Even though bank feeds can dramatically reduce the amount of time spent coding transactions in your accounting software, if your business has a lot of transactions each month, it’s a good idea to perform weekly — or even twice weekly — reconciliations. You’ll not only further reduce the potential for errors, but it’ll also help to give you a clearer picture of your finances.
Improved cashflow management
Even though internet banking allows you to look at how much money you have in the bank, this is an imprecise way of managing your cashflow. By reconciling your accounts on a weekly basis, you’ll be able to see what money’s gone out of your account, and what’s due to be coming in. If you have staff, this will eliminate a lot of the stress of wondering whether you’ll have enough money in the bank to make payroll, because you’ll know in advance if there’ll be any cash shortfalls.
With weekly bank reconciliations, you’ll also find that your financial reports are greatly improved. This will enable you to make more correct sales forecasts, and to plan for machinery or equipment upgrades with a greater sense of accuracy. It’ll also help you to identify late paying clients and peak business cycles, so you can better manage your business operations — limit credit to late payers, hire more staff, etc. This type of financial information is the lifeblood of every successful business, so it has to be accurate.
If you’re hiring a bookkeeper to manage this for you, it’s worthwhile discussing whether they will perform this work once a week, or a couple of times each week. If your bookkeeper is contracted to perform a certain number of hours each week, they may decide to perform a few tasks a few times a week, so they’re more available to their other clients during the week. This is a bonus to the business owner, because it improves the accuracy of your reporting even further.
Cloud accounting software’s greatest innovation was not putting the software in the cloud; it was introducing bank feeds. You’ll learn how to set up bank feeds in the latest version of Xero in our Xero Bank Reconciliations and Journal Entries course. For now however, we’re going to explain why you should — whether you’re a business owner doing your own bookkeeping or whether you’re a bookkeeper employed to do it for your clients — be using bank feeds.
Bank feeds in brief
A bank feed is an automatically created list of the transactions (spent and received) in your bank account that is imported into your Xero accounting software. For this to occur, you have to give Xero permission to access your account. Some people feel funny about this, but bank feeds have been around for so long now that, just like online shopping, there’s really nothing to worry about. I won’t go into how the technology works, but I will say that no one looks at your account data; you’re just allowing the free flow of information between your bank and Xero.
Direct bank feeds save time (and indirectly, money)
There was a time when you or your bookkeeper had to wait until your bank statement arrived before any transactions could be reconciled in your accounting software, usually at the end of the month. For businesses with a lot of transactions, either in the form of receivables or payables or both, reconciling a month’s worth is a finicky job that’s prone to errors.
With bank feeds, transactions will show up in your accounting software as soon as the payment leaves your account or credit card. If you (or your bookkeeper) get in the habit of reconciling your account on a daily, twice weekly or weekly basis, it makes it easier to accurately code each transaction because you’re only dealing with a few at a time. This results in fewer errors and fewer hours spent fixing them, and that saves money (read: time = money).
When it comes to working out fees, most business owners go: “Well, the average market rate for my profession is X per hour and this job should take around Y hours” and off they go and give their client a quote that, in today’s small business parlance, is frequently referred to as being a fixed-price quote or the project fee.
This would be fine except that you’re essentially working on an hourly rate, without the benefit of being able to charge the client if you run over your allocated timeframe.
Quite simply, this is an inefficient way to set prices for your business. It’s an even more inefficient way to quote clients, because you’re either going to rush through their work in order to make it cost effective for you, or you’re going to increase your prices the next time around. Instead, you should factor job costings — that is, how much it will cost youto complete the job — into your prices. Here’s how:
Working out the direct costs of each job
This seems obvious, but countless new and established business owners overlook the direct costs of their services when setting their prices. Ask yourself how much, in a take home hourly rate, you can reasonably live on — is it $20 an hour? $25? $30? $35, perhaps?
Once you’ve settled on a rate, you then need to add in all the other costs associated with being employed in Australia. Tax is a big one. If you’ve been working for a while, you should have a fairly good idea of how much you will pay in tax based on how much you paid last year. If you’ve just started out, try and base it on an average number of hours you’d like to work per week for the next 12 months. Got that figure? Now go onto the ATO website and work out the rate of tax you’ll pay for each dollar you’ll earn. Add that to your hourly rate.
