I went to She Podcasts Live!

As I head back to DC after a week in Atlanta, I’m pretty excited about what is to come. The She Podcasts conference was amazing, and I’ve already started making changes to Fish Food (I’ve even started recording episodes that I can’t wait to share soon!) The sessions definitely gave me some new insight on podcasting, but I also walked away with a couple of new thoughts on the business. Today I want to talk about three big takeaways from my experience.

Little Fish Accounting
  1. This podcast (and business) is mine.

    You know the deal. There are SO many rules to podcasting. From scheduling to recording to formats, there is plenty of advice out there on how to do it right. But the thing is, it’s mine. All of it. The way I run my business, handle my podcast, and everything in between is up to me. A decision I made this weekend - no more seasons. From now on, Fish Food will just be published once a week. I will do my best to stay consistent but if I miss one, everyone will be fine. And I release the pressure of developing seasons to fit my episodes in a box when I don’t really want to.

  2. It really doesn’t cost that much.

    I do way too much research on things. Case in point? I bought a microphone a while ago on Amazon and used it a couple of times but basically forgot about it. When I decided to record an episode while I was in Atlanta, I decided to bring it with me. But somewhere along the way of conference sessions, I kept hearing the same recommendation for a new mic and thought maybe mine wasn’t good enough. I ordered that mic, along with a small mixer and headphones (because you NEED those for a good podcast) and had it ordered the next day.

    It wasn’t better.

    I ended up using the mic I already had with nothing else and it sounded great.

    This reminded me that the real work is in being consistent and working hard to get it done. Sometimes that requires equipment and shiny things, but most of the time, it just means that you need to keep showing up.

  3. Your listeners are your focus.

    It’s not about me, and never has been. As much as I enjoy recording the podcast, choosing guests, and providing guidance, the mission has always been for Fish Food to act as a resource in improving accounting accessibility to people who wouldn’t otherwise think they could afford it. That means I have to listen to what listeners want and need from it. Can I do what I want? Sure. But that’s not the goal. If I want to provide a service, I have to listen to the folks I’m giving it to in order to makes sure I’m giving the value that I intend to.

So that’s it. I’m off to do the work. Here’s hoping this message inspires you to make what you do better!

The Things You Have to Do Outside of the Work You Want to Do

I was recently talking to a group of friends about the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, and remarked that as Little Fish grows, I am constantly reminded that the things I thought would be hard turned out not to be the hardest parts. Everyone around the table agreed. If you’ve been in the game for a minute, you may be nodding your head. If you’re new to the game, read on, as I share with you a couple of items that no one told me.

Little Fish Eaton DC
  1. Good help really is hard to find.

    It can be difficult to find people to work for you once you realize it’s not just about skill. It’s about timeliness, dedication, loyalty, reliability. There are so many reasons why someone may or may not be a good fit for your team, and it can be hard to tell which is which when you’re just starting to hire.

    How I dealt with it:

    I’ve had my share of people who didn’t work out, and what has helped most is to layout a plan or workflow of action as to how you want the business to work. Then you can make a real assessment as how you want the role you’re hiring for to operate in your business. The reality is, some of it is trial and error. You’ll have great interviews and grand ideas, and people won’t meet those expectations, but you’re much better off if you can communicate them to your hire (and yourself).


  2. Money is inconsistent.

    I know, it’s a fear of many an entrepreneur: will I make enough to carry myself when I am working for myself. Well…maybe. Maybe not. But not knowing how much is coming is all the more reason why you want to stay prepared in advance of the unavoidable lulls that will come at different points throughout the year.

    How I dealt with it:

    I saved when I had more, to cover me when I made less. That can be easier said than done, so another tip I’d give is to invoice people properly. You’ve probably heard me rave about cloud accounting, but a big reason is because you can electronically send invoices and request payment immediately via a connected link and payment processor. This helps you avoid leaving money on the table. I also collect money in advance of the service being performed to avoid nonpayment.


  3. Time management can be difficult.

    The world of entrepreneurship opens a world of flexibility, which somehow leads to you still feeling like you don’t have enough time. When you are a small business (or even a one-person show), you are performing all or most of the roles, which can make it difficult to determine what to spend your time on.

    How I dealt with it:

    I learned as I went. I talked to experts on the subject. I tried different methods. And ultimately, I decided that I needed to prioritize my regular tasks, and build in the ad hoc items. That meant that items I had initially made myself available for every day (i.e. discovery calls) had to be limited to specific days and times of the week in order to make time for the other business items that needed my attention.


  4. You may not have coworkers, which can feel like you don’t have peers.

    Not gonna lie - one of the hardest parts about running Little Fish initially was that I didn’t have peers or supervisors. Yes, that means that you get to avoid office politics, but it also means that there is no one to review your work on a regular basis, to check you when you’re responding in a way that doesn’t serve you or your company in the best way. This can feel like a heavy burden on top of everything else you’re trying to juggle.

