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Is Xero Better than MYOB for Bookkeeping Businesses?

Bookkeeping Incumbent, MYOB Versus Cloud Innovator, Xero

MYOB or Xero online accounting course training videosMYOB HAS LONG BEEN the preferred accounting software of choice for accountants, but a lot of small business owners have now come to prefer Xero. It’s easier to use, and they can access it anywhere — their desktop PC, tablet or smartphone.

Meanwhile, the rise of cloud-based accounting software, which was pioneered by Xero, has made it a lot easier for bookkeepers to base themselves from home. Throw in other technological innovations — cloud storage, bank feeds — and a remote Xero bookkeeper has become the more appealing choice for businesses, too.

Good bookkeepers have a corporate background

Many experienced bookkeepers (around level three upwards) have a corporate background. They’ve typically worked for big accounting firms, and are possibly qualified accountants or BAS and tax agents, familiar with all the available ERP systems on the market.

As much as they know MYOB as the big robust accounting software for medium-sized businesses, a lot of these ex-corporate bookkeepers are also well aware of how Xero benefits small-to-medium businesses: It’s less confusing to use and it’s cloud based; things that make the bookkeeper’s job easier, too. But there’s no guarantee they’ll recommend Xero purely because of that.

Their experience with a range of different ERPs, makes them just as likely to have a subscription to more than one accounting software so they can recommend, with firsthand knowledge, the right accounting software for your business — be it Xero or QuickBooks or, yes, even MYOB.

Bookkeepers can grow their business

National Bookkeeping - How to Earn More MoneyOf course, one reason Xero has become the preferred accounting software, over MYOB or QuickBooks, for a lot of ex-corporate bookkeepers is because of the Xero partner program which enables them to earn ongoing income by recommending Xero to their clients.

Billed as a way for Xero bookkeepers to grow their business, the program lists certified partners in the Xero Advisor directory, which is used by businesses looking for a Xero-certified bookkeeper to manage their accounts. To become a Xero partner, bookkeepers must successfully complete a Xero skills test. When they do, they’re listed on the directory.

The more Xero clients a bookkeeper brings in under the Xero Partner program, the higher their status and the greater their rewards — free Xero memberships, marketing help, and big discounts on subscriptions for their clients.

It’s incredibly appealing for ex-corporates who want the flexibility of self-employment, but want to grow their business with a client-base of substantial mid-sized businesses — and fast. So the more business a bookkeeper can bring Xero, the more business Xero can bring the bookkeeper. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to go.

Universal access with Xero

But Xero Partner or not, far and away Xero’s popularity is really due to its technology — and its commitment to using technology to improve the way businesses stay compliant with the tax office.

That all started with universal access. Businesses that use Xero can invite anyone in their team — their admin assistant, bookkeeper, accountant, their entire sales team — anytime they like, as part of their Xero subscription. Here are a few more reasons:

  • Invoices can go out as soon as a project is finished or a sale is made; likewise for estimates and customer statements.
  • It also means that a business owner can monitor their cash flow in real time, while their bookkeeper is keying transactions and their sales people are sending off invoices.
  • And because the software is in the cloud, these people don’t even need to be in the same building, never mind the same city, state or country! (Xero is the rare low-cost accounting program that supports multi-currency.)

It’s all about the Xero tech

Xero also integrates with more than 500 third-party apps. Some popular integrations include Gmail and Hubspot, the marketing and sales platform. These two integrations alone turn Xero into a complete business management platform and enable it to scale up to the services provided by mid to large sized ERP systems.

Businesses can import data to Hubspot based on customer spend or products and services sold, and send those customers tailored marketing messages. The Gmail integration gives users a complete snapshot of previous conversations with customers — salespeople can see if there are outstanding invoices, or problems with a customer’s account, for example.

Gold standard in bank feeds

Although bank feeds are accurate most of the time, they’re not perfect. MYOB has been know to be particularly temperamental, but Xero has a reliable bank feeds function. Again, that’s a lot to do with Xero’s commitment to tech. 

Setting up bank feeds in any accounting software is as simple as clicking a few buttons, giving a few permissions, and voila! Your bookkeeper has just saved themselves hours each month. Bookkeepers much rather spend as little time as they can keying and coding transactions.

[box type=”info”] This time is better spent doing bigger jobs — lodging activity statements, reporting, payroll — so they’re going to recommend an accounting program with bank feeds.[/box]

Plus, business owners won’t have to wait for their bookkeeper to enter their transaction data each fortnight or month to see how their cash flow is tracking: Bank feeds give business owners a complete picture of their business’s cash flow and financial health because transactions are imported in real-time.

Xero courses provide Bookkeeper CPD points

EzyLearn Online Course CPD points for bookkeepers and marketing professionalsEzyLearn gets lots of enrolments in our Xero training courses and we’re an accredited training provider with the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers. The ICB requires its bookkeepers to continue developing their skills and knowledge as a bookkeeper in order to retain their membership (this is known as continuing professional development, or CPD).

Many bookkeepers and accountants do EzyLearn’s Xero courses to earn their annual CPD points. EzyLearn offers a number of different training courses as continuing professional development (CPD) for bookkeepers, including our Microsoft Excel, Xero or MYOB training courses.

Our Bookkeeping Academy training courses start at $99 — for Xero or MYOB — and allow you to learn what you want, when you want, entirely at your own pace. Visit the Bookkeeping Academy website for more information or to enrol.


 

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3 Little Mistakes that Cost Thousands

online training learning tradesmen carpenter painter plumber electrician turning quote into sale

How tapping into your Smartphone can win you work

online training learning tradesmen carpenter painter plumber electrician turning quote into sale
You can be more relevant and responsive to the needs of your clients if you tap into low cost technology tools at your disposal.

I RECENTLY WROTE about a Tradie Charging Too Little. In this I covered the four tell-tale signs, as told to me by a tradesperson friend of mine, that your prices are too low. But there are other business mistakes that owners, particularly tradespeople, make that can wind up costing them thousands in lost revenue — and when I say revenue I don’t just mean from existing clients but also past clients and new prospects!

The crazy thing is that most of this can be solved by using a bit of technology. And I don’t mean using a desktop computer; indeed, most tools you need are now available from your smartphone. My preference is Android and Google G Suite.

