projectjen.com http://projectjen.com making things happen Tue, 05 Nov 2013 00:17:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.10 There’s no place like home… http://projectjen.com/2013/11/05/theres-no-place-like-home/ http://projectjen.com/2013/11/05/theres-no-place-like-home/#respond מימק
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Tue, 05 Nov 2013 00:17:00 +0000
http://projectjen.com/?p=555 This post was spawned from a question at a recent job interview and a talk given by my friend Jordan at Bar Camp Nashville.

I’ve been working remotely for a few years.  Sometimes as my full-time gig, sometimes as my side-hustle.  For me it’s easy.  I am OCD, introverted, and a pro at multi-tasking.  Working remotely and communicating via email is the best thing EVER.

As of May 2013, I have no additional office space.  I work from home, I meet clients at coffee shops or in their spaces, and I teleconference with people in other cities.  I have a “schedule”, but it’s not 8-5.  I book clients about a week in advance so I can plan accordingly. As a general rule, Monday-Friday I am out of bed and behind my computer by 10:30.  If I have appointments, I don’t start work until 10am.  Why? I learned long ago that I don’t like mornings.  My best work actually happens after 7pm.  Saturday and Sunday are work optional days.  Sometimes, I would rather work on the weekend if it means that I get to take a day off mid-week to take care of personal things.

So, if I don’t do mornings, how do I get things done with people in the “normal” work world?  I work on an off-set schedule.   I frequently send out emails with questions for clients or some sort of progress report at night or at the end of my work day.  If all goes well, those emails are being answered first thing in the morning by clients and co-workers and waiting in my inbox by 10:30.  I plow through my list of chores and get something back to them around the time that they would be wrapping up their lunches and heading back to work.

In addition to these perks, I can set my own pace for jobs.  I work binge.  If I have a project that requires a few hours of my time, I would rather do it all in one sitting and put it to bed.  When I worked in an office with set hours, I hated having to clock out because it was “quitting” time and have to wait until morning to complete something.  That said, I also get to take days off in the middle of the week because I took a two day job and crammed it into one day.

Some people ask if my work day has an actual end?  The answer is sometimes.  Around 6:30 I will probably avoid answering my phone or responding to new business emails.  If I happen to be working after “normal” hours, I may continue responding to “old business” via email.

Working from home DOES NOT work for everyone.  If you have a problem budgeting your time, you should probably avoid this type of work, or you should split your time working in an office vs working remotely.   If you have a hard time working for long hours without supervision, working from home is not for you.  You should also avoid working in coffee shops and co-working spaces, they are full of distraction.

Confessions,  I don’t usually get dressed for work in the traditional sense.  Often I am in my pjs or a t-shirt and shorts.   If it’s a video conference day, I would make sure to be dressed appropriately, but those don’t happen often.  Sometimes when I get stuck on a client problem, I clock out and do some stuff around the house.  I cook, I clean, I might do some laundry.  Since I am not on a work restricted network, sometimes I take a break and chat with a friend on instant messenger.

More confessions…  I used to work from home with a kid.  I was a nanny at the time.    I just scheduled anything phone or video related during nap time or on the days that I didn’t have the kid.

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How to change things when change is hard http://projectjen.com/2013/07/16/how-to-change-things-when-change-is-hard/ http://projectjen.com/2013/07/16/how-to-change-things-when-change-is-hard/#comments Tue, 16 Jul 2013 19:01:21 +0000 http://projectjen.com/?p=550 I just finished “Switch: How to change things when change is hard”, by Chip and Dan Heath.  I loved their first book “Made to Stick” and decided why not spend my mini break (and sadly the month after) reading their book on change.

I am that girl who writes notes in books.  Now that I have switched to ebooks, I am trying to find a good way to store my notes and highlights (is there an app that moves them to a safe place?).   I’ve had two library books stashed in my kindle app for over a month Switch and Steal Like an Artist (I just posted about that on my other blog).  Syncing would wipe out my notes.  The time has come to share my thoughts so I can upload new books.

  • “For anything to change, someone has to start acting differently”
  • “For individuals’ behavior to change, you’ve got to influence not only their environment but their hearts and minds.  The problem is this, Often the heart and mind disagree, Fervently.”
  • “Change is hard because people wear themselves out”
  • The brothers Heath had an interesting visual on change.  You have an elephant, a rider, and a path.  They took the concept from Jonathan Haidt’s book “The Happiness Hypotheses”“You’ll direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and Shape the Path.”
  • Bright-spot philosophy,”What’s working and how can we do more of it?”
  • Don’t get hung up on understanding the past to make change.
  • Create “Big Hairy Audacious Goals… 10 to 30 year goal(s) to progress towards an envisioned future.
  • “When you’re at the beginning, don’t obsess about the middle, because the middle si going to look different once you get there, just look for a strong beginning and a strong ending and get moving.”
  • “Checklists simply make big screwups less likely”
  • “When you’re leading an Elephant on an unfamiliar path, chances are it’s going to follow the herd.  So how do you create a herd?”
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Lemonade Stand http://projectjen.com/2013/07/15/lemonade-stand/ http://projectjen.com/2013/07/15/lemonade-stand/#respond Mon, 15 Jul 2013 15:11:03 +0000 http://projectjen.com/?p=56 So, you have a great product idea.  You decide you want to make your millions on this product. Can you really make millions on this product?

