Your Personal Business Plan gives you a sense of direction and keeps you on track when you are being pulled in different directions. With so many interesting things to do and places to go, you can lose your perspective without a plan.
Take the time to make a plan. Your first draft is off the top of your head and tells you what you are thinking right now.
What is your vision, your strengths, and your accomplishments? Where have you felt successful and who has helped you along the way?
After you write down where you have been and where you are now, think about your goals and what you would like to accomplish in the next month, year, and 5 years from now.
What support systems will you need? Will you need to hire freelancers or buy equipment?
Do some research to find out what it takes to do business in your area and industry. Whether you are an entrepreneur, freelancer, or employee you need to know about taxes, insurance, and permits/licenses to name a few.
If you took off on a trip to an exciting new country you would need a passport, a map, and maybe even a friend to go with you. You would do your research so you would know where you want to go and why. Even if you are not a planner you would need a direction to start out, tickets, money, an idea of where to stay, and who you would want to go with you.
Your career deserves more attention than a vacation although a vacation full of exploration and discovery can drive your career. Your current job or business is just one piece in your career. Your plan will tell you where you have been, what you learned, and what you want to try next. The plan will also drive your lifestyle and budget so you can afford to adapt and change when needed.
You will need to gain information through talking to professionals in your field, paying professionals when needed, or gaining the experience and expertise yourself. Decide when it benefits your business to do it yourself and when you should hire someone else so you can do what you are good at.
You will want to revisit your Personal Business Plan every 6 months or year to see if you are on track or if you want to change something in your plan. As you write your plan you will find it easier to talk to your customers and clients about your products and services. When you want to collaborate with others you will have a clear picture of what you are doing and will be able to promote your business to new customers.
Not sure where to start to plan for your career and business success? Contact Nancy J. Miller, M.S., Business/Career Coach. Your career is an adventure you can plan and prepare for and then see where it takes you. Enjoy the trip!
It's been a busy month accounting for books on this year's taxes as well as preparing for next year. Keeping records and preparing taxes is fairly simple for my coaching practice since I was selling a service with no inventory.
Last year I published my first book, Fire Up Your Profile For LifeWork Success to add value to my coaching practice. Well before April 15th rolled around I wished I had hired a tax accountant or bookkeeper. We got in the habit of doing the taxes ourselves using Turbo Tax and didn't realize the difference it made when we added inventory the need for Cost of Goods Sold--not as simple as it appeared.
I had the idea I could just expense the books I purchased and add my book sales to income. Apparently this is a common misconception that oversimplifies the process.
According to the IRS, the following items need to be taken into consideration when computing COGS:
Last year I used the free inventory program InFlow for PC. It was simple to set up and generated useful reports for sales, sales tax, and books used. It has been years since I worked in bookkeeping, and I realized I hadn't kept the detailed records that would have been helpful.
This year I found AccountingEdge Pro for Mac in an inexpensive Apple Bundle and decided to give it a try. It takes longer to set up since it uses double entry accounting. It has a lot of online support articles and videos which were helpful, so after setting up my business, I realized I made some errors in the setup. I decided to change the original company setup to a test company, and then start a new company set up with a another company name. There doesn't appear to be a limit to the number of customers you can add as there was with InFlow and it has a Cost of Goods Sold account. I believe things will go much smoother when April comes around next year.
Improvements I made this year:
We all have the intention of keeping good records throughout the year and having them organized and accessible for taxes. But when you develop a new product it initially sells quickly, and it is easy to be excited and overwhelmed with initial success. When deciding what products you want to sell, consider your bookkeeping and taxes.
After selling some books, I was ready to increase my clients and move on to the next book. I didn't want to spend more time on record keeping and mailing than was necessary, but in my enthusiasm I mailed books to different locations, sold them at special prices, and didn't invest the time needed to understand the implications. Understanding the implications of different methods of selling a product will help in making decisions and keeping up accurate records.
An eBook you sell on your website doesn't require inventory and the bookkeeping that goes with it, but if you sell a PDF yourself it can easily be shared with people who didn't purchase it.
Selling your book through an online company like Amazon or Barnes & Noble simplifies your bookkeeping. They send you a 1099-Misc form for royalties (which are recorded separately on your tax form) at the beginning of the year for filing your taxes. You don't need to pay for and manage mailing, taxes in different locations, inventory, and cost of goods sold. Shipping to different locations requires the most record keeping.
Often the best way for a coach to sell their books is by word of mouth, presentations, classes, and workshops--basically selling your product yourself out of the trunk of your car. You may even want to carry a book with you so that when someone wants to buy it, you have one handy. Just remember to record all of the books you sell. It is also easier if you sell all of your books for the same price. Most customers like an even amount to pay--especially if paying cash--so I include the tax in the price and round it off to a dollar amount.