Google G Suite Training Courses - contacts, emails, calendars, appointmentsNot getting prospect’s details

Lots of business owners, including bookkeepers and tradespeople, will just hand out their business card to prospects, rather than taking down the prospect’s details so they can follow up. 

Sure, handing out your business card is a good start, but if you spend an extra minute or two getting contact details from the prospect as well as details about:

  • the work they’d like done
  • the timeframe they’re hoping for
  • their budget, etc

you can follow up in a meaningful way and hopefully win some new business. The great thing is that you can add the prospects address and contact details to your contacts and even your calendar for 3 weeks into the future and just make friendly contact with them to see whether they are ready to begin!

Learn How to use Xero with EzyLearn Online CoursesSlow to send estimates

The best time to send a prospect a quote is when you’re still at their premises. You can do this by writing them out by hand in a book with carbonated paper (but get real, you’ve got a smartphone!)

Better still is to use a cloud accounting program like Xero to email the quote through to the customer right then and there (this helps ensure you get their correct email address too). 

The biggest reason to do this prep work: Because you have a prospecting list you can call on when things get quiet in your business.

If you take the time to explain the details of the quote, you might also just get an automatic acceptance, so then you can begin scheduling a start date, arranging a deposit, and so on.

This actually happened to me when I was using a glass manufacturing business in Maitland NSW for a recent renovation I was involved in — the estimator mentioned they could do it the following Tuesday and that all they needed was a 50% deposit. He asked for the business on the spot and guess what? He got it! 

Learn more about our property investment micro courses and education guides.

The price of being disorganised

Don’t wait until the day before you’re due to start a job — or worse, until you arrive to commence work — to secure a deposit from your customer. Ask them to pay the deposit before you commence the work, so you’re not waiting around to be reimbursed for materials you’ve purchased out of your own pocket. This can have an adverse impact on your credit management processes.  

This tradie I was speaking to was thinking about getting a small loan for $2000, when I suggested that he just get his deposit for an upcoming job now rather than a day before he starts it!

 

Get a Coach or Mentor to help you through the process

EzyStartUp business startup and admin training coursesOur EzyStartup Course will you teach you about pricing your services, business planning, marketing, and developing a professional network to grow your business.

learn xero online training course videos shopping around for bookkeeping quoteVisit our website for more information or to enrol. Best of all you can engage a business coach to help you set some goals, stay on track or even project manage the using of new technology so you begin using this technology every day.


 

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How to Tell You’re Setting Your Prices Too Low

How to set prices in business

how to set prices in business
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by pricing too low and only winning jobs that you make very little on!

AS ALL SMALL BUSINESS owners know, setting the right prices is a difficult task. And a lot of newbie business owners think that being cheap is the better than meeting the market, but that’s not always the case.

Take, for example, a tradesperson I met recently. This tradesman is a painter and he’d been in business for a while before he realised his prices were set too low, and despite all the business he was getting as a result, it was actually costing him money. (We cover more detailed, real-life case studies like this in our micro courses.) 

He shared with me the tell-tale signs that your prices are too low.

Lots of small, one-off jobs

Small jobs are important because they keep the home fires burning, so to speak. But you need a good balance of small jobs and bigger projects, with the small jobs being completed around or in the middle of the larger ones.

If you’re only getting lots of small, one-off jobs that you spend more time to travelling to than it takes to complete the work, this is a good indication that your prices are too low. For jobs like these, either charge for travel time or a call-out fee.

For small jobs … charge for travel time or a call-out fee.

You’re too busy to plan ahead

If you find that, in order to make ends meat, you need to keep yourself so busy that you don’t have time to plan your working week, then your prices are too low. You should be able to plan out your weeks so customers know when to expect you, and so you can be as productive and efficient as possible — if you have two jobs in the same area, for instance, planning ahead will allow you to go to those jobs on the same day.

Use a tool like Google Calendar from G Suite to organise your days, and keep in touch with customers along the way so they know to expect you.

You can’t afford to pay for help

Setting your prices lower than your competitors may be one way to win jobs, but the downside is that you’re constrained to completing the work entirely yourself. The tradesman, a painter, whom I was speaking with, told me about a time he couldn’t afford to find another painter to help prepare walls or pitch in with the painting because his prices were too low.

If you’re not able to pass jobs onto other businesses in your industry — subcontracting — and still clip the ticket, or you’re not able to afford to use a portion of the money you’d earn to hire someone to complete part of the job, you’re charging too little.

You’re too busy to invoice promptly

Just as it’s important to plan your work weeks in advance, it’s equally important that you invoice customers for the work you’ve completed in a timely manner. If you find that you often don’t have the time to invoice customers until a week or a month has passed, there’s a deficiency in your business processes. Use accounting software like Xero so you can invoice on the go.

***

We cover setting prices the market — and your business — will bear in our EzyStartup Course. Visit our website for more information and to enrol.


Check out our Spring Specials!

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We have a host of online training course specials for the spring season — take a look!


 

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Finding Help with Your Bookkeeping

Why you should employ a bookkeeper to help manage the books

best way to find a bookkeeper myob xero quickbooks online
If you’re a small business owner, it shouldn’t be taking you an inordinate amount of time to keep your bookkeeping orderly and up to date. If it is, perhaps now is the time to get help.

PERHAPS YOU ARE a small business owner who is trying hard to keep up to speed with your regulatory bookkeeping requirements. But no sooner does one quarter end and another one seems to roll by with the commensurate paperwork due all over again. This is taking away from your regular work and you’re falling behind — and half the time you’re not even sure that it’s being done correctly. It sounds like you should be seriously considering finding a bookkeeper for your business.

Even if you have training in how to use Xero, MYOB or Quickbooks, or some other cloud accounting program, finding a great bookkeeper can make all the difference to your business. However, although there might seem to be plenty of “bookkeepers” around, finding the right one bookkeeper for your business is not an altogether easy thing to do. And if you’re financially challenged, you also need to find a bookkeeper who won’t break the bank.

Bookkeeper, accountant or tax professional?

These days, the term bookkeeper is almost an umbrella term for all the different types of accounting and tax professionals available to you, from basic data entry bookkeepers right through to specialised BAS and tax agents.

There are even some bookkeepers who are so knowledgeable in one particular accounting program that the software company has endorsed them as certified consultants or advisors, and some earn commission from accounting software companies, while there are others who aren’t beholden to any particular software company. We outline four steps you can take to narrow down the search.

