Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper

Diary Cover 4 copy(This Book is now available for sale on Amazon.)

Meet Betty Bookkeeper

She’s embezzling thousands of dollars a month from her unsuspecting Small Business Owner boss. Her boss has absolutely no idea because she seems like such a good woman. It’s that trust which makes it so tempting and so easy for Betty to steal.

Do you have a Betty Bookkeeper? Or are you a Bookkeeper who worries about protecting your reputation? Then this book is for you. This book is a work of fiction with some non-fiction advice. It was originally written to help small business owners spot and stop embezzlement in their small business companies.

An Embezzlement Book for Small Businesses

While there are tons of books about stopping embezzlement at a corporate level, there are very few that talk about embezzlement on a Small Business scale. This book offers:

  • 16 common bookkeeping scams committed against small businesses and how to stop them.
  • A brief overview at the end of how to do a Quickie Audit and see if your current bookkeeper is a “Betty Bookkeeper.”

 

Some of the common business scams include:

 

  • The Double Payday Scam
  • The Phishing Scam
  • The PayPal Weak Link
  • The Shell Company Scam
  • The Payroll Tax Scam
  • …And many more.

If you have EVER worried that your bookkeeper is stealing from you, or if you are a bookkeeper who wants to protect yourself from being accused of embezzlement, get this book and put the practices to use. It could save your lifestyle.

WARNING: This book will scare you silly if you are a business owner. Betty has a twisted sense of humor and is not afraid to use it. At roughly 15,000 words, it is a fast read that will either make you laugh or cry.

Have You Heard About Kindle Worlds?

In the August 19th, 2013 Kindle Direct Publishing newsletter, Amazon made a casual mention about Kindle Worlds.  Since this was a new tool I had never heard of (and I was about to do an Amazon workshop), of course I had to find out more.

To put it bluntly, Kindle Worlds is a place for writers to create Fanfiction that Amazon will then publish and promote to their Kindle machines.  Here is a quote directly from their site:

“Kindle Worlds is a publication submission platform where you choose a licensed World, read the Content Guidelines for that World, write your story, upload that story, create a cover using free images or your own image, and accept a publishing contract with Amazon Publishing. It’s simple and it’s fast. Every Kindle Worlds story will be featured on Amazon.com and Kindle devices and apps. Review the steps below to learn how to publish your story.” (www.KindleWorlds.Amazon.com)

What kind of stories can you create?  Well… let’s say you’re a fan of the show “Vampire Diaries.”  Thanks to the licensing that Amazon purchased, you can now write a story for Vampire Diaries and submit it to Amazon.  If Amazon approves it, it gets published like a mini-book or like any other book you would publish on Amazon.  If you don’t have one already, Amazon even gives you an Author Central Dashboard and an Author Profile.  If you do have a published book already, you can claim those books in your Author Profile and it will end up being a very hand tool that ends up promoting your book.

(I will also say this, but don’t quote me… there are cases where self-published authors became hugely successful on their own, and then a Big Six publishing house came knocking on their door asking to buy the author’s “Print Rights” because they were so successful on Amazon.  Thus, it only makes sense that if you write an episode for a show like Vampire Diaries and it becomes hugely successful on Amazon, the show very well might come knocking on your door wanting to incorporate your story into their lineup.  I’m not saying it would for sure happen, but it only makes sense that it could.  After all, TV shows rely on fans to keep their shows going, and if you get enough fans from one of your products about their shows, they will want to take advantage of that for the cheapest rate possible.  It could create all kinds of possibilities in your writing career.  Just think on it… it could be a great way to get your foot into the Hollywood door, or to potentially meet someone from your favorite shows.)

To join Kindle Worlds, you just:

  1. Sign up for the free account.
  2. Pick the World you want to write for.
  3. Read the guidelines for writing your story.
  4. Write your story.
  5. Submit your story and wait for Amazon to give you feedback.
  6. If your story is picked, you create a book cover and then it gets published just like any other ebook.

Other things to know about Kindle Worlds:

  •  For Books over 10,000 words, you get 35% in royalties.
  • For Books under 10,000 words, you get 20% royalties (although this is still in the works and may change in the future).
  • Amazon prices the book depending on the size of the book, and the price is generally between $0.99 and $3.99.
  • Since this is a new program for Amazon, you can bet they are going to market the heck out of it to make sure it’s successful, especially since they are getting a bigger chunk of the pie.  So far, they say on their website that they will market the books through their Kindles and on the website, but right now, sky’s the limit with this program.

I don’t know about you, but this program screams “Great Marketing Tool for Amazon Authors” to me.

