Decorations are down, parties are over, and life is back to post-holiday normal. For many of us, now is the time for the dreaded "T" word . . . Taxes! Ugh. A process nobody enjoys, whether you prepare quarterly statements for a small business or whether it's time to start organizing receipts for April. Too much of a project? Here's the answer - small bites!
I've worked with clients on both ends of the "prepared" spectrum - some with regular monthly updates of beautifully organized spreadsheets, and some who try to cram a year's worth of work into a few days. Which is better? I can't say. We all have different work styles, and what works for one may not work for another. However, in terms of low stress and efficiency, the first way is usually easier!
There are loads of online expense templates for any software system you might use (or SHOULD use if you don't now): Excel, Access, Quickbooks, etc. Even if you just use a simple Excel spreadsheet, taking half an hour each month to organize expenses is much easier than rushing to beat a deadline with a year's worth to go through. Go through receipts, bank and Paypal statements, and any other documentation you have. Enter each expense into your spreadsheet and add them up. Voila!
An easy way to stay organized is to use envelopes - even used ones from mail you've opened. Label each envelope with an expense category: Supplies & equipment, mileage, meals/entertainment, internet, contractor expenses, website and domain expenses, etc. Put all your business receipts in these envelopes as you sort through them, and when you're ready, all you have to do is add them up and enter into your spreadsheet.
Use these same envelopes to store receipts throughout this next year as well, and come next quarter's accounting, your recordkeeping will be a breeze!
My next post will cover ways to make going through statements eas
If you're in the holistic game, whether a body or energy worker, a reader, a health expert or any other medium, your business is dependent not just on what you do, but on what you say. How do you say it? And to whom?I recently posted about finding your writing "voice." But in today's high-tech world you'll want to find your speaking voice as well. Research shows that video is THE most effective marketing tool, and having video of yourself on your website (or at least online like on Youtube, if you don't have a website) is crucial to success. In fact, 51% of all consumer internet traffic is through internet video, with greater content recall. You and your message will be remembered if you offer video!
A high-quality product does not mean high expense. Excellent quality video can be made from a good smart phone, and today's digital video cameras are inexpensive. But it's not just the equipment that matters - it's YOU! Practice by presenting to yourself in the mirror! Give yourself a brief introduction to yourself! Try talking to a friend or relative with whom you're completely relaxed. Without judgment, notice your facial expressions, vocal tone and pitch, how well your personality comes across. It's YOU that sells yourself, especially in a service business.
There are lots of videos and resources to teach you how to create effective marketing videos. Take action now in the new year, and resolve to really shine your light to those who need what you have to offer. Just do it!
What do you think of when you hear that word - service? Do you think of military service? Customer service? Restaurant service? Religious service? What I want to talk about for a moment is this:
I believe it's a best practice to periodically review the service and services we provide. Think about the definition of what you do: "I provide massage therapy." "I educate about nutrition." "I write inspirational blogs." Whatever service you provide, how do you know that it serves your clients? Solicit feedback, get a year-end review, and if necesary, make any changes to your offerings or how you do your business.
Let's say for example that you provide microwave cooking classes. You do a great job of it. BUT, now that the dangers of cooking that way are known, does your service really serve? Time to update. And if a client relationship or a service you offer no longer serves YOU, then contribute to your welfare by making a change!
I've written about this before, but I have seen so many grammar sins lately in the media that I have to rant one more time, this time on comma use. Wait! Don't leave me yet, this will be fun!
Commas, the difference between "Let's eat, Grandma" and "Let's eat Grandma."
"The Panda eats, shoots, and leaves" vs. "The Panda eats shoots and leaves."
"It's raining, men" vs. "It's raining men."
"I love, Lucy" vs. "I love Lucy."
Then, of course, there's this magazine cover that made the rounds earlier this year. Mmmm, a nice family dinner!