Step One: What Kind of Bookkeeper Do You Need?

Think about your business and how it operates. Do you have lots of business purchases and transactions each week? Do you employ staff? Do you work in a specialised industry? Are you registered for GST? Do you require a bookkeeper to work onsite at your premises or can they work remotely?

Write down the needs of your business to help you determine the kind of financial help, and therefore, what kind of bookkeeper you need for your business.

Step Two: Research Local Bookkeepers in Your Area

Visit the websites of some local bookkeepers in your area, or search the National Bookkeeping Directory to find bookkeepers matching your requirements located near you. If you don’t require a bookkeeper to visit your premises, broaden your scope and research bookkeepers who can work remotely. Make a shortlist of potential bookkeepers.

Step Three: Check the TPB Register

BAS and tax agents are required, by law, to register with the Tax Practitioner’s Board (TPB), so if your business requires either a tax or BAS agent (or both), the TPB Register should be your first port of call to ensure the person who have in mind is currently registered to provide BAS or tax services.

Step Four: Interview Your Preferred Bookkeepers

During step two, you made a shortlist of potential bookkeepers, and, assuming your TPB search didn’t turn up anything to be wary of, you should now set about contacting each one to get to know more about the services they provide.

It’s a good idea to ask them how long they’ve been working as a bookkeeper for, the sorts of businesses they’ve worked with in the past, and any expectations they may have of you. You should also ask for a written quote for their services. This quote should form part of your professional services agreement.

***

Many bookkeepers will provide an initial consultation, and if not, ask them to. We outline a number of things you can expect and ask them at this first consultation.

If you need help making your small business dream become a reality — with business planning and templates, identifying target markets, with any form of marketing and advertising, including social media, even just setting up a great looking website — then check out our EzyStartUp Course or contact us for more information. 


 

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Don’t Wing It With Customer Service – Plan It

Great customer service doesn’t just happen.

learn online training videos about small business customer service
If you’re unsure about what makes up the kind of customer service people rave about, then perhaps you should look into our EzyStartUp Course.

HOW TO PROVIDE REALLY exceptional customer service is just one of the modules covered in our EzyStartUp Course which teaches you all about how to start up your own business.

We handpicked this inclusion as our experience is that, time and time again, good, nay excellent customer service goes a long way to ensuring a business has longevity.

We’ve mentioned in a previous post the issues inherent with Zoho’s customer service, which wasn’t bad as much as it was hampered by geographical differences and the strength of Aussie customers dealing with Aussie customer service workers and telephone operators.

Defying customer expectations

For many, good customer service is something many of us have come not to expect. Most of the time when you go into shops to buy something, you come prepared – you’ve already researched the kind of TV you want online and why, and you know the sales girl will never tell you if your butt looks big in those jeans.

Is there too much churn and burn?

Is churn and burn a problem with the quality of customer service? Certainly in many chain or department stores now, where there’s a huge turnover of staff, many employers seem to have given up on trying to teach their staff the art of customer service.

And the ambivalence toward customer service has slowly crept into other areas of business, as companies downsize, move online, or shift jobs offshore.

As a business owner, I have always prided myself on providing the very best customer service possible. When I moved EzyLearn online, one of my major concerns was how would I manage the customer service side of the business, now that my customer service resources had shrunk?

Using a ticketing support system

That’s when I decided to use the Zen Desk ticketing support system to manage all of my online customer enquiries. Zen Desk does this in a way that’s professional for my customers and also easy for me and my team to use.

Incidentally, Zoho also offers a similar support ticketing service and, like most of the Zoho products, the most basic offering is free to use forever. But even if your business decides to use a ticketing support system like Zen Desk or Zoho, remember: It’s only as good as the customer service processes you implement for your business.

Good customer service is structured

Fantastic customer service — the kind that makes people tell their friends and keep coming back to you for their purchases — doesn’t just happen. This is why we cover customer service in our EzyStartUp Course. Most people don’t realise that, like everything else in business, you have to plan to deliver good customer service. And as the business changes, your strategy can adapt and change too.

This might take the shape of a policy which outlines things such as ensuring phone calls aren’t answered before the third ring (so as to not startle or fluster callers), replying to emails within a few working hours (even if it’s just to say you’re looking into the issue), or following up on sales enquiries with a phone call (which increases conversion rates).

Definitely use tools like Zen Desk to help you fine tune your customer service policies, but remember that good customer service starts with you. Develop your customer service strategy (our EzyStartUp Course can help you) and commit to it.

***

Planning how you’ll provide great customer service — that’s what’ll give you the edge over other businesses. Good customer service is so rare these days that when people find it, they flock to it. So find your flock, and if you need help, take our EzyStartUp Course.


learn online training Xero courses videos for less

Our Xero online training courses include EVERYTHING for ONE LOW PRICE. Furthermore, if you select our Lifetime Membership option, you’ll have LIFETIME access to our ongoing course updates. All EzyLearn courses are accredited by the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) and can be counted towards Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points. Find out more about our Xero online training courses. 


 

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When Do You Need to Register as a BAS Agent?

Making the effort to specialise reaps rewards

becoming a registered BAS agent
Without BAS agent registration you may be limiting your options for employment as a bookkeeper.

BECOMING A REGISTERED BAS agent means you are permitted to lodge a client’s business activity statements (BAS) on their behalf, each month or quarter, or as determined by the ATO.

BAS agents are really bookkeepers; but they’re ones who have done some extra training and applied to the Tax Practitioner’s Board (TPB) for a BAS agent’s accreditation.

Not every bookkeeper has to register as a BAS agent, but those who do typically earn more as a registered BAS agent than a straightforward, no-frills bookkeeper does. That’s largely due to the way cloud-based software, like Xero and Quickbooks, has made it a lot easier for businesses to manage their own bookkeeping. But even just speaking generally, bookkeepers who have specialised skills always tend to earn more.

So when don’t you need to register?

You don’t need to register as a BAS agent if:

  • You’re an employee of a registered BAS agent, who pays you wages to help them with BAS services
  • You’re an employee of a business doing its BAS
  • You do the books for your own business – you prepare the activity statements for your own virtual assistant business
  • You don’t receive a fee or reward for the BAS services you provide – you’re helping a relative or in-law prepare their activity statements.

