Contractors Beware if CRA Declares You a Personal Services Business

So you’ve gone out on your own and created a small business that you can be proud of. Kudos to you. But what you might not realize is that at any time, the Canada Revenue Agency could take that away by declaring you a personal services business instead of a small business, and this kind of hit isn’t easy to recover from. A personal services business is simply a business that performs services for a company that would usually be performed by an employee of that company itself, but it can mean a world of difference in the eyes of the CRA.

Read on for tax advice that shows exactly why you want to avoid being labeled a personal services business, and what you can do to avoid it to protect you and your business.

1. Employee Relationship

One of the hallmarks of a personal services business is acting like an employee to the company you are providing a service. If the company tells you what to do and how to do it or provides training, chances are you’ll be considered an employee in the eyes of the CRA. But if you pick and choose what work you do and decide how that work is performed, then you have more of a business relationship that the CRA will have a tough time disputing. Either way, expanding your business to service more clients will give you more of a leg to stand on should the CRA come knocking at your door, which is not only smart tax advice but also just good business sense.

2. Small Business Deduction

One of the worst side effects of being labeled a personal services business? Losing the small business tax deduction. Any tax advice guru worth their salt will tell you how valuable this deduction is. It gives small businesses a tax break on the first $500,000 of business income, but this reduced tax rate isn’t given to personal services businesses because they’re considered an incorporated employee. They pay the full tax on their entire income, which can make a significant difference for smaller operations.

3. Other Tax Deductions

Another issue with being labeled a personal services business is that you’re not allowed to claim business expenses like other companies. This means that genuine business costs like supplies, office space, and more can’t be written off and instead come straight out of your business income, which can make a huge difference for smaller businesses.

4. Possible Reassessment

You might have been a small business for years, but at any time the CRA could declare you a personal services business and this could apply retroactively, which is just as dire as it sounds. This could mean a reassessment and a devastating tax bill because of misfiling your taxes for years and claiming the small business Deduction as well as expenses.

For some businesses, this sudden bill could prove crippling, which makes it more important than ever to avoid being declared a personal services business and getting legitimate tax advice. Get more small business tax advice by contacting me. Keeping you in the green, and out of the red is my business.

 

Everything You Need to Know About What Type of Business to Start

Starting a business isn’t easy, but knowing exactly what type of business to start? Now that’s a tough one. Whether you’ve had a brilliant new idea and aren’t sure if you should run with it, or you were simply born with an entrepreneurial spirit, figuring out what to sell is half the battle, and maybe even the most important decision you’ll make in the battle. So how do you get it right? These four tips will help you with everything you need to know about how to start a business and what business you should be in so that you can beat the odds and see your business come to life (and stay there).

1. Do What You Love

They say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. While there’s definitely some truth to that, starting a business is hard work that doesn’t let up for the first few years, so while you’ll absolutely be working, doing something you love will make putting in the long hours that much easier. You should also factor in your know-how; after all, it might not make sense to start a restaurant if you’ve never cooked professionally or managed a store before. But if you love interacting with people and have worked in sales your whole career, starting a business where you sell something makes a heck of a lot of sense!

2. Consider the Finances

As tough a pill as it might be to swallow, your finances should absolutely play a part in figuring out how to start a business. After all, when 8 out of 10 businesses fail within the first 18 months, you need to make sure you’ll still be standing if your new business starts to crumble. If you’re lacking on funds, loans, or start-up cash, opt for something that has little to no overhead to start so that you’re only investing your time (and not all of your life savings), like a virtual or mobile service.

3. Plan Your Lifestyle

When thinking about starting a business, you need to consider your current and future lifestyles. If you’re working a 9-5 gig, will you adjust well to 12-hour days, late nights and no sleep? Are you okay with having to miss important events because your new business needs your constant attention? If this in anyway scares you, you need to think about a business that requires less of a commitment from you, or else it might not make it.

4. Consider the Demand

Finally, you should think about whether or not there’s truly a demand for your new business. Whether a service or product, your new business needs to be something people actually want (and not just something you want). No matter how well you plan and execute your business, it won’t make it off its feet without customers that have a true need or desire for what you’re offering. Starting a business is hard, but all great businesses started out as a great idea, and so could yours with the right research ahead of time.