Do the same for sick leave, annual leave and superannuation, because if you’re going to work for yourself, you should have the same benefits as you would as an employee. Now add those on top of your hourly rate.
Working out the indirect costs of each job
We’re still not done with that hourly rate yet. It’s now time to work out the other costs, like wages office expenses. Think about the services you provide and what they entail. Is there travel involved — to your client’s office, for example — because you should add that in. Allocate both the time to get there and the approximate cost in mileage (note: some invoicing software, like QuickBooks’s self-employed app works out the cost of your business travel based on the ATO’s tax rates to give you an approximate dollar figure for each business trip you make). Also factor in other costs, such as parking, even though it’s a tax deduction, and add those costs to your hourly rate.
Nowwork out your fixed-price quote or project fees
Your hourly rate will now be significantly higher than the amount you need to live on, and it may even be higher than your competitors, but that’s okay. You’re not working on an hourly rate, remember. You’re creating a fixed-price or project fee, so you can choose to itemise your project fees however you like in the estimate you provide to clients. For example, if your hourly rate is now $50 but your competitors charge $35, take $15 for each hour you’ve allocated to the project and assign it as some other ancillary task. This is precisely how manufacturing businesses set the prices for the products they sell, and it’s no different for businesses, like law firms and advertising agencies, in the service industry.
Learn how to set the correct prices for your business, plus everything else you need to know about starting and operating a small business in our EzyStartUp Business Course. Visit our website for more information and to view all of our special offers to save money on your next EzyLearn training course.
Real estate agents specialise in knowing their local area. It’s how they get listings and it’s how they find buyers for those listings. In a former post, when we talked about setting your prices, we suggested getting to know your market and who your customer are. As a contract bookkeeper, you can, in theory, work for any business, based anywhere in the world, but you should still specialise in your local area, the reasons for which are twofold:
Fewer to compete with: This isn’t about being the biggest fish in the smallest pond. It’s about getting clients, and that’s what you want. If you’re based in Sydney, specialise in Sydney. Don’t try and compete with everyone in Australia, if you can just complete with Sydneysiders.
Convenience: The truth is, lots of businesses still like to meet their contractors in person. If you’re happy to fly all over the country to earn your regular bookkeeping rate, then by all means. If you’d rather not, then look for clients that are nearby — in the same state, at least.
When you’re setting up your Facebook advertising campaign, instead of trying to target everyone interested in bookkeeping services in Australia, stick to your state or local area, depending on the size of the market for your services in your local area. Sure, this reduces the pool of potential people seeing your advertisement, but it also reduces the pool of potential competitors.
When Local is Appealing to Global Clients Too
And just a note on getting international clients: Try to land international clients who are looking for an Australian, because you have skills they need — you’re in the same country as their Australian clients, you understand Australian tax, and so forth. Remember also that Australian wages are higher than anywhere else in the world, so international businesses need to be willing to pay that because you provide a service or possess skills they can’t get elsewhere.
Our EzyStartUp Course covers researching the market, setting prices, and an introduction to marketing and business planning, plus much more. If you’re starting a bookkeeping business or you already have started on, enrol in our EzyStartUp course to ensure you’re not selling yourself short.
Our Facebook Marketing Course which not only teaches you how to set up a Facebook Page, but how to use Facebook for business, how to advertise on Facebook; it also features our own real life case study.
Identify yourself: As a contract bookkeeper, your identity is your brand. Create a website or LinkedIn profile (or both), and include a picture of yourself. If you’re operating a business, don’t hide behind your business name. Include pictures of your team, even if that’s just you at this stage.
Educate with video: Show prospects that you know your stuff, by creating short videos explaining common issues businesses may have using MYOB, QuickBooks, Xero, etc. You may also create video tutorials that explain how you like clients to set up MYOB, Xero, QuickBooks etc.
Capture the local scene: Establish yourself as a local business, by taking photos when you visit a local business (whether it’s a cafe, hardware store, or clothing shop) and put them on social media. Be sure to connect with those businesses on social too, so they can share with their customers. Do the same with your clients. It’s a good way to establish firm connections with the businesses you work with, and to update them on your other business projects.
Using video and images to build your online presence should be part of your broader marketing strategy.
Our EzyStartUp Course covers researching the market, setting prices, and an introduction to marketing and business planning, plus much more.