You may still need to register, however, even if the client lodges their own activity statements, simply because they relied on your advice or work relating to their BAS.

Who needs to register, then?

In a nutshell, if you provide BAS services that you are paid for – that is, you receive a fee or reward – then you need to register with the TPB.

Even if you’re being paid for your BAS work as part of other types of work (like a freelance office manager whose duties include providing BAS services, along with other duties, like customer service and general administrative tasks), you still need to register.

You’ll also need to register if you’re a contractor, providing BAS services to another registered agent. This applies even if you work at the registered agent’s office or premises and you’re not considered an employee of that agent (for further info, see the ATO’s guide to determining when someone is a contractor and not an employee).

Why register to be a BAS agent?

As we’ve said, there’s the legal requirement to register to be a BAS agent if you’re deriving an income, or some other form of remuneration, for providing BAS services to another business. But there are other reasons why a person with the knowledge and know-how of BAS should register as an agent.

Example:

Say you’re someone who doesn’t need to register, but you’d like to pick up extra work as a contract or freelance bookkeeper, being a registered BAS agent makes you more valuable to businesses; not just because you can complete and lodge their activity statements, but because you can also advise them on their BAS.

As noted above, even if you don’t lodge the activity statement because your client does, you may still need to register if they relied on any part of your work or advice. For your services to be clearly delineated from your client’s BAS, you’re only able to provide very basic data entry services.

becoming a registered bas agentIf you don’t register, it means you can’t:

  • Work out the codes for GST or FBT collection
  • Provide reconciliation, because it involves deciding on the tax codes to apply
  • Manage your client’s payroll

You wouldn’t even be able to set up a client’s accounting software for their business.

If you don’t register as a BAS agent

A bookkeeper that’s only able to provide very basic data entry services – which isn’t even a huge component of the bookkeeping job now that most accounting packages have the bank feeds feature – isn’t very valuable to a business, simply because they don’t add any value to their client’s business.

When people hire a freelancer or a contractor, they tend to hire someone who can fit one of two criteria; either they’re:

  • Highly skilled in their particular field; or
  • Inexpensive

If they want someone highly skilled, it’s usually because the project they’ll be working on is very important to them; if they hire someone inexpensive, it’s because the project isn’t particularly important, but does need to be done nevertheless.

You can probably see where we’re heading here. We happen to think bookkeeping is extremely important, because it indisputably has many far and wide ranging implications for all of our businesses.

How and with whom you need to register

First you need to have completed, as a minimum, a Certificate IV in Bookkeeping at a TAFE or another registered training organisation. Then you need to register with the TPB, which requires registrants to meet a certain criterion before they can be accredited as BAS agents.

Although it’s not a requirement, you’ll also need to know how to use some of the most popular accounting packages. At the moment, the three most popular accounting packages with both accountants and most business owners, are QuickBooks, MYOB and Xero, of which we offer online training courses in. All of these packages have pros and cons.

We say it’s not a requirement to know each of the above, because a Cert IV in Bookkeeping trains you in the intricacies of Australian tax law, but doesn’t teach you how to apply that in any accounting software; that’s something you have to learn yourself if you’re going to put your education into practice.

To read more about becoming a bookkeeper, and in particular how to start a bookkeeping business, continue reading or subscribe to our blog. Alternatively, to learn how to use MYOB or Xero, you can enrol in one of our many training courses online.

***

Read more about being a BAS agent

learn xero myob excel online training course videos

Starting your own bookkeeping business can provide a lucrative and flexible career option. As a BAS agent you can lodge Taxable Payments Annual Reports (TPARs) which are used in the construction industry. Also, don’t fear that you should automatically choose to affiliate with one accounting software application over another — oftentimes having a qualified BAS agent is far more valuable to a business than a certified consultant or advisor.  


 

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Is Xero Really All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

How does Xero stack up in the cloud accounting game?

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Xero CEO, Rod Drury

WHEN XERO FIRST ENTERED the accounting space, it gave MYOB a real run for its money — something Xero continues to do to this very day.

When Xero first entered the market, it was with a bang. You see, even though  Xero and MYOB share many of the same features, Xero was cheaper and easier to use than MYOB, but perhaps even more so, it was also cloud-based. Being cloud-based meant you didn’t have to buy and install pricey software that would be out-of-date within 12 months. A huge advantage.

Since then, however, a number of cloud-based accounting applications have entered the market — QuickBooks Online (now distributed by their US-based parent company Intuit), Reckon One, Saasu, Zoho, and so on.

As business owners have more choice than ever before, it’s got a lot of people wondering about whether the two market leaders (Xero and MYOB) are really all they’re cracked up to be, Xero in particular.

Missing a dropdown menu

Even though Xero was hailed as a breath of fresh air when it first entered the market, it is still a little more complicated to use when compared with other cloud accounting apps, like QuickBooks and Reckon One. For instance, the purchase orders feature is still hidden behind bills, when it could easily be access via a dropdown menu. But it’s not a major quibble.

Xero’s contact profile misses a beat

Although Xero allows you to assign customer numbers for your suppliers or customers in the contact profile, it doesn’t have the functionality to record customer numbers assigned by supplier or customer.

If you’re trying to get in touch with Telstra, for example, with whom you’ll have been assigned a customer or account number, you’ll have to dig around for the paper bill to find that customer or account number.

It’s easy to file bills, though

This feature is available in QuickBooks, and it’s also available in MYOB, but as is often the case with MYOB, it requires more steps to do what you can in Xero in just a few clicks. Rather than keep paper bills on hand, Xero allows you to attach them to you transactions, so you never have to go hunting around for a bill again (very useful given the contact profile issue mentioned above).

In MYOB, you must upload your bills to your in-tray, and then link them to your transactions. This is annoying, because it requires you to leave the transaction window and open the in-tray one.

***

Remember that when you select a cloud accounting package for your business, do not choose solely based on price. Make a list of the needs of your business and the functions you’ll require, and then select the accounting package that suits your needs the most. Ask your bookkeeper and other business friends for their recommendations as well.


Announcement: Microsoft Excel 2016 Beginners’ to Advanced courses now available!

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At EzyLearn we include all versions of a software program in our training courses. That means when you enrol into Excel you get 2016 — AND — the older Excel courses which include version 2013, 2010, 2007 and even 2003 (if you really need it).
When you enrol in Lifetime Course Access you get access to ALL versions and ALL FUTURE VERSIONS as we continually update them — at no extra cost!