My last post was about planning with the end in mind.  I’ve recently sat down with a freelancer, and two small businesses to discuss job costing.  I know that finance is scary, but think about your first entrepreneurial venture, the lemonade stand.  You borrow money from your parents, you mix up your lemonade, you set up a table in the front yard and then you get to work in the hopes that you can pay mom back, and buy yourself a new toy.

So, your end goal is that new toy.  It’s $10.  You borrowed $10 from your parents to buy supplies (they wanted you to earn the toy, rather than give you money for the toy directly).  It’s pretty simple math.  You need to sell enough lemonade to pay your parent’s back and buy the toy.  End goal, clear $20. Simple enough.

Other things to factor in.  Other lemonade stands in the area.  You need to price your goods competitively.  Then there is the actual cost of goods sold.  Ingredients, cups, a sign, and maybe some decorations for your front yard set up.  If you are lucky,  You can scavenge around for the decorations, and make the sign yourself.  You are down to cups and ingredients, and you have $10.

Around the corner, your neighbor is selling lemonade for $0.50 a cup and they are making it from a mix.  If you go with a mix,  You can’t really sell your lemonade for more. You could use better ingredients (although more costly) to raise the price.

Most small businesses, end up running right out to the store with $10 and buy the ingredients for their lemonade.  They get the nice cups, they get the organic ingredients, they make a glorious signage, they sit out at the curb, and sell lemonade until they have exhausted their supplies and themselves.  If they are disciplined, they spend their earnings from the day on more supplies and they show up the next day with more lemonade.

Does that define success?  Not really.  Your goal was to make money.  At some point you have to make money off the cups of lemonade, not just get more supplies for lemonade.  You want to make enough money to pay off what ever start up costs you had.  You want to pay off any loans you took out to open your lemonade stand.  You want to pay yourself for your time spent running the lemonade stand (at least minimum wage).

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Plan with the end in mind http://projectjen.com/2013/07/13/plan-with-the-end-in-mind/ http://projectjen.com/2013/07/13/plan-with-the-end-in-mind/#respond Sat, 13 Jul 2013 15:00:49 +0000 http://projectjen.com/?p=44 I recently gave a small talk about what I do at a business lunch. When people see that I am a Quickbooks Advisor, they automatically label me as a bookkeeper. By trade I am a project manager. In my 10 years of project management experience, I have found that the reason that most project fail is because of money, or lack thereof.

During my last 5 years at my old job, I was fortunate to apprentice with an a Fiscal Monitor. We would go on site visits with contractors and go over their books. Tracking grant money from our office, to their office, through the project. It changed the way I looked at projects. When I was thinking about leaving my government job. A friend told me that I should get Quickbooks Certified. It would up my game as a project manager. She was right.

My first Quickbooks install was for my own small business.  I planned with the end in mind.  At the end of the day, the end goal of a project is to make money.  I decided how I wanted to track my income, my expenses, reimbursable purchases, etc. I could track who owed me money.  I could easily run reports to see how much money I made in a month (or how much money I needed to make to pay my rent the next month).  I had actual numbers to support estimates for clients.  Then, when I sold my business a month ago, I had realistic information for the new owner on her sales projections.

I’ve been able to take a more holistic approach to finance than many of my peers because of my experience as a project manager and my time conducting contractor audits.  Most accountants and bookkeepers don’t have field experience, or they choose to just see numbers as numbers.  When I take on a new client, I let them know that I will be as invasive as they want me to be.  I can be just a numbers girl, or I can make sure that they make as money as possible.

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Read your bank statements http://projectjen.com/2013/02/12/read-your-bank-statements/ http://projectjen.com/2013/02/12/read-your-bank-statements/#respond Tue, 12 Feb 2013 20:19:13 +0000 http://projectjen.com/?p=40 I know it’s a chore, but it’s a good practice to reconcile your bank and credit card statements on a monthly basis.  Debit/credit cards and online transactions make life a little easier, but they  make it easier for you to lose track of expenses and they are often a target for theft and fraud.

 

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Time is money http://projectjen.com/2013/01/16/time-is-money/ http://projectjen.com/2013/01/16/time-is-money/#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2013 19:45:11 +0000 http://projectjen.com/?p=36 Time is money guys.  There’s the time it takes for me to work on things, the time it takes to meet with a client on things, and the time I could have been working on other things. There is also the time spent thinking about client things when I should be relaxing (I call that failure to unplug)

Lately, managing my time is like a cross between Tetris and Jenga.  Tetris, as I attempt to fit all of the client meetings and other work things into my already crazy google calendar.  Jenga, as I get cancellations and requests for rescheduling.  It’s great when I have enough notice, and I can reschedule something in that empty space, but most of the time, moving all the stuff around on short notice leads to an upset  in the system and I don’t end up with enough billable hours for the month.

