6 Steps to Get Your Finances in Order for Tax Time

How to get your finances in order for tax time with Janet LeBlanc

Psst . . . I’m going to let an actual accountant and super smart person take the reins on this one . . . meet Janet, of Paper + Spark.


Janet LeBlank Paper and SparkHi! I’m Janet and I’m an accountant, serial-entrepreneur, and mama of two living in Texas. My passion is helping creative entrepreneurs feel more confident and empowered when it comes to their money. After a winding journey of selling jewelry, stationery, and spreadsheets (oh yeah!) online for the past five years, I’ve noticed that creatives tend to avoid the financial side of their biz. I’m here to help with bookkeeping templates, tips, and tools that are both pretty and in-plain-English.


It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . . time to finally total up all those numbers and see how your business really did this year. If you’re like many creative entrepreneurs and you don’t look forward to this process, you might’ve fallen a little (or a lot) behind on your bookkeeping work over the course of 2016. No guilt trips here; instead, I’ve got six steps to help you get your finances in order. Start taking action now and avoid the stress and overwhelm before taxes are due!

1. Come up with a plan and write it out.

Be honest with yourself—figure out just how behind you are and craft a plan. How much work is it going to take to compile all the data you’ll need before taxes are due? Do you need to get started like, yesterday? Or is it not as bad as you thought?

Examine your calendar from now ’til the tax deadline (2016 taxes are due April 18th, 2017) and sketch out how much work you’ll need to do each week in order to get caught up in time. Actually putting it down in writing in your planner will increase your chances of really doing the work.

Here is a very high level view of what you may need to know for your tax return:

  • Total sales and refunds
  • Total business expenses (sorted by expense category)
  • A year-end inventory count if you deal with physical inventory
  • Expenses related to your car if you used it for business purposes
  • Expenses related to your home office if you have one
  • Info on any business assets (think like big equipment) you bought or used during the year

2. Set yourself up to succeed.

That means 1) holding yourself accountable and 2) figuring out how you’ll stay motivated. To prevent yourself from saving all this *boring* accounting work til the last minute (and creating more stress), you need to figure out the best way to hold yourself accountable.

You know yourself best—whether that means sharing your accounting “to do list” with your mastermind group or promising yourself a big reward upon completion. In order to complete any task I really don’t like doing, I’ve got to stay motivated. I personally like to treat myself with a small reward each week after I’ve made progress; this way I keep working on the goal in small, manageable chunks until the deadline. {Note from Regina: Ditto! I like to get myself vegan brownies, yoga gear, new notebooks, or other “school supplies.” Find your “thing” to reward yourself.}

3. Gather all that paperwork.

Just start by getting all your junk together! It’s time to scrounge up all those receipts you’ve been (hopefully) hoarding throughout the year. Don’t forget to organize your digital receipts and documentation as well. Go through your email and “star” any business expense receipts, take screenshots, or print to PDF and save in an easily accessible folder on your desktop.

You can also physically or digitally print your bank statements, PayPal reports, etc. if you want to have these on hand for easier data entry later. Having all your documentation sorted and organized will make life easier when it comes time to record all these transactions.

4. Do the grunt work in pieces.

First—do you have a bookkeeping system, or at least a place to record your sales and expenses? If not, I suggest you set something up and quick. You don’t necessarily have to scramble to research accounting systems or apps right now; a simple spreadsheet can suffice.

Second—it’s time to play catch up. That means entering ALL your transactions for 2016—sales, refunds, shipping, expenses . . . everything. Entering transactions is probably going to be the majority of your bookkeeping time, so try to break it up into small, manageable time chunks.

Remember that plan you made? If you start early enough, you can give yourself a timeline that is actually doable for playing catch up. I’d suggest making it a goal to enter one month’s worth of transactions every week, and go one week at a time. If you start in December, you’ll be done before the April deadline with a few weeks to spare.

How to Really Use Asana to Organize Your Clients and Projects

How to use Asana as a freelancer

Yes, my friend. I have a treat for you today. A serious expert (in the form of trial and error and success at getting organized and making her projects flow well) is giving us the behind-the-scenes, no skimpiness version of how to really use Asana (a tool the whole byRegina.com team uses) to manage your clients and projects. She’s even taking us through specific actions we’ll want to take in Asana and giving us some screen examples. Check it out.


Nesha WooleryHi, I’m Nesha! I design brands and websites for lady entrepreneurs + teach other brand & web designers how to build profitable and sustainable businesses.