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Who Do You Trust More: Real Estate Agents or Tradies?

Still unsure whether you can trust online ratings and reviews?

trusting online reviews and ratings for tradesperson real estate agent online ratings and reviews
After a tradesperson? Sometimes asking a business person from a related business, such as a real estate agent, can be a good source for a recommendation.

IT CAN BE HARD to know whether you can really trust online ratings and reviews, whether these reviews and ratings are objective and even relevant and how they compare to recommendations and testimonials. By recommendations we mean word of mouth referrals from your friends and family and so forth, and testimonials that have been written by real people — with real names and real locations!

In our recent post about recommendations we suggested that you ask a friend, relative or colleague if they’ve ever had experience with a business you’re thinking of using — chances are, if your friends live locally they may well have; or if the business is a chain or franchise operating over a wide area.

Also ask other businesses

When seeking a professional recommendation you can also ask other businesses. Find out what their experiences have been, if any. Often businesses will have a relationship with each other even if it is not, at first, apparent.

For instance, a symbiotic relationship tends to exist between real estate agents and tradespeople. Agents will regularly draw up a list of preferred tradespeople that they work with and recommend to their tenants, landlords and vendors.

And there are plenty of tradespeople who do the same for real estate agents that they’ve had professional dealings with. There are plenty of other examples of these sorts of professional recommendations.

Beware professional bias

Of course, just as you should be wary of overly positive or negative ratings and reviews online, you should be likewise when soliciting professional reviews. If one business regularly referred work by another, even if they don’t think they’re a great business to deal with, neither party will necessarily say anything bad about each other.

In the end, when looking for a tradesperson, real estate agent or some other professional service, be sure to do all your research. Ask around for personal referrals, check them up online, and get in touch with each business directly to see which one is the best fit for you.

Real people, real locations

At EzyLearn we provide testimonials from our students, which include their full name and location, and why they chose EzyLearn to study in the first place. We also offer a money-back guarantee and free samples of our course content, so students know they can trust they’re making the right choice. Visit our website for more information and to see our wide range of courses.


Xero online training course

At EzyLearn we offer online training courses to help you up-skill and find employment. Choose from our range of cloud-based online accounting software courses, to business start up and management courses, to marketing and sales courses, or update and further your skills in a range of Microsoft Office programs (ExcelPowerPointWord) or social media and WordPress web design). 


 

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3 Things You MUST Do in Excel!

Business owners and job seekers take note!

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Excel isn’t just for budding bookkeepers; it’s a great tool for all business owners to know.

MICROSOFT EXCEL IS THE most widely used spreadsheet application in modern computing. That said, it’s also one of the more difficult programs of the Microsoft Office Suite to learn, which is why we recently updated the content of our Excel training courses.

A lot of people do our Excel training courses to help them “skill up” to find a job, find a position better suited to them, or develop their career path. However, Excel is a fantastic tool for small business owners as well.

But whether you use Excel to create a pivot table or a database, there are a few things you should do each time you open an Excel document. Here we present you with three:

1. Vertical align: always centre

Always align the text in the cells of your Excel spreadsheet to the centre, or the top in certain circumstances. But never, ever align it to the bottom. It’s hard on the eyes and, when you’re looking at lots and lots of data in lots and lots of cells, it becomes difficult to know which row, column, etc, you’re looking in. Centre alignment, always.

2. Build error-checking into formulas

There should never be an instance where one of your workbooks is showing a #DIV/0, #N/A, #REF, #NAME?, #NUM!, or #NULL! error. This is especially true if you’re sharing these workbooks with your business partners or accountant or whomever.

Seeing an error in a financial report may cause the reader to doubt the accuracy of the entire workbook, so ensure your workbooks remain error free by using the simple IFERROR() error-checking function in Excel.

3. Print preview your work

Again, if you intend to share workbooks with other people, you should always ensure that your Excel workbooks can be printed nicely and easily, even if you don’t intend to ever print the document yourself. This is easy enough to do via File > Print Preview and adjusting the print margins before sharing (or printing) the document.

However, judging by the number of times I’ve printed an Excel document only to collect 87 sheets of paper off my printer to read the contents one 4×4 table, the function is seldom used by anyone else but me!

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For more Excel formatting tips and tricks, download our FREE Beginners’ Guide to Excel, or enrol in our intermediate or advanced online Excel training courses to learn how to create databases, pivot tables, charts, graphs, and much more…

Read more about our beginners, intermediate and advanced Excel training courses on our website, or enrol to start learning by 5pm tomorrow!


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At EzyLearn, we’re committed to helping students of our MYOB, Xero and Quickbooks courses gain employment as a bookkeeper or even start their own bookkeeping business; it’s why we provide you with lifetime access to our online cloud-accounting training courses as part of our commitment to continuing professional development


 

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Using Excel for Client Databases

Excel does great CRM

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Managing large amounts of client and business data is not only possible, but also something you can learn fast and with ease with the help of our comprehensive range of online Excel training courses – covering all skills levels.

MICROSOFT EXCEL IS THE most widely-used spreadsheet application in modern computing. It’s ubiquity means most people use Excel on a regular basis, despite never having had any formal training in its many, many, MANY functions.

While updating the content for our Excel training courses recently, we were reminded of just how powerful Excel remains, and in particular, how useful it is for small businesses.

With its 2013 release, Excel got a serious update, which made it the perfect application to create and manage client and customer databases. Although there are many CRMs available on a subscription that provide the same functions of a database created in Excel, just in a more visually appealing format, they often lack reporting and analysis functions, requiring you to export your data in a Excel sheet anyway.

Flat file databases

Excel’s original ‘flat file’ database still remains the easiest and most basic database to set up and manage, and depending on your business and how you’ll use your database, a flat file database may be all you’ll ever need. If set up correctly, a flat file database will allow you to easily import your customer data into Word, your accounting software, an email marketing service, and so forth.

Relational databases

A relational database is a database that’s structured to recognise relations among the information stored in them. Microsoft offers a relational database program, called Access, which is available with Microsoft Office Professional or higher, or can be purchased separately.

Alternatively, you can create your own relational database in Microsoft Excel, providing you have the 2013 version or newer. When Excel got its update in 2013, it became easier to link charts and cells and to perform searches — all essential features if you’re working with large amounts of business data.

