Taxes and monies

Today is tax day in America! You got your stuff all settled?

Luckily (I guess) my business is still teeny teeny tiny, so I haven’t had any need for a 1099, or giant estimated taxes or other big headaches throughout the year. But my husband also has a small business (that has not yet made money) and a freelance career with a ton of expenses. And we don’t even know what all we can claim as expenses. And we have a mortgage and 401ks and an IRA and all. And my brain hurts.

Many of you know I quit my day job last June (!!). At that point I was making enough money outside of my day job to cover my expenses. Enough – but not more. I’m not rich. I have debt. I am not a trust fund baby. There’s a reason my husband still has a day job.

I am not an expert at this.

Here’s the thing about small business taxes and monies: I have very little idea what I’m doing. So I ask for help.

Separate accounts

I am still working on this. Paperwork and stuff. But even just using my PayPal account JUST for Lemon and Raspberry stuff has been SO helpful! I can keep track of exactly which transactions are work-related and which are personal. It helps in sorting receipts and all, as well. I don’t have a *ton* of transactions so I can go through and sort once a quarter or so instead of daily or weekly.

I’ve been recommended Citibank for a small business account, but let me know if you have another recommendation.

Bookkeeping

You must keep track throughout the year. You don’t really want to do it all in January, right?

I use an online bookkeeping program; originally called Outright and bought by Go Daddy it is now GoDaddy Bookkeeping. There’s a very basic free version, but I pay $99/year for the more advanced option. It imports all the income and expenses that go through your other accounts (right now I have it only attached to my PayPal) and allows you to categorize each income and expense really easily. It gives me estimated taxes I should be paying each quarter as well as lets me run specific reports from all the transactions of a specific category to who my best customers are.

This is basic enough to be easy to use, but detailed enough to be useful. I’m sure there are other options, but this is what works best for me.

Professional accountant

I’ve been meaning to find an accountant for a couple years. Between our full-time day jobs + my (very) part-time job + our multiple teeny businesses our annual taxes have just gotten more and more complicated. I asked a couple small business owner friends for recommendations and a week or two ago we met with Jay Kim of Robert Hall & Associates. He totally took care of us, helped us think about more expenses and details that we may have missed and gave us suggestions for the next year. He is my new favorite and I can’t believe it took us so long to hire a professional.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and end up using Robert Hall & Associates, make sure you tell them I referred you. I think you’ll get a discount.

Good luck! I hope you made a lot of money last year!!

What are your best tips for taxes and monies?

P.S. Anyone know the reference for “monies”? Full quote: “Ms. Bitterman? I want to work for monies”

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Creative small business resources

What are you doing this lovely (spring?) Monday afternoon? Not ready to jump into your week yet?

Procrastinate Spend quality time doing research by reading through these creative small business resources from around the web that I love.

Any good resources you want to add in the comments?

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Are you on the list? New free business resource

As part of my goal to NURTURE things in my life, last month I completed my new free guide for my newsletter subscribers!

Current subscribers already got it, so make sure you’re on the list to get it too!

I get asked a ton what I use for my shopping cart or what I use for blog or what kind of camera or other tools. For so many people, it’s just easier to get recommendations from people/bloggers they trust rather than go through the trouble of hours and hours of research. That’s simply the kind of economy we have now – recommendations and word-of-mouth is how I find most of the companies I work with.

So here’s mine!

CLICK HERE to sign up for access to the L&R Library!

Once you are signed up, you can download a simple 1-page resource of the 5 tools I use (every single week) to build my business AND my free guide on how to jumpstart your creativity!

I was able to quit my day job last June and these are the biggest things I used to build my platform and get me to that point. I hope you find something that works for you!

Sign up here to get it. Print this out, save it to your computer for future reference, or just go get all five of them right now and save yourself the trouble.

And, as always, let me know if you have other questions or requests. I’m happy to help you all as much as I can!

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5 easy ways to build trust with your readers

One of the best ways to BUILD an online platform that can help you get what you want is to build a supportive community of readers. So let’s talk about how you will use your content to build trust with your readers, which will in turn build a community around your blog.

how to build trustBe honest.

