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.

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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The SpongeBob SquarePants School of Business

image

 

Okay, I have a confession to make:  I am a Mom.  Even worse, I am a Mom with a Toddler.  What that means is that as a “Mom with a Toddler,” I know all the words to “Elmo’s World.”  I also know how to “Do the Pigeon” and that “C is for Cookie” (which is good enough for me).  I know how to read Dora’s map, and I know Hannah Montana’s true identity.

What’s more… I know “who lives in a Pineapple under the sea.”

Why do I know these things, you may wonder?

Well, as any Moms with Toddlers will tell you, having a toddler means having some cartoon playing over and over and over again on the TV.  For a mom, that means no matter how much you try ignore your children or their shows, bits of information tend to sneak into your subconscious until suddenly you’ve realized that you’ve been singing “Absorbent and Yellow and Porous is he…” for the past hour without realizing it.

Which brings me to today’s blog lesson direct from The SpongeBob SquarePants School of Business…

What the Heck Am I Talking About…(Right?)

(Okay, there’s really no such thing as The SpongeBob SquarePants School of Business, but there may as well be.  After all, children all over the world are watching this show and learning from this energetically peppy cartoon.)

Recently, my toddler was watching all 99 episodes of SpongeBob for about the 50th time (give or take a dozen), and I mind-numbingly found myself watching one of the many, many episodes.  Actually, to be precise, I found myself watching Episode 88 (Episode 9 from Season 5) entitled “The Krusty Sponge.”  And as I watched this particular episode, I realized that it was quite brilliant in the very simple business advice it was offering.

The Premise

imageTo give a quick background on “The Krusty Sponge” episode, the mini-story starts when “The Krusty Krab” receives a visit from a food critic.  (The Krusty Krab is the restaurant SpongeBob works at as a “Fry Cook”).  The food critic in the story proceeded to trash everything about “The Krusty Krab” saying it was absolutely terrible…except for the food and the fry cook (SpongeBob).  The food critic then went on to say that if the owner of “The Krusty Krab” was smart, he would “sponge up” as much of what his cook had to offer as possible.

Thus, as cartoon’s tend to do, the business owner (ie, Mr. Krabs) took the advice to heart and went “way too far.”   Mr. Krabs pulled down “The Krusty Krab” sign and replaced it with a sign saying “The Krusty Krab.”  He then added in two new flavors of SpongeBob-themed condiments, a SpongeBob Mascot, a SpongeBob Train, SpongeBob napkins and even SpongeBob hamburger patties.

Eventually, all of these items backfired in a big way, and Mr. Krabs ended up getting arrested and brought before a judge for “poisoning his customers with the bad hamburger patties.”

The Lesson

Now, while I am a big advocate of using a theme in any business, of seeing the bigger picture and adding appropriate merchandise in order to increase profits, I could see right away where this business was about to get into trouble (even if it is only a cartoon business).  The big mistake that the business owner made in this situation was “taking his eyes off the prize.”  It is a common business mistake a lot of business owner’s make without realizing they are doing it.

Here’s what I mean:

imageIn the story, Mr. Krabs got so excited about his new SpongeBob theme, he made one really huge mistake.  He took SpongeBob off the grill and put him on the train.  (In other words, SpongeBob – the prized Fry Cook – was taken out of the kitchen in order to give “the kiddies” a ride on the new SpongeBob train…Mistake # 1.)  Then, Mr. Krabs gave SpongeBob’s kitchen duties to an employee who was unable to run the grill in the same way that SpongeBob could (Mistake # 2).  Finally Mistake # 3, Mr. Krabs sacrificed the quality of the one product that was praiseworthy – the product that brought the customers in.

imageObviously, I am bringing this up for a reason.  This is a common mistake a lot of business owners make in any business industry.  They see some exciting new trend coming along, and they re-vamp their business model to include the cool new product.  They forget about the one (or two or three) products that brought in the customers in the first place, and they end up weakening the overall business structure.  They take the advertising for their prized product and replace it with advertising for the new product.  This can have a negative effect in driving customers away instead of bringing them in – especially if the people looking for the Prized Product are not aware that the business still offers that Prized Product.

Examples

Just to really drive my point home, I will throw out some examples.

  • Imagine if McDonalds changed their fries to a new fry with the skin on.  Or, imagine if they used a different oil that changed the flavor of the fries.  Since McDonalds gives fries with every “Meal Deal,” and the fries are a part of their brand, it could go a long way in hurting their business.  People may start to go over to Burger King instead in order to get fries they are more used to.
  • Jim Carey switching from his classic comic bend to do a movie like “The Majestic.”  (In Hollywood, a move like that can kill an A-list actor’s career… luckily, Carey returned to his usual brand of comedy.)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio stepping back from the Romantic Hero role to pursue the Golden Globe and Oscar awards (meaning he went for the more dramatic and difficult to play roles).  While Leo remains an A-list actor, he no longer has the International Heart Throb status that he had after “Titanic.”
  • Eddie Murphy going from making R-rated movies to G-Rated movies.  It has completely changed the demographic of his customer base (ie, his fans).
  • Roller Derby in the 60’s went from racing and blocking to more violent hits.  Is it really a surprise that the sport died out by the 70’s?  I can honestly say, Roller Derby today is nothing like the original Roller Derby invented back in the 30’s.