Correct Excel set up is crucial

Once Excel has been set up, it’s as easy as it is powerful to use. Of course, the key is to set it up correctly, so you can avoid errors or having to re-enter large amounts of data to make the format suit another third party software application.

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Creating and managing databases is included as part of our Advanced Microsoft Excel training courses — and you receive access to ALL OF OUR COURSES, including ALL SKILLS LEVELS for ONE LOW PRICE. You can even start your Excel journey with our FREE Beginners’ Excel Course Workbook. Read more about our beginners’, intermediate and advanced Excel training courses on our website, or enrol to start learning by 5pm tomorrow!


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Keeping Tabs on those ‘Little’ Monthly Expenses

Why Excel is Great for Keeping Track of Your Spending if You’re Self Employed

excel online training course using excel for monthly expenses sheet
That take away coffee that you buy each morning should be added to your business expenses sheet; even if not claimable it shows where your money is going.

WHETHER YOU’RE ABOUT TO start your own bookkeeping business, or whether you work as an independent contractor (even if you’ve been doing this for a while), it’s really important to know how much you’re spending each month.

Your Xero, MYOB or QuickBooks accounting software will help you with some of this, but the very best way is to create an expense or spending sheet in Excel — which we teach you how to do in our Excel training courses — as this gives you a far more detailed look at your expenses and spending.

Not all your expenses are 100% business ones

Sometimes you can’t claim 100 percent of your expenses as business ones — the costs of running your car, home internet, rent, utilities, etc — but you should nevertheless keep track of your spending on these items because it will affect your cash flow.

That’s why keeping an Excel spending or expense sheet is a good idea for contractors and home-based business owners. You don’t want to enter your home internet into your accounting software as a business expense, if only 30 percent of it is used for business purposes, but you still need to keep track of it, so you can manage your cashflow.

Monitor frivolous spending

One of the things we love about using Excel to track your expenses and spending is that every little expenditure is right there, in plain view.

This isn’t the case with Xero or MYOB or other accounting software. Your expenses are hidden away, and you have to run a report to get a good breakdown on where your money is going.

Not so with Excel,. If you buy a coffee every morning, it’s right there, in a category you can label as “coffee”.

Now, we’re not saying that coffee is frivolous. Far from it. Many of us need coffee just to function (!) but there are lots of small things we spend money on every day, week, month that add up. When you’re self-employed you need to keep an eye on these “little” things.

Sometimes, you’ll find that you’re spending lots of money each month on subscription services that you’re not even using. Eliminating $15 a month here and there makes a big difference.

Create as many categories as you need

That’s the other great thing about using Excel to track your spending: You can create all the expense categories you like.

Of course, not everyone wants to track each and every expense right down to their last bag of jelly beans — that actually would be a little ridiculous — and for most the most part, you can lump your groceries into a category for discretionary spending, but there are some things you might want to separate out — movie tickets, money spent on lunches and dinners, and so forth.

These things tend to add up, and if you want to keep an eye on them, separating them out is the easiest way to do that.

Back to those business expenses

Each fortnight or month or however regularly you complete your bookkeeping, you can easily add in those business expenses into your accounting software — or your bookkeeper can.

Remember, if you spend $60 a month on internet, but only 30 percent of its use is for business purposes, you should only add $18 a month as a business expense in your accounting software. In your Excel expense or spending sheet, however, you’ll put the full $60 in, as you need to have the money in the bank to cover this expense each month.

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You can learn how to create and manage your expenses or spending in our Excel training courses, where you’ll be able to create your own spending or expense sheet. Visit our website for more information.


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Our Xero online training courses include EVERYTHING for ONE LOW PRICE. Furthermore, if you select our Lifetime Membership option, you’ll have LIFETIME access to our ongoing course updates. All EzyLearn courses are accredited by the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) and can be counted towards Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points. Find out more about our Xero online training courses. 


 

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Marketing for When Your Business Strategy Changes

Where lead generation services are useful

lead generation services
Using a dedicated lead generation service can be more useful than advertising but the quality of the leads may be questionable.

CHANGING YOUR BUSINESS STRATEGY to include additional services will require an additional investment in marketing if you are to make this successful. In terms of simply paying money to advertise your additional services, as you’re probably already aware, advertising doesn’t always yield immediate results. Therefore you might consider spending money on a lead generation service.

We cover how to account for marketing and lead generation costs in our Xero training courses, which includes a new workbook that looks at what to do when your business strategy changes.

Lead generation vs marketing

Lead generation, as the name suggest, is solely focussed on generating a potential customer or client for your business. For instance, there are lots of lead generation services in the building and home maintenance trade — hipages, One Flare, Service Seeking, Quotify, etc — but there are also a growing number for people in creative services, although they’re typically referred to as online marketplaces and include Freelancer.com, Upwork, Fiverr, and so forth.

Advertising and digital marketing (including content marketing), puts your message or business in front of your target audience, but there are more steps in the process before you can capture a lead.

The benefits of lead generation

The main benefit of using a lead generation service is that it delivers active leads almost as soon as you sign up to the service. The quality of the leads tend to differ between services, and the leads also tend to be people who are focussed solely on price, and not so much workmanship. In other words, they’re looking for something done in a particular fashion, for a particular price. No more, no less.

These sorts of jobs are good when you’re getting started or as a way to keep the home fires burning, but it may not be appropriate to rely on them as your sole means of developing clientele.

The benefits of marketing and advertising

If you’re using the correct channels to reach and market or advertise your business to your target market, you’re effectively developing a relationship with those people and educating them about your business.

This means you’ll capture people at all stages of the purchasing funnel — some will be at the pointy end, while others won’t be ready to make a purchasing decision for a while. The benefits of marketing and advertising is that you’re capturing a wide array of people and building brand awareness.

A combination of both works best

If you have the resources, a combination of both marketing (advertising, content marketing) and lead generation works best, though your focus should on marketing and advertising your business to your target market, rather than trying to fit your business into the mold of all the different leads fed to you through a service like hipages or Freelancer.com.

Create a marketing budget

Run a cashflow report in Xero to determine how much cash you’ll have to invest in marketing your business. Our Xero training courses will show you how to run a cashflow report, which you can then export to Excel and use when creating your marketing budget, which should include a schedule, costs, desired outcome — i.e., number of leads, conversions each week, month, quarter — to ensure you’re getting a good return on your investment.

