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Monthly Archives: February 2016

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Self-Filing Taxes vs. Hiring an Accountant: The Cost Breakdown

Self-Filing Taxes vs. Hiring an Accountant: The Cost Breakdown

The Write Hand, LLC is a Virtual Assistant Company

At The Write Hand, LLC, we are dedicated to helping small business owners eliminate and manage all sorts of administrative tasks. We have assistants with a variety of talents enabling us to create and maintain websites, create and distribute all manners of marketing collateral, down to simple tasks like scheduling, email clean-up, travel reservations and so much more. We like to share articles of value when we come across them and we hope you’ll enjoy this one…

Self-Filing Taxes vs. Hiring an Accountant: The Cost Breakdown

From Kabbage – Click Here for Full Article and Credits

To file, or hire it done, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the pocketbook to hire a professional, or to suffer the slings and errors of doing it all yourself…

Tax time is on us, and that means struggling with a question millions of small business owners ask themselves every year: is it worth the money to hire an accountant?

Fifteen years ago, the answer was clear. Unless you’re an accountant yourself, hire it done. With the new(ish) wave of websites and apps that do the hardest parts for you, though, filing your own taxes is within the ability of many small and most micro business owners. It boils down to a question of cost.

Let’s look at those costs…

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The Costs of Self-Filing

The good news here is that the cash costs of filing correctly are free as compared to filing via a professional. Yes, state filings include a nominal fee — but your accountant includes that fee in his charges, so there’s no difference there. Additional costs of self-filing fall into three categories:

  • The cost of labor. The average personal tax filing requires 16 hours of record keeping, tax planning and filling out of forms. The average business tax filing requires 24 hours for small businesses and increases exponentially as the operation becomes larger and more complex. This could represent cash laid out for a bookkeeper or office manager, or your own precious time.
  • Costs of organization. If you want to come in at anything near the estimated times above, you need to have your business finances in relatively good order. This means paying a bookkeeper, buying financial software, organizing paper records and/or a combination of all three. There’s no true average cost of making this happen, but it will cost you time and money.
  • Software and apps. TurboTax, TaxAct and similar tax preparation help sites are what make this question reasonable, but they do come at a cost. TurboTax costs $80 for federal small business tax filing, while TaxAct costs $50 for federal taxes. Both charge an additional fee for state filing, which varies by state but is rarely higher than the cost for federal filing.

The bad news here is that those low costs are for filing correctly. If it’s an honest mistake, the IRS will ask you to correct the information, and charge you 0.5 percent of any overdue payment for every month it’s late. Considering how long it takes the IRS to process your taxes, you can already have racked up six months or more worth of interest penalties before you even find out about the error.

If they think you filed untrue information intentionally, you’re in a huge world of hurt. Don’t even think about it.

The Costs of Hiring an Accountant

Hiring an accountant is pretty straightforward, cost-wise. On average, it costs about $420 to professionally prepare a Schedule E or C tax filing. This doesn’t include any filing fees you would pay if you filed yourself, but in terms of out-of-pocket expense it’s comparable to the $50 to $80 you would pay to use an online tax service to help you prepare on your own.

It’s important to remember that some of the costs of labor and organization still fall in your lap if you hire an accountant. That $400 charge only happens if you show up with your books already in order, and are able to quickly answer any questions the accountant might have. If you drop off a bunch of disorganized notes, your accountant will charge you for the time spent putting it together…and his/her time costs more than your time or your office manager’s.

On the plus side, hiring a professional accountant provides some protection from the costs of incorrectly filing your taxes. If the mistake was because you gave bad information, those fees are generally your problem. But if you provided accurate information and the tax filings were prepared wrong, that’s what their errors and omissions insurance is for.

The Middle Ground

Choosing whether to hire an accountant or to prepare taxes on your own is a matter of weighing risks, costs and opportunities. Whichever direction you choose, there are ways to mitigate risks and costs that might shade your decision toward one direction or another.

  • If preparing your own taxes, use a tax preparation service and opt-in for their audit protection and other error protection services. It’s not 100 percent protection against everything that could go wrong, but it is a cost-effective way of hedging your bets.
  • If hiring an accountant, ask your accountant exactly how he/she likes to receive documents. Put in the time to have them exactly that way. This will keep your accountant’s time spent at a minimum and keep your fees as low as possible.