I will not bore you with the specific English Teacher sentence structure lessons, but suffice it to say that commas define separate elements of a sentence. Used correctly, they clarify your meaning, as can be seen in the examples above. Used incorrectly, they not only cause confusion, but can give your readers a comical or horrific impression of you!
Here's a fun web page that lists other common grammatical mistakes, along with one of my earlier posts. There are countless internet resources and books available if you want to study up on what is correct. Just be sure to use an America resource, as British conventions are a bit different.
So, off you go now to write correctly. And let's not eat Grandma!
Next time you're in a conversation with someone, pay attention to their words and yours. Do you ever say "I know what you mean" or "Can you see what I'm saying?" These are clues to how you and the other person think, communicate, and learn, and understanding this can open up a whole new level of communication!
I love to write but I'm not as adept a speaker. And I'm a visual / kinesthetic learner, which means that I remember what I see or do far better than what I hear. This explains why writing is an easier way for me to communicate, since it involves both vision and touch. What I hear I do not retain, and I cannot "think on my feet" and process information only in my head as during a speech.
I recently caught myself saying to someone "I see what you mean" and laughed at myself: unless there's a large cartoon balloon over their head, obviously I cannot literally SEE what they mean! But my words represent how my brain works (uh-oh, that could be dangerous!).
You can improve your own communications with friends, family, and clients by really listening - do you hear a client use words that indicate they learn by listening? Or does your spouse often start sentences with "see"? Then use those words yourself as you speak or write to them - this helps flip their brain into the mode that works best for them. And don't think you're stupid if your brain works best one way or the other - we're all wired differently! That is what makes the world go 'round. See what I mean?
So you have great ideas. So you have a lot to teach others. If you don't have a way to communicate them, so what? Well anybody, and I mean anybody, with a desire to communicate can do so - whether through blogs, articles, stories, books, newsletters.
You could be the one who failed creative writing in school, or struggled with English classes, or who can't spell your way out of a paper bag, but that doesn't mean you should not try to write. All you need is a willing partner! Every great partnership begins with a shared need. Richard Rodgers would have gone nowhere without Oscar Hammerstein's wonderful lyrics!
Let me give you some starting points. Think about your ideas, what you want to communicate, and how - what medium you want to use. Jot down some concrete topics, and under each one, make note of a few major points you would want to get across. Essentially, you're making a simple outline - no, don't panic, this is NOT English class!
Find someone who knows your field, or who knows you well, who IS a good writer, who loves to communicate, and who "gets" you. That could be anyone: a ghost writer, a gifted friend or family member, a Virtual Assistant, a blog writer, anybody who has experience with writing and communicating ideas. Not to inject a negative note here, but be sure it's someone you trust, to whom you can show your notes without fear of interference with your ideas.
Collaborate on how you want to express your ideas. Do you want to write a book? Communicate with clients with a newsletter? Of the media listed above, what appeals to you?
Consider the amount of material you have to share. Do you have many separate ideas that would appeal to a magazine or blog site? Or do you have a wealth of material on one topic that would communicate best in book format.
Organize your thoughts with your partner, create a fleshed-out outline, decide on your target market (to whom do you want to "speak"?) and GO FOR IT! Nothing will ever happen unless you try, and as we all know, regret is a very unpleasant experience! Create, express, communicate, write - "build it, and they will come!" There is little more satisfying than seeing your name in print - I should know! *
* (see Signs Along the Path, a Guide to An Inspired Life, a Kindle or paperback book, co-authored by Holly with John Davis.
This is not the first time you are hearing of how clutter affects your energy. Did you ever think of email as clutter? Sure, we are all annoyed by spam, “good luck” chains, “like this because I do” emails. If you think of your email Inbox as your living room, your perspective will change in an instant!
First thing in the morning you answer the doorbell to find a guy with a big artificial grin. He pushes his way into the house where he captures you in a corner and says “Here’s my story and if you tell ten other people something great will happen to you today.” Ridiculous, right?
How would you feel if you had people flooding your living room with demands while at the same time the phone rings off the hook, and the postman just dropped off 50 urgent letters to be answered. Stress? Pressure? “Get the HECK off my back!!”