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Our Xero training courses will show you how to run cashflow reports and account for your marketing costs, while our Business Start Up Course will show you how to create a marketing plan. Visit our website for more information.


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Our Xero online training courses include EVERYTHING for ONE LOW PRICE. Furthermore, if you select our Lifetime Membership option, you’ll have LIFETIME access to our ongoing course updates. All EzyLearn courses are accredited by the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) and can be counted towards Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points. Find out more about our Xero online training courses.


 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of a Compelling Resume and Cover Letter

Is your resume up to speed?

do's and dont's of writing a great resume
If you thought you’d never have to write another resume as a contractor or self-employed business person, then think again.

STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS does not mean you’ll never need to write a resume or cover letter again. We’ve written about this topic before — indeed, when you first start your own business you’ll probably spend a lot of your time applying to work with other businesses directly or through a recruiter.

And the truth about being a freelancer or contractor is that you’ll most likely spend the rest of your working life applying for work. If you don’t like the idea of this, well then maybe being self-employed isn’t for you! Why? Because in order to find the best work; the kind that you’ll love, you need to be always looking for it — or always be closing, if there any fans of Glengarry Glen Ross in the house tonight.

The truth about being a freelancer or contractor is that you’ll most likely spend the rest of your working life applying for work. 

Do pay attention to design

I’m choosing to exclude the “grammar, spelling and punctuation” portion of this list, because if you don’t already know that’s important by now, then oh boy, I can’t help you. But formatting and design are important, whether you’re looking for work in a creative industry or not.

The key is to grab attention in less than half a minute. You can use different fonts, for instance, a larger plain font for headings and a smaller (perhaps serif) font for the body text. You can type your resume up in Word or use PowerPoint or some other design tool. But just don’t get ahead of yourself and use something too fancy that you don’t have a proper grasp of and end up with a resume that is hotchpotch and messy.

These days, some recruiters will even upload your resume into their own “system” which “parses” your content and basically re-formats it all into plain text. If this happens, your gorgeous CV will look very different on the screen of the employer. The simpler the design and layout of the original resume, the easier it will be for them to read if they indeed use this system for getting through the applications of hundreds of job applicants. But don’t feel disheartened, there are others ways to get spotted amongst the crowd.

Don’t use jargon

The next hurdle, once you’ve got the recruiter or hiring manager reading your resume or cover letter, is to urge them to call you. Do not, I repeat, do not use jargon of any kind in either your resume or cover letter. The minute someone reads a sentence that starts with or contains “experienced in”, “team player”, “responsible for”, etc, etc, they switch off.

These phrases mean literally nothing. Nothing. Telling someone you’re a team player: redundant. Everyone should be a team player, and there is no one, not a single person ever, who has written on their resume that they’re not one. Instead, tell the employer what you like about working in a team. (On a similar note, also avoid the term “able to work autonomously” by explaining the times you’ve had to and how that’s gone.)  

When you go to use the words “experienced in” try to remind yourself that this is something that happens to you — not something you proactively go out and do. Instead refer to your background in terms of achievements. Search “typical jargon to avoid on a resume” for more.

Do show your personality

Remember that employers are people too. Work culture is important to lots of businesses, so they need to know that any potential new hire, freelance or otherwise, will be able to fit in and work with them. And if you can make the person reading your resume laugh, oftentimes you’ll get a call back.

Don’t list silly interests

I should add a qualifier to that, which says that it’s okay to list a really silly interest if you know and make a point of noting that it’s a silly interest. This makes you seem thoughtful, and definitely not as dumb as a person who says they like reading or sports on their resume. Reading what? It implies novels, but it could also mean signposts, Aldi catalogues, Post It Notes. And if you like playing cricket more than once a year on Boxing Day, then for the love of all that is holy (cricket on Boxing Day), say that. Otherwise, put down interests that you actually are interested in — they reveal a lot about the type of person you are, which again, goes to help with the point above.

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If you’d like to learn how to create a resume in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, or if you’d like to learn more about starting your own business, you can be enrolling in our PowerPoint training courses or our online Word training courses, or our Business Start Up Course.


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At EzyLearn you can choose from a range of XERO online courses, depending on your skill level — or you can access ALL courses for ONE LOW PRICE. All our courses are accredited by the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) and can be counted towards Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points. Find out more about our Xero online training courses. 


 

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Turning Your Business Idea into Income

How not to plunge into working for yourself — while working for yourself!

becoming an independent contractor_comp
You might have to supplement your income by working at a cafe or similar while you find your first clients.

IF YOU’VE DETERMINED THAT your business idea is viable and has the potential to generate revenue, then it’s time to start earning income from it.

We show you how to carry out market research and competitive analysis in our Business Start Up Course and this blog post will tell you the steps you should take to start deriving income from your business idea.

Have an income on the side

It’s unwise to plunge headfirst into self-employment. You need to have some income behind you while you’re getting your business off the ground. That may even mean leaving full time employment and taking up part time work in a cafe or retail shop. You have bills to pay and it’s neither fun nor productive being unable to. You do, however, need time to work on your business, so you can’t be so time poor and stressed that you can’t devote the necessary time to organising it.

You need to have some income behind you while you’re getting your business off the ground. That may even mean leaving full time employment and taking up part time work in a cafe or retail shop.

Start working as a contractor for other businesses

finding work as a contractor
Initially, be willing to work as a contractor while you build up clients for your own business.

Getting that first job or client is always the hardest part of starting any business. But it’s easier when your business is providing a service and you’re working as a contractor or freelancer.

Whether you’re a bookkeeper, virtual assistant, even a tradesperson, you can apply for jobs working with other businesses, rather than spending money you probably don’t have to market your business, while you wait for clients to find you.

Look for part time, contract or casual jobs you can apply to. If you see a company has been advertising for a full time employee for a while and it appears they’re having trouble filling the position, get in touch with them. Find out if there’s an opportunity for you to work with them on an ongoing freelance or part-time basis, or until they fill the position.

There are many businesses that would like to hire freelancers or contractors but don’t know where to find them, so they continue to employ by traditional means. If you can show them you’re capable, and that there are benefits to using a contractor or freelancer, then the job might just be yours.

