The Many Hats of Self Employment

Being self employed comes with many benefits.  You can sleep in, work in your pyjamas and go shopping in the middle of the day.  You no longer have to report to a boss who doesn't really understand what you do or deal with mindless workplace politics.  It all sounds wonderful, but unfortunately there are also many challenges.  Small business owners have to deal with uncertainty and risk.  They need to be disciplined and deal with the many demands that being self employed can impose upon us.  In the early stages of self employment, most of us have to take on the responsiblity of fulfilling the administrative functions that you find in a more established business. Some of the skills that you need to develop are:

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Tax Tips: Car Expenses and Benefits

Access to a car can be crucial to running a small business effectively.  Costs of ownership, however, can be onerous, especially in the early stages when your business is not hugely profitable.  Luckily, Revenue Canada allows individuals and corporations who use their cars to generate income to deduct the expenses and actually provides fairly comprehensive (i.e. complex) guidance to this end.  Below are some of the main provisions that impact small business owners:
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Pricing Small Business Services: 3 Considerations

One of the most challenging aspects of starting a new business is knowing what to charge for your services.  In economics terms, the ideal price is where demand meets supply.  The problem, of course, is that at the beginning we tend to have a lot more supply than demand. This can lead to imprudent pricing decisions. Below are 3 considerations to take into account when determining the price for your services:

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Employee vs. Self Employed: Criteria and Considerations

For the majority of income earners, employment status is pretty evident.  If you are going to the same place every day,  have an assigned cubicle with a computer and corporate stapler, and your boss tells you what you need to do, chances are that you are an employee.  Conversely if you have several clients, use your own laptop, and are worried about where your next  sale is going to come from, you are most likely, self employed.

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7 Qualities of Highly Desirable Clients

“I want to create a rival to Twitter. So I want it exactly the same except where it says What’s Happening? I want it to say How are you feeling?”(From the very funny "Clients from Hell")

This pretty much sums up the type of client we don't want - ridiculous expectations, unimaginative and just plain clueless. Conversely, there are some clients that are a pleasure to deal with.  Ones that ask great questions, and make us feel happy to have chosen the entrepreneurial route.  The more important of these are listed below:

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Breaking Up with a (Likeable) Client

Many of us have clients who are annoying, cheap, stupid , high maintenance or some combination thereof.  As a new business owner, we are often stuck with these clients because we need them.  However, we look forward to the day when we will have the thriving business that we so deserve, and fantasize about the spectacular way in which are going to fire them (you can shove your business into your rear orifice etc.)  This is actually a productive fantasy as can help to channel and concentrate anger.  Of course, in the majority of cases, a firing should be conducted with slightly less vigour.

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CJAD Finance Segment with Tommy Schnurmacher – Everything You Want to Know about Small Business

Last Tuesday (August 7th) I was invited to be on Tommy Schnurmacher ‘s weekly finance segment on CJAD. The topic of discussion was “Everything you wanted to know about small business but were afraid to ask”.  It was a lot of fun and although I did not get to cover everything that you would want to know about small business in the 17 minutes that we were on the air, we were able to present some useful information to potential small business owners and fielded a few interesting questions.   Below is a recording of the interview followed by a brief discussion of the points covered and relevant links:
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How to Update Quickbooks for the 2011 QST Rate Increase

On January 1st, 2010, Revenue Quebec will be in increasing the QST rate to 8.5% (yay!), bring the effective rate of QST to 8.925% and  total sales taxes (GST and QST) to 13.925%, since the QST is actually charged on the net price + GST.  This will affect anyone who charges QST including small businesses and self employed individuals.  More info on the rate increase can be found at Revenue Quebec QST Rate Increase page.