Let’s jump into organizing your clients and projects.

Have you ever tried to manage your projects through emails? You end up with hundreds of emails between you and the client, making it impossible to find the feedback they sent you last week or the attachment they sent you the week before.

To make matters even worse, your client seems to think it’s best to start a new thread instead of hitting reply on your emails, so your conversations are now broken into dozens of threads.

If that doesn’t sound familiar, how about this: have you ever gone to start a project and then realized your client hasn’t completed their pre-project homework or handed over the files you need? It halts the project right in its tracks and adds days (sometimes weeks!!) on to your deadline.

If you’re a freelance designer, photographer, writer or any kind of service-based business owner, you’ve experienced this before. It kiiiinda makes you want to pull your hair out with frustration.

When this kind of project disorganization happens, I’m guessing some of these thoughts fly through your head:

Why is my client always starting new threads even though I’ve told her not to?!

Why do my clients NEVER remember to hand in their files on time?

How come my clients NEVER remember to make their payments on time?

Why do I constantly have to remind my clients to send me their feedback on the work I’ve done?

Spot the common thought here? We like to blame our project disorganization on our client’s forgetfulness. But the reality is this: WE should be the ones making sure our clients remember to send us feedback on time or hand in files on time. WE should be the ones making sure our clients make their payments on time. WE should be the ones organizing the project management; we should’t rely on our clients to handle it.

So how can you finally get these problems solved? By using a project management tool.

A project management tool is a private space online where you and your clients can organize everything that needs to get done in your projects. You can communicate, create to-do lists, attach files, set deadlines, set reminders and tons more.

Each time you take on a new client, you simply create a new project in your PM tool of choice, name the project and invite your client! Then you can both discuss things in one neat, organized spaced.

Design Lingo All Solopreneurs Should Know (and a quick workbook for your next professionally designed project)

DesignLingoBlogImage

Hey you . . . my best friend in life has an amazing guest post and guide for you. Meet Brittany Mays. The epic designer behind most of my recent workbooks and course materials. Here we go . . .


Brittany MaysHave you ever been to a restaurant where the menu was in another language? You may have understood a few words that English “borrowed” over the years, but even those words could have morphed in meaning.

(Get to the point, Britt)

Sorry, I’m just pointing out that communication isn’t always the easiest thing. Sometimes you try to explain your thoughts or vision to someone and it just doesn’t come out right. Often, the barrier comes with an ignorance towards the jargon of that particular topic.

Specifically I’m talking about design. In the past few years, as I have gained more and more clients, my processes have developed to help people better communicate with me.

In this post, you will not only find definitions that can really help you out, but also questions to help break down your upcoming project for yourself and your designer. Plus a communication sheet you can fill out and email to your potential designer that covers all of your project details. I’m just trying to help you get the party started and get your life together, but more on that in a bit.

What every designer fears

Every Halloween I get invited to a haunted house. Every year, I re-explain that I don’t do haunted houses, but people don’t get it. I avoid being scared if at all possible, but sometimes, as a designer, my worst fears materialize in the form of phrases that my clients write in emails and say over the phone. OK, I’m being a bit dramatic, but seriously. Want to know some of most the feared phrases by your designer (graphic, web, etc.)? Well, here they are:

“I will know it when I see it.”

“This is exactly what I asked for, but it’s not what I want.”

“Can we get rid of all the white? I want it to pop.”

“I don’t know if that [clearly relevant image] represents [the easily represented concept].”

“Could you make the design look exactly like this.” [As we are looking at another design which would qualify as copyright infringement.]

“We need more images of people [doing extremely specific things that are hard to find].”

“I really need a logo instead of JUST a font.”

“I don’t really like any of it, but I don’t really have any feedback for you.”

In addition to the lingo I will share with you later in the post, I have a few other suggestions that will help you communicate with your designer.

Design software isn’t magic

Don’t get me wrong, Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator can do some amazing things. (By the way, if you hire a professional designer, these are the programs he/she would likely use.)

I bring this up because often clients have a false sense of what these programs can accomplish. For instance, if a woman took a picture with her back to the camera, I can’t spin her around to show her face. Or if you give me a .JPG file that another designer created for you, I can’t alter it without simply designing on top of it because it has been flattened (one of those fancy words down below).

Good Practice: If you have something you need done, simply ask, but keep in mind that it may not be possible depending on what you are providing so you aren’t disappointed.