You are of course entitled to your own privacy, but if you’re going to start a website with yourself as the primary (or sole) person behind it, you owe it to your readers to at least be honest with a little bit of yourself. There are a lot of nuances to being honest, and you need to set your own boundaries, but just don’t be deliberately deceptive.

Be transparent (about what you’re writing about).

If you write a fitness blog, you don’t have to talk about how much money you make. But if you write a how-to-make-money-on-the-internet blog, you might want to offer that as evidence you know what you’re talking about. If your readers find out later that you didn’t they’ll feel like you were trying to deceive them and you may have lost any trust you previously built.

Answer questions.

Don’t just be a god-like voice from on high, when your readers try to interact with you. You are positioning yourself as a leader in your niche, so demonstrate that you have some answers. Or, at the very least, opinions and some kind of guidance. Elsie and Emma regularly answer FAQs and give behind the scenes glimpses of their lives.

Go to where they are:

If your readers are on Facebook, join them there. If they have their own blogs, visit them and comment when you can. Show your readers that while you are a leader in your niche, you still are interested in them and what they are doing.

Display social proof:

People look at reviews before they purchase something; they are easily persuaded by the evidence of their peers. People want to know that they are not the ONLY one reading your blog. Show your comment count, display testimonials, promote how many subscribers you have.

How do you connect to your blog readers?

More resources for building trust with readers in the BUILD ecourse

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creative small business resources

Get your new year started right with some great creative small business resources:

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Marketing 101: Tell them about it

Continuing our Marketing 101 series:

We’ve talked about the very basics of marketing, how to identify what you are offering and know how it helps people. The next step in creating your marketing campaign is to make sure you reach your potential customers with all that info. Get them what they need and you can actually help them change something in their life.

Marketing can be boiled down to this:
Know what you’re offering, how it helps people and make sure they know about it.

Why have an amazing product or service that will help change people’s lives …. if you don’t let them know about it?

The first few times that you go to launch and announce a new product it will feel weird. A little icky and promotey and scary to do. But the more you practice being brave, the easier it will get.

And one of the reasons it gets easier and easier to market your own work and make sure people know about what you have to offer, is that you will start to see the effect that you will have on people. If you sell wall art, you’ll see joy and excitement when your customers make their home their own. If you sell SEO coaching, you will see a business flourish and an income grow through your help.

Ideas for making sure potential customers know about your product:

  • blog posts
  • guest posts on other blogs
  • ads placed
  • giving away free samples
  • Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or other social media
  • hosting a webinar or live event
  • spinning a sign on a street corner

…. you get the idea!

This week review your most recent offering …. Make sure that you are clear on what you are offering and how it is helping people. And then brainstorm your blog post, Instagram update or other method to let people know about it!

There is SO MUCH more on marketing in my BUILD ecourse. Click below for details.

free blogging tips

And if that’s still too scary, let me know. We’ll schedule a day together to chat and break it down and make you a marketing plan.

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6 months on my own: Work schedule

For the last 6 months since I quit my day job I have been trying to find THE BEST schedule for me. It’s not easy. Working for yourself is not all Pinterest and cupcakes. I mean, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. But still.

And because I’m still trying to figure out the best schedule, I haven’t yet set any real boundaries for myself (or others). Which means that my schedule gets even more way out of whack some times.

I’ve been using Google Calendar for almost a year now – by far the LONGEST I have ever used a method/planner/scheduling medium. I love that I can set recurring tasks (vacuum, send monthly newsletter, write) and that I can easily drag-and-drop a task to another day if I need to.

Here’s what I want my week to look like:

Everything in its proper place. Some gaps, even, throughout the week to read for fun or work on a last-minute deadline. And weekends totally empty except for writing.

ideal week

Here’s what it actually looks like:

Weekends full of the the things I haven’t gotten to over the week. Not actually taking a holiday off work. Immeasurable overlapping tasks that keep getting pushed back and pushed back because newer, more urgent things come up or because I am terrible at estimating the time it will take, or because I get distracted by something that wasn’t on the schedule.

actual week

Truthfully – the best part of my schedule is I can tweak it so I don’t have to leave the house more than once or twice a week. I try to do all my errands the same day, but other than that I often only actually leave the house to get the mail from the sidewalk mailbox.

