Quick Tips For the Self-Employed

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Disclosure: this is a sponsored post in collaboration with Intuit QuickBooks and #WeAllGrow Latina Network. I remember taking the leap into self-employment and feeling all together lost in the sea of tasks that had to be managed.

It was hard enough trying to figure out the differences between s corps and LLC's, making sure everything was set up correctly and finally, figuring out finances.

Finances.

Yup, I said it. Spreadsheets, post it notes, invoices in a Word doc. That was my life, people!

Thankfully, I'm here to share another way with you. Because there's no reason for you to have to go through my shenanigans. Learn from my mistakes!

Intuit QuickBooks offers you a way to maintain all things accounting. No more spreadsheets, folks.

My biggest fear was messing something up on my taxes. You don't have to worry about such things, any longer.

With tools like the self-employment tax calculator, you'll be able to avoid the heartburn and night sweats that could be brought on when working on taxes. Oh and did I mention that this calculator is free99? That's also important when you are self employed. Amirite?

Lisssen, I'm not good with the maths so any help I can get, I'll take it! I'm glad for services like this that also give you things you didn't even know you needed.

When I was purchasing my home last year, additional paperwork was requested (at the last minute, of course) that could've put my closing date at risk. Now, I learned about this in my finance class but did I have it ready? I sho did not.

There was some running around all over the place that could've totally been avoided. You see, Intuit QuickBooks also offers a free income statement template, examples, and a guide! These are all things I wish I'd had at my finger tips.

Don't wait until you are in a bind (around tax time or home purchases or any myriad of moments) to realize that you should have an accounting tool working for you.

The best tips for self-employment that I can give are:

  1. Track your purchases and expenses
  2. Create invoices and payment systems
  3. Have business forms like income statements handy
  4. Automate/streamline as much as you can so you can focus on your work

All these tips can be covered by Intuit QuickBooks. It's a one stop shop.

I recently found a new gem for those women entrepreneurs out there, too. They've released A Woman’s One Stop Resource for Starting and Financing a Business which provides information on starting up and financing our dreams. Doesn't get much better than this.

For more details and information, you can check out the website and get at them on Facebook and Instagram. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you find. This stuff makes the maths more bearable and the business more fruitful.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Intuit QuickBooks and #WeAllGrow Latina Network. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

I'm Not a Player I Just Plan a Lot

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I've been busy, y'all. This is why I can't have nice things, like holiday weekends and such. What drives me to this? I want to be organized! So I create systems to get me there (full disclosure: it's my own brand of procrastination. You're welcome).

In 2015 I brought you the blog planner Organizada and now, here we are on the cusp of 2017 and of course, I gotta bring you the business. This time, it's not one or two BUT three planner!

I mean, it's not even my fault! I blame it all on Amiyrah! You see, I already had the idea to refresh the organizer but was not motivated due to the leading up to and finalization of the move. Except that I told my girl she should put a planner together and when she called me to collaborate, I couldn't say no.

Once those 2 were in the planning stages, I remember folks asking for a entrepreneur's planner. And I already knew what it would be called and what it would have inside after surveying some folks. So, why not three?

It's like having kids, no? As I sit here waiting for the sun to rise I realize more and more how true that statement is. Sigh. I'm tired but happy.

The planner pre-orders are launching today for Cyber Monday. Want to know more about them and how they will ensure success in 2017? Let me introduce you to the trio that will change your life in ...drum roll please...

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Organizada: A Blogger's Guide to Getting It Together™

Your one-stop shop planner for bloggers including monthly planner, goals and overviews, income and expense tracking, social shares tracking, weekly calendars to track your posts and their social shares and a long list/short list model to ensure you’re knocking out that to do list. All of this and more in a sleek, undated planner in its original 6x9 size for the 2.0 version.

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The Full Life Planner: A Woman's Guide to Thriving™

Keeping life on track with monthly goals, budget and calendar pages. But more than that, this planner also provides pantry lists, weekly meal plans, a long list/short list model to guarantee that you’re knocking out the to do list and a monthly recap that will remind you of your accomplishments and get you pumped for the following month. All in a compact and undated 6x9 planner. I mostly want to hoard this for myself because these last couple of months have derailed me from all meal planning, grocery shopping and budgeting (but don't tell Amiyrah otherwise, she might disown me).

