BOOKKEEPING MONEY-SAVING TIP # 13: Make Money With Your Website (Part 1)

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Believe it or not, when I first decided to start my own business seven years ago, I did not want to do bookkeeping.  I may be good at it, but I’ve never LOVED it (not like my Mom does).  Instead, I wanted to make “just enough money” so that I could stay home with my newborn daughter, and maybe do a bit of romance-writing on the side.  If that meant busting my behind and selling Mary Kay products to support my family, I was going to do it (even if I am a bit of a Tom Boy).

But then I thought, why sell only one product line?  Why not sign up at as many consultant companies as I can so that I could sell more products at “in-home shows” then just one line?  Logically, I could make more money because I would have more products to offer.  So I looked into Weekenders, Party Lite, Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple, Avon, and a few others who I can’t recall at the moment.  I was bound and determined to join them all, and then start my own website to sell all those products and make even more money.  Who cared if selling the products from a personal website was strictly forbidden by all of these companies.  There were legal ways around that (like not actually naming the products on the website, but having the catalogs available to download).  And with Yahoo!’s SiteBuilder program, building my own website turned out to be no challenge at all.

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Instead, life took me down another road.  Someone referred a new client to me, and I ended up running my own company doing bookkeeping, research, and office administration.  But even though life took me down another road…I still had my website…and I was supplementing my income with that website.  It didn’t take much to realize that anyone can make money with their website – the key is just knowing how to do it.
Since there are a lot of ways to do this, and since I have way too much information in my head, I’m going to turn this into a mini-series.  I will post at least two methods per week you can use with your site to make even more income.

Here are the First Two Things I did to Supplement My Business Income:

  1. Affiliate Income: I first started with Affiliate Income.  Affiliate Income is basically putting other company’s ads on your website and then making a commission every time one of your customers or readers buys a product through that ad.  That other company basically writes it off as marketing dollars or sales commissions, and then sends you a 1099 at the end of the year so you can report it as income.  They don’t pay unless someone buys, BUT…you can make a fairly decent-sized commission on whatever is purchased – anywhere from 1% to 30% or even a flat fee.  The best part is, you also make money on every order YOU MAKE through your website.  While this may not be income, to get an extra 30% discount on products you buy through your website can obviously increase your profits quite a bit. 
    1. a. My Recommendation: I like Commission Junction.  The account is free, and there are thousands of companies you can choose from, as well as individual products you can display.  It’s a nice way to expand whatever your inventory without actually carrying an inventory…and you can choose products that complement instead of compete with your company’s products (like products you might not want to carry because they are too expensive).  Just think about the things your customers ask you for that you don’t carry, and then join those programs.  That way, you can direct them to your website, and then make money just for recommending where they find what they’re looking for.
  2. Blogging – The New Door-to-Door Salesman: A few years and a few thousand dollars later, I was really wanting to see what else I could do to make money online.  After all, my website was up 24 hours a day and could make money for me even when I was asleep.  I began reading about “blogging,” and I thought, “How Stupid…who would want to read someone else’s online diary? BORING!!!”  (I know…the irony…because on THIS blog, I write “Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper.”)  But as time ticked on, I began to see that everyone has a blog – including businesses.  Not only does everyone have a blog, but there are tons of professional bloggers out there making six figures a year from just having conversations with their readers.  To top it off, it’s a great way for your readers and customers to get to know you on a personal level, which will make them more likely to purchase from you later.  In other words, it’s the newest way to do door-to-door sales without actually leaving your office.  So, I added a blog to my website, and began looking for advice on how-to write and what-to write.  Soon, I was making an additional income that has a bit of a “Snowball Effect.”  The income starts out small, but over time, those blogs keep working for you, and eventually, you end up making quite a bit of money from each blog.  So, if you would like to know more about blogging, start here: 
    1. a. What to Blog About: No matter what you do, you have a special knowledge base.  Maybe it’s bookkeeping; maybe it’s scrapbooking.  Maybe it’s even operating a forklift on a steep hill or how to screw your ex in court.  Whatever it is, you have knowledge to share.  The key is to figure out what excites you, and then write about that.  Because the more excited you can get, the more excited your readers will be.  (If you’re still stumped, write about the things you tell your customers – the “Must-Know Information” you impart when they come to you…) 
      1. i.      To get blog-post ideas, start surfing the forums on LinkedIn, Facebook and even Yahoo! Answers.  The questions you find there should be enough to inspire you.
    2. b. How to Blog: If you want to be a blogger, I recommend you start reading Darren Rowse’s blog, ProBlogger.net.  He is my guru, and his book “31 Days to a Better Blog” is extremely helpful. 
    3. c. Where to Blog: If you want to start making money on your blogs right away, and getting people to actually come to your blog, there are a few places you can go.  I recommend the following sites.  (You may only make a few cents per month when you first start, but the more controversial or instructional your articles, the more money you will begin to make.) 
      1. GoFreelance.com
      2. Elance.com
      3. Triond.com
      4. Helium.com

Not only is blogging great for supplementing your income, but it also helps bring traffic and customers to your site.  So, if you don’t like to blog or want to blog, you can always get other people to blog for your site at places like EzineArticles.com.