    How I dealt with it:

    I was honest with my community, which led me to be introduced to other entrepreneurs, both in and outside my field. I was able to add to my network, and use my skill in service to help others with the items I’d learned. I also gave myself grace. The reality is, we are not machines. Even with a team, we will make mistakes. You manage any missteps as best you can, and put processes in place to avoid the same situations in the future.

Entrepreneurship is one of the scariest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done. And if all I had to worry about in starting Little Fish was doing accounting work, it would be easy peasy. Hopefully, the above reminders help you feel a bit more prepared about how running your business goes beyond the work you will put out into the world.


Three Small Steps to Get Big Results

When you are running a business, there seems to be a never ending to-do list of things to take care of. And truthfully, it never really goes away. But when a little sliver of time appears, how can you spend it most effectively? Today I want to share three small things that you can do to make a huge impact on your business.

8H8A8202.jpg.jpeg
  1. Request Feedback.

    The old saying “how can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been” is similarly applied here. What are you doing right? Where can you improve? Asking your current and prior clients about their thoughts on their experience with your product or service is a quick way to check-in with the health of your business offerings, and a good jumpstart to thinking about strategically planning for how the company will move forward.

    (P.S. Had an experience with Little Fish that you’d like to share with the world? We’d love to hear from you! Click here to give us a review.)


  2. Automate your Processes

    We’ve talked before about the importance of incorporating software and other resources to improve efficiencies in your business, and with good reason. The fewer items that you have to be directly involved in, the more time and brainspace you have to dedicate to the parts of your product or service offerings that need you. Automation can feel tedious up front, but will save you a ton of time in the long run, by performing tasks in the background on your behalf. Take the time to set up the systems that best meet your needs, and you’ll be amazed at the time you get back from doing so.


  3. Schedule Blocking

    Some of us are up and ready to face the day early (I’m not one of them, but I’ve heard of unicorns called “morning people”.) Others prefer to burn the midnight oil with productivity and creative juices. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, we all tend to do a bit better when we’re focused for a period on specified task. Time blocking allows us to use our most productive time periods towards the areas of our businesses that need us most, while allowing less arduous tasks to be put on the schedule at the points where our brains are more prone to rest. Not sure where to start? Take these steps below:

    • Outline the major categories of tasks for your typical day (i.e. client calls, emails, creating, administrative tasks).

    • Look at when you most feel ready to take care of these responsibilities (in other words, what time of day is best to talk to clients v. alone work? When are you most effective at answering emails?)

    • Break out your categories into dayparts (morning | afternoon | evening) and try that plan out for a week.

    • Adjust as needed.

As a part of the small business community, it never seems like we have enough hours in the day to complete all that we plan to. Here’s hoping the small steps above help give you a bit more time back to take care of your business (and more importantly, yourself).


Four Deductible Expenses to Take Advantage of Immediately

I know it's only September, but tax season is year-round! Since I get asked all the time about deductible expenses, this week will be dedicated to sharing information on expenses that are acceptable by the IRS.⁣ ⁣

Little Fish Accounting Deductible Expenses Travel

TRAVEL

There are several types of deductible travel expenses, including costs related to trainings, conventions, trade shows, seminars, speaking engagements and business meetings.⁣ This includes the following: - Mileage (54.5 cents per mile for 2018) ⁣ - Parking⁣ - Tolls ⁣ - Flights⁣ - Rental car fees⁣ - Hotel fees⁣ - Meals (under IRS guidelines, you can deduct 50% of the cost of business-related meals)⁣ ⁣ As always, make sure to retain your receipts or other proof of the spend for your records!⁣

Little Fish Accounting Deductible Expenses Licenses

LICENSES + CREDENTIALS

A common deductible expense that a lot of people are not aware of are licensing expenses. If the license / credential is related to your business practice you can deduct the expense for attaining or renewing. For example, as a CPA, I have not only the cost to renew my license, but also continuing education requirements to mantain it. Do you have a professional credential that is reasonable and necessary for your business work? Keep track of the related expenses incurred to include as a deduction on your tax return.

Little Fish Accounting Deductible Expenses Home Office

HOME OFFICE

Home office deductions - can you or can't you deduct? This is a category that many people are uninformed about, but it's actually pretty straightforward. The rule is that a home office space must be regularly and exlusively used for business. So yes, the expenses related to your home can be deducted, but you are only allowed to deduct the percentage that corresponds to the portion of your home that you are using to conduct business. For example, if your home office represents 10% of the square footage in your home, you are allowed to deduct 10% of your home costs (i.e. mortgage interest, property taxes, rent, and utilities). Of course, this means that working from your home does not mean you can deduct 100% of your home expenses, and it's a no-go on claiming your dining room as a deduction simply because that's where you do your work.