It's been a great experience selling books, and it has helped my coaching business, but I will do a much better job accounting for books this year whether I hire an accountant for taxes or we do them ourselves.
Share tips and ideas you have found for organizing and record keeping for your business products.
Cost of Goods Sold and the Tax Gap (FS-2006-23, July 2006). http://www.irs.gov/uac/Cost-of-Goods-Sold-and-the-Tax-Gap. Accessed 4-19-2014.
Consult an accountant or appropriate professional for tax information. The intention of this article is to share personal experience and is not in any way tax advice.
Revisit your goals regularly, especially when you feel stuck or lose your sense of direction. Goals can keep you stuck if you don’t re-evaluate them and allow yourself to grow. Ask yourself the question, “Is this still what I want to do and where I want to go?”
It's so easy to set long-term goals. In fact, you already have dreams about things you would like to accomplish in your lifetime. Use the Goals Worksheet to write down some things that are important to you that you always wanted to accomplish. Use those dreams to set goals and evaluate those goals rather than letting them swim around in your head and hold you back from finding meaningful opportunities. Short-term goals take more thought. What will I do on a daily basis to meet my goals? If I find myself not taking the steps to meet my goals, then I need to find the motivation or make new ones.
Long-term goals are important, but my short-term goals keep me moving forward. My long-term goal was to write a book. So to practice writing, I made a short-term goal of walking and blogging everyday. I like to stretch my reachable goal and see where it takes me. Walking and writing everyday were goals I knew I could reach. So I stretched and made a specific goal to walk and write everyday for a year. I let my mind wander, and let my feet take me in different directions to walk toward my greater goal of writing a book. I didn’t reach my short-term goal of walking everyday for a year, but I did publish my first book, “Fire Up Your Profile For LifeWork Success”. My goals kept me motivated and gave me direction for achieving my dream.
“Value yourself enough to set goals” and make a commitment to write them down preferably in your portfolio. Keeping your goals handy on your bulletin board or in your binder will keep you working toward your goals, help you feel successful as you see your accomplishments, and remind you to reevaluate your goals and change direction when needed.
I told a colleague my goal was to walk everyday for a year. She said I should have a reachable goal. Would I be able to walk everyday for a year? I wasn’t sure, but by blogging my walks if I missed a day, I as well as my readers would see the missed day in living color. I walked with friends and had conversations with entrepreneurs to help them say who they are and what they want. Walking and blogging kept me moving toward my bigger goal. An accountability partner comes in many forms whether in writing or in person. Find ways to share your goals and keep yourself accountable.
Although I didn't reach my short-term goal of walking for a year, setting a goal of walking and writing, as well as sharing my progress on my blog, helped me achieve my greater goal of writing a book.
I have been so focused on self-editing, hiring professionals, and publishing my book, “Fire Up Your Profile For LifeWork Success”, that I feel like I am losing track of the reason I wrote it—to connect with people through their stories.
Spending hours in my office researching the publishing process, self-editing and responding to my editor’s comments and suggestions, left me feeling closed and isolated. I began to wonder why I was spending so much time and energy on this project. Now it’s time to share, express, connect, and have fun!
I wrote the book as an avenue for self-expression for others and myself. Now I need to get back to blogging, meeting, and connecting—the things that give me energy and bring fun to my life.
An amazing group coaching call today with Dave Buck at Coachville got my juices flowing. Through the Coachville community, I started sharing and listening to the successes and challenges of others. According to Dave, every successful professional will benefit from learning coaching skills.
The Coachville approach is to think of your work as a game and wake up everyday to a day of play and see what it brings. As Dave says, “The 21st Century Human is a player not a worker.”
I am playing the Winning Business Game to build my coaching business by showing rather than telling the value of Creativity Coaching. During the industrial age we were trained to work and consume. In the new age of knowledge and creativity we are “players and creators” as Buck describes the new age of workers who need to add value rather than just doing what they have been told.
My next game piece in the “Winning Business Game” will be “Visibility”. After completing my book my next step was to make a marketing plan. The idea of marketing felt more draining than energizing. But the idea of creating visibility sounds like fun. In fact, that is what I have been doing and want to do more of.
I just made a folder on my computer desktop called “Visibility” where I will collect my profile, articles, blogs, gift certificates, and ideas for creating visibility. Visibility is about sharing value, connecting, and building community. If you would like to join me in the “Winning Business Game for Professional Coaches” you can join Coachville (free) and play the game as a member benefit.
Not a professional coach? You might want to play the “Coaching Mastery Game” to practice using coaching principles in your business.
Ready to play?
