Tag Archives: business accounting

Your Art is Your Business: Making Time for the Business to Keep Making Art

There are three things that work against artists making a living from making and selling their work: the (seemingly) fickle nature of people’s taste, the fickleness of the market, and (sometimes) the artists themselves.

Movies and television have fed us that trope for years: the temperamental artisté who isn’t good at “real life.” The writer who won’t use a computer. The painter who hates cell phones. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with liking typewriters or hating cell phones. But if you are counting on being discovered, lauded for your eccentricities, and left alone to create while other people handle your money for you, you might be waiting a really long time.

If you’re not interested in making a living with your art, that’s one thing. You working a day job and you make the time to create. But if you want to make a living with your art, you can’t afford embrace that faux artistic temperament and ignore the practicalities of running a business.

If you’re going to make a business of making art, you need to be able to approach it, in part, as a business. It helps to start doing that from the very beginning. That means creating a workable business plan.

What you need to know about creating a business plan

The Mission and Vision Statements

Every business plan, and every business, begins with mission and vision statements. Naturally you know why you’re an artist. You understand the drive it requires. But there’s something about putting it down in writing, codifying and clarifying it so that as you move forward, they are more than words on a screen. They are the foundation of your future success.

Goals

Yes, you want to create art and sell it. That’s the larger goal. Establishing some benchmark goals, however, will help you plan the steps you need to take in order to make that a reality. Where do you want to be in three months? Six months? Nine months? A year? You want your goals to be ambitious, but they should also be reasonable. You want to be able to march forward, but you also want to make sure that your goals aren’t so abstract that you grind to a halt when you hit a stumbling block. (And you will.)

Identify your customer

No, it’s not about making art to satisfy a customer. It’s about focusing your marketing and social media strategies to create the best possible outcome. The thing about being an artist is that while it may sometimes feel like no one notices what you do, it’s important to remember that there is an audience – and a customer – for everything. The hard part is knowing how to focus your marketing so that you’re working smarter, not harder.

 

That’s really the entire trick to giving the business enough time so that you can keep making art. Work smarter, not harder. It means more than just being comfortable wearing multiple hats and working on multiple levels. It means that, on some level, you thrive on it.

Starting and running your own business is always a risk, regardless of the kind of business it is. Turning your art into your business is a unique kind of risk, though, because you’re risking more than just the very important tangibles of time and money. You are also risking that intangible part of you that drives your art and makes you who you are.  The bravery required to put your passion on the line is necessary. But you need to protect that passion as much as you can.

However, if you forged ahead without a business plan, that doesn’t mean you can’t sit down and write one out. There’s never a wrong time to sit down and rethink how you’re doing things, and creating a business plan is a good way to re-evaluate and reorganize your business so you can focus on your art. There’s plenty of information out there to help you, too. Remember, part of working smarter, not harder means making use of available resources. Check out the Small Business Administration (SBA) Small Business Development Center, and SCORE a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses in your state.

Small Business Accounting Pitfalls

There are so many things to keep in mind when you own a small business. Details ranging from inventory to order fulfillment are just the baseline concerns. If you’re a brick and mortar business, your overhead includes a lease, utilities, and maybe additional employees. If you run an online business, your overhead includes the cost of parking your domain somewhere, maybe an email management system. Regardless of whatever kind of business you own, though, you will have to make sure your books are in order.

Keep it separated.

It’s true that you will spend money out-of-pocket to start your business. You’ll also most likely spend out-of-pocket to bolster up your business in the first few years. Until you start turning a profit, pretty much everything you have will go into the business.

In spite of what seems like an endless flow of your personal cash into supporting your business, though, you should still keep your personal finances and your business finances separate. Creating a separate business checking account is a good way to compartmentalize and organize your business. Not only is good accounting policy, it’s also a way to help you mentally compartmentalize and look at your business in a critical and objective way.

Anyone who starts a business has to have passion and drive. Without it, there’s little point to making all the necessary sacrifices. But the truth is, it’s just not enough to be passionate about your business idea. You have to be able to look at the business and make decisions as objectively as possible.

Keeping it as separate from your personal finances as possible is a solid first step towards helping yourself do this.