Our Recommendation

Since every business is different, there’s no right or wrong answer to this question. However, we can give some general advice based on the trends we’ve seen among our own clients:

  • Very small businesses, including sole proprietorships, microbusinesses and most home-based operations, aren’t much more complex that the personal filings you make when you have income from a business. If you’re filing successfully for yourself, you can probably file successfully for your business.
  • Small businesses with equipment to depreciate and employees with payroll are usually better off hiring an accountant. The variables and complexities are too numerous to do successfully without costing you more time and energy than you would save…unless you or a staff member (or a family member) is already confident and experienced with bookkeeping and tax preparation.
  • Medium businesses with complex payroll, multiple locations and other complications should hire an accountant. Even experienced tax people who don’t do taxes professionally can’t count on knowing all the changes and updates to the tax code that could be relevant.
  • Multi-state and other large enterprises should always hire professionals for the job. In fact, at this size there’s a good chance you’ll want an accountant on your payroll full time.

We do our best to report truthfully with up-to-date information, but none of us are tax lawyers and you should take this advice as advice only. If you have any serious tax questions, check with a professional.

Sometimes, small businesses end up in a crack where a tax refund will set them right but they don’t have the money on hand to hire an accountant. In such cases, a Kabbage loan can be a quick and cost-effective way to bridge that gap. Find out more today.

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Starting a Business After 40: Part 3 – Learning How to Market Yourself

Starting a Business After 40: Part 3 – Learning How to Market Yourself

The Write Hand, LLC is a Virtual Assistant Company

At The Write Hand, LLC, we are dedicated to helping small business owners eliminate and manage all sorts of administrative tasks. We have assistants with a variety of talents enabling us to create and maintain websites, create and distribute all manners of marketing collateral, down to simple tasks like scheduling, email clean-up, travel reservations and so much more. We like to share articles of value when we come across them and we hope you’ll enjoy this one…

Starting a Business After 40: Part 3 – Learning How to Market Yourself

From Kabbage – Click Here For Full Article and Credits

Finding and developing a niche in business is a great way to attract the kinds of people you want to work with, but don’t expect overnight success. You will need to work at positioning yourself as the go-to expert in your niche, as well as market your message in the right channels to reach your audience.

In Part 1  of this series, we discussed choosing your niche, and in Part 2 , how to gain experience in it. Here, let’s talk about marketing yourself in your niche. In her book, Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, author Dorie Clark provides several insightful tips to do just that.

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Find Your Unique Selling Proposition

Clark says you need to know what’s unique about you so that you can convey it to others. This will be the basis of your marketing going forward. Additionally, she suggests you consider “what skills or abilities you possess that are in short supply in your new field.” Knowing what gaps there are that you can fill makes you even more attractive as a niche provider.

Clark also says not to fear being an outsider: even if you’re moving into an industry you have little to no experience in, find ways to relate the experiences you do have to making you uniquely qualified to view problems and solutions from a different angle.

Build Your Narrative

The next step in preparing your niche marketing is to craft your narrative:

“Humans understand the world around them through stories, narratives we tell ourselves about what’s happening and why,” Clark explains.

What is your brand, and why are you focused on this niche? Cut-and-dry answers won’t make your story resonate as well as a well-told narrative. Maybe your grandpa was in this industry and he taught you everything you know. That’s a story. Maybe you had a wake-up call after 10 years as an investment banker when you had a heart attack, and now you’re focused on living a better quality of life through your new company. Find a way to make your story relatable. Evoking emotions never hurts!

Apply Your Niche to Content Marketing

Content marketing is still one of the best ways to impart your knowledge on a topic, and the more niche that content is, the better. As you get to know your audience, you’ll better understand what topics they care about. Sometimes, though, it’s trial and error. In Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It, Clark says:

“Sometimes you have to experiment with a lot of ideas and see which one sticks. If you’re unsure, let the market decide. Which posts receive the most comments, or retweets, or e-mail inquiries? What seems to capture people’s imagination? Finding your niche is not an exact science, and you often won’t know in advance what will work.”

Not sure where to start? Try conducting research and writing reviews, Clark suggests. Both give you authority in your field, and help expand your knowledge.

Also, Clark says that repurposing content gives you even more ways to reach people. For example, can you take one blog article and expand it into a longer ebook? Create a series of videos or emails? Share tidbits via Twitter?

Get to Know the Media

Another marketing technique Clark suggests in Stand Out is developing relationships with traditional media:

“Being quoted in the mainstream media is useful because they often still have large audiences, even in an era of fragmented reading and viewing habits. Plus, their third-party validation lends credibility to you. If you’re quoted in The New York Times or have appeared on the Today show, that’s a public signal that you’re an authority.”