If you want to make sure your business gets off to the best start possible, get the help you need. Not only do we know how to start a business, and we know what resources you need to keep it running smoothly. Contact us today.

Common Business Expenses that Can Make or Break Your Business

It is important for businesses both big and small to keep track of their expenses. Even a very small business with only a few employees should understand its financial situation. Ignorance, after all, is not bliss. It’s just expensive.

To help keep track of where money is going to, it can help to map out expenses by category. This will not only help any business plan for the future, but it will also be a big help when it comes to tax time.

While you can’t foresee every single business expense, you can definitely pick out some of the more common ones. These are the biggest expenses, and the costs that reoccur.

Which expenditures am I talking about? Read on to find out.

Location Costs

Businesses come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but even the smallest one has location costs. This might include the mortgage or lease on a property, the cost of utilities like electricity, heat, and water, and services like internet, phone, and even property maintenance. These services may be more difficult to record when the business is run out of a home office, but you can calculate a business expense deduction based on the area of the home that is used exclusively for work. Professionals offering bookkeeping services can help entrepreneurs sort these issues out.

Wages, Salaries, & Benefits

A significant portion of a business’s expenses can be the wages, salaries, and benefits of its employees. Because there are different types of employees who may be salaried, or paid by the hour, and eligible for different types of benefits, it can be an intricate puzzle sorting this out. There are business services for entrepreneurs that can be a big help in tracking the complexities of employees wages, salaries, and benefits.

Office Expenses

All businesses need some office supplies. Paper, printer ink, equipment rental, post office expenses, and cleaning supplies are a few of the more common expenses that most businesses will acquire. Depending on your business, there will be other expenses you will need to track that are specific to your industry. If this seems like an overwhelming task, a virtual office assistant can not only help you determine types of expenses but track them as well.

Advertising & Marketing

Marketing your business can make up a significant portion of your business expenses. This might include print or digital advertising, like newspaper, magazine, or online ads, or promotional materials and products. If you attend seminars or trade shows, there will be business expenses to track there. Be sure to consider all aspects of advertising like free samples and even website costs.

Loans, Lines of Credit, & Taxes

Don’t forget to account for loan repayment and maintenance, as well as lines of credit, credit cards, and bank fees. Bookkeeping services can be invaluable help in tracking your expenses in this area. You might also need to consider other fees, like professional associations or trade groups. All of this should be included in your business expenses.

At The End Of The Day

Of course, there will be expenses that you incur that are specific to your industry and instance; however, regardless of your circumstances, it is essential that you track expenses so you can understand the financial health of your business. It also makes tax time much easier. But don’t panic if this seems like an impossible task. Consider the help of professional bookkeeping services or virtual office assistant who offer business services for entrepreneurs. They can not only free up your time so you can focus in on the parts that matter most to you, but they can also help you save money and headache in the long run.

Need help streamlining your business expenses and creating a more robust bottom line? Drop me a line! From administration to bookkeeping, my specialized services for professionals can help.

Should you Use Cloud-Based Accounting Software?

Did you know that almost half of small business owners and executives consider bookkeeping and taxes to be the least enjoyable part of running a business?

Despite this dislike, 20% of small business owners still do their bookkeeping by hand, while 46% continue to depend on traditional desktop software, rather than try cloud-based accounting. Some studies have even found that small businesses have been more hesitant to move to cloud-based solutions for accounting than for any other business operation.

It’s true that bookkeeping and accounting can be expensive, complex, time-consuming, and the source of various administrative frustrations. But with the advent of cloud-based accounting software, some of those frustrations could be alleviated.

So, read on to find out whether cloud-based accounting software could make your business more efficient and relieve the burden of bookkeeping from your shoulders.

What is Cloud-Based Accounting Software?

Do you use online banking? Have you ever stored files on Google Drive? If so, you’re already familiar with the cloud. It is a system that allows for the storage of data and software online, instead of on your computer’s hard drive.

The more experience you have with websites and Internet-based software, the less time it will take for you to master the system, especially as many cloud-based accounting solutions are designed to be simple and user-friendly. So, what does cloud-based accounting software do?

Cloud-based accounting software handles your basic bookkeeping and accounting functions. All of the major players in cloud-based accounting software perform the same basic functions: tracking accounts payable and receivable, invoicing, customer and vendor profiles, bank synchronization and reconciliation, bill management, financial reporting, and cash flow snapshots. Many also offer payroll, inventory, quotes, and other services as add-ons, or as part of a package.