So, there are my first two ways.  Come back next week for the next two.

BOOKKEEPING MONEY-SAVING TIP # 13: Turn Your Website into a Money Maker (Part 1)

Believe it or not, when I first decided to start my own business seven years ago, I did not want to do bookkeeping. I may be good at it, but I’ve never LOVED it (not like my Mom does). Instead, I wanted to make “just enough money” so that I could stay home with my newborn daughter, and maybe do a bit of romance-writing on the side. If that meant busting my behind and selling Mary Kay products to support my family, I was going to do it (even if I am a bit of a Tom Boy).

But then I thought, why sell only one product line? Why not sign up at as many consultant companies as I can so that I could sell more products at “in-home shows” then just one line? Logically, I could make more money because I would have more products to offer. So I looked into Weekenders, Party Lite, Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple, Avon, and a few others who I can’t recall at the moment. I was bound and determined to join them all, and then start my own website to sell all those products and make even more money. Who cared if selling the products from a personal website was strictly forbidden by all of these companies. There were legal ways around that (like not actually naming the products on the website, but having the catalogs available to download). And with Yahoo!’s SiteBuilder program, building my own website turned out to be no challenge at all.

Instead, life took me down another road. Someone referred a new client to me, and I ended up running my own company doing bookkeeping, research, and office administration. But even though life took me down another road…I still had my website…and I was supplementing my income with that website. It didn’t take much to realize that anyone can make money with their website – the key is just knowing how to do it.

Since there are a lot of ways to do this, and since I have way too much information in my head, I’m going to turn this into a mini-series. I will post at least two methods per week you can use with your site to make even more income.

Here are the First Two Things I did to Supplement My Business Income:

1. Affiliate Income: I first started with Affiliate Income. Affiliate Income is basically putting other company’s ads on your website and then making a commission every time one of your customers or readers buys a product through that ad. That other company basically writes it off as marketing dollars or sales commissions, and then sends you a 1099 at the end of the year so you can report it as income. They don’t pay unless someone buys, BUT…you can make a fairly decent-sized commission on whatever is purchased – anywhere from 1% to 30% or even a flat fee. The best part is, you also make money on every order YOU MAKE through your website. While this may not be income, to get an extra 30% discount on products you buy through your website can obviously increase your profits quite a bit.

a. My Recommendation: I like Commission Junction. The account is free, and there are thousands of companies you can choose from, as well as individual products you can display. It’s a nice way to expand whatever your inventory without actually carrying an inventory…and you can choose products that complement instead of compete with your company’s products (like products you might not want to carry because they are too expensive). Just think about the things your customers ask you for that you don’t carry, and then join those programs. That way, you can direct them to your website, and then make money just for recommending where they find what they’re looking for.

2. Blogging – The New Door-to-Door Salesman: A few years and a few thousand dollars later, I was really wanting to see what else I could do to make money online. After all, my website was up 24 hours a day and could make money for me even when I was asleep. I began reading about “blogging,” and I thought, “How Stupid…who would want to read someone else’s online diary? BORING!!!” (I know…the irony…because on THIS blog, I write “Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper.”) But as time ticked on, I began to see that everyone has a blog – including businesses. Not only does everyone have a blog, but there are tons of professional bloggers out there making six figures a year from just having conversations with their readers. To top it off, it’s a great way for your readers and customers to get to know you on a personal level, which will make them more likely to purchase from you later. In other words, it’s the newest way to do door-to-door sales without actually leaving your office. So, I added a blog to my website, and began looking for advice on how-to write and what-to write. Soon, I was making an additional income that has a bit of a “Snowball Effect.” The income starts out small, but over time, those blogs keep working for you, and eventually, you end up making quite a bit of money from each blog. So, if you would like to know more about blogging, start here:

a. What to Blog About: No matter what you do, you have a special knowledge base. Maybe it’s bookkeeping; maybe it’s scrapbooking. Maybe it’s even operating a forklift on a steep hill or how to screw your ex in court. Whatever it is, you have knowledge to share. The key is to figure out what excites you, and then write about that. Because the more excited you can get, the more excited your readers will be. (If you’re still stumped, write about the things you tell your customers – the “Must-Know Information” you impart when they come to you…)

i. To get blog-post ideas, start surfing the forums on LinkedIn, Facebook and even Yahoo! Answers. The questions you find there should be enough to inspire you.

b. How to Blog: If you want to be a blogger, I recommend you start reading Darren Rowse’s blog, ProBlogger.net. He is my guru, and his book “31 Days to a Better Blog” is extremely helpful.

c. Where to Blog: If you want to start making money on your blogs right away, and getting people to actually come to your blog, there are a few places you can go. I recommend the following sites. (You may only make a few cents per month when you first start, but the more controversial or instructional your articles, the more money you will begin to make.)

i. GoFreelance.com

ii. Elance.com

iii. Triond.com

iv. Helium.com

Not only is blogging great for supplementing your income, but it also helps bring traffic and customers to your site. So, if you don’t like to blog or want to blog, you can always get other people to blog for your site at places like EzineArticles.com.