Bookkeeping Money-Saving Tip # 18: QuickBooks, Quicken and TurboTax

 

At this time of year, your taxes are hopefully done, and you are probably not thinking of taxes at all. That’s all well and good, but have you begun planning for next year? Because whether your business is brand new, has never had a “regular bookkeeper”, or has been doing bookkeeping the same old ways for numerous years, it never hurts to consider if this year is the time to update your bookkeeping programs or stick with what you’ve always done.

For me, I always like the most updated version of anything… like the iPad 2… I totally want one!

Anyway… I bring this up now – after tax time – because if you are thinking of doing your taxes the same old way, or updating to something new, now is as good a time to start as any. With taxes out of the way, it is the perfect time for any business owner or bookkeeper to take a little bit of time to invest in updating their bookkeeping programs and “catch up” on anything that is still unprocessed.

The reason now is the best time is because… most banks will let you download ONLY the last few month’s worth of bookkeeping transactions instantly.

What do I mean by that, you may wonder.

Simple. Almost (and I do stress on the word “almost”) all banks have updated their online banking programs to create “downloadable bank transactions” for a specific period of time (meaning a specific number of months). The benefit here is that any business can instantly download hundreds and thousands of transactions instantly, and with the right bookkeeping program, have those transactions posted to the correct bookkeeping accounts instantly.

In other words, NOW is the perfect time to upload those transactions into your bookkeeping program and get those books up to date FAST whether or not you have the time to “work on the books”. If you wait, you may find that you have to manually key in those hundreds and thousands of bookkeeping entries, which will take a whole lot more time.

There is one catch, however. The banks do not create these downloadable transactions for ALL bookkeeping programs. Yet, because QuickBooks and Quicken are the most popular bookkeeping programs on the market today, most banks do setup the transactions into these downloadable files in such a way that QuickBooks and Quicken can process them. In fact, many banks (especially smaller banks) ONLY create these files for QuickBooks and Quicken, but for no other bookkeeping programs.

So in case you were ever in doubt as to which bookkeeping programs I prefer (especially for saving time and money), I recommend QuickBooks and Quicken all the way.

The Difference Between QuickBooks and Quicken

I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but I will give you my quick thoughts on Quicken and QuickBooks right now.

As far as business transactions go, I believe QuickBooks is the best program out there for any type of business. It’s easy to use, to input transactions, to correct mistakes, and to create all the financial reports you need. It also allows for a lot of “automatic data entry”, meaning the program does the work for you and thus allows you to save time.

As for personal bookkeeping, and especially stocks, I like Quicken. Quicken has this strange sort of programming that often cuts the user out. What you do is link it to various bank accounts (and stock accounts) and then Quicken can automatically update transactions from those accounts instantly. If you aren’t very familiar with the program, it can be difficult to find and maneuver through those transactions in case you need to change anything. (Now, I know a lot of users familiar with Quicken will disagree with me, but I have always found myself a bit frustrated with Quicken. Even though the program is cheaper, I find QuickBooks much easier to use.)

Having said that, I tend to use BOTH programs, however, especially when it comes to doing my personal and business taxes at the end of the year.

Quicken, QuickBooks and TurboTax

Quick Disclaimer: I always recommend businesses use accountants to do their business taxes, if they can afford it. It just makes dealing with the IRS simpler.

Having said that, I fully recognize that not everyone will want to use an accountant at the end of the year. Many will wish to save money and do their taxes themselves. (I am one of them.) Or, if they do not go to an accountant, they may go to a tax preparation company like H&R Block. Now, while I’m not knocking H&R Block, I do happen to know that the tax preparers at H&R Block are not always very familiar with taxes. The consultants receive 80 hours (two weeks) of training before they are put to work. Their bookkeeping programs often do the same financial prompting that programs like TurboTax and TaxCut do.

Now, when it comes to doing my own taxes, I prefer to use TurboTax as opposed to TaxCut. Yes, TurboTax costs a little bit more, but it is thus far, the only tax program I’ve seen that is compatible with Quicken AND QuickBooks. It can instantly download the files from Quicken and QuickBooks and then post the account balances to the accurate forms and lines in your tax return. This saves tons of time on data entry, and all you have to do is go through the questionnaire. With TaxCut, you have to manually enter everything yourself, and thus FIND every number from your bookkeeping reports / program.

The reason I use BOTH QuickBooks and Quicken is because I have a rather large taxable portfolio. I have rental properties that I maintain, as well as my Office Administration business, and then my writing business. On top of that, I dabble in the stocks. Ironically, it was this last bit of my portfolio that brought the IRS to my door several years ago.

Reporting Stocks

When I first began dabbling in stocks, I incorrectly thought I only had to report the money I withdrew from my stock account as income to the IRS. Since I only took $10,000 out of my stock account that year, I reported $10,000 in stock income to the IRS. My stockbroker, however, told them that I had made $750,000 – and the IRS wanted a chunk. You can imagine my shock when I got the IRS bill.