The worst part of my schedule is that I am NEVER done.

Here’s a glimpse at what it is like at my house on any given weekday…. All times are approximate.

6:45 AM – I’ve been letting myself wake up naturally without an alarm. Of course, I wake up with a cat in my face. Khaleesi’s new thing is to scratch up the corner of the mattress right by my face. And then when she notices I’m awake she walks back and forth over my pillow or my body to make me get up. She’s the worst.

7:00 AM – feed the cats, start the coffee, sit down in the living room with my laptop and “check” all the social medias to see how popular and needed I have miraculously become overnight.

7 – 9:00 AM – This tends to be my ‘catch-up’ time. Responding to emails that came in overnight, scheduling the tweet for my post that went up that morning, blogging the afternoon post I wanted to get up today, checking the various FB groups I’m part of (30Lists, BUILD, etc), getting distracted by a link someone posted, finishing the library book that needs to go back and get blogged, making sure Andrew gets up in time for work.

9 – 10:00AM – shower, get dressed and ready for the day, eat breakfast, usually feed the cats right about now so I don’t have to think about it later.

10:00 – 3:00PM – work. Or try to work. Or try not to get distracted by something else. This can be anything from blogging for the week ahead to having a coaching call to finally answering a bunch of comments (I am bad at that) to working on my Project Life book so I have something to blog next week to writing new emails to my list and a long long continuing list of things I want to do to NURTURE my little business.

3p – my brain has stopped working very well. And I need to stand up. And eat something. So I give myself a little break from work that usually ends up lasting the rest of the day.

Yes, I will handle emails or calls for Maggie if I need to. I will do the dishes or make dinner or vacuum if I need to. I will edit photos while I watch a movie or TV show with Andrew when he gets home. But for the most part, I am drained of the creative work by 4 or 5p on any given day. It might be partly due to the winter hours (I am constantly looking at the clock after dark thinking ‘How is it ONLY 6?’), but I think I am also a tried-and-true morning person.

I can’t tell if that means I need to wake up earlier so I can work more, or if I need to accept the fact that I’m not a proper entrepreneur since I don’t work 14-hour days.

Changes I want to make:

  • Wake up earlier. I love the mornings. I love waking up before sunrise, even.
  • Do NOT check email until 9:00 AM. Hard one when it’s on my phone. I try not to open it on my computer til mid-day.
  • Write every day. No, EVERY day. I want to finish a draft of one of my novels that is ready for readers.
  • ONLY do housework and other mindless activities after 4p when my brain turns off. Would be helpful if I could only run errands after that time too, but we’ll see.

Like most everything, my working-on-my-own schedule is a constant work in progress.

If you work from home, what have you found works for you?

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Announcing: L&R book club!

So …. I love to read. As you all know.

I read a lot of great (fiction and) non-fiction that I use to inform what I write here at Lemon and Raspberry.

So I am finally starting the one thing I’ve been thinking about for years!!

I am so excited to announce the L&R Book Club!!

L&R book club

This book club will be primarily non-fiction, business, self-helpy, creativity books. I think you’ll love them!

 Here’s what to expect:

  • Announcing the new book at the end of each month
  • Related posts throughout the month
  • Facebook Group to discuss throughout the month
  • Google Hangout near the end of the month to discuss as a group

And because this is already the first of the month, the FIRST book we’re going to read is one anyone can download easily for free:

focus : a simplicity manifesto in the age of distraction*

Focus is … FANTASTIC. I’ve read it 2x now.

It’s the kind of book that always leaves my head spinning. Always gives me all kinds of ideas and better intentions for my productivity in the future.

Go download it now! And we’ll talk about it throughout the month

*There IS a premium version that is probably fantastic, but personally I haven’t purchased/read it so I can’t speak to it.

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Why you need a Board of Directors

The following is a guest post from Kelsey of Rising Shining.

How will you make 2014 your great year? Will you…

write a book?

start your own business?

take your creative work seriously?

….YOUR DREAM HERE

There’s something that you can do today that will take less than an hour and will set you on the path to make 2014 your great year:

Assemble your board of directors.