Never Fear: A “Sales” Pitch Can Really Just Be a Conversation
After you’ve set the correct prices for your bookkeeping services, it’s time to perfect your sales pitch. It’s good to think about the way real estate agents sell a property to prospective buyers: Good sales agents don’t pitch to the buyer at all. Instead, they get to know the buyer and their needs. If that happens to suit the property they’re selling, they tell them so. If it doesn’t they tell them that too. Often, they’ll mention another listing they have that might better suit the buyer.
A successful sales pitch isn’t really a pitch at all. Remember that. It’s a conversation with a prospect to determine if their business needs and your services are a good match. If you set your prices correctly, by valuing your services strategically, then you should have only attracted prospects that fit a particular profile of your ideal customer.
The Three Elements of a Sales Pitch
Think of a sales pitch as possessing three key elements:
Identify problems the prospect needs solved:The first step is to identify their business problems, so you can offer a solution. If a prospect identifies “poor cashflow” as a problem, ask them if they’re invoicing regularly, have set up clear payment terms, have implemented a credit management policy. From here, you should determine what services they’re in need of, and explain those to the prospect.
Provide references: There’s no getting around this, unless you’re willing to work for free on a trial basis, something you should absolutely avoid. Real estate agents refer prospects to vendors they’ve represented previously, so you should do the same. If this is your first client offer to do some small task (daily reconciliations, say) as a one-off service, paid of course. Remember, a plumber or electrician doesn’t offer to work for free — they don’t even provide references. You don’t have to work for free, either.
Explain your process: Be clear about how you work straightaway. Most misunderstandings between businesses and freelancers or contractors occur because neither party agreed to a particular process in the beginning. If the business has contacted you, then you have the upper hand. Outline the procedure for getting work to you, payment terms, etc. If you contacted them first or responded to a job advertisement, you’ll need to work in with their processes, so be sure the opportunity is right for you before agreeing to it.
Don’t be a Commitment-Phobe in Business
Always remember to end the conversation by asking for a commitment. This is still a sales pitch, after all, so you need to make some business proposition that they agree to. You may propose to provide a small paid-task obligation free, to see how they like working with you, before they sign onto to a long term commitment; you may ask if you can contact them again in the future, if they don’t seem quite ready for your services right now (get their business details, add them to your marketing database).
Understanding the value of your services and how to pitch them to clients is vital to your business’s success. Our EzyStartUp Course covers researching the market, setting prices, and an introduction to marketing and business planning, plus much more. If you’re starting a bookkeeping business or you already have started on, enrol in our EzyStartUp Course to ensure you’re not selling yourself short.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: Glean Relevant Info from the Property Industry
As a bookkeeper, or someone thinking about becoming a bookkeeper, you may be surprised how much you can learn from real estate agents. For an example, take the way a real estate agent has to price a property for sale.
The key to selling a property quickly and efficiently, is setting the right price. A real estate agent who sets a price that’s too high for the market, isn’t doing her or his job properly. In such cases, the property will sit around for many weeks, or possibly even months, until the price is eventually reduced to one the market will bear, sometimes to well below market value. Real estate being what it is in this country, agents rarely undervalue their properties. When a buyer tells their friends they got a great deal on their new home, it’s usually due to the property being originally overvalued, rather than undervalued.
Most New Contractors Set their Prices Wrong
When business people, such as first-time or newly contracting bookkeepers, first start freelancing or contracting professional services to other businesses, very few know what their services are actually worth. Therefore they frequently overvalue or undervalue themselves. In the case of the former, they’ll discover pretty quickly that they’re overpriced (they don’t get any clients), but in the case of the latter, it may take a while longer to determine that they’ve undervalued themselves and their services.
The lesson bookkeepers can learn from real estate agents — good ones, at least — is to never do either. Here’s how you should value your booking services, to set the right price, just like a real estate agent would.
Value Your Services Like a Real Estate Agent
Know Your Market:
We cover this in our EzyStartUp Course; and it’s important to note that knowing your market isn’t simply confined to the start-up period. Continue to look at the market throughout the life of your business, because times change and you need to move with them. When we first put our training content online, we were one of the first training companies to do it; now you can do a whole university degree online!