After contacting the IRS and realizing where I went wrong, the IRS agent told me that I had to report EVERY PURCHASE AND SALE in order to determine the taxable income, whether or not I had withdrawn the money. Since I liked to dabble a LOT (a LOT a LOT), I knew immediately that I wanted to shoot myself. Fortunately, I had Quicken for one of my clients, and that version of Quicken could handle stocks. When I logged in and “Updated” the program to my stock account, then linked it to that year’s TurboTax file, it immediately reported the new correct amounts for the year. I was then able to do an Amended Tax Return that took my tax bill from having to pay $250,000 to only owing $4,000 for the $40,000 in stock profit I made that year. You can see how profitable that can be.

Therefore, if you do have a stock account and do not wish to use an accountant, I highly recommend Quicken for your stocks and QuickBooks for your business accounts. It will help to take the guesswork out of preparing your return and still save you more than you would spend on an accountant. Once linked with TurboTax, you can finish all your taxes very quickly and efficiently, and even transmit your return online instantly.

To save even more money, remember that Quicken often has a free trial that will allow you to “try out” their program. Use the free trial during tax time with TurboTax, and you may just be able to avoid the fee for Quicken.

Creating a Money-Making Business Plan

In my experience (at least with the small businesses I’ve worked with), a business plan is often considered an “unimportant” waste of time, and many small business owners forego creating one.  The truth, however, is that a Business Plan can be incredibly beneficial for a business.  Not only can a business plan create a “Guide” for a company and its employees, but a good plan can also be taken to the bank in order to try and raise funding for a small business.  It can attract investors as well, and it can help focus a business owner’s vision in order to make the business as profitable as possible.

While there are tons of business plan models on the internet today, I can’t help but want to throw my own cap into the ring as well.  There are the business plans that a lot of general businesses use to satisfy mentors (or spouses), and then there are the types of business plans I’ve worked on, the type that big businesses pay tens of thousands of dollars (and hundreds of thousands) of dollars before they ever so much as sign a rental-lease agreement.

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The difference between a “General” Business Plan and a Business Plan that Makes Money comes down to one very important thing…Research.

When a small business owner includes research into a business plan, they are showing banks and investors that they are not going into a business venture blind.  A well-researched business plan shows forethought, logic, and realistic thinking.

Therefore, to create a business plan that will help raise money, a business should include the following elements in their business plan:

  1. The Mission Statement: In Bookkeeping Money-Saving Tip # 15: The Mission Statement, I discussed the importance of having a Mission Statement.  It is just as important to put that Mission Statement into the Business Plan.  Consider it the “Sales Pitch” of the Business that basically tells an investor the Business’s main goal.
  2. An Introduction:  The introduction is a fairly simple concept.  You create a page or two (or three) about the basic business concept.  What is the business selling?  If there is a location, where will that location be?  Will the business have an inventory  and if yes, where will that inventory be kept?
  3. Demographics:  Demographics are an excellent option to add to a business plan because it exhibits that you know who your ideal, targeted customers are and who they can be.  The demographics can help a business see where they should be focusing their marketing dollars, and how to theme their business to attract those ideal clients instead of creating a business that tries to “attract everyone.”  (Read Paint a Target on Your Customers for more information on how to do your own demographic analysis.)                                                             teamwork 2
  4. Competition Analysis:  You know the expression, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”?  This expression is just as true in business as it is in life.  You should know what your enemies (ie, your competition) are doing in their businesses, because every choice they make could potentially harm or help your own business.  Therefore, creating a section that lists ALL of your local competition, as well as what products they are selling (that you may or may not sell as well) and what prices those products are marked at.  The more you know your competition, the more you will be able to create a business model that grinds theirs into the dust (should that be your wish).  Either way, it shows investors that you have a strategy to stay afloat despite what your competition is doing.
  5. CompassLocation Analysis:  A large majority of businesses draw their customers from within 10 miles of their location…TEN MILES. However, the more unique that business and its products are, the farther distance a customer is willing to travel in order to buy what that business is selling.  On the flip side, the less unique a business and its products are, the smaller the distance a customer is willing to travel to make a purchase.  For example – Disneyland has a very unique product; people are willing to fly from all over the world to experience the unique product that Disneyland offers (and that no one has been able to yet duplicate).  Another example – Souvenir shops.  Souvenir shops all sell the same products, and they all try to rent space where the tourists are.  The end result, tourists have so much choice on what souvenirs to buy and where to buy them, they don’t need to go far from their hotels to get what they want.  (In fact, they often buy from within the hotel).  So, in order to create a competent location analysis, you need to include the demographics and competition within YOUR 10-mile radius.  (You can read more about Location Analysis in my article entitled:  BOOKKEEPING MONEY-SAVING TIP #4: Analyze Your Business Location.)
  6. Marketing Plan: At this point, you should know your competition AND your customers, so you should have a pretty good idea how you can target your marketing campaign directly to your ideal customers.  Let your investors know as well.  Include a section just about marketing.
  7. The Dollars and Cents:  No investor is ever going to invest in a business that looks as if it is going to fold its doors as soon as it opens (unless that business is a non-profit).  Investors want to know that a business is going to make money and that they will recoup their initial deposit.  Therefore, the dollars and cents is one of the most important things to include in the Business Plan.  If the business is already open, then bankers would ask for a “Profit and Loss” Statement, as well as a “Balance Sheet.”  But whether the business is in operation or not, another excellent idea to include is the “Pro Formas” or basic monetary projections.  You can create a Budget and include it Graph line: up and down 1in the dollars and cents section, and you can project from that budget how you plan to make more money (or save money).  Calculate Budgets with Low Income-Expense Projections, Mid Range Income-Expense Projections, and High Income-Expense Projections.  That way, the investors will know that the business will still say afloat even in “Hard Economic Times.”
  8. An Executive Summary: The Executive Summary is basically the bare minimum summary of what the business has created plans to accomplish.  It takes the main points from each section, and presents them in a direct manner.  The Executive Summary is basically your “In Conclusion” statement, however, this summary is going to go at the BEGINNING of your Business Plan.  Most investors never really read past the Executive Summary (unless there is something in the Executive Summary that doesn’t make sense), so in essence, the Executive Summary can be the main section that makes or breaks your business plan’s goal:  to raise capital.   Therefore, make sure your Executive Summary has ALL the main items you want an investor to know, and put it right after your Business Plan’s Introduction.  Consider the rest a guide for the business and backup for the more thorough investors.