Find examples and inspiration

One of the best ways to help your designer create something for you that you love is to provide examples and inspiration. This can be done in a number of ways like filling a Word, Pages or Google document with images or creating a Pinterest board that you can share with your designer (remember that you can make the board private).

When gathering inspiration, consider finding items in the following categories:

  • general style/direction
  • colors
  • patterns/textures
  • photography style
  • icons
  • fonts

Please, please, please do not expect your designer to copy anything you show him/her exactly. However, gathering inspiration and making it your own is exactly what needs to happen, and providing these things will help that happen.

14 Drake Lyrics to Help You Kill It in Business (and Life)

14 Drake lyrics that will help you kill it in business and in life. Seriously. These are good AND humorous.
I’m a woman of (what some would call) many “contradictions.” I love Drake, but I also love Frank Sinatra. I listen to Louis Armstrong, but I also need Snow Patrol some days. I watch all the action movies. Ever. But 80% of my movies are pre-1950s. I’d love to spend a Sunday completely immersed in NFL games, but I also cry at cheesy rom coms (or “chick flicks” if you must). I’m weird to say the least.

BUT. When an artist comes along and speaks my business language and drops hidden gems of clarity for us to learn from, I feel it as my duty to share. So without further examples of how weird I am, let’s get into these 14 Drake lyrics that will help you kill it in business and in life.

Oh, and if you don’t know who Drake is. THIS.


Let’s start with 5 quotes to get your mindset right.


1. It ain’t about who did it first, it’s ’bout who did it right.

Lyric: Wu-Tang Forever (song), Nothing Was the Same (album)

So your market is “saturated” and you don’t see where you can possibly fit in. You see someone doing what you want to do and they’re already doing a really good job of it. Uh huh. I feel you.

But I guess Drake never should have started rapping then. I mean. Jay Z. Diddy (Does he rap still? I don’t even know which name we’re supposed to be calling him this year, so I definitely don’t know if he still makes music.). Etc.

I shouldn’t have started blogging either, by this logic. Neither should my favorite blogger, Erika Madden, I guess. But here’s the thing about that.

It really is not about who did it first, it’s about who does it right.

Do you have perspective to add? Do you have voice to add? Do you have lives to change? Can you put in the work? Are you willing to do it right?

Then do it.


2. She look like a star, but only on camera. Only on camera.

Lyrics: Cameras (song), Take Care (album)

I know. I know. He/she looks like they know EVERYTHING. Their Instagram is a collection of the most perfect images ever made. They publish income reports with income of $50K per month and only $323.47 in expenses. And then you figure you must be doing everything wrong. Clearly it’s easy and you’re just not able to get it. What’s wrong with you, eh?

NO.

NO.

Incorrect. It takes her 1 hour and 52 minutes to set up each of those IG photos, 25 minutes to shoot, and 17.4 minutes to edit each one. And by the way. Her desk never actually looks that clean. And by the by, she fell on her face millions of times before she made $50K per month. That, and, can you actually verify these stories?

There’s no benefit in comparing your status to what other people look like on camera. To what other people carefully select to show you. No benefit.

She look like a star, but only on camera . . . only on camera.


3. You should just be yourself. Right now, you’re someone else.

Lyrics: Hotline Bling (song), Views From the 6 (album)

Seriously. If you want to build a sustainable business that brings you joy for the long run, you should build something based on who you are. I even did a whole scope about this. Because, you know those times when you make money doing something that’s not true to you? Remember how fun that is?

Not at all. Not at all fun is the answer.

When you build a business based on who you think people want you to be, or who you’re peeping online right now and unintentionally copying . . . it’s just not real. And it’s just not fun.

And if it’s not you, you’ll eventually run out of content.

How to Create an Epic Email Course as an Opt-in (And do you want a free bootcamp?)

How to create an epic email course from scratch and use it as an opt-in for your email list.
Soooo, let’s take a deep dive into how to create an email course (correction: an epic email course) that you can use as an opt-in for your email list to grow it wildly and to impress your savvy audience.

And yo, the first thing to note, is that there’s a 3-day online bootcamp this weekend (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) that is free for you, complete with live video, worksheets, guest appearances by Kory Woodard, and more . . . all focused on helping you create an epic email course (planning, content, design, promotion, etc.). I’ll tell you more about it at the end of this post, but you can also hop over to EmailCourseBootcamp.com and RSVP for it. It will only be available over the weened and for a short replay time after that.