Keep Your Own Marketing Channel Preferences in Mind

People may tell you that podcasting or videos are the must-have marketing tools, but if you’re uncomfortable with the medium, they won’t work for you. Clark says it’s no good forcing yourself to use a tool if you dislike it.

Instead, focus on the channels that make sense. If you enjoy writing, blogging and book-writing may be a natural fit. If you love speaking to your audience, video is worth considering.

Scale Your Efforts Strategically

Why help one person with your knowledge if you can help five…or 5,000? Clark brings up the example of Quora, a website people go to in order to find answers to their questions. Thousands of industry experts weigh in on questions, building their authority and credibility.

If you start getting the same questions from people over and over, realize that there are even more people out there that want the same questions answered. Determine the best way to help more people with your answer. You could post the question and answer to Quora, or write a blog post and then share it on LinkedIn. There are numerous ways to share your knowledge with more people with a little ingenuity.

Because you’re talking to such a small sector of the population about the niche you serve, your marketing needs to be extremely targeted and valuable. But the more value people get from your marketing messages and content, the higher your conversion to new customers will be!

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2016 in Small Business News

 

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Starting a Business After 40: Part 2 – Getting Experience within Your Niche

Starting a Business After 40: Part 2 – Getting Experience within Your Niche

The Write Hand, LLC is a Virtual Assistant Company

At The Write Hand, LLC, we are dedicated to helping small business owners eliminate and manage all sorts of administrative tasks. We have assistants with a variety of talents enabling us to create and maintain websites, create and distribute all manners of marketing collateral, down to simple tasks like scheduling, email clean-up, travel reservations and so much more. We like to share articles of value when we come across them and we hope you’ll enjoy this one…

Starting a Business After 40: Part 2 – Getting Experience within Your Niche

From Kabbage – Click Here For Full Article and Credits

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed identifying your niche to help you better serve your customers. By narrowing down the products or services you offer, or by whittling down the scope of who you serve, you can quickly become an expert in your niche.

But if you don’t have a ton of experience in that niche, how can you get it?
The good news is: the more work you do with that laser light focus, the faster you’ll attract more business in your niche market. The key is knowing what projects to take on, and which types of customers to work with. It may take a little more work upfront, but your efforts will quickly snowball, and you’ll have more business than you know what to do with in your little niche!

small business news

Start by Saying No

It’s daunting when you first start working within a niche; you’ll still get inquiries for projects outside of what you want to focus on, and turning them down feels like leaving money on the table. However, it’s the first step in freeing up your time to spend more energy on attracting your niche.

Make sure the verbiage on your website reflects your recent shift to a new niche. You shouldn’t say that you write press releases if your marketing firm now only focuses on blog content. This will deter any people outside of your niche focus from trying to hire you. And conversely, make sure your website does reflect that you cater to your new niche.

If you do have someone approach you for services you no longer offer, politely explain that you no longer offer them, and redirect them to a colleague who can help.

Look at What You’ve Already Done

You likely chose your niche based on your past experience, in which case, you should already have a small portfolio of work to start with. Highlight results your work has garnered on your website so people know you have experience with this niche.

It’s also a good idea to reach out to past clients to let them know you’re focusing exclusively on the types of work they’ve hired you for in the past. Knowing this may spur them to hire you for additional projects or let others in their field know. Don’t be shy about asking them to refer you to others in that industry who you may be able to help with your services. After all, word-of-mouth marketing is one of the best ways to attract new business!

Consider Pro Bono Work

If you’re simply not attracting the kinds of work you want to in your niche, look to companies you could offer free work to in an effort to build up your portfolio. The benefit to working for brands for free, in addition to adding to your proof of skills, is that you can pick the brains of the exact types of people you want to hire you. Getting free advice from them is priceless, and will help you learn to market to that audience (something we’ll discuss in Part 3 of this series). Heck, the companies you provide free work to might end up hiring you in the long run if you do a stellar job!

Look for Gaps to Fill

Even in a niche, you may have competitors. Spend some time reading blog content and books, as well as browsing the competitions’ offerings to see what’s missing. Because you have a unique perspective, as well as your own experience, you might see right away that no one, for example, is offering experiential marketing for tech companies. If you have experience doing this, you can make that your focus.

By working around what other businesses are already offering and finding your own niche services, you can quickly ramp up your skills as more and more people come to you for what they can’t get anywhere else.