While I cannot guarantee that this business plan format will raise capital (after all, there are many other factors that investors take into account besides the business plan), I will say that a well written business plan can tip funding in a business owner’s favor.  You really have nothing to lose by creating a thorough, well-researched business plan – but you do have everything to gain.

How to Make QuickBooks Enter Transactions For You

If you’ve already gotten OUR EBOOK: “How To Do A Year’s Worth Of Bookkeeping In One Day”, then you’ll probably already know how to do this step.  This excerpt is straight from that eBook with only a few modifications for those who haven’t read the book yet.

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Do you have a lot of transactions that repeat from day to day, week to week, month to month in your business?  What about repeating transactions that need to happen once or twice a month?  I’m sure you do.  After all, if you have to pay rent, or make a car payment, then you have a repeating transaction.  But what about invoices or sales receipts?  Do you bill any of your customers the same amount monthly, weekly, daily?  How about deposits?  Do you receive a specific preset amount of money on a timely basis (like an insurance payment, disability, social security, or just a flat fee for services rendered)?  What about vendor bills or credit card entries that are charged to your account every month?

All of these things, no matter how big or small, can be “Memorized” by QuickBooks.  In other words, you can set them up so that QuickBooks does the data entry for you.  It’s really easy.  All you do is set up the transaction as if you are about to enter it, then “Memorize” it.  Once you do, QuickBooks will automatically enter the transaction as a check, bill, invoice, deposit, etc., as soon as the date you preset passes.  Then, when you open QuickBooks after that date, you will be notified that the transaction(s) have been entered.  This one little step can save hundreds and even thousands of minutes in data entry time.

Here’s how to “Memorize” a Transaction in QuickBooks:

  1. Create your transaction, but do NOT press “Okay” / “Enter” / “Save and Close.”  (You can also pull up a transaction you’ve already saved if you don’t want to re-enter the information.)
  2. With the transaction open, Press Ctrl + M.
  3. The screen that pops up should look something like this:
  4. Choose “Enter Automatically”, then the frequency (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) under the “How Often” section.
  5. Choose the next date you want the transaction entered (which is going to be the transaction for the NEXT month – Thus, you would choose February if you are entering January’s transaction).
  6. Choose the number of transactions remaining (which is useful for items such as car payments that are only paid for three years), and the number of days to enter the transaction in advance if you’re going to mail that transaction in the future.
  7. Click “OK” to return to the Original Transaction.
  8. Press Ctrl + Enter to Save That Transaction for THAT MONTH.
  9. That’s it.  The next time that entry needs to be entered, QuickBooks will enter it when you open the program.

Quick Important Note:  Once the transaction is Memorized, you can simply Close and then Reopen QuickBooks and QuickBooks will automatically enter ALL of those transaction from the first entry up to TODAY. That means, if you create an entry for January of 2007, but it’s May of 2010, this transaction will be entered multiple times until all of the transactions have been entered up until today’s date.  What this means for anyone who’s behind on their bookkeeping is that they only need to memorize one of each transaction and amount, then close and open QuickBooks to become instantly up to date.

Now go forth and take advantage of this fabulous tool. It will save you OODLES of time!