Pay attention to the kind of business credit you get.

Depending on the kind of business you started, you might need seed money to build inventory, or to float your overhead for the first few months — or longer. There are all kinds of options and all kinds of institutions that might be able to help you., from banks to credit unions to even crowd sourcing. Be sure you pick the one that’s right for you; and, if you can, at all costs, try to avoid seeding your business using a credit card. If you find yourself unable to pay it back, it could seriously hurt your chances to access other kinds of funding.

Keep it organized.

Disorganized record keeping is the death knell of small business. If you’re forward thinking enough, you already set how to organize and store your important records. But even if you didn’t think about that in the beginning, it’s not too late to start now. Take the time to go back through your records and organize them. Yes, it’s a pain. Yes, it takes time, which is a commodity that’s already in short supply. Yes, it means some headaches, depending on how long you’ve put off going through and organizing your records.

But it will be worth it. And, it’s also a good lesson for you that will have more good returns than bad.

Update your books on a regular basis… more than just monthly.

You are the heart and soul of your business. But your books are the blood and bones. Keeping your books up-to-date isn’t the sexiest way to spend an evening; but it will give you the confidence you need to make objective decisions.

It may seem like updating your books monthly would be enough, and it may well be enough for a well-established business. If you’re just starting out, however, the ebb and flow of your business isn’t all that stable. The more you put your eyes on your books, the better chances you have to succeed later. It’s not enough to keep your receipts. Add them in weekly, or even bi-weekly. Keep an eye on your receivables and sales. If your business has heavy overhead, it’s even more important that you update your books regularly.

Don’t confuse sales with profits.

You’ve made a few sales, satisfied a few clients, and gotten a few more. Good for you! But if you’re just starting out, be sure to remember that sales aren’t profits. You don’t get to call it profit until after you take out business expenses – if for no other reason than to take pressure off your personal pocketbook – and quarterly or annual taxes.

It’s good to be passionate and important to be excited about your business. But don’t start trying to roll around in profits before they actually start rolling in.

Don’t be afraid to consult a professional.

It’s okay to admit you’re over your head in certain aspects of your business. That doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel. A smart business owner knows it’s important to sometimes find someone who knows a little more about some aspect of the business. Because in the end, owning a successful business is as much about learning and evolving as it is relying on common sense.

Last minute tax tips for small businesses

As the April 18th deadline for filing taxes looms on the horizon, you may be in the enviable position of having already filed your tax return. If you haven’t already filed, however, as a small business owner or entrepreneur you are probably working overtime to get it done. Depending on the kind and size of business you run, you might have a tax preparation professional do your taxes for you. But you may be just starting out and want to save the expense; if that’s the case – and even if it’s not – there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Know what you owe

As a small business, you should probably be paying your taxes quarterly. These payments can be easy to forget, though, especially if you are a sole proprietor working in the creative economy or the gig economy.

If you did make your final quarterly payment on January 15th, make sure you take that into account when you file. Take the time to deduct any levies or account for any late fees and penalties the IRS may impose if you happened to miss a payment.

2. Accelerate or defer.

Many sole proprietors use cash basis accounting – which means they report income when payments are received. Depending on the kind of business you have, you might consider scheduling your billing so clients can pay early in the new year for work you completed late in the previous year.

The advantage to this is that you’re getting income early in the year.

However, if you had a successful year you could accelerate your deductible expenses. There are a few things you can do to help relieve your tax burden if you plan ahead, such as:

  1. making extra charitable donations,
  2. renewing professional journals and licenses before the year ends, or
  3. replacing old business equipment.

If you are in the position to, you might also consider

  1. prepaying your state income tax,
  2. selling an investment property at a loss, or
  3. selling securities at a loss.

If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, there’s nothing you can do about taxes. They are as much a part of your business as your customers or client base. The trick to making it all less odious, though, is to be proactive. Think ahead early in the year so the end of the year doesn’t hit you any harder than it needs to.