Write to Learn

While it doesn’t provide experience in your niche directly, regularly writing content on your niche will make you smarter on the subject and show off your thought leadership skills. Writing blog content on your own blog as well as guest blogging on sites that attract your customer will help you leverage your knowledge, as well as sharpen your understanding of your niche.

You might go on with your writing, if you aspire to be an author (another fantastic marketing tactic). First, research to see what, if any, books already exist on your niche. The more specialized your niche, the fewer books there will be, leaving you with ample opportunity to flex your expertise as an author. Make your book really insightful and useful to your target audience, and you literally will be able to say you wrote the book on [your subject]!

The more you work on projects in your niche, the more you will attract, just like the Law of Attraction says. Like certainly does attract like!

– See more at: https://www.kabbage.com/blog/starting-business-40-part-2-getting-experience-within-niche/#sthash.TPvfBoNg.dpuf

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2016 in Small Business News

 

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Starting a Business After 40: Part 1 – Finding a Niche Within an Industry to Stand Out

Starting a Business After 40: Part 1 – Finding a Niche Within an Industry to Stand Out

The Write Hand, LLC is a Virtual Assistant Company

At The Write Hand, LLC, we are dedicated to helping small business owners eliminate and manage all sorts of administrative tasks. We have assistants with a variety of talents enabling us to create and maintain websites, create and distribute all manners of marketing collateral, down to simple tasks like scheduling, email clean-up, travel reservations and so much more. We like to share articles of value when we come across them and we hope you’ll enjoy this one…

Starting a Business After 40: Part 1 – Finding a Niche Within an Industry to Stand Out

From Kabbage – Click Here for Full Article and Credits

Editor’s Note: This is Part One of a three part series about starting a new business after 40.

The biggest challenge business owners have is standing out against a sea of competitors. What makes your business unique? Why should customers buy from you rather than the guy down the street?

Once you hit 40, it seems like it’s even harder to attract attention as an entrepreneur. After all, there’s a lot of focus on young entrepreneurs, so without that media wave boosting you forward, you’ve got to work even harder to attract customers.

One of the best ways to get noticed and attract more business is to focus on a niche. Now, I know: it seems counterintuitive to say that if you serve a smaller group of the population, you’ll make more money, but it’s true. When you zero in and deliver products or services to a very specific audience, you’ll become known as a leader in that niche and will attract more customers than ever before.

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How to Choose Your Niche

Think about your typical customers. Do they fall into a particular industry? Let’s say you sell marketing services, and 75 percent of your customers are software companies. This is a good niche to start with. But dive in even deeper: what type of software companies do you work with the most (or want to work with)? Maybe you really enjoy working with project management software brands, and you have some solid experience serving that subset of the software industry.

The smaller your niche, the better you can become known as the solutions provider for it. While “software” is a pretty big category, “project management software” is much smaller. But what if you then lasered in on project management software companies that cater to nonprofits? There might be no other marketing company serving such a specific niche. That’s good news for you!

How to Use Your Niche

Not only will your niche help you identify a very clear-cut and limited group of customers, but it will also guide your marketing. While we’ll talk more about marketing to your niche in Part 3 of this series on finding and leveraging your niche, let’s take a look at an overview of applying your niche to your marketing.

Keywords

Because you know exactly who you’re trying to serve, you can use highly-targeted keywords to reach them. If you were to simply use “marketing for software company” in your web copy, you’d be competing against 386 million other search results. But when you instead use the niche keywords “marketing for nonprofit project management software,” there are only 11 million results, not all of which will be true competitors to you. Yes, 11 million is still a lot of results, but it’s significantly fewer than 386 million!

Social Media

Once you know exactly who you want to reach with your niche marketing message, you can do a better job of finding them on social media. A little research may show you that people who run project management companies spend more time on LinkedIn than Twitter, so you can center your social media marketing efforts there.

You can also search niche keywords like we discussed above to find people to connect with on social media. Your audience may be using #nonprofit or #projectmanagement as hashtags, so search those to see who’s out there, then follow them.

Content

In a deluge of content, it’s hard to stand out, but it’s significantly easier when you’re directing your blog articles, whitepapers and ebooks at a smaller niche. Even basic topics, like “how to use social media to market” can be tweaked to speak directly to your niche of project management software companies trying to reach nonprofits, and turned into “how to use social media to market your software to nonprofits.” This small change can have a large impact with your niche audience.