So, there are my first two ways. Come back next week for the next two.

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Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: Paypal

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

Dear Diary,

Betty Bookkeeper HeadshotToday I got an intriguing email.  The email was a confirmation from PayPal.  It said that we had spent $150 on an online order.  Since the company does not have a PayPal account, I knew it was a scam – a Phishing Scam, where some con artist is trying to get access to our account.  When you click on the links in the email, you are taken to a fake PayPal page where you are encouraged to log in and verify the purchase (or deny it), and then the fake website captures your real log in details and the con artist can then empty out your PayPal account.  Any good back office person knows – you never click on links in emails from financial websites (because it’s easy to “cloak” the website links).  You always go directly to the original website and log in there. 

Obviously the PayPal notice was a con…but it got me thinking.  Our company does not have a PayPal account…but we could.  It only takes a few minutes to set up, and then you can make payments from any checking account or credit card account that you link to it. 

So I opened one. 

Then, I went online and made a purchase to Office Depot. 

When I checked the bank balance online, I saw that the payment was debited as a PayPal account to Office Depot.  As far as I’m concerned, the explanation from the bank is simple enough to satisfy the boss.  Now, I don’t need to forge checks unless I really want to. 

Now the only question is…what should I buy

*******************************************************************************

In this mini story, there are actually two cons I’ve brought up:  The Phishing Scam and The PayPal Weak Link. 

The Phishing Scam is an actual scam where a thief sends a fake email encouraging you to click on the link in the email.  By doing so, they can capture your login information and then clean out your bank accounts.  PayPal Emails are the most common financial cons.  After PayPal, sending emails from banks would be the second most common way con artists get information from their victims.

There are three easy ways to spot these scams: 

  1. Banks and financial institutions have standard, precise emails already created that always use the same verbiage.  Phishing emails, on the other hand, often have misspellings and/or sentences that don’t make sense.  If anything doesn’t seem right with any financial institution’s email, it probably isn’t from your financial institution.   
  2. When you open the email, you will see the “From” address is not necessarily from the financial institution it claims to be from.  Whatever is after the “@” sign is the website address.  Anything in addition to the normal address probably means the email is a scam.  (For example:  …@paypal.fakesite.com or …@fakesite.paypal.alerts.com.)  Both the paypal.fakesite.com and the fakesite.paypal.alerts.com are completely fake because whatever comes before the .com is the site.  That means, these sites would be fakesite.com and alerts.com…not PayPal.com.   
  3. And finally, banks and financial institutions openly encourage customers to NOT click on links from their emails because Phishing Scams are so common.  Instead, they will tell you to go directly to their actual website to log in so that you can verify if the email is from the bank or not (and thus the alert is fake or not). 

Also, it’s common to get emails from banks you don’t even have an account with.  If that happens, obviously you can ignore those…but if you are concerned that an embezzler has opened an account in your name, just print out that email and go down to the bank to see if you have an account or not. 

AND when in doubt – go directly to the source…never click on the links in an email from a Financial Institution. 

As for the second con – The PayPal Weak Link: 

It is very, very easy to open a PayPal account and link it to a checking account…any checking account.  PayPal has a very simple verification process, which means that creating a PayPal account is easy for anyone with access to your checking account information, including your bookkeeper.  From there, it is very easy to steal money because PayPal and the bank account link together in order to create instant money transfers.  Plus, money can be sent to anyone with another PayPal account, and everyone takes PayPal these days (including airlines and other travel agencies), so stealing becomes very easy.

Therefore, to protect yourself from someone linking a PayPal account to YOUR checking account, you need to link it first.  In other words, you need to be the one to create a PayPal account with your checking account.  PayPal only allows a checking account to be linked ONCE, which means no one else can use the checking account information.  Once you have linked it, keep that information to yourself.  There’s no need to share it with your bookkeeper or anyone else because business’s should stick to using Bank Bill Pay and writing checks…Period.  PayPal should only be used by one person…the creator of that account.

Thus, if you don’t have a PayPal account, start one immediately in order to protect your checking account.  If PayPal does NOT let you create a PayPal account, then an embezzler has already linked to your checking account, and you need to consider closing it.  This is one of those huge companies that you just can’t avoid, and you really shouldn’t avoid. 

QuickBooks, Quicken and TurboTax

imageAt 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.

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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.

imageAs 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. imageWhat 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.

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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.

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Reporting Stocks

imageWhen 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.