When your Inbox is full of unopened emails, that’s exactly the energy you’re creating. Every time you open your email program and see Inbox (237) you’re going to feel stress, consciously or unconsciously. That number 237 reminds you that there are 237 demands for your attention that have not be dealt with while you take care of other matters. Why have that hanging over your head? Let’s do something about it now.
First off, let’s examine why these emails are unopened. Are they spam? Then DELETE them and change your spam filter so they stop coming! Are they in the “I might want to read this later” category? That’s like having a mountain of magazines on the floor. DELETE them!
After you’ve cleaned those categories out of there, look at what’s left. What really, truly, honestly needs an answer? Then ANSWER it! If it’s old, then open with an honest apology for taking so long – no excuses, just an apology.
What’s left after that? Things you need to do? If an email is very old, it’s probably too late to address, but only you and the sender know the answer to that. If it’s not old, then either flag each remaining email (if your email provider has a way to mark them) or print out and make notes. Prioritize what you can do quickly, preferably for the oldest outstanding issues. Address these tasks as you would any others on your to-do list.
Now, take another look at your Inbox. Hopefully it now looks like this: INBOX (no numbers after it!). What can you do to prevent the buildup recurring? Improve your spam filters. Tell friends and family to stop sending you junk mail. Get off the mailing lists that no longer matter to you. Address the others as soon as they arrive and your virtual “living room” will stay clear of unwanted invaders!
And if you need help with the process, I know a great resource: Holly@LightseedsOffice.com!
Think back to when you were a child. Did you have a special career in mind? A passion to be a police officer, or a dancer, or perhaps a painter? When you got older and entered high school, did you discover a talent for debate? For shop class? Is there something that really stuck with you? Something from those childhood joys that is with you today? For instance, did your love of debate lead you into practicing law?
When I was a child, I loved to sort – buttons, blocks, cards. In my career, the tasks I’ve performed and most enjoyed have been, logically, those that create order. I love to clear up organizational messes, create and fine-tune procedures and processes. I enjoy making other people’s jobs easier by doing so. These same skills make me a very good process and project manager.
I was an administrative, marketing and executive assistant for over twenty years when I was laid off in 2009. I’d always worked under other people’s agendas, doing everything I could to please Corporate America and to keep my job. At the time I was laid off I had been acting as an assistant to a spiritual motivational speaker in my spare time, and in working with him I had met two other spiritual entrepreneurs who asked for my help. Over time, I found myself working for a wide variety of people in marketing and promotion, client services, proofing and editing, scheduling, and organizing. I was provided a great logo, I created a website and promo materials, and made it official: I was now the proud owner of Lightseeds Office, a virtual assistant service. It has taken some time to develop, but I am now doing the kind of work that gives me joy, with my own agenda and at my own pace.
Did you know that nearly 14 million Americans are self-employed – 7% of labor force? 80% of people age 45+ consider changing careers; only 6% actually do. Does that mean that all the rest give up and settle for what they know, whether they enjoy it or not? I’d love to know what percentage of those that are self-employed are following their bliss, as opposed to working in whatever field they happen upon.
Whether you want to be an entrepreneur or not, let’s explore some ways to recapture the joys of your early dreams, and bring that to the present so you can act on them to create your future, whether it’s working for yourself or for someone else. Why settle, like I did for so many years? Let’s go on a journey to discover where you really want to be as you reinvent yourself.
Setting your GPS: Where are you now?
When you set out on a journey using your GPS, you can set your destination, but you won’t get far without allowing the navigator to determine where you are.
Think of your resume, your experience, training, titles, credentials, etc. What do you dislike about your current work life and your career? What do you enjoy? What of your credentials do you use? What do you not care about?
Where have you been?
In the same way, think about what you have left behind. What did you love early in your career or your youth that you don’t do now? What did you dislike you don’t want to return to? What got you where you are today? Many years ago when I was in retail I absolutely loved display and setting up new product. I can relate that to my current love of doing the same thing electronically: creating marketing materials and websites – electronic rather than physical layout and design.