Find a recruitment agency

The businesses that do like to hire contractors and freelancers, but don’t want to manage it themselves, go to recruitment agencies. If you’re in any kind of specialised or creative industry — IT, finance, business management, advertising, marketing, etc — then it’s a good idea to get a recruiter, maybe two. It won’t cost you anything, and it’s the best referral marketing a person can get. Plus, it’s always good to have someone in your corner when you’re just starting out, to ensure you’re getting fair market rates, conditions, and the like.

“Packaging” your services

Before approaching businesses or recruiters, you need to understand the value you bring. Sometimes this means combining a number of your skills and gaining other ones, to ensure you’re always in demand.

In business parlance, this is known as packaging your services, which we also cover in our Business Start Up course. To learn more, visit our website.


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Should You Start a Business That You LOVE or a Business YOU CAN DO?

Pairing knowledge with a gap in the market

how to find the right career path
I love watching TV. And I have an opinion on many things. Doesn’t mean I can monetise the pairing of these two. Or can I? Did somebody say Gogglebox? 

CONFUCIOUS ONCE SAID: “FIND a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”. That’s good advice, although it’s not always practical.

After all, I love watching television, but it’s probably impractical to try and monetise that to start a business — not impossible; but it is impractical.

A better measure of finding something you can turn into a business idea, and then a business, is to find something you’re good at, that also addresses a gap in the market. In other words, put your existing skills and work experience to use in a new, different way.

When skills meet reality: The Open Agent example

For some people, this does mean starting a business doing something they happen to love. Photographers, writers, even golf or tennis pros are using their existing skills that they do love, but often not how they might have first imagined. Photographing weddings instead of high fashion; content writing instead of novel writing; teaching golf or tennis instead of competing professionally.

Other people may not necessarily love their sales skills or aptitude for data analysis, but these are skills that can be put to use in a business that they do love. Take the real estate comparison service, Open Agent, for example. It was started by two former McKinsey and Company business analysts, using a WordPress website they built in a single afternoon.

Three years later, it had raised $20 million in funding, and the business had doubled in size for every 12 months it had been operating. The co-founders, despite having no real estate or technology experience, put their experience working at a management consulting firm to good use, as well as their connections to the business world to get their venture off the ground.

Finding VIABLE gaps in the marketplace

Earlier in this post, I said you should find something — a skill — you’re good at and channel that into a business idea that addresses a gap in the market. But this doesn’t automatically mean your idea is viable. It just means it has the potential to be. To determine if your idea is viable, and to what extent you can expect it to start generating revenue, you should carry out some market research and competitive analysis.

Find out what sorts of businesses like yours already exist and how they operate. What’s their target market, and what are the main issues business owners or the industry as a whole are facing?

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Find out what sorts of businesses like yours already exist and how they operate. What’s their target market, and what are the main issues business owners or the industry as a whole are facing?

If you’re not sure how to go about this, we cover it, as well as business planning and sales and marketing in our Business EzyStartUp Course. To find out more, visit our website.


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Thinking of Starting a Second Business? Introducing Jerry

Case Study: Costs for starting up a second, related business

microsoft excel starting a second business
Contemplating starting a second business, related in some way to your first? Excel can help you forecast start up costs.

A LOT OF BUSINESS OWNERS branch out into related fields when their flagship business becomes successful enough (just look at Jim’s Mowing). However, this can be a bit dicey if the business owner doesn’t properly forecast all the start up costs. Not doing so can not only have an adverse impact on the new venture, but also on the existing business.

In this case study, we’re going to look at the start up costs associated with starting a real estate sales business.

Meet Jerry, our budding entrepreneur

Jerry is a male in his 40’s, currently working as an agent for a local asbestos removal company, earning a commission for helping the company make sales. In this role, he works as an independent contractor, invoicing the asbestos removal company at the end of the month. Because of the work he does, Jerry meets with lots of homeowners (and business owners too) who are renovating their home in preparation to put it on the market for sale or rent out.

Because of the client contact base Jerry is always developing, and knowing that there is no conflict of interest, Jerry decides he’d like to branch and become a real estate salesperson.

Budgeting for a new business from home

Jerry decides to operate his real estate sales business from home, as he plans to operate it as a side business, at least initially. Jerry won’t need to lease office space, but there are the following costs he will need to budget for. The costs he foresees are approximate:

  • Real estate license training course: $2,250
  • Website setup costs: $300 + training (if required)
  • G Suite account: $5/month upwards + training (if required)
  • Mobile phone: $55/month upwards
  • Business cards, flyers, other marketing materials: $99 upwards

Jerry’s ad-hoc operational costs

Although the majority of Jerry’s operational expenses will be reimbursed by the vendor once the property is sold — property marketing, auctioneer costs, etc. — Jerry will need to ensure he has enough capital to cover these operational costs. Property marketing costs are determined based on a percentage of the property’s value, usually 1 percent but sometimes lower. The median price of property in Jerry’s area is $440,000.

Because Jerry is already working as an independent contractor, he doesn’t have to incur any other operational costs (office furniture, internet, information technology, etc.), however his bookkeeper may apportion these costs differently now that Jerry is operating an additional business.

Determining upfront capital required

Jerry already has two homeowners who are thinking of selling their home in the next 12 months. He estimates that based on the value of each property, he will need to spend $5,000 each on property marketing. Therefore, he’ll need at least $13,370 in startup capital to fund his new venture for the next 12 months — although he knows that the initial $20,000 in property marketing will be reimbursed to the business within 6 months.

How Jerry will measure his success

Jerry is located in Newcastle in the Hunter region of New South Wales. Clearance rates in this region hover around 70 percent and properties spend an average of 50 to 70 days on the market, as property is typically sold by private treaty rather than auction. These two metrics will be used to determine Jerry’s success. Price is not a good indicator, as the nature of property sales means Jerry should be valuing property accurately with only a 10 to 15 percent difference in the final sale price.

Jerry should also research other real estate agents selling similar property in his local area to determine how many sales they are writing each calendar year. This can become another benchmark for Jerry’s success, although only a peripheral one, as Jerry is still only operating his real estate business on the side.

***

You can use Excel to work out a budget for the start up costs for your second business, and use accounting software like Xero, MYOB or QuickBooks to forecast whether your existing business will have the capital to fund your new venture.

Our Excel training courses will teach you how to create budgets and forecasts and our cloud accounting training courses will show you how to determine the financial health of your business.


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