Let me know how it works for you.

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 14) – The Carnage Begins

Well Diary,

Betty Bookkeeper HeadshotToday was the day… the FIRST day that I stole from the company.  Today, I forged my first check with the owner’s signature. I would have done it a couple days ago – as soon as I found out the owner doesn’t open the bank statements, and in fact expects me to do it – but the owner suddenly changed his pattern. Instead of staying out of the office, like he had done every day of the first nine days, he decided to stay in the office to “take care of some things.” Since I wasn’t expecting it, I decided to wait to see what it was he needed to take care of. Luckily, it wasn’t anything that had to do with me or the books.

Well, even if it did have to do with the books, he wouldn’t have found anything. I’m doing a very good job right now. After all, I have to prove my worth somehow.

I wrote the check for $100. I know, it’s not much, but it’s a start. Just something to see if he notices that I stole it. I’m sure he won’t notice since I took the check out of sequence. But if he does, I can say it’s for the Petty Cash Box that he doesn’t have. If he doesn’t notice… well then, I’m going to suggest he GET a Petty Cash Box. After all… “it makes MY job so much easier if we can have cash around for emergencies.” (If this was a video, then right now is where I would do the evil laugh…)

And there’s no worries about the bank clearing it.  Banks don’t have enough time to check every signature.

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To Stop The Carnage Caused by Forgery:

Unfortunately, when superhero_edited_no_maska bookkeeper forges a check, the only way a Small Business Owner is going to know is if they open the bank statements first.  And…the general rule is: He who opens the bank statement is the one who can hide or destroy the checks. So if an SBO opens the bank statement, they will get a chance to find the forged check before it can mysteriously disappear.

When yo do open the bank statement, check that all signatures are your signatures.  Take a second look at anything that was signed by a signature stamp or a doesn’t look like your signature.  Also, look for check numbers that are obviously way out of sequence or missing a check number because there’s a good possibility that it’s a forged check.

If your bookkeeper did cash a forged check, contact your bank and inform them that the check was forged.  Sometimes, they will be able to pull the funds from whatever bank account they were deposited in and put those funds back in your account.  But – more than likely – once the check has cleared, you can’t get the money back.  So be vigilant in opening the bank statement BEFORE your bookkeeper does.

Click Here to Read More Bad, Bad Bookkeeper Diary Entries

How to Twitter on Auto-Pilot

Hey Everyone,

To kick off a new direction for the OneHourBookkeeper Website (which will be happening this month), I am releasing my first of many mini books to come about all aspects of Business Blogging.  “How to Twitter on Auto-Pilot” is the first of this mini-series.  The regular price of each book in the series will be $5 each, and $3 for newsletter subscribers.

Check out an excerpt below:

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Followers Are Potential Customers

I will admit, when I wrote “How to Make Money with Your Writer’s Blog 101,” I said I did not understand much about Twitter.  I knew I could get a lot of traffic to my blog from Twitter (in fact, I got a healthy percentage of traffic from my – then – 2,000 Twitter followers with every post).  But other than posting each blog to Twitter, I didn’t do much else with it.

Then I read John Locke’s book (How I Sold 1 Million EBooks on Amazon in 5 Months) and I decided to really look at Twitter again.  I looked at Locke’s Twitter page and saw that he had 20,000 Twitter followers at that time (July 2011).  Then in October, Locke has close to 25,000 Twitter followers.  So with less than 20,000 Twitter followers and a pretty basic blog, Locke was able to sell 200,000 eBooks a month.  (That’s the power of Viral Marketing.)

Now I know what you’re probably thinking:  25,000 Followers?  How did he do that?  I have less than 1,000. (And if you have more than 1,000, that’s fantastic…keep going.)

I will go into that in further detail.  In fact, later in this book, I have included an old blog post called “How to Get 1,000 Twitter Followers in a Week”, so keep an eye out for that.  But to make sure we are on the same page, the basics of getting Followers is to first follow the RIGHT Tweeps (Twitter People), and then they will follow you back.

Thus, for Locke to get 25,000 Followers, he had to follow 25,000 Tweeps first.

Well, I can tell you this:  With the kind of growth Locke is getting, and with his skimpy blog site, there’s no way this guy is using Twitter how “Your Average Joe” does.  In fact, if I had to bet on it, I would guess that the man is using specialized software.  I say this because to grow 5,000 followers in a few months would take a huge time investment for a single person.  Twitter allows users to follow a maximum of 1,000 people a day before they block that person, and they allow users to “Unfollow” 400 people a day max before they mark them as “Aggressive Followers.”  (Although to be perfectly honest, sometimes pushing those limits will make Twitter shut your account down.)  If they mark you as Aggressive, they shut your account down and it will take a while for you to get your Followers back.  Following and Unfollowing that many people a day takes hours.