To LLC or not to LLC: that is the question

Being an artist or working in a creative industry as a freelancer isn’t always easy. Unless you’re fortunate enough to find steady clients and gigs, you feel like your professional life is forever going in a circle of feast and famine.  And, if you have worked as an artist of a creative freelancer, you know that being talented at what you do isn’t enough. That myth of the carefree artist with his head in the clouds and no notion of how the business world works is simply that – a myth. Being a great artist goes hand-in-hand with being a savvy businessperson, because as much as you love your art, you need to eat and keep the lights on, too.

One thing every entrepreneur thinks about eventually is whether to operate as a Sole Proprietorship or to form a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).

In most cases, you’re probably going to start with and stay with a Sole Proprietorship. This is the easiest business to start because there isn’t much set up required. Although you may be required to get a business license, there isn’t any paperwork you need file unless you choose to “Do Business As” (DBA) a name besides your own. You may also want to consider going ahead and applying for an EIN (Employer Identification Number. While it’s not necessary for a Sole Proprietorship, it will help protect your social security number. It also legitimizes that what you are doing is more than a hobby. You report your earnings annually and you are responsible for paying self-employment taxes as well as covering contributions to Social Security and Medicare.

If you’re fine with all of that, and you’re careful with your accounting practices, then you will probably want to form a Sole Proprietorship.

Keep in mind though, that if your business should ever be sued, then you are personally liable for everything. And if you should lose, your house, your property, and other assets will be at risk.

Forming an LLC takes some legwork, preparation, and money. After you chose a name and make sure it’s not already being used, it’s time to file articles of corporation. Depending on the state you live in, expect to pay between $100 and $800. In Kentucky if you forgo the ease of having someone else do the heavy lifting for you, it will only cost you a $49 fee paid to the State Treasurer to file your articles of corporation.

Some states also require an operating agreement that outlines how your business is run; Kentucky, however, does not. You’ll then need to get an EIN (Employer Identification Number), which is free and can be obtained online at the IRS website. Keep in mind though, that you can only register for one EIN at a time. At this point, you can separate your personal and business assets. This is the main advantage for forming an LLC as an artist or freelancer.

Finally, you’ll need to register for state tax and unemployment insurance. Even if you happen to be your only “employee” you will still need to do these things in order to be in compliance of state law.

Depending on the nature of your work, forming an LLC might be overkill. Many artists and members in what is termed the “creative class” keep it simple. And, unless the kind of work you do expands to the point that you need to bring in extra help, you will want to seriously consider keeping your work life as least complicated as possible.

If you’re reading this and your business or business concept doesn’t fall under the umbrella of the “gig economy” or you don’t identify as part of “the creative class,” keep in mind that every entrepreneur has to make the decision at some point whether to operate as a Sole Proprietorship or as an LLC.

Help your accountant, help yourself: a few tips for home-based entrepreneurs

 

A 2013 article from Small Business Trends stated that 69% of entrepreneurs in the United States start their businesses at home. This makes perfect sense. Many new businesses are in part or entirely operated online. As people buy more and more goods and services online, there’s less need to take the expensive risk of investing in a brick and mortar business. Moreover, if you know what you’re doing, you can help yourself – and your accountant – come tax season.

Although it takes additional time and a few extra steps, you can really help yourself by understanding the upside of claiming a deduction.

First if all, you know need to know what you can and can’t deduct. It’s a good idea to check with the IRS regularly to see if these things change, but here are a few things you can deduct.

The cost of a home office

In order for this deduction to pass any potential audit, you need to make sure the space you call your home office is a separate space or separated and dedicated space in your home. It doesn’t have to be its own room, but it can’t be a multipurpose space, either. For example, many people use an empty additional bedroom as a home office. Others have a separate studio or redesigned barn they use for a home office. If you are using a corner of your basement, that’s fine, too. Your home office doesn’t have to have four walls and a door.

But you can’t set up computer desk in the corner of a guest bedroom or nursery and call it your home office. The key here is that it must be a regular and exclusive space you use to run your business.

You must also be able to show that your office is the principle place of your business. Even if you meet clients other places, you need to be able to show that you do the majority of your work in your home office.

Keep in mind that the IRS only allows up to 300 square feet. But they do allow for $5 for every square foot up to 300.

Technology and technology purposes

It’ll be a hard sell to convince anyone that if you have one computer that you are only using it for business purposes. If you do that, though, you can deduct the cost of depreciation.