Value Your Services Strategically:
Have you ever seen a real estate agent market a property as being identical to another one, even if it’s right next door? As a bookkeeper, you’re already competing in a crowded space, so always establish a point of difference between you and your nearest competitor(s) — a niche industry, a particular way of doing business. Whatever it is, find it, and capitalise on it.
Don’t Try and Be All Things to All People:
Know where to find your customers. Real estate agents know where their buyers come from and precisely what they’re looking for, then they market directly to them. You should do the same. Think about your local market, your services, and the type of customer who’d be looking for a business like yours. Then market to them and them only. Don’t waste marketing money trying to be all things to everyone.
Valuing your services correctly, and setting the right prices, is vital to the success of your business. Our EzyStartUp course covers researching the market, setting prices, and an introduction to marketing and business planning. If you’re starting a bookkeeping business or you already have started on, enrol in our EzyStartUp course to ensure you’re not selling yourself short.
We recently wrote about how QuickBooks uses the SuperStream-compliant service KeyPay to deliver payroll services because QuickBooks itself isn’t actually SuperStream compliant. Currently, the payroll feature in QuickBooks is free for all Small Business plans, as the company further positions itself as the low-cost accounting software option for Aussie small businesses.
I’m a fan of QuickBooks as the functionality is excellent and the cost of the software is still low. I’m really pleased to announce that you can now enrol in our QuickBooks Online Daily Transactions Course — but does QuickBooks fulfil Australian legal obligations to be SuperStream compliant?
The background is that from July 1 this year, all Australian businesses with fewer than 20 employees were required, by law, to be SuperStream compliant. SuperStream is a government initiative to improve the efficiency of Australia’s superannuation system, namely by making superannuation a totally electronic process.
Most cloud-accounting packages that have been developed for the Australian market (such as major applications, like MYOB, Xero, Reckon and so forth, but not smaller apps like Zoho or QuickBooks, which can be used in Australia but don’t interface well with Australian tax procedures) are now all SuperStream compliant, with one exception: QuickBooks.
As it turned out, QuickBooks itself isn’t listed as being SuperStream compliant because it doesn’t, technically, provide any payroll services. It’s partner, KeyPay, does. KeyPay is owned by an entity called Webscale, and Webscale is SuperStream compliant. It uses ClickSuper as their superannuation clearing house. In other words, although QuickBooks itself isn’t SuperStream compliant, it doesn’t matter because they’re partnered with a payroll company that is SuperStream compliant.
You Can Be SuperStream Compliant for Free
If you’re not using a cloud accounting application that’s SuperStream compliant because you’re using Freshbooks or Zoho, for example, or because you’re not using any account software at all (although, in this case, you need to stop being silly and implement an electronic procedure for managing your accounts now), there are still other, free options to ensure you’re SuperStream compliant.
The ATO’s Small Business Superannuation Clearing House is free for businesses with fewer than 20 employees and an aggregated annual revenue of under $2 million. You can register your business details with the Small Business Superannuation Clearing House and use it to make super contributions to your employees.
Alternatively, the superannuation fund, AustralianSuper, has its own clearing house, which is free to use for its members (i.e. as a registered employer using AustralianSuper as your default super fund). AustralianSuper’s clearing house, called QuickSuper, allows members to make electronic super payments regardless of the number of employees or whether the employee belongs to another super fund.
Need a Good Local Bookkeeper to Help Manage Your Financials?
Whether you are a bookkeeper keen to expand your client base or perhaps work remotely, or whether you’re a business person needing some vital bookkeeping advice and assistance, check out our newly updated, online National Bookkeeping Directory. Our goal? To match experienced and highly qualified local bookkeepers to local businesses around Australia.
But of course, with cloud accounting technologies, you are not limited to only working locally. Plenty of our bookkeepers and accountants work remotely for clients located all over the country.
The beauty of content marketing is that, as a system to source new leads, you can cover all the steps of the selling process without it seeming like a chore and, best of all, without feeling “salesy”, cheesy or inauthentic. It’s focus is about the potential client — it’s about providing them with relevant information that will benefit them — not ramming a sales pitch down their throat.
Good sales people realise that sales and the very process of selling is not about just “closing” a sale. Rather, it’s about understanding what the customer needs, seeing if your product is a good fit and then offering a solution to a customer’s problem.
