your income (for the most part all “Sales”) is not nearly as critical as those deductible expenses. The Schedule C categories can be confusing but they make the difference; mileage under “Car and Truck Expenses” is deductible while “Other Expenses” are not. Web services such as Outright.com can do most of the categorization for you; but when in doubt, ask a professional or hire a bookkeeper.
4.Don’t Forget Mileage: Any work-related travel can count towards deductions. Make sure you’ve recorded all the time you’ve spent in the car going to and from work-related sites—you can deduct $0.55 per mile for these trips! Your daily commute doesn’t qualify but regardless, for many, the deduction adds up to thousands.
5.Complete Your W-9’s: To properly file a 1099 for any contract or freelance work you hired, you must have accurate taxpayer identification, in the form of an IRS form W-9. Now is the time to request the W-9 form from your contractors as 1099’s are due January 31.
6. Pay Your Estimated Taxes: To avoid penalties when taxes are due on April 15th, be sure you’ve paid enough in estimated taxes for the year. Final federal tax payments are due by January 15th. The fourth installment of your 2009 estimated taxes should bring you up to at least 90% of what your final total taxes are for the year. If that’s still too confusing, pay the same amount as you actually owed from last year. Here’s how: Work with the IRS.
7. Triple Check Profit and Loss: Finally you should look at your profit and loss statement for the entire year. If you can’t easily get one from your bookkeeping software, find another. Do the numbers seem reasonable compared to how your income and expense totaled in prior years? Yes, we’re effectively triple checking your income and those expenses. Search your pockets for receipts, don’t neglect that credit card that was canceled because creditors are so stingy, and keep in mind that payment from your brother for some consulting.
Outright.com is the free online platform that manages all business finances, tracks income and expenses, and automates tax preparation. The company tracks over $1B in income from self-employed and micro-business transactions. They’re kicking off tax-time with their new W-9 automation to help get businesses organized for the months ahead. Visit them at www.outright.com to make sure you’re ahead of the game and not scrambling with important deadlines, looming as soon as January 31!