However, there is software that can do that in a fraction of the time.

But I’ll get back to the software in a minute…

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Interested in reading more?  Well, this Twitter Guide is only $5 ($3 for Newsletter Subscribers).  Just click on the Buy Now Button below to get it, or sign up with the newsletter to get it for even less.

The next mini-guide I will be working on is Selling from Facebook Fan Pages.

How to Twitter on Auto-Pilot:  An Internet Marketing Guide for Business Owners and Entreprenuers (Only $5 – $3 for newsletter subscribers)

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The Email Subscription List

EmailOne of the best things that any business can do is to generate an Email List, especially, an Email SUBSCRIPTION List.  With an email list, bookkeepers can email invoices and sales receipts to customers.  Even better, the advertising department (or person) can use an Email Subscription List to send out advertisements to customers and thus generate additional sales.  If nothing else, having an email subscription list gives a business an opportunity to remind customers that they exist – that they have products that might interest the customer at any time of year, and to offer extra incentives for getting them to “come in” to the store.  Having an email list, you can save hundreds and thousands of dollars on advertising while still making sales.

To further drive this point home, I am going to use a quick example from the blogging world.  in the blogging world, there is a saying that is repeated over and over again.

That saying is:  “There’s money in the list.”

Some bloggers will even go so far as to say, “Your list is like an ATM machine.  When you want money, you go to your email list and send out a sales email, then Boom!  Instant Cash.” 

You see, in the blogging world, bloggers believe that you don’t need a thousand customers to have a profitable blogging business.  All you need is a few loyal customers that you can sell to again and again.

The same holds true for the business world.  When you need to up your sales, send out a “Special Sale Email” to your list and watch your bottom line take a jump.

So how do you go about building an email subscription list for your business?

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Here are five strategies to get you started: 

  1. Email Subscription Company:  If you have a website and you sell products online to customers all over the country, then the first thing you will want to build a successful subscription list is to subscribe to a company like Aweber or GetResponse.  These companies can help you subscribe and have your customers “Confirm” their subscriptions so that you aren’t marked as “Spam”.  As an added bonus, when subscribers “Confirm” their subscriptions, then you know that those people WANT to be contacted about your specials and other news.  Aweber and GetResponse handle all of those steps, and all you have to do is set it up, and then send out the occasional “Broadcast.”
  2. imageA Widget On Your BlogIf you have a blog or website, then you should have what is called a “Widget” on your blog that encourages people to join your email list.  It is a very simple way to capture email addresses, and you can make custom widgets from your Email Subscription Company.  If you don’t opt for the Email Subscription Company, then you can use a “Plug-In” from your blog site to create a list.  Our Custom Aweber widget looks like this (just to give you an idea):
  3. The Fishbowl:  This is a trick that is commonly used in the Mary Kay world to get leads and contacts.  The consultant basically puts out a fishbowl whenever they do a special event, then they encourage potential leads to fill out a mini-questionnaire with phone numbers and email addresses.  The same can be done for any business.  A simple $2 fishbowl right by the register, along with a mini-questionnaire about customer service or a request for email addresses is often all that is needed to get the email address.  Just make sure to put “Would you like to be notified by email about our specials?” on that min-survey so that you only email the people who are receptive to it.  (Another way to do this is to just have a “Guest Book” or sign up sheet near the register, and ask every customer if they would like to join your list as you make a sale.)  [ad#Leaderboard]
  4. The Free Lunch: Something that goes very well with the fishbowl is the “Free Lunch” prize.  Of course, if you aren’t a restaurant, then you don’t want to offer a free lunch, but you can offer anything from an “Instant Discount” to a monthly promotional product (that maybe you got for free from a vendor).  Basically, you’re offering a bribe for their contact information.  The nice part about this, however, is that they don’t have to fill out a form.  They simply small salad with limedrop in their business card.  It saves you a bit on printing out surveys, and still gets you the contacts.  Only downside is that you spend a little bit of money in order to give those monthly prizes, but the upside is a list you can sell to again and again.
  5. The “Freebie” Bribe:  For online sites, the “free lunch” is known as a “Freebie” and it is also a bribe that goes with “getting the contact info.”  This bribe usually comes in the form of a digital product, like an informative ebook (ie PDF file), an audio interview, an informative video, etc.  This kind of giveaway is fantastic for anyone who has a Subscription List with Aweber or GetResponse, especially because these companies will send out the freebies for you.  It is a huge timesaver, and is often worth the $20 fee to maintain.  (Again, remember that this is a chance for you to make a ton of money by emailing your customers over and over.)

Once you have your email list – whether its 20 people or 2,000 – you then begin making additional sales right away.  BUT, if you don’t go with a Company like Aweber or GetResponse, then you NEED to make sure you don’t become a Spammer.  Sending out mass emails can make the email companies mark you as Spammers, as can ignoring your readers requests to be removed from your email lists. To avoid these things without a list, read my old article entitled:  How to Send an Email Blast Without Getting Spam’d.