If you decide to purchase a dedicated business computer, you can write the cost of it off. After that, you can write off the cost of depreciation. You can even deduct based on the percentage of use. TurboTax is very helpful with this.

You can also write off the cost of a dedicated phone, whether it’s a cell or landline.

It’s worth the hassle

When you’re starting a new business, whether you operate it out of your home or not, every penny counts. Staying on top of and taking advantage of tax laws can help turn a slow first year into a much better second year.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that keeping track of all your expenses, and keeping all of your business receipts will make it easier in your end of year accounting and tax preparation. You will save yourself and your accounant time, money, and headache down the road.

GrinchtoGlee

From Grinch to Glee – Make year end easier with these bookkeeping tips

It’s not that your heart is two-sizes too small like the Grinch, but rather that your head might explode from all the year-end bookkeeping tasks on your list. While these to-dos could certainly put your holiday spirit in short supply, we know how and Who can help.

It’s essential that your data is accurate, complete and organized for tax time and the year ahead. But where do you begin?

Like the Whos in Whoville helped Grinch, we offer tips to keep you and your books on the nice list.

  • Evaluate your financial standing

Review profit and loss, your balance sheet and general ledger. Make sure they aren’t mangled up in tangled up knots by checking that all transactions have been recorded and posted to the proper income, expense, asset or liabiity accounts. Also check the accuracy of your accounts receivable and accounts payable, and write off uncollectible debt so as not to overstate your income (especially if accrual based), and overpay the You-Know-Whos.

  • Complete bank reconciliations

Make sure your checking, savings and credit card accounts have been reconciled. Loan interest should be separated from the principal and accurately logged. And a decidedly, non-grinchy trick: reconciling monthly makes it easier to catch errors.

  • Review Personal Expenses

You shouldn’t, wouldn’t, oughtn’t, mustn’t mix your personal and business expenses (although for the Sole Proprietor it’s often a necessity), so look at your expenses closely and if that’s the case find receipts and/or cancelled checks and log the expenses in your books. Then watch your heart grow because you avoided paying extra taxes.

  • Review Subcontractor Services

If you’ve hired any Whos who are Sole Proprietor’s or LLC’s, for contract services totaling more than $600 during the year, you’ll be required to send them a 1099 Misc form. It’s a best practice to send each new subcontractor or vendor a W9 at the time of hire to ensure you have complete address information and either their Social Security Number or Federal ID Number information on file.

  • Take Inventory

Review your inventory during the last month of the tax year and make necessary adjustments to align the inventory account of floofloovers and whowonkas to match the items in stock.  Your inventory value should show the cost price or price paid rather that the selling price for your items.

  • Create a Filing System

It may sound overly simple and antiquated, but we know an organized system for easily accessing the documents you need, when you need them come tax time will make you happy as a Who.

As you celebrate the close of 2016, it’s also time to look to the year ahead. If one of your goals is to have more flexibility and time to achieve your personal and business goals, consider the advantages of having a Bookkeeper. Not only an excellent resource to simplify your financials and ensure accuracy, a Bookkeeper can also be a personal advocate, a partner as loyal as Max, and someone to help you make your Holidays mean a little bit more for years to come.

Make The Holidays Count!

My favorite time of the year is upon us… the season of thanksgiving and bestowing gifts upon others. It all starts with reflecting how grateful we are for our many blessings and successes over the past year. Whether these accomplishments were made through businesses endeavors or simply through our personal sweat-equity, we are grateful for those opportunities. We can profit from the many benefits that come from having a grateful heart such as improving our physical and psychological health. Gratitude also enhances empathy and reduces aggression and it can help people sleep better too. These are just a few good reasons how feeling grateful can improve our bottom line which allows for the next step.

Being grateful is only half of what stands out during the holiday season. As soon as the dishes have been cleared from the Thanksgiving feast, we are reminded that, “Hey, “Black Friday” is only a few hours away!!” In an instant, our thoughts go from being “grateful” to thinking about gifting and sharing with others. We can all understand how giving to others is good for our community and the world, but giving can also reap huge benefits in our own lives as well. Did you know that giving to others lowers our blood pressure and stress levels? This, alone, will help each one of us live longer and happier lives.