What is your destination?
Now that we’ve discovered what your past brought you to, and what your present offers, let’s set your GPS for where you want to go. Carry forward the items that please you from your past and present into your future.
What’s your bliss? What tasks give you joy? What talents give you joy? Think of those re-inventors I described earlier. Can you see yourself taking people on photography tours? Describe what your ideal day would be, whether career related or not.
I love doing workshops, making PowerPoint presentations, event planning. I love design, layout, sorting, creating order. I love building the foundations for people to live their bliss. Define your goal. “I love gardening/decorating for Christmas/decluttering/baking/detailing cars, etc etc. I could do that for people who hate to do it.”’
You can set your GPS, but you’re getting nowhere fast unless you take action! Your GPS may tell you what turn to make, but it won’t say anything else until you actually make that first turn. Now that you’ve discovered some ways to reinvent yourself, let’s look at the tasks along the way. What do you need to do to get from your current location to your destination? What “virtual Mapquest” will you use? Do your research - find out how to match what people want with what you want to offer.
Taking my example, I looked at the group of people I wanted to target as a virtual assistant – motivational, spiritual, holistic workers. I asked questions and studied online: What is your biggest pain? What do you not have time for? If you had abundant finances, what is the first thing you’d hire out? Based on that, I created a match between the skills I love to use (NOT just skills I have, but those I enjoy) and what they needed. I built my offerings on those things.
Focus on the WHAT not the HOW. Keep your eye on what your goal is, and take all the steps you can to achieve that goal. Don’t try to figure out how success will happen. You don’t keep checking your car’s navigator to see how it’s taking you to your destination, you just know it is taking you there and follow the cues it gives you. Likewise faith in the outcome and taking inspired action will get you where you want to go. If you worry over the details, your focus has shifted from your goal to the “how.” I didn’t worry about how I would become a successful Virtual Assistant. I just took action based on the signs I saw, based on what I learned, and it just happened.
As you continue on the journey to reinventing yourself, remember to stay flexible. You may have a goal in mind that, once approached, changes into something different. Keep your eye on what you want, stay flexible, and it will happen.
. . . to LinkedIn, that is! I just had the privilege of creating a new LinkedIn profile for (with) a new client, and was reminded of how fun the process is, and how powerful the connections to be made.
I understand that there are many people who don't choose to be visible on the internet, but in any sort of business, whether your own or as an employee, it is crucial to be visible and known for your skills and experience. This website currently is the world's largest professional social media site with over 150 million members worldwide. That's an enormous network of potential associates, clients, and employers!
If you are self-employed or job-hunting, LinkedIn is vital to making connections in your industry. A clear, complete and well-written profile serves as your public resume. In fact recently several potential employers used my LinkedIn profile rather than the standard Word document resume. Even if you are content in your current situation, a good profile will increase your company's visibility and thus client base.
Membership in LinkedIn groups is also a great idea. There are a wide variety of professional groups in the network with whom you can chat, make connections, expand your reach. For instance, I joined with two Virtual Assistant groups to share ideas and support.
If you have not created a LinkedIn presence, here are a few tips to make it more effective.
If all of this sounds intimidating to you, I know a great resource to help you through the process - Holly@LightseedsOffice.com!
I have to tell you up front that I am no "techie" - I know little about the technical aspects of computers and website and code and such. But I'm a layout/design/content kind of gal, and last year I was introduced to Weebly.com as a source of easy website creation.For the several websites I've been involved with, including, of course, this one, I'd used Squarespace, I'd seen WordPress, and I'd investigated freebies like Google and Yahoo pages. But when I started experimenting with Weebly, I must say that virtually anyone can use this resource to create an interesting and effective website.
The several things I appreciate about Weebly:
Welcome! These stories, tips and tricks are intended to help you save time, and be more organized and effective in your work. New items will be added frequently so check back often.