QuickBooks Learning Tools…and a whole lot more!

Hey everyone! I know this is a busy time right now, but I wanted to pass along a quick link to a great resource, if you are already working with QuickBooks (and you should be) or you are looking to learn the program.

If you haven't been to the QuickBooks Community web site yet, you're in for a treat. There is a ton of useful information  and resources there. In particular, I thought you'd like to see the videos and tutorials they have available for free. You can find them at: http://www.quickbooksgroup.com/webx/qblibrary/Tutorials/?@437.oRxze3zxvbg@

That should keep you busy until my next post, which will wrap up our business planning for the new year. So keep your eyes open for that. Let's all jump into 2008 at full tilt!

And just so you know, right now I'm busy putting together the finishing touches on a teleseminar I'll be hosting on January 8th with a very special guest. I can't give you the details just yet, but suffice it to say that this free class will teach you a highly effective way to find new clients quickly. Stay tuned because I'll be publishing the full scoop in a day or so.

Ciao for now!

~Gabrielle

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Take Action Toward Your Business Success Now

In the last post we talked about getting down in writing your “big picture” plan for 2008 for your freelance bookkeeping business. Whether you are just starting out, or even if you've been on your own for a while, making a plan each year is your first step toward getting the results you want in the least amount of time. It is an extremely valuable tool to help keep you focused and moving in the right direction all year long. That's why I do it myself every year.

This week, let's add a little more structure and detail to your plan and start moving it from a mere vision to a solid action plan that you can start putting into motion immediately.

If you've been following along, you should have some of your basic parameters written down already. These include your target income amount, the specific services (otherwise known as profit centers) that will generate your income, and your desired work schedule. These are what I call your milestone goals.

Now, let's start creating a foundation on which to build your business and make it real over the next 12 months. Do that by defining the following:

1.   In one or two sentences, describe your business overall, as if someone asked you, “What do you (or your business) do?”

Want an example? Here's my brief business summary: “I provide QuickBooks training and consulting services via the Web to Internet savvy entrepreneurs and solo professionals. I also do seasonal income tax preparation on a contract basis.

Give a brief description of each of your profits centers, or specific services, such as monthly bookkeeping services, QuickBooks training / consulting, or payroll services. You should define what it is exactly you will be doing for your clients.

A word of caution here. YOU should define the work you want to do. Your clients will, of course, ask for other services that you may or may not want to provide on a case-by-case basis. But you have got to remember that YOU are the boss. So if you want a business that you love, you have to decide the work you want to perform. Do not let your clients call the shots. So DO NOT say that you will perform whatever services your clients want you to do. That's a sure way to build a business that you will be enslaved to, and will not give you ultimate satisfaction or the income you desire.

Of course, you should listen to what your clients want. Because without demand, no one will want to pay you. My point is that you should choose the work you do, instead of being a victim of it.

3.   Now it's time to bring in some reality to your plan. Under each of your profit centers / services, you will also want to predict what your costs will be. If you don't know, you may have to do a little research. But make your best guess based on what you do know what you will have to spend in order to provide the services you've defined for your clients.

This exercise will help you to know how much you need to charge and still turn a profit in your first year. It will also help you to see if your income milestone is within reasonable reach this year.

4.  Lastly, you will want to predict how much of your income will come from each of your profit centers. Which will be the easiest to sell? Which will be your “flagship” service? Again, you may not know the answers to those questions, but you've got to start somewhere. So make your best guess. These plans are not written in stone and you can adjust them as you get more experience.

Your business plans are beginning to take shape, and I hope this is getting you excited about your business. To help you complete this part of your plan, I'm giving you a form you can use to start putting it all together.

Business Profile – Overview (Word Doc)

 Next time we'll add the finishing touches to your plan and turn it into an Action Plan so you can hit the road running as soon as the holidays are over.

In the meantime, here's a little inpsiration to keep you focused on the road to success! 🙂

Business Plan Video

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Where Will You Be Next Year?

This year is quickly coming to a close. That means you should be asking yourself a very important question, whether you have already started your freelance bookkeeping business or not.

What will your financial and business situation be next year at this time? Do you know?

I do.

No, I'm not psychic. But I do have a plan. And this is the time of year when I revise my business road-map, pointing me to the destination I want to visit in my business by this time next year.

Every year during the “slow” holiday season, I carve out some time for myself and envision where I will be next year; what my life will look like, and how it will be different than it is today. I acknowledge the progress I've made over the past 12 months, seeing how far I've really come. Then I set my course for the next year, capturing the specifics in writing. I type up my plans in Word, and keep the printed pages in a binder for easy reference.

Am I talking about a business plan? In a general sense, yes. But my belief is that your business plan should take on the format that works best for you, otherwise you'll never use it. But it should be down in writing (not just in your head).

The only exception to that rule is if you need to secure funding from an outside source, such as an SBA loan, to get your business running. Then, you do need to follow a specific format. For our purposes though, I'm assuming that is not your situation.

Start With The Big Picture

You've probably been thinking about your business and trying to imagine what it will be like once you are “successful.” Great! Now let's get specific about what (reasonable) success for you will look like in just 12 months time.

Start by answering these questions:

  1. How much do you expect to make by the end of the year?
  2. Which types of services will be your primary revenue generators?
  3. What will your work schedule be like?

If you don't already know what you want in these areas, guess. We will refine what is realistic for you as we go along. But you've got to start somewhere. And it is a lot more fun to just say what you want first. Then worry about how you can actually make it happen later. Don't worry, your plan will not just be a pipe-dream. I'm just trying to stop you from thinking too small.