So, in honor of the season, I have put together a few examples where you can reach out to the community and show your gratitude by giving back.

For Businesses:

  • Choose a local Charity Event that is relevant to you and your business and donate money, be a sponsor or volunteer your time.
  • Encourage your business team to get involved in a fundraising event such as Toys-For-Tots.
  • If your company has a budget for donations, provide a Turkey Give Away program for families in need.

For Individuals:

  • Have a garage sale in your neighborhood and donate the profits to charity.
  • The local homeless shelter or soup kitchen could always use a helping hand.
  • Provide care-packages for people in need; For example… the troops, seniors, kids and teens in group homes, the homeless
  • Let us help our planet by recycling! The proceeds can once again go to a charity.

With all of the wonderful benefits that go along with being thankful and giving back, let’s make a difference in our communities through our valued time and efforts this holiday season.

Budgetary Moves That Will Move You Cross-Country

Planning a cross-country move can become your worst nightmare! For starters, organizing a move like this will feel impossible… I mean, where do you even start? It can also take a toll on your well-being (i.e. your mood and your health) and it can drain your bank account too!

The good news is, there are some simple steps you can take to alleviate the pain and put you back on the road to success… and it’s called having a strategy. Once you sit down to map out your move then it’s almost guaranteed to minimize your stress and maximize your financial savings.

To help you get started, here are a few steps:

  • Start an “Action Plan” – Be sure to write down your plan… better yet, find an app that will enable you to create a checklist of your moving to-dos. By staying organized and “on task” you will save money because you’re not having to buy things at the last minute.
  • Seek Relocation Assistance – Are you relocating due to your job? Many companies offer relocation assistance, to cover some of the costs for the move, so you may want to check with your new supervisor to see if this is available.
  • Collect Packing Materials – Companies like U-Haul charge premium costs like boxes, tape and rope so once you know that a move is going to happen, visit your local grocery or convenience stores and ask for any boxes they still have after restocking their shelves. Ask friends and neighbors to save their newspapers and any other packing materials such as old blankets.
  • Organize your Packing Priorities –
    • Have a “GO TO” Box: Priority 1
      Have one large box to the side where you will keep all of your must-have items such as packing tape, pens, markers, scissors, paper, important documents, medicines, toiletries, and anything you’ll need until you leave home. This will prevent having to buy new stuff every time you pack away or lose things you need. Keep this box with you at all times so you can get access to these important items when you reach your destination.
    • Have an “FIRST THINGS FIRST” Box: Priority 2
      This is like the “GO TO” box, but  will be the box of your priority items you may need when you arrive to the new location. In this box will hold what should be considered your 2nd on the list priority items.  Give some thought to what items you’ll need (or want) to have right when you get to your new home. Maybe you’ll want to include things like the coffee maker, coffee cups, toilet paper, towels, and toys to keep the kids busy.
  • Label Your Boxes – It can be really easy to skip this step or to just do it sloppily. Some people would actually rather go out and buy new items instead of searching through yet another box for something they need. Nip unnecessary spending in the bud by marking each box with a permanent marker noting what room it belongs in with a brief list of what’s inside. Try to avoid my technique that usually comes out at the end of the packing experience where I throw stuff into the boxes and just label them all MISCELLANEOUS…;)
  • Clean as You Go – When you pack up an area, give it a good cleaning immediately after the space has been cleared. This will keep things efficient and prevent you from having to hire cleaners to do your entire residence when you are sick of the moving process. Cleaning will also be beneficial if you rent and are counting on a security deposit refund.
  • Ditch the Junk – Keep a JUNK and GARAGE SALE box close by. While you’re boxing up your keepers, you’ll easily be able to toss your junk and garage sale items into their proper boxes. Moving is a great chance to clear out the stuff that finds a way to accumulate over the years. Plus, you’ll spend more money if you have to move boxes of stuff you don’t even want anymore. Sell anything that is still in good shape by having a moving sale when you near the end of your packing process. When you make your donation to the thrift store be sure to get a donation receipt because that will come in handy when tax time rolls around.
  • Check out Storage Options – For any family heirlooms or pieces you may want back at some point, consider renting a low-cost storage unit to house your items until you can have them set to your new place of residence and cheaper option is to consider asking trusted friends or family to house your treasures in their homes until you can arrange for transportation. If you do decide to go with the storage unit be sure that you don’t forget about it and continue to rack up $50 + a month in fees.
  • Get Moving Company Quotes – If you decide to have a moving company move your stuff be sure you get multiple estimates and quotes before making a decision. You want affordability, of course, but you also want reliability. Some will even store your belongings for FREE, up to 3 months!
  • DIY Packing – You may choose to have a moving company pack you up… but it will cost you! Use a company that will provide you with a truck and a driver. All you have to do is pack up the truck yourself and they’ll drive it across the country.
  • Be Truck Smart – If you plan to rent your own moving truck and haul your stuff across country on your own, make sure to only reserve the truck size you need. It will cost you a lot of extra money (in gas and truck rental fees) if you book a truck that is too large.
  • Overnight Stays – If you have friends and family along the travel route, ask them if you can borrow their couch for a night rather than spending your money on hotel lodging. If that’s not an option, you’ll need to consider where you will be stopping to rest. You can find valuable coupons in the books available for free at state welcome centers. Look for coupons for hotel deals and restaurants along the way and online before you leave. If you have fur kids, there are options that accept your pets… do your homework!
  • Utilize a Cooler – Depending on the room available in your vehicle you can save a good amount of cash if you pack your own snacks and drinks for the morning and afternoon. Then, only stop for dinner.
  • Finally… Don’t Buy until You’re Settled – Don’t rush out to the store to buy what you think you need… Give yourself time to sort through your stuff and get set up, keeping a list of ideas along the way. If you rush off to the store the 1st week you’re in town it will most likely lead to overspending, especially on things that you don’t really need. The only store you need to hit in the first few weeks is the grocery store.