There are plenty of other ways to get email subscribers, but these are just a simple view that can be implemented immediately.

What are your favorite ways to get email subscribers?

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Laptop Features to Consider For Small Businesses

The following is an excerpt from our eBook, “How to Start a Lucrative Virtual Bookkeeping Business.”

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One of the things I see a lot of when it comes to bookkeeping is laptops…lots of laptops.  Some work incredibly well (whether for bookkeeping or anything else) while others work horribly.  Thus, I have compiled a list of features to consider when shopping for any laptop, whether for bookkeeping alone, or for business in general.

(If you have any further recommendations, please leave them in the comments so that other readers will know what to consider.)

  1. Must-Have Features For Your Bookkeeping Laptop:
    • A DVD Burner:  Don’t be cheap and skip the DVD burner in lieu of a CD Burner; they are not the same thing.  CD’s can only burn a fraction of the information a DVD can burn, and you will want to give your clients DVDs when you back up their work.
    • An SD Card Slot:  This will come in handy whenever you need to transfer digital files from a camera to your computer.  Although it may not make much sense now, you’ll be glad you have it later.
    • Bluetooth Access:  It just comes in handy.
    • Wireless Access: You will want to be able to get on the Internet anywhere, especially coffee shops.  In fact, you may even consider signing up for a monthly service from AT&T or Sprint so that you can get Internet access from the middle of a field, if you so chose.
  2. Optional Features For Your Laptop To Consider:
    • A 10-Key Keyboard:  The reason I have NOT made this a “Must-Have” feature is because this is actually a “Preference” choice more than anything.  Yes, it can be incredibly handy to have your 10-Key right on your keyboard when you open your laptop, but the problem is, a Laptop with a 10-Key Keyboard is a very heavy laptop.  It can add an extra 5 to 10 pounds of weight, and it can add a couple hundred dollars to the price tag.  If you buy this kind of laptop, you will also probably end up investing in a bag with wheels just to tote the thing around.  So now, you have a heavy laptop with a heavy AND bulky bag that you have to schlep from house to car to office and back.  On the other hand, you can buy a 10-Key Keypad that plugs directly into your laptop for a cost of $10 to $20, or a Bluetooth 10-Key Keypad for $30 to $40.  These are compact, lightweight, and can fit right in the pocket of any computer bag.  On top of that, you can buy a computer that weighs as little as five pounds, and now taking your computer with you is no longer a hassle.  So, make the decision for yourself on how important that 10-Key is before you buy a laptop.  (Notice, the Kensington keypad-with-calculator to the left has a calculator screen on it as well, which allows you to quickly tally numbers without having to access your computer.)
    • LightScribe Burner:  If you’ve never seen a Burnt LightScribe CD or DVD, you are missing out.  This feature allows you to burn any picture or text on the top of a certain type of CD and DVD, and can really give you (and your business) a very professional image.  Imagine giving your clients a Backup Disc with their Company Name, Logo and date on it.  You will convince your Clients you spend a lot of time and money to produce high-quality products, even when you don’t.  This feature does not come standard on all laptops, but is usually only $25 more if you’re buying a “custom computer.”  So, if you want to give an appearance of being Professional and “Tech-Savvy,” add this feature…you won’t regret it.  (Because quite frankly, if you’re not doing it now, your competitors will be doing it soon.)
  3. My Laptop Recommendations:

 

  1. AVOID AT ALL COSTS:  One of the benefits about being an Independent Bookkeeper is that you see a LOT of computers.  As such, I would NEVER recommend a Compaq (even though it’s made by HP) or a Gateway.  I’ve seen major issues with Compaqs, and I’ve heard Gateway has the worst customer service when a problem arises (this from a very computer savvy person).  Acers are super-cheap options, but there’s a reason for that…they won’t work well with a whole lot of business programs.  The IBMs I’ve seen have been heavy, awkward and incredibly expensive, but aren’t really any fancier than a Toshiba.  Dells are great because they’re inexpensive, you can customize them, and they have decent customer service, but I’ve seen more Dells freeze up than not and then you have to do a “hard reboot.”  But again, your laptop choice is always a preference thing.
  2. ALSO AVOID: Mini Netbooks.  While Netbooks are a fabulous deal price-wise, they are not good choices for a business.  For one thing, the keyboards are small, which makes it hard to type (and EXTREMELY curse-worthy if you type a lot).  For another, there are usually NO DVD/CD Burners, only USB ports.  And for a third, without a DVD drive, it is nearly impossible to get many computer programs on the laptop – including QuickBooks.  I have tried to download QuickBooks onto computers from the internet before, but even with the QuickBooks key code, you really need the disks to install the program.  So skip the Netbooks for your business and go with something larger.
  3. To find the best price on a laptop: If I don’t buy my laptop from the manufacturer’s website, then I like to go Best Buy or Office Depot.  They often have incredible sales and decent financing.  On top of that, you can usually take your computer to Best Buy if you need to get something fixed, and Office Depot now offers free computer check-ups whether you buy from them or not.  Check their catalogs regularly and you will be amazed at the deals.