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Jefa: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Success™

Spanish for Boss Lady, Jefa (pronounced heh-fah) is sure to keep you focused on your business with monthly strategy pages and calendar, budget tracking, long list/short list for the long to do list, monthly recaps to keep you on track to the quarterly goals you’ve set your sights on. All this and a little more on top in a portable, undated 6x9 planner.

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These pre-orders will come with a special gift and are priced, for a limited time, at $34.95!

Do you have a favorite? It's okay if you have more than one. We planned for that to happen so, be sure to check out the bundles we created at special prices. You won't be disappointed!

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What do you say? Are you ready to thrive? You know we are! 

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Working Mami: Meal Planning for Peace of Mind

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I'm trying to keep up with the Working Mami series, y'all! Today we're talking meal planning and my struggle. I hope this serves you. You wouldn't think that something like food would cause so much stress. I mean, it's food! And yet I have found a great source of stress in trying to answer the age-old question "what's for dinner?".

I don't have it figured out yet but I have realized that if I organize my grocery shopping and meal planning, the week goes by with less stress which affects my overall mood and productivity at work AND at home.

Related Post: Organizing For a New Month

A lot of times we think working from home will mean that we'll have this food situation better settled but, I haven't found that to be the case. Because I'm "here" I think I slacked in planning ahead a bit. I'm changing that (it's a work in progress, people).

I love going to sites like 4 Hats and Frugal where Amiyrah Martin talks about her $64 grocery budget and some pretty great recipes along the way. The key is planning ahead. She's got loads of tips and tricks to get you there, too.

Meal Planning for Peace of Mind. Lord knows I need this!

I got myself a copy of the Living Well Life Planner and I am ashamed to admit that I haven't been using it to the best of my abilities. Again, this is changing and I am showing myself some grace instead of coming down on myself for not being on top of things.  I told you a little about this planner before and it's still one of my favorites.

Using the planner means I get to write out the meals for the week (breakfast, lunch & dinner). From there, I go to my grocery list and put down what I need to purchase in order to make those meals happen.

The one BIG thing that I have missed in the past was prep. My sister preps all of the meals she's cooking during the week on Sunday. I think that's amazing. I'm not there yet but, this is my goal.

I spent some time yesterday meal planning and grocery shopping. In the evening I made my version of Chicken Gloria and I prepped the veggies for a Thai chicken soup.

Mondays tend to be naturally hectic. I think a crock pot meal is ideal for us because it gets thrown into the pot when I get up for lunch (this forces me to get up for lunch so I don't skip it...win-win!). And today, because I prepped in advance, it means that I am literally just putting all the ingredients in the crock pot, turning it on and continuing about my day. It's a beautiful thing.

Food is important. Living life stress-free is important. Planning and organizing at work is important but let's not forget to also do it at home. Okay?

What's your pain-point at home that you feel affects your overall mood and productivity?

Note: I keep some pretty awesome recipes to help me with this planning. Check out my Pinterest page!

Working Mami: Organizing For a New Month

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February is here! Woohoo! The month of love. As in...love organizing! Last week was...interesting. So, I wrote a post giving you tips on what to do to survive cold/flu season and lo and behold, I got a call on Thursday that the Frog Princess was running a 102 degree fever. Suffice it to say that my entire schedule for the remaining of the week went out the window. That included a fashion post I wanted to share with you last Friday. I had to edit pics and didn't get a chance to do so (do not procrastinate, people!).

Related Post: Tools That Keep Me Organized

Alas, such is life.

It is a new month and guess what?! We have the grand privilege of doing it all over again! Ain't it great?! To that end, I want to tell you what I do to get ready for a new month. This will be short and sweet! Feel free to send me your questions if there's something you need to know. Also, I share thoughts about organization and bawsing on Periscope. If you don't catch me live, you can check out the Katch account for the videos after the 24 hours are up on Periscope. Word to the wise, a lot of the videos get taken down because the info will make it into my e-courses (have you checked out the first one? Class begins soon!).