How much of sales is Content Marketing?
To this end, content marketing is about 80% of the selling process or 80% of the sales funnel (as corporate sales people like to call it).
This is because content marketing involves information gathering; it involves seeing if your product and YOU are a good fit for your client.
These are the content marketing stages:
creating relevant and interest website content
‘call to action’ that results in email or mobile number capture
email or SMS marketing
social media profiles to engage with your prospects
CRM’s to manage the final parts of the selling process.
When you implement these systems you can sit back and watch it work and then focus on your conversion rate or what industry experts call CRO – Conversion Rate Optimisation.
Do you really want to be an online marketing professional? Let us manage it for you
January, February and March of a new year, which is typically the quietest as people take a while to adjust to the work and school routine, is when a lot of businesses spend time setting goals for the year ahead.
Just as individuals set their own personal new year’s resolutions, many businesses use January and February to set some new year’s resolutions for their business’s marketing activities.
Great Content is Like an Equilateral Triangle – All the Sides are Equal
As popular as content marketing has become in the last few years, many people still don’t quite understand that great content marketing requires you to pay equal emphasis on each component. This includes the word content itself in an ebook or enewsletter for instance, but also the layout and design, the SEO etc. It also needs to be free of typos!
I know, in the past, I’ve probably been guilty of rushing to publish content on our website because I’m so eager to share what we’ve created with you. But for content marketing to be successful in the long term, it needs to be approached holistically. In other words, the copy is equally as important as the design and the layout; the messages need to be consistent and you need to keep communicating with your customers — it can’t be hit and miss. Just as every side in an equilateral triangle must be created equal, so too do you have to consider all components equally when content marketing.
Outsourcing is Okay
As a small business, you probably have at least one person in your team who is either a) design inclined; or b) a good, strong writer. If you’re really lucky, you may have both, but it’s not uncommon for a business to need to outsource part of this work to a professional, usually on a contract or freelance basis.
Take stock of the talent you have in-house already. If you have a competent designer, utilise them and outsource the writing to a professional. It’s unwise to try and do everything yourself. Producing high quality content is a time-consuming process, made even more so if there’s a particular aspect of it — the writing, say — that you’re not proficient at.
I would say that most business owners do most of what I would loosely term ‘designing’, themselves, which in the case of blogging is choosing an image that accurately reflects the message you’re trying to communicate in the main copy.
Think Outside the Stock Box When it Comes to Photos for Your Blogs
There is a certain art to selecting images for your blog. You want to avoid using ones that every other blogger is using, which means ditching your regular Google Images haunt and using a stock library instead. But this is where you need to do your research.
Many free stock libraries serve up the same images that you find in Google Images, which brings you back to square one. They’re also incredibly boring. At this point, next logical option probably seems like paying for a membership to a stock library.
Again, research is required here. Not all stock libraries, even paid ones, are created equally. Well known libraries — iStock Photo, for example — are expensive, while the other, lesser known ones are still boring. So what’s a content marketer to do? Get creative.
Remember, content marketing is about creating original, high quality content that’s relevant both to your customers and to your business. With this in mind, rather than paying for expensive stock photography and images, why don’t you take your own? There’s nothing more original and relevant to you and your customers than your own photography.
Publishing original content on your blog and website, whether it’s in the form of images, copy or videos (or all of the above), the harder it will work at driving your search engine rankings, while, at the same time, the personalised approach will have a longer lasting impression on your readers and customers.
Prioritise Content Marketing in 2017
Bookkeepers especially — take note!
If you’re a bookkeeper looking to start your own bookkeeping business and find yourself clients, or grow you list of clients, and content marketing isn’t already on your agenda for 2017 — it should be.
In terms of having the experience and know-how to content market to people we know what our students need to be successful to this end, after all, most EzyLearn students use our services for MYOB Training Courses, Excel Training Courses, Xero Courses and Small Business Management Training because they’re looking for bookkeeping work or want to start a bookkeeping business. Very early in the piece we started finding out why our students did our courses because it enables us to develop targeted products (and write content about) what they need.
Join our Bookkeeping Directory TODAY
We’ve launched a new bookkeeping directory which is aimed at helping people (our students primarily) find bookkeeping work or start a bookkeeping business, but it’s also a great way for small businesses to find bookkeepers who are close to them. We’re also taking registrations for our content marketing online course.