The Best Printers for Small Businesses

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The following is an excerpt from our newest ebook “How To Start A Lucrative Virtual Bookkeeping Business” which we are launching on June 30th, 2010 and are currently pre-selling for 50% off. While the advice is intended for small bookkeeping business owners, in my opinion, it works for anyone who runs a small business.  I would love to get your feedback and hear any comments on printers you love.  So, if you have any feedback, please leave a comment below.

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  1. Get a Multi-Function Printer.  You want to look for a Multi-Function Printer versus a regular printer because like I said before, you will have limited space.  You want it to have a “Flatbed” because you will be scanning paperwork.  You also want it to be able to “Feed” a lot of papers through the scanner at once because you will be faxing a lot of paperwork. In fact, the feed is one of the most important features to look at… don’t skimp here.  A wimpy feed will mean lots of paper jams, lots of frustration, a few choice curse words, a whole lot of equipment violence, and eventually, a whole lot of time wasted manually feeding your pages one at a time.  (Which sucks, believe me!)  Save yourself the headache and pony up the extra $10-$50 for a better feeding option.
    1. a. Features to Look for in a Multifunction Printer:
      1. i.      Laser Printers versus Inkjet Printers:
  • Laser printers mean toner cartridges.  That is a lot more expensive then Inkjet cartridges, and usually larger in size, but they print faster, and they print more copies before they have to be replaced.  In addition, the printer costs more money, especially if you go for the Color Laser printer, but the print quality is excellent, and if you don’t mind pony-ing up $100 every time you have to buy replacement cartridges, then a laser printer is a great option.
  • Inkjet Printers:  Both the printer and the cartridges cost less….period.  The quality can be really good, but you will buy cartridges more often (although the prices can be as low as $5 each).  You will probably also have to do a “head cleaning” more often on an Inkjet Printer, but this is the more affordable choice when starting any new business.

  1. ii.      Replacement Cartridges:  Before you buy any printer, always pop over to the cartridge aisle and see how much the replacement cartridges are.  You may also want to check a website like www.123Inkjets.com where you can save as much as 80% on the generic versions.  Just the cost of the cartridges alone could be a reason NOT to buy whatever printer you’re looking at, no matter how cheap the printer is.  For example, Lexmarks are generally the cheapest printers you can find, but they’re cartridges cost just a little less than the printer itself.  On top of that, the cartridges don’t print a whole lot of documents before the cartridge has to be replaced – so these are only good deals for people who don’t print a lot.  You…as a VIRTUAL bookkeeper… ARE going to print – a lot.  So take the price of the cartridges seriously.
  2. iii.      A Good Feeder:  This is a must-have for a bookkeeper.  You are going to be faxing, scanning and copying a lot of documents at once.  If you have a wimpy feeder, then you can expect paper jams or an early death to your MFC printer.  Therefore, make sure you look at how many papers you can feed at once.  This information will be listed in the printer’s details or on the box itself.

  1. iv.      A Flatbed Scanner:  A lot of Business Owners think that having a machine with only a feeder (like a fax machine) is a great low-cost option, but the truth is, it’s a bad option for bookkeeping.  Bookkeepers need to make copies of checks, bills, tax forms, books, and all sorts of odd-shaped papers.  It’s a whole heck of a lot easier to have a flatbed that can handle odd shapes and sizes so you can scan portions, if necessary, and put the scans back together on a computer.  Therefore, get both the feeder and the scanner model.

  1. v.      A Fax Machine:  You’d be amazed how many multi-function printers are still made without a fax machine.  But the truth is, a fax machine is a Virtual Bookkeeper’s best friend.  You will be sending a lot of paperwork to your clients via email or fax, and having a fax machine lets you do both.  Be smart and check for this feature right from the beginning.

  1. vi.      All in all, we prefer the Brother printers.  The cartridges are cheap (at least in comparison to other toner and inkjet cartridges), it feeds paper fairly quickly, and it prints an excellent quality at a good speed.  However, keep in mind that not all Brother Printers are created equally.  The cheap ones don’t feed a lot of paper at once.  So, look for something that looks like these (notice the feeds are angled upward to hold more pages):

But avoid ones that look these because these feeds aren’t that great (notice the feeds are flat, and thus usually fit and/or feed fewer pages).

A Good Rule-of-Thumb is:  The more pages they feed at once, the better.