Unfortunately, these are the only examples I can think of at the moment, but hopefully, it helps make my point clear.  Taking your eyes off the Prize of your business can really harm your business, or even drive away your clientele.  Learn from Mr. Krabs:  If you’re going to make a change in your business, keep your eyes on the prize.

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: A Cautionary Embezzlement Tale for Small Business Owners Everywhere

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.

How to Start a Lucrative Virtual Bookkeeping Business: A Step-by-Step Guide to Working Less and Making More in the Bookkeeping Industry

WARNING: This is not your typical bookkeeping book. You will not find a lot of “Industry Jargon” in this book, nor will you find your usual “do it this way because it’s always been done this way” kind of advice. The authors of this book have a twisted sense of humor and it shows. (Their defense – staring at computer screens everyday has finally made them go batty.) This book was written only for the bookkeepers who are dying to try something new, easy and simple, and who don’t want to do things “the same old way.” If that’s you, read on… *********************************** If you have dreams of starting your own lucrative virtual bookkeeping business, but have been putting it off because you’re just not sure you can do it, or even get any clients, you’re not alone. Every independent bookkeeper feels that way at one time or another. “How to Start a Lucrative Virtual Bookkeeping Business” was created to help get you past your own objections, create the perfect home office, and then go out and find the ideal virtual bookkeeping client – step-by-step. In this book, you will find: • 10 Simple Steps to starting and running your virtual bookkeeping business. • More than 30 ways to find new clients, including what-not-to-do. • An additional 30 tips to help supplement your bookkeeping business. • Scripts to turn your existing clients (or boss) into virtual bookkeeping clients. • Advice on how to brand and market your new business on an extremely-tight budget. • Multiple ways to get your clients to pay. • How to recognize the warning signs of a Deadbeat Client. • Advice from other bookkeeping business professionals on creating the virtual bookkeeping business you’ve always dreamed of. • PLUS, there are links inside the book to a Bonus Page where you can download FREE “Printable” Word and PDF documents to help you implement the strategies easily into your own business. What are you waiting for? It’s time to tell your boss you’re making your own hours and they can take you or leave you as you are – a lucrative virtual bookkeeper business owner. *********************************** E.T. Barton and Robin Davis met back in 1976, shortly after Robin’s “water broke.” That’s right, E.T. and Robin are mother and daughter and Robin was all of 5 years old at the time (at least that’s the story Robin’s sticking to!). Both mother and daughter got into bookkeeping shortly after high school (because it’s in the genes), and through the years have encouraged each other to begin their own bookkeeping companies. Since E.T’s passion lies in writing, and Robin’s lies in bookkeeping, they’ve decided to team up and share their collective knowledge in a way that is simple and entertaining for the “Average Business Joe.” Oh – and Bookkeepers will like it too.

Creating Discrete Adsense Ads

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In the first part of this blog series, Bookkeeping Money-Saving Tip # 14 – Make Money With Your Business Blog, I wrote that to make money with Google Adsense on your business blog, you needed to do the following things: 

  1. Use “Adlinks” whenever possible.

  2. Make any Google Adsense links in your blog match your “Other” links.
  3. Place Your Google Adsense Adlinks in Discrete Locations.
  4. Use Your Prime Real Estate for Banner Ads.
  5. Utilize as many types of Google Adsense Ads as you can.

Today, I’m going to go into detail on how to do that.  So in order, how to create Discrete Google Adsense Ads:

1. Use Adlinks Whenever Possible

An Adlink is – quite simply – a “Text” ad. That means there are no pictures, no gif animation, and no video. It’s just straight up text. The reason you want these “Adlinks” is because they are not annoying…they are very discrete. They look they belong on your blog, even though they have a little bar that says “Ads by Google.”

There are two types of Adlink ads you want to consider. The first is a “Horizontal” Adlink that looks something like this:

 

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The second is a “Vertical” Adlink that looks like this:

clip_image004

You can use both on your site, but what works best will depend on your site and your readers.  For this site, I find that that Horizontal Adlinks work best .

2. Make any Google Adsense links in your blog match your “Other” links.

Once you’ve logged into your Google Adsense Account, you should go to the Google Adsense Wizard where you will choose the customized links for your blog. Here, you have the options to choose the size, how many links you want in your ad, and the color backgrounds. (See the picture below.)

clip_image010

The Key Things to remember are to make the ads blend with your blog.

That means:

  • · NO BORDER. Make the border the same color as the background.
  • · MAKE YOUR LINKS THE SAME COLOR AS YOUR “OTHER” LINKS. By doing this, you make it easier to blend your ads right into your blog posts. (Believe me, this will mean the difference between pennies per post and dollars per post.)