If you’re interested in content marketing, either for your business or because you’d like to become an independent contractor offering content marketing services to other business, you can learn more by subscribing to our blog.
There are lots of services available that, for a fee, will register your business name, company structure, domain name, email hosting, and even register your business for GST and PAYG. But do you really need to use these services? Well, it depends.
You might if:
1. You need your ABN or business name registered NOW
A few years ago, we wrote about a service called e-companies, which provides all the registration services mentioned above using its direct portal to ASIC and the ATO. As a result, many company registrations are completed within five minutes, while ABN registrations are completed in fifteen minutes, providing aren’t flagged for further checks by the ATO.
2. Your business structure is complicated
The most straightforward business structure to set up and manage is a sole trader, but they’re not suitable for every business, particularly where more than one person will be running the business or where income from the business will be distributed to family members or other beneficiaries.
In such circumstances, you may need to structure your business as a trust or partnership. If you already know how trusts and partnerships work, you may choose to use a service to register your business structure, so you don’t miss any important steps along the way. Otherwise, you may need to engage a solicitor to structure your business.
Or — 3. Learn about partnerships and do it yourself
If you’re structuring your business as a partnership, a partnership agreement is crucial to your business’s success. It’s particularly necessary for businesses that intend to use PayPal, as PayPal will withhold your income until you provide a copy of your partnership agreement. Services that register business structures do not provide any guidance on how to draw up a partnership agreement, and so many businesses go without one, which can be disastrous if a partner ever wishes to leave the business or the business is later sold.
We created our Partnership Agreement Course because a partnership is the most risky business structure. The Partnership Agreement Course, which now costs just $48 (down from $97) provides you with a template, explanatory notes, and all the standard clauses, including exit clauses for when the partnership needs to be dissolved. Once you’ve drawn up your partnership agreement, you’ll also be able to access lower tax rates with the ATO.
In a post I published about starting your own business in January 2017, I said that all small business owners should have an understanding of traditional and digital marketing. You’ll be surprised how many don’t!
All businesses have a digital aspect to them these days so it’s vital that business owners and managers know how to manage the digital aspects of their business. This starts by understanding some of the terms used and how websites, domain names, hosting and the Google search engine works.
It doesn’t matter whether you intend to start a fully digital business (i.e. a home based bookkeeping business or online shop for example) or if you will start a more traditional bricks and mortar business (a cafe, retail clothing or gift shop, or some other business with office or retail space), you need to understand how to use the internet to develop new leads, engage with your existing customer base, and build your presence online.
Register for Our FREE Digital Business Foundations Course
I created a free Digital Business Foundations Course to help new and existing business owners understand how to digitise their business. You can register for our free Digital Business Foundations Course (scroll about half way down the page) to begin receiving the free course content. Some of the things you’ll learn include:
Insights into websites
How Google Search works
How businesses use Content blogs for SEO
What SEO really is, plus much more.
Each of the principles discussed in the free Digital Business Course were applied to EzyLearn, when it transitioned from a bricks and mortar training centre business to an online only training business, and have been used by 123ezy, which provides content marketing for real estate agents, content writers and bookkeepers across Australia.
Case Study: Baby Massage Business
I wrote about Sonia Mitterdorfer and her baby massage business in August this year. For most of her working life, Sonia had been a registered nurse. After raising her family she wanted to return to the workforce in some sort of meaningful capacity and heard about baby massage. Her first introduction was a seminar (incidentally, run by a middle aged blokeholding weekend retreats helping new parents understand and bond with their babies!)
So many business people think (wrongly) that a domain name is simply the cost of a website, but that’s just the name — you need to:
point it (DNS) to a web host
set up your email at the web host (I prefer to outsource that to Google Apps — now called Google G Suite)
install website design software like WordPress
create the pages and menus
insert images (source them and edit them)
write some words (that Google thinks are relevant).
Don’t worry if you feel a little bamboozled — we cover all of this in our WordPress course!
Add an Online Dimension to Your Business
The majority of people, when they’re looking for a product, service, restaurant, cafe, real estate agent, bookkeeper, virtual assistant — online training course, even — will search online. Even if you think your business is already doing well, if it’s not optimised to deliver online leads, then it could be doing much better.