And the time to assemble your board is not when you have a plan all figured out or are half way there.

The time to assemble your board is now.

wharton_BOD

A board of directors is not just for businesses or nonprofits; it’s for anyone who needs accountability, feedback, and encouragement to achieve a goal.

You need a board of directors even before you know what your first or next step is or before you fully know what you’re hoping to achieve. Or, if you’re already on a path to achieve your great year, a board will help you to stay the course and can be the motivation when you get stuck or discouraged.

Assembling your board is taking the essential first step of taking your dream seriously. Because once you assemble your board you are working towards achieving that dream: You don’t hope to write a book one day; you are writing a book. You’re not wishing that you could work for yourself one day; you are starting a business. You will be surprised how impactful this change in mindset can be.

Think about your friends, family, colleagues, even acquaintances. Who is the person who always has a smile and always sees the glass half full? Who always has a creative solution to a problem? And remember your online community – reach out to bloggers you follow and admire. Who among them has achieved a dream? These are people to ask to be on your board. The key is to choose people who care about the path you are pursuing and who will give you honest feedback and encouragement along the way.

Right now: call, email, text, or message one or more people. Tell them you have big plans in 2014 to [YOUR DREAM HERE] and you’d love to get their feedback along the way. Say that you’re assembling a board of directors of sorts and would love to periodically report on your progress and get their input as you work towards your goal.

Or, if you’re not sure of your exact path forward, say that you’re hoping to make 2014 great and have some ideas but could use some direction. Would they be willing to help you brainstorm and offer feedback and encouragement along the way?

It’s inspiring to know that someone is setting out to achieve their dreams; your board will be excited to help you get there. Just this past year I decided to take my blogging and creative work more seriously. I started meeting with fellow blogger (and my next door neighbor!) Erica and she became part of my own board of directors. Together we’ve created new series for our blogs and planned out bigger projects that each of us is pursing. Erica is writing a book and I’m developing an e course. By meeting and updating each other on our progress we’ve created accountability and a sounding board for when we get stuck. Having this support has been instrumental in elevating my work to the next level.

I challenge you to take your work to the next level. 2014 is yours for the taking.

Assemble your board of directors and make 2014 your great year.

Kelsey Wharton is a full-time working mama and blogs about her personal finances, love of goals and organization, and everyday adventures at www.risingshining.com. She lives with her husband and baby son in Phoenix, AZ.

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5 easy ways to fix your marketing

Are you releasing products that nobody buys? Do you feel like you’re treading water with your little creative business? Maybe you just need to tweak a few things. Between now and the end of the year, I want you to fix your marketing. A little adjustment can be leveraged into a bunch of new sales, new readers and business growth for you.

 fix your marketing

Plan your blog editorial calendar

Maintaining an editorial calendar is magical. I *love* it. It helps me write better, gives me more free time and helps me focus my message and my marketing.

Just a little bit of planning ahead can really help you better craft your content, your brand message and your marketing. Don’t fly by the seat of your pants – look at your calendar for November and plan your content accordingly.

Reevaluate your offer

Are you 100% clear on what you are offering and how it can help someone? Totally, absolutely clear? Can you explain it in 1 sentence? 20 words or less?

An easy fix might be really focusing down on your offer. Is that really what your content and products are offering? Do the buttons in your blog’s sidebar reflect that? If you have to write a short bio about your site, can you do that?

Add your call to action

Non-negotiable. What do you want readers to do? Does your blog post SAY that? What do you want customers to do? Is that button clear and easy to find? Make sure you have a call to action on your home page at the very least.

Email your list

Or, you know, START your email list. People want to hear from you. If you have started collecting email addresses, all those people said, ‘Yes, please, tell me what is new with you.’ So you’d better get on that. Email your list AT LEAST once a month. More often if you can. This week, at least.

Optimize your headlines

The benefit of reading a post should be clear from the headline alone. If you are using an editorial calendar and planning ahead, you should have plenty of time to optimize your blog post headlines to make sure they are clear, concise and related to what your blog is offering overall. Bonus points for optimizing the headline for SEO.

 I know I said the Pillar Content session is my favorite from BUILD, but the Marketing module is my favorite whole module. Register and get all of it here:

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