Accountants and Software: The Perfect Match

Did you know that Entrepreneur.com ranks accounting/taxes as the #1 task entrepreneurs should outsource to professionals? I couldn’t agree more!
Both business owners and executives agree that accountants are the most important professionals used by small businesses, supplanting attorneys, and bankers.

You might be wondering if accountants are afraid that cloud-based software will replace them. Surely they would see it as a threat? Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Accountants and bookkeepers play a huge role in encouraging small businesses to adopt cloud software. In fact, software companies often market directly to accountants and bookkeepers.

Bookkeepers and accountants tout cloud-based software for so many great reasons. For one, they no longer have to worry about constant software updates/maintenance. Two, it provides business continuity and quick disaster recovery. And three, the biggest benefit often championed by professionals in the field is improved productivity.

By replacing the monotony of data entry and manual reporting with automated solutions and real-time collaboration, bookkeepers and accountants can focus on giving sound business advice to their clients. Cloud-based bookkeeping allows for business owners to have more control and flexibility in their accounting solutions!

Who Are The Major Players?

The most popular cloud-based accounting solutions are Intuit QuickBooks Online, Xero, and Wave. Each option varies in terms of pricing and features, thus some options are appropriate for certain businesses, but not others. This is the reason why ratings for all three tend to be inconsistent, across various reviewers.

Competitors include FreshBooks, which focuses on invoicing and is very popular among freelancers and sole proprietors; Zoho Books, although this software lacks payroll integration; KashFlow, NutCache; and FreeAgent. There are also more advanced and expensive solutions such as Intacct, NetSuite, Financial Force, and Sellsy.

Today, Intuit QuickBooks Online drives 89% of traffic, with Xero and Wave at almost 5% and 4%, respectively. Here at Milky Way VAS, I am a certified QuickBooks Proadvisor, as well as a Xero Certified Proadvisor.

Which Solution is Right For You?

In order to make the proper decision about which cloud-based accounting software is right for your business, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is your budget for accounting?
  • How many invoices do you create every month?
  • Does the software need to scale with your business?
  • How many users need to access the system?
  • What reports do you need, and to what degree will customization be required?
  • Do you need payroll services? How many employees do you have?
  • Do you want inventory solutions within your accounting solution?
  • What other software are you already using that you’ll need to integrate with?
  • Do you use a smartphone for business?

As long as you choose an option that suits your business, switching to cloud-based software should make the financial management of your business so much easier.

The Benefits of Cloud-Based Accounting Software for Small Businesses

Access it Anywhere

All you need is an internet connection and a mobile device to access your cloud-based accounting software from anywhere in the world. You can even grant access to multiple employees, meaning team members can quickly and easily complete their work regardless of their physical location. Whether a sales rep needs to add expense receipts, or a project manager needs to check an invoice for a supplier, having cloud-based tools in place makes organizing and accessing important information as easy as taking a picture of a document or searching by vendor, amount, or date.

Added Security

Many people believe that having online-only software is risky, but in fact using cloud-based software actually reduces risk when compared to the average computer-based software program. Why? Well, reputable cloud providers protect your data through the use of passwords and advanced encryption techniques. They also facilitate the dissemination of that data over multiple, highly secured servers. When it comes to PC-based programs, they are more vulnerable to data loss through file corruption and system crashes, and your sensitive information is always at risk whenever it’s stored or transferred externally from one source or physical location to another.

Maintain your Business’ Reputation

As a small business owner, you’re probably very aware of how damaging a software glitch or error can be to your professional credibility. Thus, working in the cloud assuages the downside of service delays and data loss. A host of qualified cloud providers and software developers are always on hand to oversee and resolve any possible issues with their online programs. Not only does this allow you to seamlessly get on with business as usual, but in most cases, it also translates into a significant time and cost savings where program maintenance and repairs are concerned.

The Most Up-to-Date Information is Always at Hand

By using cloud-based accounting software, entries are progressively updated in real time. This means you’ll always be able to retrieve the most up-to-date information available for your business, whether it’s related to payroll, taxes, or cyclical reports. As a small business owner, I’m sure you already see the value in that! Being able to access accurate and timely data is one of the most important factors for making better business decisions.