One work around for this is to charge a cancellation fee based on when the cancellation was made.  The closer the cancellation to the appointment, the more the business may charge.  Right now, we happen to be in the thick of flu season.  Do I charge the two clients that cancelled?  One notified me a day in advance, the other missed her appointment completely.  Does it mean anything if this is the second time I’ve had to reschedule for the client cancelling in advance?

 

 

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Meme-vertizing http://projectjen.com/2012/12/17/meme-vertizing/ http://projectjen.com/2012/12/17/meme-vertizing/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2012 23:34:37 +0000 http://projectjen.com/?p=30 As a small-business owner on a budget, I’ve started using viral marketing referred to as an internet meme on Facebook and Twitter to advertize my seamstress services.  1) It allows me to show potential customers the type of services I can provide.  2) It’s “sticky”.  People connect with the images and hopefully remember me when they end up in a similar clothing situation. 3) People are sharing this stuff with their friends.  Pictures are getting more views and shares than anything else I have shared on my business’ facebook wall.

Here’s a slideshow of my low-budget advertizing…

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Financial Forensics http://projectjen.com/2012/12/09/financial-forensics/ http://projectjen.com/2012/12/09/financial-forensics/#respond Sun, 09 Dec 2012 19:40:25 +0000 http://projectjen.com/?p=24

Image from Landmark Business Solutions

I recently set up QB for a client and over the course of entering and reconciling a years worth of data I found that 40% of the information I entered was found on bank statements.   She thought she was a great hoarder of receipts, but that was not the case. The main culprit was online transactions.

We live in an electronic era.  Not all of us get around to printing out the email or invoice related to the online transaction.  The good news is that there is a paper trail related to these transactions on your bank and credit card statements. The key is to link these transactions to expense categories when your statements come in to maximize on tax write-offs.   One of my clients provides me with annotated credit card and bank statements so I can match up the transactions with an expense category.  It’s worked pretty well so far.
Another unsolved mystery to work through is cash transactions.  In this case we aren’t so lucky.  There is no back up system to figure out the difference between cash earned and cash deposited when you don’t keep track.  If you are bad at keeping receipts, make a point of depositing your cash ASAP.  Use your business credit or debit card instead of cash.
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Knowing when to do what, when you are the person in charge http://projectjen.com/2012/12/02/knowing-when-to-do-what-when-you-are-the-person-in-charge/ http://projectjen.com/2012/12/02/knowing-when-to-do-what-when-you-are-the-person-in-charge/#respond Sun, 02 Dec 2012 20:25:21 +0000 http://projectjen.com/?p=20 It’s hard to remember when to do what when you are self-employed.  There’s no boss telling you what your daily/weekly assignment is.

I find it’s best to keep a to-do list that has dates assigned to tasks (I use google calendar’s task feature.  I can access it on the web and on my phone).  I also use monthly happenings like the day that bills/bank statements arrive in the mail or specific days of the week as a reminder.

For example.

  •  I try and make time to do bank reconciliations in QuickBooks the day that I get my bank statement.  USAA sends me reminders via email.  If I can’t get to it that day, I will star the email and leave it in my inbox as an action item.
  • My business week ends on Monday.  On Tuesdays I take care things in QuickBooks.  I enter in my mileage for the week, along with entering the receipts from my business wallet (I keep a 2nd wallet in my purse for business transactions).  I also go through and take care of deposits, figuring out what invoices are over due, etc…

Since my business is service based,  I try and get to projects in the order that they were received, unless there is a specified deadline involved.  Rather than invoice on a specific day.  I invoice customers as I go and notify them that their project has been completed.  If I wait around, there is a high probability that I will forget to invoice them.

 

 

 

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the day I stop learning… http://projectjen.com/2012/11/27/the-day-i-stop-learning/ http://projectjen.com/2012/11/27/the-day-i-stop-learning/#respond Tue, 27 Nov 2012 14:58:31 +0000 http://projectjen.com/?p=17 Live everyday with purpose of learning something new.

Evan Carmichael

I try and learn something new EVERY day.  With the internet at my fingertips this is pretty easy.  I took my QuickBooks classes online.  I’ve taken social media classes online.  I’ve brushed up on my accounting terminology online.  I am not sure why people complain about taking classes when most of them can be taken in the comfort of one’s home in one’s pjs.

Once you start surfing the web, it’s pretty easy to get sucked into various time sinks.  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc… While they are necessary evils for small business, you have to just back away sometimes in the interest of getting things done.

During the week I nanny.  Watching kids is a great lesson in time management.  When the kid is napping, I had better be doing something productive if there are items lingering on my to-do list.

Last week I learned all about QuickBooks 2013 and I took the certification exam.  This weekend I brushed up on my web design skills.  This week, I will start taking the Quickbooks advanced certification class and finish cleaning up the two web sites I built.

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