Organizing for the New MonthOkay, here it is:

  1. Close out the previous month - so I did this over the weekend although ideally, I would've like to have gotten it done last week. Closing out the month includes perusing my month-at-a-glance in my blog organizer and making sure that I've turned in any links for sponsored posts and have invoiced accordingly. I update the info right on that page and keep it moving to my next step.
  2. Write down my lessons learned and outcome! This is important. I say this because I am terrible at it and need to hear it yet again. In the planner, there's a section for goals and a corresponding section for outcome. There's also a section for lessons learned. I realized that I wasn't utilizing these as much and have doubled back to make sure that I am celebrating my wins and working on my misses. Does that make sense? For example, I set a crazy goal in January and made it. On January 12th! WHAT?! [insert shoulder shimmy, glitter and body rolls] That needs to be celebrated and I am trying my hardest to do this every week before I...
  3. Plan out next month - why yes, I do move on to the next month's section in the organizer and set new goals. I also open up my week and start brainstorming. Who am I pitching? Are there any topics that I want to write about? Any topics I want to Scope about? That all gets written down and then funnels into my editorial calendar.
  4. Do a quick overview of editorial calendar - be sure to make sure you account for special dates, holidays, etc. This month is hard on me y'all. Being real honest. The anniversary of Mami's passing is on Tuesday and 4 days later is her birthday so, I try to take these things into account. It means that the writing for that time period is done in advance. And I can go ahead and plan my writing time before it gets here. Similarly, if the kids are going to be out of school and you know you might not have your regularly scheduled writing time, if you put that into your editorial calendar, you can go ahead and set up a system to ensure that you still have posts going up during that time period.

That's it! Four quick tips to make sure you have a great month! I'm working on lack o' sleep so, what'd I miss here?

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Are you ready to take blogging to the next level? Sign up for this blogging e-course to teach you how to plan, pitch and make more money from your blog!

Working Mami: Tools That Keep Me Organized

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I work. A lot. I am supreme in the juggling skills. Often, I get asked how I get it done. I often joke that I don't sleep. This is partially true. I am also hyper-focused and creative in a way that can seem scary. 

I'm a raving lunatic on most days. If I have ever divulged the inner workings of my brain on any given span of minutes first: I apologize. Why you ask? Because when I do this I have the ability to make people hyperventilate. I am careful as to who I share this with. After all, the Baker act is a real thing in Florida.

But ultimately, I have a list of things needed to keep me going. And tools that keep me (somewhat) sane. Here they are in no particular order.

Organizada! FB_Ad_Organizada_TrayWhy of course, I have my very own blog planner on top of my list. I created it because I needed a system to keep me together. And so, this is front and center on my desk.

OneNote

The crazy notes, the ramblings during a creative purge, the thoughtful words that come during a conference call? Those go right up into OneNote. I have notebooks! MomsRising, Mamihood Media, The Mamihood, etc. These are all notebooks. Within those notebooks you will find appropriate tabs where thoughts, ideas and future world-ruling guidelines can be found. If anyone ever happens to me, I have left my OneNote notebooks to specific people. Because they are treasures, dammit.

Living Well Planner

Living_Well_Planning_PageI recently purchased this life planner after seeing Amiyrah unbox hers on Periscope and share how she plans and organizes. Though I consider myself an organizational strategist, I'm not afraid to tell you that I sometimes have a hard time doing this for myself. And so, I seek amazeballs friends like Amiyrah for knowledge. I love this planner because it allows me to do all things not related to work. Budget, meal planning, calendaring, etc. All. Of. It. It's fantabulous and you can't have it! Well, you can. But you can't have mine.

Trello

One of the big realizations over the last quarter of the year of Epic is that if I am to build an empire, I need help. And so, titi Q has been enlisted as my CTO and temporary Virtual Assistant (until a real one is found: currently contracting work out. For realz). But I realized that I'd become the disconnected CEO of me. Because I expected mind reading to come with whoever was helping me and that is not to be.

Enter Trello. There, I create my lists and can SHARE IT. I can assign work and I can track outcomes. Pretty cool, eh?