The Bottom Line

Should you use cloud-based accounting software for your small business? The answer is yes! But if you truly want the most efficient, hassle-free way to handle your small business’ financials, then you’ll not only want proper cloud-based accounting software but also a professional to be in charge of using that software.

At Milky Way VAS, you can rest assured that your business’ books are in the hands of a true professional who actually cares about the success and growth of your business. As a certified QuickBooks Proadvisor and Xero Certified Proadvisor, I make it a point to handle all your bookkeeping needs. From bookkeeping set up, to payroll, to customer invoicing, to tax preparation and filing, your business is sure to benefit from my experience!

I believe in building a relationship with you and your books so that I can understand your business and help advise you about the best choices for your finances. So, if you’re a small business owner in Toronto or the Greater Toronto Area, don’t hesitate to reach out to Milky Way VAS. I am always happy to answer your questions and figure out all your bookkeeping needs!

Bookkeeping: How and What to Delegate

Did you know a recent study by a U.S. Bank found that 82% of the time, small businesses fail due to poor cash flow management or poor understanding of cash flow? Wow, that’s a really big number!

As a small business owner in a busy urban center like Toronto or the Greater Toronto Area, it’s no surprise that you are used to kicking butt all by yourself – handling anything and everything, from creating your sales funnel, to managing your social media. But as your business expands, you may find yourself overwhelmed by all the tasks piling up on your to-do list.

If that sounds like you, then maybe it’s time to think about delegating some of those tasks. And you know what the best place to start with is? That’s right, it’s best to start by delegating your bookkeeping!

Why? Because chances are you are a creative, passionate, hardworking solopreneur, but not exactly a stellar numbers person. As we saw from the above survey, having a professional manage your books can mean the difference between a successful business or going bust within five years.

Plus, now that accounting software has moved to the cloud, it’s easier than ever to outsource your bookkeeping without hiring a full-time employee to do so. That means you’ll get the advantage of hiring a professional without paying as much in employee benefits, sick days, etc. Can you say winning?

Entrusting your bookkeeping responsibilities to an external service provider will help ease business-related stress while freeing up time for you to focus on what is most important: growing your business.

Here are five examples of how and what to delegate to an outsourced bookkeeper so that your business can grow and succeed:

1. Weekly/Monthly Transaction Entry

Although this may seem like a simple task, it’s a crucial one! Making a mistake on your sales entries can cost your business, big time. Not to mention that, as the boss of your own business, tedious and recurring tasks are just keeping you bogged down. Free up your precious time by delegating this area to a professional bookkeeper and watch your business grow!

2. Customer Invoicing

Invoices are obviously essential to your business. Without invoicing, you wouldn’t get paid, so it’s extra important to ensure that all your invoices are clear, concise, and accurate. By letting a professional bookkeeper handle customer invoicing, you’ll be able to relax knowing that your invoices are being sent out on time and correctly, as well as being followed up on to ensure prompt payment on time.

3. Payroll

Payroll can get complicated and it’s not something you can afford to make a mistake on if you want to ensure a happy team! Why risk it when you can hire a professional bookkeeper with experience in this area? From timesheet entries, to government remittance forms, to CRA audit support, hiring a professional bookkeeper can really free up your precious time and reduce the logistical stress of having to pay a large team of employees.

4. Reporting

Although reports may seem boring, they’re incredibly important when it comes to painting the bigger financial picture for your business. If you don’t excel in this area, you’ll never be able to harness the true power of accurate reporting. Hire a professional bookkeeper to set up proper reports and handle your year-end reporting. This way, you’ll not only free up your time but you’ll get a second set of eyes to help catch things about your business you may have missed by trying to do it all alone.

5. Taxes

Like they say, there’s only two things that are guaranteed in life – death and taxes. Tax season is going to come, whether you like it or not, so why make it a bigger headache then it has to be? By having a professional bookkeeper keeping track of all your finances, tax time won’t actually be that stressful! Many bookkeepers will handle both federal and provincial filing, and help you with tax preparation. Even if you have an accountant going over the final return, they’re sure to thank you for having a bookkeeper who kept your finances neat and organized all year round!

So now that you know what to delegate to a good bookkeeper, how should you go about finding one?

First, you need to clearly define your bookkeeping needs, then interview on those terms. It’s important to make sure all applicants have experience with your accounting software of choice, or can recommend an accounting software that’s right for your business. Once you have some candidates in mind, check their professional qualifications and memberships, ask for references, and make sure their availability suits your business requirements.