A free bootcamp on creating your first/next email course as an opt-in for your email list.


Okay, let’s get started with the 18 steps of creating an epic email course that people go insane for.

Really, Regina? 18 steps. Are they truly necessary?

Yes, my email ninja friend, they are. We don’t make weak email courses around here. Stick with me, and I think you’ll have several solid ideas and clear steps to make them happen.

1. Pick a topic.

There are so many legitimate ways to generate great ideas for what you want to communicate through an information product. I shared 15 of my top ways in this free Infopreneur Workshop (and 15-page workbook) recently—they came from the 25 ways I go over in Infopreneur Ninja.

Let’s get into seven of the most actionable idea-generating categories.

For Freelancers:

1. Teach the beginning.
As a freelancer who works on individual projects with clients, you probably have a lot of pre-work, or work you do towards the beginning of your project that can be translated into an information product of some sort—and in this case, perhaps an email course.

For example: When I was freelancing (creating WordPress websites for people), I quickly learned that people needed way more definition and information about their brand and purpose before they started on a website project. In order to save their time, their money, and my time + sanity, people needed so much more clarity at the beginning of a project.

Legit. So, I created a questionnaire, then a workbook, then a little brand discovery process that all my clients went through before really getting started on their project. That workbook was the first digital file I sold (clients got it for free though). It still sells right here. Anyone not willing to go through that process was someone I had to direct elsewhere.

What is it that you need your clients to know, do, discover, create, or understand before they start working with you? What would make your job simpler? Why not create the process as a free email course? You can hit us with videos, worksheets, whatever you want to in an email course. #Epic #MindBlown

Your clients will feel indebted to you since you will be the one who brought such [fun, clarity, organization, direction, etc.] to their very important project.

2. Teach the end.
Can you guess where we’re going here? Create an email course (or perhaps another type of product) that teaches:

  • how to maintain the products you create (ex: best ways to maintain your WordPress website)
  • how to grow what you make (ex: now that you have a website, how do you get traffic to it?)
  • how to get the full benefit out of what you create (ex: now that you have a brand identity, where can you use it? how do you integrate it into your existing platforms? etc.)

3. Show them how to do what you do.
So, if you’re considering creating an email course, chances are you’ve done something epic that you can teach others about, such as:

  • starting a business
  • getting your first few clients
  • letting go of fear and publishing your art portfolio online for the world to see
  • etc.

What have you done in your freelance business that other people ask you about? How about a simple email course or challenge to help them out with it?


Wait. Are the ideas flowing? If so, you may want these completely free worksheets to accompany this blog post as you work through it. You don’t have to sign up for my email list or anything. Just click and download.

Email course planning worksheets

For Coaches:
4. Structure the madness.
So here’s the reality: the steps required to accomplish ________ (whatever you coach on) are simply not that apparent and are truly overwhelming for some of us. Here’s the other deal: you don’t have enough time to coach tons of people through similar processes individually. There’s a cap on how many clients you can take on.

BUT. There’s not a cap on how many people can benefit from your email course (or other product) that structures the madness for them and takes them through some of the same processes that you would take them through one-on-one.

Bring order and clarity to the process that your potential clients and audience members really want/need to go through. #TheyWillLoveYouForIt

For Anyone:
5. One-step wonder.
Yep. Kinda like a one-hit wonder. Except, nothing like it at all. A one-step wonder is an information product (such as an email course or tutorial series) that helps your audience with one simple step. It appeals to your audience because that one simple step is something they’ve been wanting to learn or get past.

Examples: “Learn how to set up your website’s email list sign up form.” “How to set up your new Mac laptop.” “How to configure XYZ plugin in WordPress.”

What’s one step that people want to take that you’re willing to teach for free? What’s a step that could be part of a larger series? What’s a step that could be part of a paid course?

6. Key results.
Have you achieved some key results that you can teach the methods behind? For example, I noted the specific actions I took when I was growing to my first 100 email list subscribers, then my first 1,000, then my first 10,000 friends and beyond. Teaching those methods, though the results will vary, is exactly what I do in my Audience-Building Ninja course. And though I haven’t taken it, I’m sure that teaching actual methods is what my buddy Kory does in her email course too.

Can you think of any key results you can boil down to an email course?

7. Current content.
Sure would be nice if there was a whole blog post on expanding a blog post/series into a book that could also be used to help us expand it into a free email course that we offer as opt-ins to our email lists. Yes?

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