Office 365 Enterprise

The biggest/newest/shiniest thing? This Office 365 Enterprise edition. I am officially official. One account for me and one account for my assistant. One enterprise OneDrive which means that all of my work files are accessible to all employees of The Mamihood. My email is finally handled (thanks to my CTO). I no longer have multiple addresses. All emails go to one place. It allowed me to clear out 18k emails over the holiday! I have to stay on top of things and I don't have much time so streamlining is paramount. This, along with Trello will ensure that I can clearly communicate what needs to happen, how and by whom.

These are the tools currently in my toolbox. I might add more. I might shift a little (Trello is the newest of tools and I am still getting acclimated).

Whether you use these tools or others, it is super important that you get yourself a system to keep you on track. You can't take over the world if you don't know where your weapons are.

If you are a blogger and want to get yourself organized AND kick ass on pitching and making what you're worth, check out my new e-course!

11 Must Haves for Bloggers

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Most people think I’m extremely organized. But, I have a confession to make: I have a hard time maintaining my organization. When things get hectic, my house and office tend to show it. As does my brain. As a blogger, a single mom and a work-from-home awesome bringer, it’s imperative that I stay organized and keep it together to stay on top of my game. To that end, I’ve created an essentials list of things I think a blogger must have in their repertoire. [Read More]

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5 Ways to Effectively Work From Home

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 How to Effectively Work From Home We work from home. Sili, myself and a million other mom bosses. It sounds like the ideal situation but here is a bit of insight. This month has been extremely busy for me, I may or may not have taken on a bit more than I should have. Not to mention that my home office is in complete disarray and the pile of laundry on top of the wash is a huge distraction. Needless to say, working from home while it has its benefits, has its share of downsides. But I wouldn't trade it for the world and in an attempt to get myself back on track, here are a few tips I shared on my own blog on how to work effectively from home. Brew the coffee, lets get to work...

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This post is brought to you by Yanira from YaniraGarza.com, MomBoss and borderline basic thanks to a serious love of pumpkin spice. Dare to judge.

On Blogging and Tweeting: Best Practices

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BestPracticesDisclosure: this post is part of my course project at SNHU. For more information, please go to mySNHU page. Also: I'm an Office Champion and that relationship has facilitated this giveaway. This week's post (the final one for my Social Media class) brings us to the question of best practices for blogging and tweeting. Being in social media means that I am forever culling through blogs, webinars, workshops and classes to glean more information on the topic.

Most days I feel like my brain is oozing with too much information. However, I think one of the primary best practices is having a plan. Social media isn't sitting in front of the computer and just putting thoughts into 140 characters. I mean, it is. Don't get me wrong, I do this all the time for my personal accounts. But when looking at the business of it all, a plan of action is necessary.

An editorial calendar is key. I think I mentioned it in a previous post. My first interaction with one was with Mel over at MomComm. She provided us with a cool one in Excel that has served me well.

I think that having a plan and having the tools to execute those plans will ease some of the pains found within social media. I don't know where I'd be without Office 365. I use OneNote extensively to maintain information and notes (brainstorm of ideas/thoughts/potential posts). The good ones eventually make it to the editorial calendar.

Ease of use is also important. As with all of my schoolwork, I keep my files in SkyDrive which means I can access my information at all times via any one of my devices. When I'm working with a client, it is easy to create a shared folder where images and ideas for posts can be shared. I can also share my brainstorming notebook from OneNote thereby closing, at least in part, the circle of information and how I access what I need for blogging and posting on social media channels.

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet

What is it that they say about using it? Ah yeah, if you don't use it, no one will Tweet it. Consistency is key. Making sure that you post regularly and that you interact regularly is so important.

For Twitter, I try to have lists of people I follow (and that sometimes follow me back) so that I can take a quick look and catch up to see what they're doing and interact accordingly. While this is something that's done for "work" don't forget that these are genuine interactions with real people. Making sure that the conversations are authentic organic real is important.

Blog What You Know

Why are you blogging? Why is your business blogging? What do you bring to the table? These are all questions that we must think about when we blog. Making sure that we are able to provide content that is informative and engaging goes a long way in establishing a business as a thought leader in their space.

Tools of the Trade

I've told you guys about how I use Sprout Social to keep me organized as I post for my clients. Sprout Social is definitely a must have tool that will allow for the use of best practices. With built-in reports, the ability to do smart searches and data on-hand that allows you to see the interactions you've had an measure that day after day, this is definitely a tool that facilitates best practices in my industry.