Or instead of going to all of that time-consuming trouble, you can simplify the whole process by hiring Milky Way VAS! Not only do I handle basic bookkeeping tasks, but I got your business covered when it comes to payroll, customer invoicing, financial reports, tax preparation, and even tax filing! I am a QuickBooks ProAdvisor and a Xero Certified Advisor who offers professional cloud-based outsourced bookkeeping.

Not only am I results driven and responsible, but I truly care about each and every one of my clients. If you’re successful, it means I’m successful too!

So what are you waiting for? Contact Milky Way VAS today! I am more than happy to answer all your questions and truly get to know your business, in order to provide the best financial advice and support.

What’s the Difference Between an Accountant and a Bookkeeper?

Are you running a small business in Toronto or the Greater Toronto Area? If so, you may be looking to outsource some of your administrative work to a bookkeeper or accountant. But do you know which one your company requires more?

When most people think about bookkeeping and accounting, they would be hard-pressed to describe the differences between each role. It’s true that bookkeepers and accountants do share common goals of supporting your business in different stages of the financial cycle. However, bookkeeping is more transactional and administrative, while accounting is more subjective. Bookkeepers are primarily concerned with recording and tracking your financial transactions. Accountants generally offer you business insights based on the bookkeeping information.

Read on to find out the functional differences between accounting and bookkeeping, as well as the differences between the roles of bookkeepers and accountants. With this information, you will be able to make an informed decision about who you need to hire for your small business!

The Role of a Bookkeeper

Bookkeeping is the process of recording daily transactions in a consistent way that’s crucial to building a financially successful business.

Bookkeeping consists of:

  • Recording financial transactions
  • Posting debits and credits
  • Producing invoices
  • Maintaining and balancing subsidiaries, general ledgers, and historical accounts
  • Completing payroll

Keeping a general ledger is one of the main parts of bookkeeping. The general ledger is a basic document where a bookkeeper records the amounts from sale and expense receipts. This is known as posting. The more sales that are completed, the more often the ledger is posted. A ledger can be created with specialized software, a computer spreadsheet, or the old-fashioned way – on paper.

When it comes to choosing the type of bookkeeping system you need, it often depends on the size of your business and the number of transactions that are completed daily, weekly, and monthly. All sales and purchases made by your business need to be recorded in the ledger, with certain items needing supporting documents.

Here at Milky Way VAS, I am a QuickBooks ProAdvisor and a Xero Certified Advisor. I use these cloud-based programs to offer your business professional outsourced bookkeeping.

The Role of an Accountant

Accounting is a process that takes the financial information organized by a bookkeeper or business owner and uses it to generate financial models. The process of accounting is more subjective than bookkeeping, which is mostly transactional.

Accounting consists of:

  • Preparing adjusting entries (recording expenses that have occurred but aren’t yet recorded in the bookkeeping process)
  • Preparing company financial statements
  • Analyzing costs of operations
  • Completing income tax returns
  • Aiding the business owner in understanding the impact of financial decisions

The process of accounting provides reports that bring crucial financial indicators together. The result is a better understanding of actual profitability and an awareness of cash flow in the business. Accounting turns the information from the ledger into statements that uncover the bigger picture of your business and the path it is on. Business owners will often look to accountants for help with strategic tax planning, financial forecasting, and tax filing.

A Cross-Over in Roles

Since the advent of accounting and bookkeeping software, some parts of the accounting process have simply been absorbed into the bookkeeping process. For instance, here at Milky Way VAS, I don’t just handle the basic bookkeeping. I do it all! From accounts payable, accounts receivable, and bookkeeping set up, to tax filing and tax preparation – when you hire Milky Way VAS, you’re getting a complete, efficient service that doesn’t require multiple people for the job.

But you know what else?

I care about each and every one of my clients.

I believe in building a relationship with you and your books so that I can understand your business and go the extra mile to offer advice about the best choices for your finances. Your success is my success, and I’ll go above and beyond to ensure that you’re making all of the best choices when it comes to your small business in Toronto.

The Bottom Line

Organized financial records and properly balanced finances are the key to any successful business. In fact, 30% of small businesses fail within two years because their expenses far outweigh their profits. When you hire Milky Way VAS, you’re basically saving money because we’ll stay on top of your books to make sure that never happens to your small business.