Benefits to Finding Your Niche

It will take a shift to move from the wider audience you’ve been serving to a more tailored, smaller group, but the payoffs will be large. As you build your portfolio (something we’ll cover in Part 2 of this series), you will attract more of your niche clientele, and they’ll tell others in their small industry about you.

If you’ve been offering some services or serving certain clients that you simply don’t enjoy, having a niche allows you to really focus on what you like the most. When you don’t have the extraneous services or customers, you can do a better job at delivering what you do best.

And finally, finding your niche gives you a real opportunity to make a splash. Even if the industry you’re focusing on is relatively small, you can be a big fish that everyone knows and turns to for assistance.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss how to get experience in your new niche. In Part 3, we’ll provide tips for marketing to your niche.

 

Click Here for Full Article and Credits

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2016 in Small Business News

 

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Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant

Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant
VAs can help unjuggle your life

VAs can help unjuggle your life

In the last 10 years people have been hearing about and experiencing virtual work at a staggering pace. After all, if productive work can be accomplished with less overhead and micromanaging; it’s a win/win for both employer and worker. A vast array of fields can benefit from virtual workers. At The Write Hand, LLC, my team and I focus on business administration, marketing, and online presence for small to medium businesses. It’s important to have a virtual team that has members with varied talents.

When it comes to hiring a Virtual Assistant or team of them for that matter; the hiring process is nearly the same as hiring on-site support. However, some folks aren’t sure where to start when it comes to managing a Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant team. Along with some of my other tips found in Let’s Share; I offer these tips to give you a basic foundation on creating a Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant.

Training

A great Virtual Assistant has many talents, so why should you hire somebody that needs training? Well, your VA may not need hand-holding or formal education but training him or her to your processes and business strategies is only wise. The great thing about a VA is that they are for the most the type of people who are quite flexible because their business is to serve many types of people and companies. Take some time to share your visions and processes. You will likely find that the training is easier than expected because of your VA’s many talents.

Patience

It will be important to have patience with yourself and your Virtual Assistant. I like to tell new clients to create a list of tasks they want to delegate, or in the case of building a website; a list of all the highlights they wanted built. Then, number them in order of importance. Start a Wise Partnership with your Virtual Assistant be delegating some of the smaller, easier tasks firsts. This accomplishes two things: 1) It gets many small details out of the way and 2) is a great way to begin to share your operations and visions with your Virtual Assistant -you learn each others’ methods.

Time-FliesDeadlines

It’s easy to put aside tasks, particularly ones that may seem pesky. As a deadline approaches you may felt in the past a great stress and regret for putting it off. Even if you don’t have all the details right away, let your Virtual Assistant know that a particular project will be coming up and due by XX date. A great VA will keep the task on a timeline or To-Do list and will gently remind you (a few times if needed), that the deadline is approaching. You may find these projects are easier managed in pieces. If on the other hand you suddenly come upon an urgent need, let your VA know immediately so they allocate the proper time for the project; after all, you are not likely their only client. It may be necessary to rearrange other priorities to accomplish the urgent need; be flexible and forth-coming. In a Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant, you may wish to create a project calendar. This will ensure that each of you stays in the know and can meet deadlines with less stress.

Communication

Whether you use your Virtual Assistant for random work or for recurring tasks, neither they nor you can read minds. Your VA may be on auto-pilot for some of your recurring tasks, but it’s always good to schedule a regular meeting – perhaps by video conference or phone call. You want to ensure that your VA is upholding your vision and quality. You may often find that the collaboration will generate new ideas and ways you can further utilize your Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant.

Time is MoneyBalance

You may think that you have handed off a bunch of stuff to your Virtual Assistant and you can breathe easy and forget they are out there as long as things are getting done. NO!! Don’t ignore emails or calls from your Virtual Assistant. Remember, they are out there to keep you organized, on-task, and productive in your roles as they perform their roles. If your VA seems to be hounding you about something you just don’t want to think about right now, remember… you hired them to help you through these things. I have found it helpful to form more a kinship/friendship with my clients and to let them know, I am a great sounding-board that is removed from your every hour, every day practice. This gives them more than a Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant, it gives them an “out”, a means to “vent”, and an avenue to throw out ideas and see what sticks.

A great Virtual Assistant will have not only a variety of talents but the fortitude to delicately “push” you towards the goals you set together. In creating a Wise Partnership with a Virtual Assistant you will develop a strategy and routine that fits your both very well. After a wee bit of time you should find that your partnership comes easy, that your idea sharing is fluid, and your tasks are being accomplished seamlessly and with far reduced stress from that or ordinary office life.

 
 

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