Little Fish Accounting Deductible Expenses Office Expenses

OFFICE SUPPLIES

Office expenses is another common tax deduction category and includes the purchase of office supplies and equipment, such as a dedicated business computer, printer, smartphone, or tablet. You can also deduct a percentage of internet and cell phone expenses, as well as the software you use to perform business functions. Using your Amazon Prime account to buy business items? Make sure you're keeping track of what you're buying and have support on hand in your records in the event the tax authorities ever want to *ahem* "review" your tax return.

Got an Idea? Now it’s easier than ever to act on it.

Here’s the thing about starting a business: there’s no shortage of ideas on what to build. Makers, creatives, service providers - we all have something to offer to the world and methods by which we want to share it. But when it comes to paying for it, that can be another story, especially if your business isn’t profitable enough to sustain itself in the beginning. So what do you do? First, you reduce the costs of running the company. Want some help? I’ve listed seven ways to do so below.

Photo courtesy of  Jopwell

Photo courtesy of Jopwell

  1. Reduce office overhead costs

    Do you need a separate space to run your business? Consider downsizing your retail location, converting to a home-based business or exploring a coworking location. Some may even offer ad-hoc or day pass options to prevent you from signing up for a lengthy and/or expensive lease.

  2. Take advantage of free resources

    One of the things I regularly recommend is that folks cut back on paid software. There are so many available tools that you may need to perform a technology audit to see if you’re actually using what you’re paying for. Free options like GSuite, Google Business, Asana, Airtable are regularly used in Little Fish processes, and keep available funds open for other services we want to pay for.

  3. Go paperless - reduce printing costs

    How much do you need to print, really? Take advantage of cloud accounting for storage and electronic signature apps to allow clients to sign without paper. Can you provide documents via a pdf rather than mailing? Think through what makes sense for your business, and the options available to cut down on printing costs.

  4. Barter services

    We all have something to offer, so consider how your expertise can be used to gain access to other services that you might need. Make sure that what you are offering and what you are receiving are comparable, and that an appropriate timeline is established to make sure both sides are being served, but don’t be afraid to consider this as an option for things you might not otherwise be able to afford.

  5. Low cost training

    I believe in the importance of paying experts for their expertise, but sometimes YouTube University can provide some free learning :) Need more structure? Check out organizations in your area that cater to your field or needs; many local establishments offer free or low-cost training virtually and in-person to help you get better acquainted with professional services, like bookkeeping and social media. The training won’t replace a person who does this for a living, but can at least give you some foundational steps to start with.

  6. Cut advertising costs

    To get clients, people have to know your business exists, but that doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. Start with building an online presence by creating a website and/or creating social media pages to share business news (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn). Create an email newsletter to keep current and potential clients in the loop as to your offerings. And never forget the effectiveness of asking for referrals and carrying business cards, all inexpensive ways to increase your marketing profile.

  7. Minimize tax bill by maximizing deductions

    You’ve got to spend money to make money, and if those costs are reasonable and necessary to your business, there’s a good chance you can deduct them on your tax return. The best way to have them ready when the time comes is to track your income and expenses throughout the year, and categorize them appropriately, either via a simple spreadsheet or a more efficient cloud accounting system, like QuickBooks.

Just Started Your Business? Your Accounting Starts Here

I work with businesses at all levels, from those who have been in business for a while to those that haven’t quite yet begun. And for the latter group, the beginning always starts with the same question about managing accounting: Where do I start?

 
 

Well, you can start with these three steps:

  1. Open a business bank account.

    My first piece of guidance to new business owners is to TRACK EVERYTHING. Every income or expense transaction as related to the company should be identified and categorized, but the easiest way to do so is by having an account that doesn’t include personal expenses mixed in (no more going line by line to determine what is business and what isn’t).

  2. Sign up for an accounting system.

    We highly recommend QuickBooks, but you can use whatever system feels intuitive for you. Many offer a free trial to start, so create an account and try different actions out to see how hard it is to perform steps that you will need initially or most often. How hard is it to create an invoice or record payment? Where do you enter client info and is it easily accessible? Make sure that you feel comfortable with the system you sign up for, since this how your input will be used to create your financial reports.

  3. Determine how you want to get paid.

    Still sending PDF invoices? Use the accounting system that you set up in Step 2 to send and track them electronically instead. Ready to accept payment? Decide whether it’s worthwhile to set up a payment processor to take check and/or credit card payments, or whether you want to use a service like Paypal or Square to take payments online and in-person. Make sure that whichever method chosen is tied to your business email and business account to make for a more seamless way to identify transactions and categorize appropriately when the money starts rolling in.

You wanted to get started. These are the three steps to get things underway. You can listen to more ways to get your accounting systems in order by listening to the Fish Food podcast, bite-sized advice to help you in as little as 15 minutes per episode.