So, if you were sitting there debating between an accountant or a bookkeeper, why not hire Milky Way VAS and get the best of both worlds? I’ll be happy to handle payroll, customer invoicing, and so much more! Even if you already have an accountant on staff, I’m more than happy to liaison with them.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to Milky Way VAS. I am more than happy to answer your questions and build a plan for all your financial needs.

The Importance of a Social Media Presence

What can social media do for your business?

Last time we discussed The Importance of a Web Presence, now let’s take a look at having a social media presence. It is a highly valuable bonus to your business from a marketing standpoint. And almost all social media accounts are free! How is that for marketing dollars well spent?!

According to this blog from Clutch, only ten years ago 7% of the U.S. population used at least one social media channel. Guess what that number is today?! 65% and increasing! And a number of those users have more than one type of social media account.

Facebook still ranks as the most popularly used social media (86%), with Instagram in second by nearly half (48%).

Social media is a great way to interact more directly with your customers. You have instant access to them in a more personable way; you have the ability to answer their questions immediately; your account is also a place for your customers to post reviews and speak about your product in their own words. Which can be good when they are praising you, but it can also be valuable when they aren’t. It gives you an opportunity to fix the situation and show your customers that you care and it can also show you where you might need improvements to your product or service.

Being socially present and providing customer service via your social media, it allows your customers to have instant gratification (ohhh, there is that term again!) when they need to contact your business. That could result in a much faster purchase (personally, there have been occasions where I’ve changed my mind about purchasing something because I’ve had too long to think about it!). The more you interact with your customers, the more loyal they become. Especially when they’ve had a good experience, even if it may have stemmed from a bad experience that you managed to turn around!

Social media also allows you to get insights into your competition. Use that information to make decisions that could up your game and propel you ahead of your competition.

Social media platforms provide analytics that allows you to study the effects of your posts. You can see who you’re reaching; when that reach is at its highest; and when your customers are online.

It is true that social media is a valuable asset to your business, but it can be time-consuming for a small business that doesn’t have a lot of resources to dedicate to its social media platforms. That’s where a Virtual Assistant can come in really handy!

Hire a VA with a social media management background to create and post content. Or, if you already have a social media management guru and you just need someone to interact with your customers or provide customer service, a VA can do that too!

Let us know how social media has helped your business in the comments below.

If you want to discuss how I can help you with your social media needs, let’s chat!

The Importance of a Web Presence

Or, what do you mean they don’t have a website??!!

A few months ago, I was scheduling employment interviews on behalf of a longstanding client. He owns a couple of start-up companies, so currently there is no web presence to speak of.

During the time of scheduling these interviews, one of the candidates asked me where she could find the business’s website. I admit, I was not sure how to answer her question because the truth is, there was no website as of yet.

I did tell her that because the company was small, the website was a work in progress, but that she should pose her questions to the owner of the company during her phone interview. I felt it would be the perfect opportunity for her. And she wouldn’t be “stuck” for an answer when asked at the end of her interview “do you have any questions for me?” (I’m usually stuck for questions to ask if I haven’t prepared any in advance).

Which brings me to another point. How does one research a company to prepare for an interview if there is no presence on the web to research?

In my own personal experience, I have become somewhat hesitant about the legitimacy of a company if I am unable to locate them on the web. This is not something that occurred in people before the birth of the internet, we simply had trust. Not these days. If you don’t have a web presence, in some ways, your company may as well not exist. (Wow, that was harsh! But oh so true!)

This interview candidate even expressed a sense of nervousness about her upcoming interview because she could not find a company website. Her trust in the fact that this was a legitimate company was lost.

Now transfer that to a client’s perspective.

We rely on the internet for just about everything these days. If your business isn’t online in some way, even in the most minimal, your potential clients are going to seek out businesses that ARE online. We tend to look for information about a business online before we even set foot outside our door to make an in-person appearance.

Don’t lose potential clients simply because you don’t have an online presence. Simplistic web building sites are out there and some of them are free. Even if you build something basic, at least then your business has a presence on the world wide web!

If you need some assistance with building your web presence, drop me a line and let’s chat about your needs.

Stay tuned for the next blog where we’ll talk about the importance of a social media presence.