Once you’ve created an ad (or multiple ads) that blend into your blog, the next thing you want to do is post these ads to your blog.  A great Plug-In to make this process very simple is the “Advertising Manager” Plug-In.  You simply copy and paste the HTML from Google Adsense to your blog, and then the next time you go to post a blog, you should see a Drop-Down box under your HTML tag. Simply place your blinker where you want an ad, and select the ad you want from the Drop-Down box. It will put in an HTML tag like the one below:

clip_image014

3. Place Your Google Adsense Adlinks in Discrete Locations

The best place to put Adlinks ads are:

  • · Immediately BEFORE your post. That means, when you write your post, drop down the “Insert Ad” box from above, click your ad, and then start typing in your blog post. This will give the Adlinks ad a “Table of Contents” type of feel (or a Navigation Bar feel), and people are more likely to click on it.
  • · Throughout your blog. The nice thing about these types of horizontal Adlinks is that they make for nice dividers in your blog. They allow you to break up your points and ideas, and they blend in smoothly. The vertical Adlinks are like pictures, and if done right, your text can wrap around them. Your reader will keep reading and hardly ever notice them. (This also increases the odds that they will “accidentally” click on a link, which means you’ll get paid for their Booboos.)
  • · At the End of your blog. By placing an Adlink at the end of your blog, the reader sees that they can click on other links to find similar products or topics, and you get paid. It’s like a continuation of what you’ve just written about.

4. Use Your Prime Real Estate for Banner Ads.

Banners and Leaderboards

You probably already know what banners are (the rectangular picture ads that so many sites have), but do you know what Leaderboards are? Leaderboards are as common as banners, but are mainly text with a brief ad description to tantalize people into clicking. Additionally, they are in a banner format, meaning they are rectangular in shape and often have multiple ads. Here are examples of both:

 

[ad#Banner Ring Central]

Banners

 

[ad#Long Banner Small Business Adsense]

 

Leaderboards

Google calls these Text Ads (Banners) and Link Ads (Leaderboards). Just like with Adlinks, you can make your Leaderboards blend by hiding the borders and making the link colors the same color as your other links.

The reason you should know about both is that these are a bit more eye-catching than Adlinks are, and therefore not nearly as sneaky. Their main purpose is to give the reader more information while making it clear that it’s an ad. You may think you don’t want to use these (if you are going the discrete route), but it never hurts to test them and see how they play out with your readers.

Another thing to keep in mind with these, you can get them both horizontally and vertically, and you can create them in any size. Most bloggers suggest you skip the 468 x 60 size for the banners since everyone uses those as banners. They suggest you go for the longest size so that it looks like a navigation bar. For the Leaderboards, horizontal is also a good idea since it makes it easy to break up your blog-thoughts and stick these in between your points. The horizontal ones take a lot more “know-how” and “tom-foolery” to get them to look right.

Ideal Locations

When placing Banners and Leaderboards, there are usually two ideal locations to do it:

  • · For banners, you want to place them near the top and bottom of your blog. The FrontPage Plug-In I had you install earlier is perfect for this. It allows you to create banner ads (whether from Google or anyone else) and all you have to do is copy the HTML and paste it into the boxes under settings. It’s that simple, and the boxes will be filled on every page you go to.
  • · Leaderboards are good interspersed throughout your blog. You will want to use your “Advertising Manager” Plug-In for this and just drop it periodically wherever you have a break in thought or are changing the topic.
  • · The ideal number of Google Adsense ads is 1 Adlinks ad in the blog post (preferably under the title and before the body of the blog), three Leaderboards throughout the post, and the Banners at the top and bottom of each page.
  • · While you can use Google Adsense in your sidebar as well, I prefer to use Affiliate links there. You have a better chance of making more money with the prime locations taken by the people who pay to be there.

5. Utilize as many types of Google Adsense Ads as you can.

Google Adsense allows you to have a maximum of 10 Adsense ads on your blog. That means, should you happen to place more than 10 Adsense ads on any page of your blog (including those in the Sidebars, Headers and Footers), Google will simply make anything over 10 “disappear.” In other words, they just won’t show those ads. It won’t be obvious that an ad belongs there, but it can change your margins a bit if you happen to go overboard. The ads they choose to leave behind…will usually be the ones closest to the top of the articles and pages.

The only place this really makes a difference is on your homepage. Say you have five Google Adsense ads per post IN your post and your homepage shows your five most recent posts. That’s a total of 25 ads, but Google will only show 10 – which will probably be all of the ads in your first post, any ads in your header and sidebar, and then the remaining ads in the second post. However, when your readers click on your posts to go directly to that post, then they will see all five of the ads you originally place, plus whatever ads are in your header, footer and sidebars.

Having said that, it is never a bad idea to use your full quote of ads. (See my recommendations above.)

And there you go…ways to use Google Adsense that should help you start making money with your business blog. 

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.

[ad#Adlinks]

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.

[ad#Leaderboard]

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.