So before we go on, take some time for yourself over the next week or so and think about what you really want your business to be like by December 31, 2008. Visualize it. Then write it down. This is your plan, so include whatever detail you want at this point. This is just your first draft at the big picture stage. Have fun with it!

As always, if you have questions, ask them. But for now I want you to just commit to paper what you want and think you can achieve over the next 12 months (without fussing about the obstacles yet).

By the way, this is a great exercise to see how much you think you can get done in a certain amount of time at a gut level. That is a skill worth developing, especially since you will be juggling multiple client projects in the future and will need to know what your capacity is so you can set realistic deadlines. So start honing that skill now!

Then we'll take the next step in building a plan that will get you into action and on your way quickly. It's a lot easier to get where you're going when you've got a map. So get to work on your 2008 business map this week!

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What Do You Want And What’s Holding You Back?

When you have the skill of a professional bookkeeper and you are ready to take the leap into freelance work, there may be many reasons that motivate you. What are your reasons?

In a recent survey of 1,325 freelance bookkeepers, the top two motivators for choosing to go it on their own were:

1.  Independence

2.  Income

That's a powerful combination! These are two factors that may be quite limited when you choose to work for someone else. Your time is not your own, and you can only make so much. But they won't tie you down, if you're serious about working freelance.

However, we each do have different tolerance levels as to how much security we need, versus how much control over our own professional destiny we can handle successfully. So do get clear on what you want most out of your business.

But if you've already taken the leap into entrepreneurship with your bookkeeping services, or you are seriously considering doing so, you know that there is also another not-so-sunny side to the story.

In that same survey of professional bookkeepers who have already been in business for several years, the participants were asked what their biggest problems were. (I prefer to call them “challenges,” but you get the idea.) Can you guess what they are?

1. Getting new clients

2. Raising rates

These can be formidable challenges, especially in the beginning.

Part of the reason many new freelancers struggle with getting clients is because they believe that there are only one or two ways to find new clients. Of course, that is simply not so. It really does not take much effort to get more clients than you can possibly handle. But to get you started, re-read the previous post on this blog for just five ways to get your marketing efforts rolling. There are, in fact, many more ways that you will learn about as we travel along together.

Raising rates, too, can be a sticky matter. But the toughest part of it, surprisingly enough, usually has little to do with your clients. I'll expand on this issue in a future post as well. For now, suffice it to say that raising rates is much easier and rewarding than most of us imagine. That is, if we are willing to take a chance. But making the decision to go independent was a risk you have already decided to at least consider. And I'll tell you this from experience, raising your rates is actually much less painful and far more gratifying than it seems, and well worth the effort.

In the weeks and months to come, I plan to break down into bite-size pieces ALL of the components of starting and running a freelance bookkeeping business to speed up your success, based on my own experience and what I'm still learning after 17 years (and counting).

But right now, I need your help! To give you the highest quality information in the most effective way possible, I need to hear from you.

The problem with years of experience is that it is easy for me to forget some of what it feels like when you are starting from zero. So please let me know your questions and concerns about starting and running your own bookkeeping service. This will help me make sure I address ALL of your questions and concerns. Please use the comments in this blog to let me know how I can give you what you need most.

I am extremely excited about the journey we will be traveling together. That's because I find it so satisfying to share what tips and tools I've picked up and help others to succeed with them too. In turn, we all learn from one another and a real synergy emerges. Be a part of it! Think about the biggest reasons you want to be a freelance bookkeeper, and the challenges you are facing (or imagine you will) along the way. Then let's all build the businesses that will give us each what we want most for ourselves, our families, and our clients.

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Marketing: Where To Begin?

If you are a professional bookkeeper, or want to be, and you want to start your own freelance bookkeeping service, one of your biggest hesitations probably surrounds the question of how you will find your first few clients. Am I right?

You've probably heard that most bookkeepers get their business from client referrals. But how do you get referrals when you don't have any clients yet? Good question. And I'm pleased to tell you, there are many good answers.

The first is, start where you are. Often your first client or two will come from someone you already know. So tell everyone you know that you are doing some freelance bookkeeping work. This includes family, friends, business people you deal with regularly, and even your workmates and boss, if you are not currently working as a bookkeeper in your day job (or s/he doesn't mind if you moonlight). Someone you know will likely know someone else who is looking for a bookkeeper.

The next best way to get things going is to make direct contact with potential clients and those who can refer business your way. That doesn't have to be as stressful as it sounds though, and quite honestly, since there is such a shortage of bookkeepers, you won't have to do it for long.  There are various ways of doing this. And you just might find that you actually like doing some of them!

Here are just five (of many) ways to easily find people who need your services:

1.  Contact all the small businesses within a mile or two of your home. Do that either by mail, telephone or in person.

2.  Join local business organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club and attend their networking events. Get to know the other business people in your area and be sure they know about your services. You will especially want to build relationships with local CPAs, since they can be an excellent source of referral business.

3.  Join online business networking groups, especially those that are based in your local area, or have local chapters. One that immediately comes to mind is at www.meetup.com

4.  Contact the local sales reps of the big payroll service companies, such as ADP and Paychex, as well as smaller, local payroll companies. Tell them you would be glad to refer your clients who need payroll to them if they will refer their clients who need bookkeeping to you.

5.  Visit local office supply stores and business loan departments of local banks and let them know about your services. Be sure you provide them with a supply of your business cards. They often are asked to make referrals by local small business owners.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. But we are only scratching the surface. Trust me. There are far more clients who need your services than you can even imagine. Once the word is out about your services, you will have more work than you can handle in a short period of time.

Until then, get the ball rolling by letting the world know that you are a freelance bookkeeper and you're presently accepting new clients.

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