Please share any ideas, thoughts or comments below!

5 Ways a VA Can Keep Your Business Flowing While You Travel

Or, the way to do business stress-free!

In our last blog, 10 Tips for the Traveling Entrepreneur, we gave you some tips and tricks to making travel less stressful and more comfortable. As promised, we’re going to discuss ways a Virtual Assistant can be an advantage to your business while you’re on the go.

Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, a Virtual Assistant can ease your mind by taking care of your clients while you travel. Your business doesn’t have to come to a halt; the sales process can continue in your absence.

Let’s face it, we live in an instant gratification society and if you want to keep your clients engaged in your business, you have to provide them with that gratification.

A Virtual Assistant can benefit your business in the following ways:

Email Management

Imagine you’ve gone on vacation for a week and you’ve sworn to focus on relaxing with your family and stay away from your inbox. You return to find 400 emails waiting for you. Suddenly you wish you’d never taken a much-needed vacation!

Buuuut…imagine if you had a Virtual Assistant! Your VA could screen your emails as they come in, trash any junk mail, respond to anything urgent and keep your inbox at a manageable level. Even if your VA doesn’t have the proper answer to a client’s email, at least they can respond with something more personal than an “out of office” message.

Also, when a potential new client sends an inquiry, receiving an “out of office” notification could create some frustration (here is that instant gratification piece I mentioned), which could easily lead them to your competition for answers. And ultimately a loss of that potential client.

Customer Service

Your customers can still phone your business and receive assistance right away. When your clients call they’ll get a live person instead of voicemail. And your cell phone won’t be ringing off the hook when you’re trying to relax!

Setting up your VA as a Virtual Receptionist would be highly beneficial, not just as a temporary relief while you travel, but as a permanent part of your organization. Imagine the things you could accomplish if you weren’t constantly on the phone!

Create a list of common questions you receive, go over it with your VA and provide answers your VA can use to help your customers. That alone could cut your phone calls drastically.

Research

Are you an author? Do you need to research specific personal items that aren’t related to your business? And the reason you’ve been putting it off is that you know it’s going to take up more time than you have? Do you figure the only time you’ll have to do that kind of research is when you take time away from work?

Ohhh, the benefits of a VA that is a web research wiz are undeniable! Let your VA scour the web for that carpenter for your next reno project. Or that rare Mid Century Modern teak coffee table you’ve been dreaming of. If you find a VA who thinks outside the box, they’ll know how to dig deep on the internet and find exactly what you’re looking for.

Social Media Management

Clients will continue to see marketing posts via email, social media, blogs, etc. They may not even know you’re on vacation! Your VA can interact with clients via replies to comments on your social media posts (ahh, there is that pesky little need for instant gratification again!), keeping them engaged and interested.

Calendar Management

Appointments can continue to be booked, so you can look forward to a full schedule upon your return (without the stress of 400 emails to sift through first!). Your VA would also be available to reschedule or cancel any appointments on your behalf, if necessary. This way your client doesn’t have to wait for your return to reschedule.

I know some of these tasks may seem small, but in the bigger picture, your VA could save you a lot of time and energy. Not to mention, stress!

Vacations are meant to be relaxing, but how can you relax if your phone is ringing and binging with notification after notification? We all know that it’s difficult to ignore those sounds because sometimes even you, as the business owner, needs that instant gratification just like your clients.

With an experienced VA handling the ropes, you can feel at ease knowing your business is still flowing while you’re away.

If there is anything I can do to assist you in making your business successful, I have a plethora of skills and experience in my portfolio. Contact me today and let’s discuss what I can do for you!

If you can think of any other ways a VA might help you while you’re on the go, please share them in the comments below!

Is it Time to Outsource? 5 Signs You’re Doing Too Much

Do you ever feel like you have to do it all yourself?

This is actually a very common problem that many small business owners have. Entrepreneurs tend to be go-getters, people who like to take charge. So, it can be very tempting to take control of all aspects of your business, especially in its earlier days.

The problem with doing it all yourself is that, although you might be a talented entrepreneur, you aren’t an expert in everything and there are only so many hours in the day. A task that might take you a few hours to accomplish, an expert might be able to do in only a half-hour. You need to ask yourself, what is your time really worth?

If you find yourself constantly overwhelmed by a variety of small but essential tasks, you should consider outsourcing. Shifting the burden of these jobs to a professionals you can make a world of difference to your overall business growth.