I think a plan of action and the right tools are important for any industry. Especially those of us that are in school. I mentioned Office 365 here and recently found out that there's an Office 365 University available to us studious masochists. It includes the new Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. You also always have the latest and greatest version. No need to upgrade, just keep up with your subscription.

What's different between Office 365 and Office 365 University? You pay $79.99 for a four year subscription! Yah. You read it right. And if you don't finish in 4? You can renew for a 2nd term, so to speak. This version gives you the ability to have it installed on 2 computers: Mac or PC. Read more about the great benefits! And here's how you can get it: enter the giveaway below.

I use Rafflecopter for my giveaways and it's a nice integration tool that will keep a list of entries and uses Random.org to help you select a winner. This is another important tool and best practice for a giveaway. I don't do them super regularly but it is definitely a tool that is pretty standard across blogging for giveaways. There's also something called PunchTab. I've used it in the past and found it to be not as intuitive for the readers to enter giveaways. I heard some updates have been done but, I haven't gone back to it. My readers complained when I used PunchTab which is why I've stuck with Rafflecopter.

And that leads into making sure that the tools that you use are...well, user friendly. Who wants to come to a site and not be able to leave a comment because you have to do 3,000 different authentications? There are now cool plugins (that I plan to install when I work my redesign) that allow you to comment right from your FB account. Easy peasy. With Rafflecopter, readers are able to share a preset Tweet that gets them an additional entry to win the prize. No muss no fuss.

I think at times we can get wrapped around the axle a bit. Remembering our readers as we work through all of the new "must follow" rules of blogging and social media will go a long way.

What's a best practice within the social media industry that facilitates the use of blogging and Twitter?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Diving Into Social

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Diving into social media is a step that must be planned and well thought out. As with other decisions in business, this needs to be planned.

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While social is my industry, I find that clients have given me a lot to learn as it relates to the way other industries look at and take the step into social.

The biggest risk is not being ready. And by ready I mean not having the infrastructure (or in my case, having the consultant) in place to manage and plan the maintenance and ongoing relationships within social media. Having the right person is almost as important as having A person. You can't think you're going to load someone who already has a 40-hour a week job and let them "just" Tweet here and there with this task (though this happens more times than we care to admit).

By the same token, ensuring cohesiveness is also a risk. Social media is part of marketing. It's not a replacement for it nor is it a separate entity. Ensuring cohesiveness in your social media plan is imperative.  Working towards the voice of the brand being the same across platforms and brand messaging is key. Again, this speaks back to the idea of having a plan.

I always tell my clients "you're already on social whether you're there to lend your voice to the conversation or not". That leads to one of my biggest challenges as a social media manager: education. Educating the brand in social. Allowing them the time and freedom to understand this new world. And providing them with the tools to help them gain that knowledge is imperative in ensuring success in the social media space.

As bloggers we do this all the time, pass on information to brands and PR firm regarding social media. How many times have you been asked to participate in a campaign where the hashtag being used is too long or doesn't make sense? Or worse yet, they tell you they don't have a hashtag or want to use the hashtag that the brand uses day in and day out for consistency purposes?

Educating a brand as to the value of social media and the intricacies of it is the first step. And so is helping them understand that not everyone that has a Facebook page and/or Twitter account qualifies as a social media manager. I know some of my cohorts have had to go in and clean up what someone who was hired without knowledge or experience has left behind.

And then that gets us into clean up and reputation management which we see more and more within social media. That's where those social listening tools really come in handy as does that game plan. Being prepared for responding to a negative post is important. Sometimes we only get one Tweet to salvage that relationship. How many times has a brand sent you a reply to a complaint that has you rolling your eyes because it is obviously a canned response?

Social media is about relationships (have I said this enough?). It is about being authentic (yes, the word is overused but very much applicable here). But is not separate from your business practices or your company culture. It all works together as a continuation of your brand and your messaging.

If you need help with either getting educated or creating a social media strategy, you know how to reach me.

Disclosure: this post is part of my course project at SNHU. For more information, please go to my SNHU page.