By using some or all of these steps, your worst nightmare can be transformed into some wonderful memories that will allow you to embrace the next chapter in your life with some extra cash to boot.  See you on the road!

 

Spring Cleaning For Your Finances

OK, now breathe! That’s it, take a deep breath in and slowly release it… tax day is over, spring is in the air and summer is just around the corner. LIFE IS GOOD!

That is until you take a good look at the mess around your computer… the strewn trash piles along with the old financial records and leftover coffee cups and who knows how long that box of chow mein noodles has been siting there… right?!

But remember, it’s SPRING and what better time than to get started on a bit of spring cleaning? I’m not just talking about cleaning up from your deadline with the IRS or cleaning out the closets and under your bed, I’m talking about your financial spring cleaning.

Now, don’t get me wrong, spring cleaning your house goes a long way in helping you spring clean your finances too. By organizing your home, you are much more likely to know what you need to buy and may prevent you from purchasing something that you don’t need, simply because you misplaced it. Listed below are a few other ways that you can spring clean your finances:

  • Check Your Credit Score – Is there any incorrect or misleading information about you that could hurt your score? What can you do to improve your score?
  • Organize and/or Shred Old Financial Documents – Clean up your files and shred any old or no longer needed information.
  • Re-balance and Diversify Your Investment and Retirement Accounts – How are your investments doing? Are you on tract with your retirement goals?
  • Review Your Insurance Coverage – has there been any life event changes? Do you need any additional coverage or is any coverage obsolete?
  • Review Your Expenses and shop for better rates – Can you pay less if you switching to a different company? Are you using what you paid for like that gym membership?
  • Set up Automatic Bill Pay – Late fees undermine your financial goals, therefore put regular payments on automatic bill pay so this doesn’t happen.
  • Save without Thinking – How is your emergency fund? Are you saving enough each month?
  • Revisit Your Budget – Once you have reviewed your finances ensure that the new numbers are worked into your budget.
  • Record Your Financial Passwords and Store Records in a Safe Place – Or better yet, use a trusted online password storage system and be sure to use a different password for each of your financial sites changing the password on a quarterly bases.

Knowing where you stand with your finances will better enable you to make wise and prudent money choices and as a result, you will be better prepared for your next tax deadline in 2017.