The best part about outsourcing is that you can hire a subcontractor to help you on an ongoing or case-by-case basis, giving you the freedom to focus on the important tasks that only you can do.

How can you tell that it’s time to outsource some of your tasks? Well, does any of the following sound familiar?

Bookkeeping and Payroll Stress

Few things can stress someone out like dealing with money. If you aren’t an expert at working the books, this can consume vast quantities of your time. Thankfully, there are a number of reputable services out there that can relieve this burden and give you peace of mind that your books are in good hands.

Hiring a company or an experienced bookkeeping Virtual Assistant to handle your accounts can save you both time and money. These people are experienced in bookkeeping best practices, which can prevent costly mistakes. Similarly, by using an online payroll service, you can automate the process so your employees get paid on time without you having to think about it. You could also look at a variety of online services for invoicing.

The best reason for outsourcing these tasks is that they can save money. Hiring a full-time employee to take care of your finances is very expensive. By outsourcing, you get the benefits of an expert employee without the associated costs.

Digital Marketing Confusion

Digital marketing is a whole new world of advertising and it’s getting more and more complicated every day. From trying to second-guess search engine algorithms to planning out effective Facebook ads, it can be remarkably confusing for someone who isn’t immersed in the world of digital marketing. Thankfully, there are many professionals out there who can take care of your online marketing for you.

By outsourcing your digital marketing, you can get experts who can optimize your website (SEO), automate your tweets and social media posts, and help plan out your entire digital marketing strategy. Hiring the people who know exactly what they’re doing means that you’ll be extending your marketing dollar further while increasing your returns in new customers and business. Plus, you won’t have to stare at a monitor for hours trying to figure out which keywords would be most effective on your website. It’s a win-win.

Lost in Your Calendar Scheduling

Do you get to the end of your day and then wonder how exactly you got there? What on earth did you do all day!

It can be easy to get lost in scheduling when you’re doing it yourself. Planning out an effective schedule for the day seems easy, but what happens when something unexpected occurs to shake it up. What if you end up needing more time to do a task? Everything gets shifted, and pretty soon, you’re completely lost in your day.

Hiring a Virtual Assistant to help with your scheduling and calendar management can help clear up your day. They can shift things around for you and keep you informed of any unexpected changes. Many Virtual Assistants are also experts at scheduling best practices; they might be able to help you eliminate many of the inefficiencies that can build up in your daily plan.

Swamped by Administrative Tasks

Simple administrative tasks like data entry can be incredibly time-consuming and occasionally brain numbing. As the owner of a small business, do you really have time to be doing this when you have so many other things on your plate? A secretary or administrative assistant could easily help you with this kind of task, but hiring a full-time employee is often out of reach for new businesses, and not the best financial investment.

By outsourcing administrative tasks to a Virtual Assistant, you can ensure that administrative tasks are accomplished and minimal costs. You only pay a VA for the work that they do, with no benefits, overhead, payroll, or ongoing salary to worry about. A VA doesn’t need to be in the office to handle most of the small admin tasks that can drive you nuts. All you need to do is explain to your VA exactly what you want done and when you want it to be completed, and it will be “on your desk” before you know it.

Consumed by Emails and Phone Calls

Trying to get a good workflow going is impossible when important calls and emails are coming in throughout the day. Even checking to see who sent you a new email can easily break your workflow. Having a receptionist or secretary would be the logical solution to this problem, but can you really afford one at this stage of your business? This can be an extravagant expense, especially when a Virtual Receptionist is so much more cost-effective.

Based on your schedule (see #4), a Virtual Receptionist or Virtual Assistant can easily take care of your email and phone calls while you’re unavailable. If there’s actually an emergency, they can patch a call through to you. Otherwise, they can simply take messages and respond to unimportant emails that would normally take up hours of your day.

Prioritizing your Time

There are real benefits to hiring experts to do the little jobs rather than trying to take on everything yourself. Getting help can open up extensive extra time for you to spend on growing your business, not to mention how much less stressed you’ll feel.

An experienced and professional Virtual Assistant can take a load off your shoulders and free up your time at minimal costs. I would be happy to help relieve these daily pressures and help to improve your daily productivity. Please send me off a message and we can discuss how I can help to grow your small business!

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