For those of you using Quickbooks you will need to update the QST being charged on both sales and purchases.  The goal is to make a copy of the already existing QST on Sales and QST on purchases items, which will maintain the old rate.  Once this is done the existing "items" should be updated with the new rate.  This will automatically feed into and update the sales tax codes, so that you do not have to re-create them.  Keep in mind that this should be done on January 1st, 2011 or first day back after the holidays, so that transactions prior to 2011 are not affected.  The following are the steps required to make the change:

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How to Forge a Successful Partnership

 


Finding the right partner, whether creative, life or business, can be a difficult endeavour.   Very few of the people that we interact with on a regular basis, no matter how much we like them are actually suitable partnership material.  Anyone who has been in a relationship can attest to this.    It can be difficult to escape the inevitable irritation that comes with knowing someone too well.  Potential partners, who seem perfectly compatible at the beginning, end up being too much like us or too different (or occasionally psychotic).   For a partnership to work, it is vital to sustain an attitude of mutual respect , trust  and compromise.  It also helps to not spend every waking moment together .  Both parties must recognize the value of each other’s skills and abilities and be willing to entertain their ideas, no matter how stupid they seem.  Additionally, an ideal partner should be compatible, but also different enough that they complement your skills and bring an alternative perspective to the table.   Conflict is often the spark that helps drive innovative thinking.  But conflict, as we know, can also result in irreconcilable differences.  As such, a good partnership should have its own built in conflict resolution.  As with any relationship it helps to have a good sense of humour as it can be invaluable in diffusing a tense situation.

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Excel for Small Business Owners

This is incredibly geeky, but there is something about large amounts of data, in a neatly organized table, that I find somewhat exciting .  I suppose it has something to do with an affinity for organization combined with a love of numbers.   As an accountant and financial consultant, I am constantly faced with the task of organizing and analysing data.  And although good accounting software is absolutely necessary for any small business owner, almost all of my financial reporting and analysis is done using excel.

Excel, for my purposes, is somewhat magical.  (Just to be clear, I have no connection to Microsoft. I will eventually write a post on how much I despise Word).  I actually like manipulating data in excel, just so that I can discover new features and find more efficient ways of doing thngs.  This, of course, often ends up taking twice as long as if I had just done it using the more manual, tried and tested methods.  What, continues to impress me, however, is that there is an easier way to do almost everything  in excel (involving data – unfortunately it will not cook you dinner).  And this does not even include macros.

If you are planning to updgrade to excel 2007 or 2010, keep in mind that the interface is quite different.  This takes a while to get used to, and can be quite frustrating in the beginning.  However once you have become familiar with the new structure, excel 2007/10 is vastly superior to 2003.

Excel is especially helpful for small business owners and employees who do not have customized financial reporting or accounting software but are interested in disseminating their data.  Below are some ways in which excel can add value:

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Guidance on Working from Home

Having a home based business has many advantages -  there's no soul sucking commute to and from work, waking up hours are flexible and it allows us to work when we are at our most productive or creative.  Also, it is tax deductible.  It can, however, also present a unique set of challenges.  Given the proximity of distractions including our beds, fridge and tv, even our primary work tool i.e. our computers, it requires a great deal of discipline and focus to actually get any work done. Below are three articles that provide guidance on having a home office:

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NeatDesk Scanner: Effective Bookkeeping Tool?

As an accountant, I occasionally (literally) get shoeboxes of documents from my small business clients.  Receipts are stuffed in and scrunched up and comprise everything from gas (good) to toilet paper (bad).  As I contemplate the mind numbing exercise where I will have to sift through everything, identify missing information and worst of all, enter it all into an accounting software (usually Quickbooks), I often feel a sense of dread.  I've often fantasized about a tool that could do it all for me (of course I could outsource, but since I only have a handful of these types of clients, it is not worth it, yet...). So, when I saw an ad for the Neatdesk scanner (shown ad nauseum on CNBC), I felt a little bit of glee as I perceived a potential solution to (at least part of ) the problem. 

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Breakeven Analysis for Small Business

When planning to start a new business, one of the first questions you ask yourself (and hopefully your accountant) is at what point are you going to start making money.  One  simple way to determine this is to calculate the breakeven point, which is the point at which your sales (revenues) equal your expenses.

How is it calculated?

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3 Online Accounting Software Options for Small Business

As cloud computing gains in popularity, the availability of online accounting software continues to grow.  Many small business owners want a software that has an intuitive and easy-to-use interface  that allows them to bill customers, enter expenses and check their bank balances,.  We also want to be able to access from anywhere (you never know when the desire to do your accounting, strikes!)  I have looked at 3 cost effective, multi functional alternatives below:

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