Social media, when used well, is an honest transparent collection of information about a unique brand – you! Whether you are a job seeker, entrepreneur, or career professional you will find many ways to show your audience who you are and what you can do for them. As a job seeker your product is you. Show the skills and services you can offer an employer. An entrepreneur’s audience is their customer while a career professional works with their clients. Career professionals need to master the media skills their clients and students need to understand as well as developing their own media presence. Social media is an excellent place to show your Brand, develop your Reputation, build Associations, and show a Track record for success—your social media BRAT.
Branding is a snapshot of you that gives your audience something to like and remember about you -- a way to draw in your audience -- to feed a want or need. As you consider your personal brand, think about the impression you want to make. Show your audience how you are unique and why a customer would want buy a product or service from you rather than someone else. You choose how you want your audience to feel about the business of you. Use social media to associate the brand of you with your product or service.
Your reputation sets you apart from others who offer similar products and services. There are others who want the same job, customer, or client. You will set yourself apart by showing your character, consistency and values. Let your audience know you are the person they want to do business with. Think before you post.
Social media sites are a little like a neighborhood. You get to know your neighbors through interacting in their environment. You listen to what they say and comment on their contributions. You wouldn’t knock on doors in your neighborhood and ask for a job. You show an interest in your neighbor. The neighbors know you are responsible by looking at the upkeep of your house and yard; and how you work in your community. Similarly in your digital neighborhood people notice if you are keeping your profile up-to-date, whom you are hanging out with, what you are saying, and what you have in common with them. Who do you associate with?
A track record shows that you have a history of experience that shows success: sales, promotions, training, conferences, events, skills, or whatever might interest the employer or customer. Your track record shows you are the kind of person with whom they want to do business. You can be trusted, and you will be around when they need you. Social media builds a track record over time.
Back to Blogging
I can see it has been quite some time since the last time I wrote a post for this blog. I have been spending so much time writing and working on projects that I have neglected my posts. I enjoy blogging because it is immediate and in the moment; sharing information and ideas that are happening right now. I have been spending so much time organizing, self-editing, hiring professionals, and starting a publishing business that I got away from doing what I love--writing.
Publishing a book takes discipline and helps me improve my writing skills, but I found it very tedious to go over and over the same material. It is time to update my websites and blogs and get connected with all of you. If you are a creative entrepreneur, writer, or job seeker come back often and let's share in this journey of finding our own personal definition of success and happiness. There is plenty for everyone!
How could a job search, resume design, and letter writing be fun? I've written many cover letters and resumes for jobs I didn't really want. I dredge up skills from the past, jobs I was glad to leave, and boring experiences. With great effort I put on a happy face and talk about the reasons I want to work for a company and all of the great things I can do for them. Not fun!
So often I found it easier to market the skills I had experience with, rather than building skills I wanted to use. I could not get excited about more of the same, but like a steam roller, I used my persistence and determination to keep on going. I looked at the websites and job ads to see what was offered, rather then investigating work I wanted to spend time on. It wasn't until I hit a wall in my career that I even began to look at new possibilities. I went back to college and majored in career counseling.
As a career counseling graduate student I took a number of skills assessments. After sorting skills cards, I came up with a nice stack of skills I CAN use. Neither the assessment nor the result was very exciting. Then I went to the 2009 Career Management Alliance Conference, where I had the opportunity to go to Richard Knowdell's workshop on _Motivated Skills. After laying out the cards in columns across my desk, I had a short list of skills I CAN use and actually WANT to use. These are the skills that give me motivation to take action. It sounds so simple, yet a light bulb went on in my head. I realized I could develop the skills I like to use. I spent years getting a job without planning a career or thinking about what I really want. It was finally time for a proper job search.
After seeing the simple list of skills I want to use, I decided to spend time mastering those skills. I spent two years writing regularly, publishing articles, and getting feedback for my ideas. The last time I searched for a job I chose a new category--writing/editing. Without a degree in English or communications, I had never investigated jobs for pay as a writer or editor. Many of the job notices gave a preference for an English degree and many required years of paid experience, but I started finding notices for bloggers and people with experience developing a social media presence. When it came time to prepare a resume and letter describing my social media presence, writing, and publishing experience, I dug right in. It was fun to share my experience doing things I love to do.
Career change is the norm, and we oftentimes need to use skills that don't fit our preferences while getting a foot in the door. Once in the door, you can experience new skills, see what you like, then fly with the skills you like to use. Stop the steam roller and soar to new heights of mastery. You won't need to force yourself to go to a job you don't like. As you gain expertise in your motivated skills, you'll anxiously anticipate everyday with new energy. Love your job search!
Certified Life Coach
Coaching for Career, Writing & Creative Problem-Solving
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